Focal Sphear Wireless IEM Review Page 2

But what about the comparison to the other wireless headphones I mentioned? Well, honestly, the Sphear is leaps and bounds ahead of them. The midrange is well-balanced and clean, the bass is perhaps ever-so-slightly reserved for those who enjoy some extra punch or heft down low, but it’s not anemic. The highs are smooth and even on acoustic piano and other keyboard instruments, there are no wonky, distracting treble spikes. In fact, classical music even has a hint of what I’d call ‘naturalness’ or ‘depth’ to the sound. For acoustic music, the tuning is exceptionally even-handed.

For music that benefits from added impact down low, there is a secondary ‘loudness’ EQ profile you can activate by holding both the up and down buttons simultaneously. This essentially applies a gentle bass and treble shelf – the ‘smiley face’ curve as it is known in some circles – ostensibly to compensate for perceptual changes when listening at low levels or in noisy environments. I suspect most people, unless they’re hardcore classical or folk enthusiasts, will end up preferring this tuning as it’s quite tasteful. The treble doesn’t get nasty, but both the bass and treble boosts are fairly gentle and don’t upset the overall balance, even for acoustic music. There is a reduction of midrange clarity and naturalness, and like many audiophile EQ’s, the bass boost seems to extend too far into the midband for my tastes, affecting frequencies even up into the 100hz or so range – my personal preference is for bass boosts to take effect starting at 80hz or below – but it doesn’t overly thicken or muddy the sound in my opinion.

In both modes the Focal Sphear still has that distinctive ‘Bluetooth’ sound to me though, a sort of lack of resolution, a dull and small soundstage, and a general artificial quality. It deals with this quite well, and as I mentioned, is tuned very tastefully. Resolution is not the best I’ve heard, again not a strength of Bluetooth headphones, but the level of refinement in the frequency response and the presence of some depth in the midrange is exceptional in the Bluetooth IEM space.

Dynamic impact is similar, not exceptional, and may be the weakest part of the experience, which to be fair, does not mean it is bad, but rather that these are IEMs which show off their strength as refined and level-headed characters, rather than lightning quick or hard-hitting in the dynamics department. That’s not to say they don’t have dynamics, but simply that they are neither bad nor good enough to be noteworthy.

Transients are clean enough, a bit dull sounding, as all Bluetooth headphones are to my ears, but again, this is not a fault specific to the Sphear, but the transmission format. What is there is clear and balanced, again, something that aids the perception of overall sonic quality the Sphear has. It’s a rare Bluetooth headphone that manages anything exceptional, and I would say the Sphear is above average here. It trades ultimate dynamic and transient clarity for a smooth, well-balanced frequency response with an absence of annoying peaks or bass humps.

So, when I say the Focal Sphear is a forgettable headphone, I mean that it does what a basic on-the-go headphone focused especially on sound quality needs to do. The feature set is average, and in fact most everything about the Sphear is average, except the sound quality. The Sphear’s sound signature is hard to worry about, it simply plays back music in a very nice, very balanced way that will suit a very wide variety of genres. It is an IEM that as a picky audiophile who sometimes must make concessions to convenience, allowed me to enjoy my music in higher fidelity than a more mainstream solution might, while also keeping a low profile and generally making itself easy to deal with.

I believe this is a great price point for product like this, where simplicity and the more minimal feature-set is a boon to the audio-conscious consumers looking for a convenience piece. If you are an audiophile looking for a simple, decent-sounding, low-maintenance and effort mobile device, or simply an average technology consumer who really cares about a great sound experience at a price point that won’t cost you as much as a new iPhone, I would certainly recommend you check these out. At $130 USD, these represent what I believe to be a strong value per dollar at the asking price.

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