InnerFidelity Product of the Year

There's just no question.

Four years in the making, this all-new Beryllium dome driver headphone design from Focal has completely disrupted the flagship headphone category. The Utopia ($3999) is the best headphone I've ever heard...by a significant margin.

The Focal Utopia is a sexy beast with rock-solid build quality; looks with just the right mix of conservatism and bling; brimming with technological innovations; and sound quality to die for. Though the audio image is small and the bass just a tad light, in every other way this headphone sounds spectacularly good. Tonal balance is beautiful; image, though small is marvelously precise; dynamic punch is terrific; micro-detail is nuanced and well integrated. And everything comes together as whole so well that you simply don't feel the need to analyze...you just kick back and listen to the glorious music. You can read my full review here.

This is InnerFidelity's Product of he Year because it has redefined what world-class headphone fidelity sounds like. It really is like no other I've heard before. It's catch-up time for everyone else.

COMMENTS
ManiaC's picture

Jewish bolshit

jjgr's picture

You're an ass, but i'm guessing you already knew that.

ManiaC's picture

2nd jewish bullshit detected on this page

NickS's picture

Here is some Jewish bullshit for you. I'm writing to your employer "Acoustic-Fun Co., Ltd" to let them know that you are a rabid anti-Semite making them look bad.

Tyll - I hope you plan to ban this moron and delete his posts.

NickS's picture

Anti-Semite, poster of hate, ManiaC can be reached at zycamaniac@gmail.com. His real name is David Wei.

JimMc's picture

Hang on, he's right. When are we going to rise up against ZOG's plot to make us fork out hundreds of bucks for 'phones that don't fit under pointy hats or stormtroopers' helmets?

ADU's picture
gibtg's picture

If only it wasn't $4000

:)

tony's picture

and the darn things don't have a $675.000 price tag.

Historically thinking and speaking, my Sennheiser HD 600 ( properly tuned and set-up ) are far better than any loudspeaker system I've sold, owned or experienced. Little Tube headphone Amps ( like the Felikes & Valhalla 2 ) with carefully selected glass are the most beautiful sounding Amps I've ever experienced. My history reaches back 60 years.

I've recently experienced both the Focals and the Audeze 4, the Focals are the ones to own, no doubt about that in my old mind ( even with my compromised hearing specs. ), they're a Morphine drip, dangerously addictive, lovely, not too expensive and don't require powerful Amps.

Focal, in France, are easier to trust,

I'm certain Audeze will be releasing a revised version of the LCD 4 sometime in 2017 ( about the time sales taper off ). And I've learned, over the decades, that I don't live well with Planers ( despite how beautiful they sound ( Magnapans, Quads and all the rest ).

The $1,000 Focals display the identical sonic qualities as the $4,000 versions ( for my un-tuned & aging ears ) but the utopia version is a good bit more "seductive" and desirable.

Sennheiser have their work cut-out for them, phew!

Tony in Michigan

Scientist1's picture

Tube amps are low fidelity so it is hard to take your opinion seriously.

Scientist1's picture

If you are gullible enough to spend $4000 on headphones then there is no hope for you.

gibtg's picture

I couldn't agree more 'Scientist1.' Three years ago this website said that $500 headphones were "pretty expensive," now the most celebrated product on the site costs a mere eight times as much. Pretty soon I imagine we'll start seeing reviews for $2,000 cables claiming how fantastic they sound.

Scientist1's picture

Thankfully the point of diminishing returns for headphones is $300 as far as I can tell. There is no reason to spend this much in order to get amazing sound.

ADU's picture

And Happy New Year to you as well.

Mr. H has been doin this for quite awhile, and backs up his opinions with a lot of data and experience. So you'll forgive me if I put just a smidgen of trust in his opinion. : ) I'm curious to know though which $300 closed headphone you think might sound almost as good as the Utopia?

I'm more interested in closed models, btw, because open-back headphones like the Senn HD600 can't be as easily extended in the bass. (If I was going open-back though, I think I'd probably lean more toward the HD650 because it seems a little better extended in the bass on the FR graphs than the 600.)

Scientist1's picture

If you want more "extended" bass just compensate with an equalizer. Extended is not the right word to use anyway because all headphones cover 20-20k so the term you are looking for is flat. In example, you can turn up the bass <100 Hz on the HD 650 or HD 600 because it is rolled off. Alternatively you might want to try an Audeze because they have very impressive flat bass. Closed headphones have higher distortion and worse sound stage.

Mr. H seems to believe in all sorts of nonsense like snake oil cables, badly designed DAC's and amps, pointless "high res" audio. None of that is supported by any data.

gevorg's picture

Happy New Year everyone!

ADU's picture

...And everyone at IF!

Jazz Casual's picture

It's a fantastic headphone but one that I'm unlikely to own due to its prohibitive price.

EdAInWestOC's picture

I wonder how the Focal Utopia stacks up against the Stax SR-009 driven by a TOTL estat driver (like the Blue Hawaii). It would be interesting to hear a head to head comparison.

If the Focal Utopia compares favorably or is a close equal to the SR-009 then it should be a pretty easy recommendation. The Stax SR-009/Blue Hawaii combo is in the $10K price range and the Focal is considerably less expensive when paired with a quality headphone amp.

I wonder if someone, somewhere, has both of those headphones with TOTL amps/drivers so a prospective buyer can sit down and make the comparison. I would be interested to compare these headphones out.

I am getting old and time is running out for me. I would love to own the best headphones available and enjoy my music produced as well as possible.

I'll never be able to afford TOTL Wilson speakers (an insane price tag) but I could swing a TOTL Stax or Focal setup. It would be worth it.

Ed

Scientist1's picture

Why bother with a low fidelity "TOTL" tube amp when you can buy a cheap transparent one? Oh, I'm wasting my breath here. Believe what you want.

Augustus's picture

Are you familiar of a currently available SS estats amp?
I know HeadAmp had one in the past, but no longer.

chik0240's picture

I remember I jointed the headphone community around 3 years ago, my first pair was a 2nd hand Shure SRH940 which after 1 year of use it breask, then I browsed around the web and came here, going from driving the phone directly from my Onkyo SE300 sound card's headphone output (quite good actually, from my past experience with the HD650 I think it drives it pretty good)

Then I reached here and ended up with my final setup of Hifiman HE500 paired with auralic Taurus mk II, but then in the past two years we came to ridiculous prices like this.... hope the sky rocket price can stop in the future...

no point to produce a bunch of headphones sounded really good but cost something like a decent car

tony's picture

Stereophile's Michael Fremer ( High Priest of Vinyl ) is today presenting Two Lyra Phono Cartridges with prices in the $10,000-$12,000 price range. Phew. He reports the $12,000 Etna SL to be the Company's best yet. ( presumably there will soon be something even better! )

In Mr.Fremer's Analog World, a proper turntable will cost around $10,000 ( with Arm ).

A useful Phono Pre-Amp will range in the $15,000 ( Audio Research Reference 6 )

The above is just for starters, we still need to purchase those pricy cabling, Pre-Amp, Amps, Speaker Cables and $16,500 Wilson Speakers.

Who do they sell this stuff to? :

1). A 6 Billion World Population has the Top 1% numbering 6 Million. Surely they would be potential customers to try reaching for. ( maybe they simply order "Live" musicians and don't bother with electronics )

The Top 10% number in the 60 Million, this group is known to own Music Systems, why not High-End Audio stuff for the McMansion?, something as good as the Levinson stuff in their Cars.

We "regular" ordinary folks can achieve greatness with a modest Bottlehead Crack & Sennheiser HD600, we can own the finest transducers known to mankind for another $3,000.

Chasing those Gigantic Big Bucks hasn't hit the Headphone World. We can have fine music reproduction and keep our money, lucky us!

Who the hell spends $15,000 for a Pre-Amp?, for god's sake.

Tony in Michigan

drbobbybones's picture

The world population is 7.5 billion people.

The top 1% of this includes 75 million people.

The top 10% of this includes 750 million people.

I bet a few of those could afford $4000 headphones. Even if only 10,000 of these headphones are ever sold, that's $40 million in sales. Not to shabby for Focal.

drbobbybones's picture

"not TOO shabby..."

Can't edit on this stupid comment tree.

tony's picture

Egads, 7.5 Billion, phew, where are they hiding em? My little town in Michigan has about 12,000 of mostly older folks. I'm moving to a Florida Town of 22,000 winter / 9,000 Year-Round residency. If my ancestors weren't a bunch of Criminals ( escaping/emigrating to the US) I'd probably be living in Sweden or Mother Russia, lucky me!

I'm one of the 300 Million US citizens that Won life's lottery.

Tony in Michigan

drbobbybones's picture

I am one of those that won life's lottery as well-my ancestors immigrated here a generation ago.

Anyway, after listening to these headphones on a Chord DAVE (which I already own), I don't think there is anything better sounding at any price. I will likely pick these up someday.

tony's picture

Transducer design and manufacture is progressing. I suspect Sennheiser and other outfits will task their Physicists with further development.
Back in the Vinyl days it hardly mattered.

Today the recording, mixing and mastering engineers can produce digital music files for home reproduction gear capable of phenomenal performance levels.

Much of todays Dave level of performance will ( and is ) migrating into the Smart Phone's Feature Sets!

I suspect the we are less than 5 years away from "everyman's" handheld device becoming a full fledged "Audiophile-level" Music Center.

The Utopia Focal ( and the Elear ) are ultra efficient and fit well with low power amplification devices.

It's all coming together as we sit and watch. Phew!

Today, my little Etymotic or my Sennheiser HD600 are rather "entry" level, yet they are better than any of the High-End Transducer Systems I Imported, Retailed or Manufactured in the mid 1980s' ( all of that being Analog Vinyl based ).

Bon Vivant,

Tony in Michigan

Bennyboy's picture

I picked up a mint Orpheus 2 for a couple of quid in a car boot sale over the weekend and it sounds pretty good.

sszorin's picture

I'll buy Orpheus II from you for 4 dollars - you will make 100% profit.

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