Effects of switching pads with the Focal Utopia and Elear

[Editor's Note: Through a long and tedious process it was found that the Focal Utopia and Audeze LCD-4 reviewed here at InnerFidelity in numerous articles were found to be not representative of currently manufactured product. This article is therefore not entirely indicative of our current impressions of this product. To get a complete understanding of our evaluation the reader should start with this summary article and work back through the articles leading up to our current understanding.]

Just yesterday, Jude Mansilla posted measurements of the Focal Utopia and Elear with the pads swapped. Stillhart had messaged him that the he tried swapping the Utopia's pad to the Elear pad to get a little more bass. The pads just pull off and swap easy-peasy. I did it and...SWEET! Yes, the Utopia's gain a bit more bass—which was something I found them in need of in my review.

Duh. Why didn't I think of that?

I figured Jude's post should be confirmed. The plot at the top of the page shows the Utopia's left and right channel averaged raw frequency response with both the stock pads and the Elear's pads. You can see a modest gain in bass response below 200Hz, netting about a 2dB increase in the lowest octave. You can also see a small reduction in energy between 800Hz-2kHz and between 3kHz-6kHz. These are a little uneven in channel matching but are probably real, though modest at just a few dB.

160811_Blog_FocalPadEffects_Graph_Elear

Putting the Utopia pads on the Elear (graph above) shows a loss of bass response; an added twist to the 800Hz-3kHz area; and a bit of a de-emphasis of the spike at 10kHz. If you look closely, you'll notice the pads seem to have different effect on the two different headphones. Interesting.

I definitely prefer the Elear pads on both headphones.

Here's the full set of measurements:

I agree with Jude, Focal better stock up on Elear pads.

COMMENTS
--------------'s picture

When are you going to measure HE400S with FocusPads like you promised?

ManiaC's picture

measure newer version of the HiFiMAN HE400i

thanks

Vsdeede's picture

Very good and informative exchange .. Thank you!
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LunaC's picture

Looks like they are very close in measurements now, would you say that sound much closer now?

zobel's picture

The $4000 question is why didn't Focal think of it? Didn't anyone from Focal try that pad switch and simply listen before going to market? Pretty strange.

tony's picture

Somebody in France is probably reading all this reporting and discovery, I wonder what conclusion is being reached?,

other than,

they have a sales success on their hands!, can we keep up with demand?

I'd like to see Focal's Quality Controls, in action, in a Video. Are they QC'ing each individual piece or every 10th or every 100th ?, what are the acceptable ranges of various performances? and most importantly the tolerance range for products ready for shipment?

I expect Focal to have rather "stiff" and tight tolerance limits. I also imagine the Earpads to be a variable that has not been scrutinized as critically as the other components.

I probably won't be as critical an owner as our Reviewers need to be.

Tony in Michigan

eric65's picture

We'll have to wait for the release of an official headphone Focal Utopia mk2 equipped in stock with the earpads of the Focal Elear.
Version of this hypothetical Utopia mk2 cheaper that $ 4,000 ?

Phoniac's picture

> I agree with Jude, Focal better stock up on Elear pads.

I disagree with you both. Obviously not the Berillyum, but the pads are the main resason for the small sound difference between them. Now as a Utopia owner I would not like to have the Elear pads - it MUST be the special leather with holes design tampering my ears! And that means Focal has to go back to the drawing board and change the inner design, structure and materials of these exquisite pads to no longer loose bass etc. 4000 bucks and then putting on chape charlie stuff? Come on... ;-)

kejar31's picture

And TBH I liked the original pads more with the Utopia... There is no doubt these are probably the best headphones available though... They are simply amazing!

Peragulator's picture

Any tests/impressions/reviews on the DT1770? Upcoming offerings from Beyerdynamic?

john99's picture

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iaptoide's picture

Obviously not the Berillyum, but the pads are the main resason for the small sound difference between them. el clasico Live Now as a Utopia owner I would not like to have the Elear pads - it MUST be the special leather with holes design tampering my ears! And that means Focal has to go back to the drawing board and change the inner design, Thnaks for share this amazing article... Bahubali 2 Movie

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