Focal, the French audio brand renowned for its high-end headphones, has announced its latest pair of audiophile cans – and based on the specs, they could be among the best-sounding headphones of 2021.
The Focal Clear Mg reprise the distinctive open-back design of the brand’s previous cans, including the Focal Stellia, with a honeycomb pattern on the outside of the earcups.
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A leather headband and solid aluminum yoke have been designed to “perfectly mold to the face”, while perforated microfibre ear cushions should ensure the headphones remain comfortable during long listening sessions,
Following on from the Focal Clear, the Clear Mg have been upgraded with new magnesium domes for their drivers. According to the company, the use of magnesium alongside an ‘M’-shaped dome, increases the lightness, rigidity, and damping of the drivers, leading to a “strikingly realistic sound”.
Focal recommends using the over-ear headphones with an amplifier or DAC, though an impedance of 55 Ohms means you can use them with a portable music player, or indeed, your phone.
If these headphones sound anything like the Focal Stellia, they could deliver an outstanding audio performance. When we reviewed them in 2019, we were blown away by their wide, open soundstage, detailed presentation, and precise imaging.
Start saving your pennies
The Focal Stellia did come with one downside however: the price. At $3,000 / £2,799 / AU$4,499, they’re ten times the price of our favorite headphones of 2021, the Sony WH-1000XM4.
The new Focal Clear are a little cheaper at $1,490 (AU$2,199), which works out at about £1,080. Of course, that’s still far pricier than the majority of consumer headphones on the market, and you’re not getting any modern conveniences like wireless connectivity or active noise cancellation.
For less than half the price, you can buy yourself a pair of Apple AirPods Max, which come with all the modern trappings you could want, along with excellent noise cancellation, brilliant sound, and support for Spatial Audio.
Still, the AirPods Max haven’t exactly won over the audiophile crowd, due to their lack of 3.5mm audio port. For many, the quality of wireless audio still doesn’t stand up to the stability of an old fashioned cable, and there’s no way to hook them up to a DAC.
Meanwhile, the Focal Clear Mg are made for very discerning ears indeed, and their sound leakage-prone open-back design means that you wouldn’t want to use them out and about anyway, making features like ANC and Bluetooth slightly redundant. And, if sound quality is everything to you, that high price may be a necessary sacrifice in your quest to find exceptional audio.
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