The French audio firm Focal has a well-deserved status for producing a few of the most interesting—and costliest—headphones on the earth. TechHive has verified the veracity of that status in its critiques of the($1,490), (discontinued), ($1,290), and ($2,990).
Not one to relaxation on its laurels, Focal strives for ongoing enchancment in its merchandise. In the present day, the corporate declares that it’s changing the Clear mannequin with the Clear Mg, which sells for a similar worth of $1,490. I didn’t have the chance to listen to the unique Clear, however the brand new Clear Mg presents stunningly lovely sound that really lives as much as its title.
This assessment is a part of TechHive’s protection of, the place you’ll discover critiques of the competitors’s choices, plus a purchaser’s information to the options it’s best to take into account when looking for such a product.
Like its progenitor, the Clear Mg is an over-the-ear (circumaural), open-back headphone. In actual fact, apart from the colour and design of the outer grille, the one distinction between the Clear and Clear Mg is the composition of the diaphragm. Because the title signifies, the brand new diaphragm is pure magnesium; the earlier mannequin used an aluminum/magnesium alloy. Based on Focal, magnesium makes the diaphragm even lighter and extra inflexible with extra damping than the earlier mannequin.
In each fashions, the diaphragm is a 40mm “M-shaped” dome, so named as a result of the cross part resembles the letter “M.” This design is alleged to extend rigidity for extra precision and fewer distortion. Additionally, the Focal-exclusive frameless pure-copper voice coil reduces the mass even additional. The result’s a frequency response from 5Hz to 28kHz (±3 dB) with a THD of 0.25% @ 1kHz/100dB SPL and a sensitivity of 104dB SPL/1mW @ 1kHz. The impedance is 55 ohms, making the Clear Mg comparatively straightforward to drive from a transportable participant.
The headscarf and solid-aluminum yoke mechanisms are the identical as discovered on the unique Clear and different high-end headphones from Focal. The constant curve between these parts is alleged to supply superior consolation whatever the form and dimension of the listener’s head. As well as, the earpads encompass high-resilience reminiscence foam coated with perforated microfiber, whereas the scarf is roofed with leather-based on the edges and high with microfiber on the underside.
As I discussed earlier, the earcups are open-back, so they don’t provide as a lot isolation from ambient sound as closed-back designs. In a quiet setting, nonetheless, open-back earcups can provide a extra expansive sound stage that some listeners choose. The redesigned honeycomb outer grille additionally contributes to a extra open sound—the unique Clear had an outer grille that resembled a considerably tightly woven display. And Focal claims that the perforations within the microfiber overlaying the earpads additionally improve this impact whereas providing larger tolerance of earcup place on the top. The inside grille is M-shaped, mirroring the form of the diaphragm, which is alleged to end in higher high-frequency replica.
Like Focal’s different high-end headphones, the Clear Mg comes with two cables: a 3-meter (10-foot) cable with 4-pin XLR connector supposed for house use with an amplifier such because the(discontinued, new mannequin coming quickly) and a 1.2-meter (3-foot) cable with a 3.5mm connector for cellular gadgets. Additionally included is a 1/4-inch adaptor that screws onto the three.5mm plug, which is safer than a snap-on design.
In one more similarity with Focal’s different high-end cans, the Clear Mg’s packaging is a lower above. A big, sturdy field contains the headphone in its inflexible, woven-cover, color-matching case together with a separate case for the cables. Even the documentation, sparse as it’s, is available in its personal folder.
As I’ve come to count on from Focal headphones, the Clear Mg is supremely comfy, with giant earpads that match simply over my comparatively giant ears. Additionally, the clamping strain on my head could be very low, making it straightforward to put on for hours with out fatigue. It definitely didn’t block ambient noise in addition to the closed-back Stellia, however I used to be stunned at how a lot isolation it did present.
As standard, I listened to high-resolution tracks from Tidal’s Grasp library taking part in from my iPhone XS. I used thebecause the DAC and amplifier.
I began with “House Is” by Jacob Collier from his album Djesse Vol. 1. On this monitor, Collier is joined by British vocal ensemble Voces8 in what appears like a massively overdubbed choral efficiency in an enormous acoustic house reminiscent of a cathedral. There may be some super-low bass drum along with the voices, which embody some deep basses and excessive sopranos. The Clear Mg sounded attractive with a clear, spacious sound, no congestion, and impartial tonal stability.
Subsequent, I turned to one among my all-time favourite vocal teams, Take 6. “Evermore” from the album So Cool is usually a cappella with a number of gentle percussion devices. It makes inventive use of the stereo sound stage, which the Clear Mg rendered superbly with a clear, open sound. The voices sounded totally pure, and Alvin Chea’s deep bass voice was richly rendered.
Guitarist Pat Metheny’s new album Street to the Solar contains an association of Arvo Pärt’s pensive “Für Alina” for 42-string guitar. The sound of that uncommon instrument is kind of superb, considerably like a hammer dulcimer being plucked, with deep bass and delicate mids and highs. As earlier than, the Clear Mg sounded clear and open with glorious tonal stability.
For some straight-up rock, I listened to the basic “Onerous to Deal with” by The Black Crowes from Shake Your Cash Maker (thirtieth Anniversary Deluxe). It sounded strong and clear on the Clear Mg, with the vocal proper up entrance. The sound stage wasn’t fairly as extensive as I’d heard on different tracks, which was in all probability because of the combine.
Shifting on to jazz, I cued up “That’s All” from Diana Krall’s This Dream of You. The instrumentation is easy—piano, guitar, acoustic bass, drums, and naturally, Krall’s unbelievable voice, which is blended very ahead. On the Clear Mg, I may hear every instrument clearly, together with each breath and nuance in her voice, all inside a well-integrated entire.
One other of my all-time favourite teams is Steely Dan, so I performed “Gaslighting Abbie” from Two In opposition to Nature. As soon as once more, the Clear Mg was a pleasure to take heed to, with tight bass and extensive sound stage that allowed me to listen to deep into the combo.
Hilary Hahn is without doubt one of the greatest classical violinists on the earth, as amply demonstrated by her recording of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.1 in D Main, Op. 19, with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France beneath the path of Mikko Franck on the album Paris. I listened to the third motion, which sounded clear and open with nice dynamic vary and a large sound stage on the Clear Mg. The violin was nicely balanced with the orchestra, and every part was well-delineated but fully built-in.
Lastly, I introduced out the large weapons with Mussorgsky’s Evening on Bald Mountain as recorded by the Weiner Philharmoniker beneath Gustavo Dudamel for the album Footage at an Exhibition. The Clear Mg did this huge piece full justice with glorious dynamic vary and a large sound stage. As earlier than, every part and solo instrument was clearly delineated inside a cohesive entire.
Comparability with Focal Stellia, Grado GW100 v2
I used to be very curious to check the open-back Clear Mg with the closed-back, which is nearly twice as costly at $2,990. Additionally, I made a decision to check it with the one different open-back headphone I had available, the . Admittedly, the Grado is much inexpensive at $249, however it’s a great-sounding headphone, so what the heck?
I listened to every monitor on all three headphones. In all instances, the Stellia sounded similar to the Clear Mg, besides that it was a bit louder on the similar quantity setting, the bass was barely extra pronounced, and the general sound was just a bit richer and thicker. Additionally, the sound stage was not fairly as extensive, bringing the devices and voice a bit nearer in. Thoughts you, these will not be complaints, and the variations had been minor.
Against this, the GW100 v2 sounded a bit lighter and brighter total. Additionally, it was a simply bit softer on the similar quantity setting with barely much less bass, although that was definitely not an issue. And the sound stage was simply as extensive because the Clear Mg’s.
As anticipated, the Stellia offered probably the most isolation from exterior sounds, whereas the GW100 v2 offered the least—in any case, it’s an on-ear design with foam earpads, so it presents nearly no isolation in any respect. The Clear Mg falls between them on this regard, offering extra isolation than the GW100 v2 however lower than the Stellia.
I’m a giant fan of Focal’s headphones, and the Clear Mg is definitely no exception. Its title completely represents its sound: clear, clear, and open with a large sound stage and impartial, exact tonal stability. It’s additionally supremely comfy. No marvel recording engineers like it! In actual fact, the Clear Mg can also be obtainable in a Professional model, which differs from the buyer model solely in colour, included cables, and an additional set of earpads.
At $1,490, the Clear Mg is kind of costly, although it’s half the price of the Stellia. Except for worth, the selection between them comes down to private desire. The Stellia has a barely richer sound with a bit extra bass, which can enchantment to many listeners, and it gives higher isolation from ambient sounds. However should you choose a extra impartial sound with a barely wider sound stage, and you may tolerate much less isolation, the Clear Mg is a transparent winner.