Review: Focal Utopia – Hi-Fi Over-Headphone

Review: Focal Utopia Hi-Fi Over-Headphone: The Utopia  is, as I have been able to verify, a safe bet, if this is possible in any case. 


We recently had the opportunity to test and review the Focal Clear MG , a headset that has left an excellent impression on us. In the introduction of that article we alluded to the successful origins that the brand had in the field of mid-range headphones ( Spirit Classic ), and we also already had the experience of owning one of its models, the Focal Elear . All of them versatile headphones, with a tonal profile and a balance that is always within the natural and balanced, with small variations in the frequency curve and in the technical capacity thanks to which they cover a fairly wide spectrum of tonal preferences among fans, as well as as well as technical needs.

The Focal Utopia , the model that is the subject of this analysis, is, curiously, the brand’s first proposal within the top-of-the-range sector. It attacked this sector of the market, therefore, with a very brave bet in many ways. It was interesting to see, at the time, how Focal went from proposals that were around €300 to a model of several thousand suddenly. Without a doubt, they had to be very sure of what they were doing, since they should be measured against more than established models, such as the Sennheiser hd800, Audeze LCD -3 or Audio Technica ADX5000among other top-of-the-range brands of the most representative and dominant brands in the market. Seeing the result in their subsequent models of all the technical and research development that they carried out in their creation, it can be said that the result was correct.

With all that said, it seems that it is quite clear that we are, as fans, followers of this brand that has managed to occupy a preponderant place among the best manufacturers of the last decade, something that is not easy to achieve in such a short period of time. . And in this situation we will finally be able to check if the best headphones they have created to date definitely fulfill what their fame promises.


As we have already pointed out in the introduction, the Utopia was the first of the high-end headphones that Focal brought to the market, and as such, in its presentation it has more in common with previous mid-range models than with its latest creations.

The first models, such as the Spirit Classic , were offered in a large cardboard box well padded inside with a foam that served as a mold for the earphone at the bottom and that on the lid adopted the characteristic shape of small pyramidal prisms used in the acoustic absorption materials, making these details the brand’s signature.

In the same way, the Utopias use a similar box. Logically larger, and on this occasion, lined in natural black leather with an embroidered finish in deep red. It maintains the internal foams and provides the headset with a single, thicker cable and higher quality connectors: Neutrik in the external connection and Lemo connectors in the cups.

In general, the finish is very good in all the materials and designs used, and although they would later offer custom-made covers with an even more careful design, it can be said that the support for transporting and storing the headset is more than acceptable, even for a top of its range. level.

The headset itself has excellent materials: carbon fiber headband in its structure and natural leather in the support area, perforated on the inside that corresponds to the contact surface with the head, which in turn is padded. The pads, in the same perforated natural leather as the headband, with good padding and high quality and comfort. And in the cups, a mixture of plastics and metals with a good general finish, with a design that, in my opinion, continues to be the most successful of all the brand’s models. It is elegant and conveys luxury without being ostentatious or flashy, as we have seen tend to happen in some of its latest models.

Ergonomics, the basis for all subsequent designs, is more than correct. The weight is high, but thanks to its ergonomic success and the tremendous quality of the pads in terms of support surface and cushioning, they are quite comfortable and can be used in prolonged sessions. 

Overall, I think it can be said that we are facing an exemplary headset in every design decision, and that it moves with ease in its already high price range. Perhaps over time the brand has gone even further, offering more high-quality accessories, such as covers or balanced cables, but what is offered is not only unworthy, but is exemplary and common in its sector.


I have been somewhat briefer than usual in the previous sections because we are talking about a brand that we have already analyzed and studied previously, and I understand that we know it quite well. Also because in a model like this, the flagship of one of the best brands on the market, it goes without saying that these details are more than covered.

In the sound aspect I want to expand a little more. I will try to be as restrained as possible. It is easy to fall, when describing a model of this level, into an analysis that is somewhat exaggerated when trying to convey the technical capacity and the sensations that one perceives. Let’s put ourselves, therefore, in perspective: it is a headset that moves in the highest sector, with a price according to it, and we will understand that the overall benefits are proportionate to this situation.

The main attributes of the Focal sound signature are, as we have already said, a correct tonal balance and extraordinary dynamics. These are two aspects that remain immovable in all the models that I have tested: Elear, Clear, Clear MG, Stelia and now Utopia . 

Behind these two main attributes we find the differences between the models, which are tonal profile (frequency curve) and technical capacity (resolution). The Elear , for example, is the model that initially offers the warmest, friendliest and most versatile character with different styles and recording qualities. It gives access to the high-end of the brand, and I find it very difficult to beat below €1000.

The Clear , for its part, turns out to be very neutral and transparent, offering a profile in which it is difficult to find any coloration. It moves in a higher range, around €1,500, and is noticeable in the resolution and instrumental separation, with a broader and deeper scene. The Clear MG follows the same line, but smoothing out the upper mid-range somewhat and gaining some depth in the bass. It can be said that to a certain extent they have civilized the very neutral character of the previous Clear .

The Stelia is a closed model, of a much higher range, that shares some technical aspects with the Utopia, such as the beryllium driver. Its sound is even cleaner than that of the Clear, and at the same time brings a little more body and humanity in the midrange, the most important, and less grain and more control in the extremes. When it seems that the sound is bordering on perfection, they manage to improve it a little more.

Thus we arrive at the model that touches us, the Utopia. Technically he is at the top of the mark. It maintains all the attributes of the previous models in terms of tonal balance and dynamics. Where it makes a difference is in the technical aspects of resolution and cleanup. The Utopia shares certain aspects with the Stelia in this sense, it is tremendously decisive and transparent, and it even manages to surpass it in the extreme cleanliness with which it provides each detail. However, in this case, the correction is accompanied by a certain voluptuousness at the ends. Nothing shoots up or gets out of control, but one notices that the bass drops more and extends in a more enveloping and captivating way. The high range, for its part, is not just clean, but crystalline, showing each detail with more prominence and forcefulness. And in the mid-range, again, that body and that humanity of the Stelia,

It is a real delight to see how the brand has scaled all its models in such a logical and proportionate way, and of course the final result of the Utopia is excellent: one feels that one is listening to music in a totally neutral and transparent way, with all the nuances that each reproduced note can contribute, but at the same time manages to convey all its emotionality and dramatic feeling. It’s almost an overdose of information, but somehow it’s delivered without being pushy or unpleasant, and it doesn’t come off as a cold, impassive precision instrument.

The sound scene is not one of the largest, a pattern also common in all Focal models . There is excellent instrumental separation. Not even the hd800 , my usual reference, comes to match them in this regard. But everything is done in a contained scene and of a reasonably discreet scale by comparison. This is so in part because the presentation of the scene is much more direct: one feels the voices and the main parts of the reproduction always close and accessible, almost right on top of oneself, and every detail that surrounds them well integrated into your immediate environment.

Nor will we find here the almost holographic ability to represent a stage that an Audio – Technica ADX-5000 offers us , but the stages are clearly distinguishable, and we can easily differentiate different spatial environments in each recording, being in this aspect even more diverse. and revealing. Its resolving ability allows us to easily perceive any reverberation and distinctiveness of the reproduction in a different way. This is something I haven’t gotten around to with its smaller siblings, and only the hd800 can come close to delivering it so realistically.

I have chosen some topics for different reasons to be able to test what has been explained so far. In each case I have chosen the song either because it puts the headset in some trouble or because it highlights some of its virtues in a special way.

Every Day (Buddy Holly – Buddy Holly)

Focal is a very musical brand by default, and sometimes headphones with this profile are evident when faced with a simple composition of elements, but of high quality. I wanted to try this with the Utopia to start with. This recording has an exemplary instrumental separation, very natural and its ornamental elements do not mix with the plane of the voice in any case. The set is of an exemplary aesthetic cleanliness and minimalism. Utopia offers us a tremendously human and warm voice, the elements are somewhat closer than in other cases due to its close scene, but they maintain the separation very well. The tremendous naturalness of the voice and the intensity of every detail never ceases to amaze me. The group is close and musical.

God of the rain (Last in line – Like Head To Hat)

Typical recording from the late eighties, with little body despite having a certain quality. It usually puts very resolute headphones to the test, since its lack in the lower part makes it sound unpleasant.

The Utopia holds type very well, the pickup is punchy, even down low, and it makes the bass feel physical. The voice is intense and three-dimensional, with an echo typical of the mix that seems to recreate the atmosphere of the recording studio that the headset conveys perfectly. The sharp part, very intense, is nevertheless kept within reasonable margins, and the whole results in a very round and enjoyable finish. I have listened to this song with excellent headphones without being able to enjoy it as it deserves, and this does not happen with the Utopia . A great point in favor of its versatility.

Jolene (Zac Brown Band – The Foundation)

In this country theme, the integration of all the instruments and the fluidity of the ensemble is exemplary. The recording is of great quality, however I was looking for a point of excess in the upper middle that I usually find in different equipment. To my surprise, it has not occurred in Utopia , which shows the intense and vibrant voice, but without excesses that bother at any time. I insist that it is not easy to achieve, it is a song that I usually listen to on the Sennheiser hd650 , where its warmth and musicality allow me to enjoy it without problem.

Starboy (The Weeknd, Duft Punk – Starboy)

In this song by the Canadian composer you can appreciate the perfect articulation of the preponderant bass with the voice and the rest of the details. It is easy for this topic to become exhausting if this is not handled correctly. It is an example of how the Utopia solves it, transforming a bass that can sound dry due to saturation into a deep bass, with punch and at the same time enveloping and rhythmic without hiding or blurring everything else.

Suite Nº3 IN D Major, BWV 1068: 2.Air (Johann Sebastian Bach, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – 50 Bach Masterworks)

Lastly, I wanted to play a classical song recorded with a certain quality. Many versatile cut-out headphones, however, show themselves somewhat poor when measured against this genre, which demands a natural and credible timbre along with great dynamic capacity. Utopia performs at an extraordinary level here, and not only manages to convey a correct dimension of the spaces in this and other tests that I have carried out, but also convinces in its naturalness, provides excellent dynamics and, above all, makes this genre emotional. and enjoyable.

With all these issues, and naturally many others thoroughly tested and compared to all the equipment that I have been able to collect for the analysis, I can only admit that the Utopia brilliantly meets what we can expect from a computer of this range, the highest. We find in it qualities that significantly separate it from the other flagships , including the ones mentioned above. This headphone has punch and dynamics in abundance, it is musical and in its own way permissive with recordings that are not perfect, and it is also tremendously versatile with different musical styles, which makes it the most complete top of the range I have had the opportunity to test. .

As for the amplification, I have been able to test it with a wide variety of equipment, from portable sources to high-end stationary equipment. It is a headset from which you can easily obtain a great result, it is not demanding at all. Connected to a simple iPad , or even to the headphone jack of a laptop, it can already be enjoyed at a surprising level. From the classic headphone jacks of the box equipment I find that it is heard without problems, although as usual in these cases the ends may be somewhat loose, it logically depends on each equipment. In the Arcam A90 , for example, the result is simply extraordinary, irreproachable. But in other cases I notice that the bass lacks control, like on my Marantz SR4001 .

If we have headphone preamps, things improve remarkably. From an SPL Auditor , for example, the result is impressive. The scene and resolution that you get from this headset will not disappoint anyone. The Musical Fidelity Mx-Hpa offers us a slightly thicker line, but in my opinion it improves the body and strength of the midrange a lot, and also holds the ends better. Something, on the other hand, common in the brand when it works in solid state. Finally, the amplifier where I have achieved the best result by far is the Rudistor Rpx-100. Here we have been able to fully exploit the excellent qualities of the headset, with an immense scene within its own limitations, a captivating timbre in the midrange and simply exquisite extremes. And it has been a pleasant surprise, since with other models of the brand it had not achieved this synergy with this team. It is probably because the Utopia  is extraordinarily resolute and within its balanced tonal balance it tends to be somewhat bright in the mid-high zone, something that the Rudistor  takes advantage of and exploits in an extraordinary way.

In short, it is not a headset that requires certain minimum technical capacity in amplification. We can dedicate ourselves to looking for a good synergy that places it at our preferred point. It is possible, however, to invest what is considered necessary in this sense, since it treasures an immense quality that we will be able to discover as we improve our team to the extent that our luck or fortune allows.


I’m sorry for having extended myself so much in the sound section, I think the headset deserves it. The Utopia  is, as I have been able to verify, a safe bet, if this is possible in any case. A few years have passed since it was launched on the market, and many subsequent models of the brand, and yet its dominant position in the market remains unquestionable.

I would like it to be clear that, in this analysis, although it may not seem like it, I have tried at all times to be restrained in the descriptions. And it is that with this headphone I have found a top of the range that offers a technical and analytical profile that is measured and exceeds everything that I have had the opportunity to try so far, and yet it is as versatile and musical in all aspects as the rest of the brand’s models. The achievement seems simply spectacular. It offers listening at all times with excellent technical fidelity and at the same time manages to convey the feeling and musical drama in any genre, without the need for concessions of any kind.

The fan who gets hold of it will not regret it in any case. If this is your hobby and you can dedicate the necessary time to enjoy it properly, the only question is whether you can really afford it.

Thanks again everyone for finishing the analysis. I hope we see each other soon!

Focal Utopia – €3,999

Technical characteristics

Utopia are the benchmark hi-fi headphones made in France by Focal. Fruits of 35 years of innovation, conception and manufacture of high-end loudspeakers and acoustic baffles. Its exclusive technologies allow for an awe-inspiring listening that captures realism, neutrality, dynamics and transparency, for unmatched purity.

Utopia plays the innovation card and proposes, in a world premiere in the audiophile headphone market, a wideband loudspeaker completely open at the back, with an “M” dome, in pure beryllium. It meets all the criteria of a very high-end headset, thanks to its refined and quality design and its materials, as well as its carbon fiber joint and genuine lambskin ear pads.

  • Impedance – 80 Ohms
  • Sensitivity – 104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
  • THD – <0.2% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
  • Frequency response – 5Hz – 50kHz
  • Speaker – 137/64″ (40mm) Pure Beryllium “M” Dome Shape
  • Weight – 1.08 lbs (490g)
  • Cable length – 13.1ft (4m)
  • Connectors – 1 x Jack 01/4″ (6.35mm) stereo; 2 x 03/8″ (9.5mm) Lemo®
  • Carrying Case – 1253/64″x1015/64″x629/64″ (326x260x164mm