The Focal Elear are good open-back critical listening headphones. They are very well-built and very comfortable for long listening sessions thanks to well-padded ear cups and headband. Their open design makes them a poor choice for any other use cases as they don’t block any ambient noise and don't have a microphone or wireless technology. These are premium headphones made to enjoy in quiet environments to benefit from their open sound quality.
The Focal Elear are premium over-ear open-back headphones with a great build quality. They have detachable cables, a metal frame, wide and deep cups and great padding on the ear cups and on the headband, which makes them very comfortable too. They won’t be the most breathable over-ears, but the open-back design helps with airflow. They are very bulky and are hard to travel with, but by design, they are best used indoors and will not be suitable for outdoor use or physical activity.
The Focal Elear are great looking headphones that have a high-end and premium feel. Most of the build is metal, and the cups are large and well-made. They are practically all-black, expect for the metallic silver finish on the cup hinges and logo. They have a nice grill on the cups and a well-padded headband. Even if these are bulky over-ears, they aren’t flashy and don’t necessarily stand out.
These headphones are very comfortable. They don’t put too much pressure on the head, and the materials used for the ear cup padding is cushiony and soft. The cups are large and deep so that your ears don’t touch the drivers. However, they are one of the heaviest headphones we’ve reviewed so far, although they don’t feel like it once on the head. Also, they could feel a bit tight on bigger heads.
They are decently breathable thanks to their open-back design which helps with airflow. Over-ears usually trap heat under the ear cups, but the grille on the cups helps to lower the temperature. They won’t be ideal for sports as you might sweat more than usual with these headphones on.
Like most over-ear headphones, the Elear are not very portable. They have a bulky design, and they do not fold into a more compact format. The ear cups also don’t swivel to lay flat. However, you shouldn't be on the move quite often with critical listening open-backs.
These headphones do not come with a case, which is disappointing since the closed-back variant Focal Elegia do. However, you can use the box that they are packaged in as a case, but it adds a lot of bulk and won't be practical to carry around unless you have a really big bag or suitcase. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem since you shouldn’t be carrying around critical listening open back headphones often.
The Focal Elear are very well-built headphones that have a solid, high-end design. The whole build is almost all made out of metal, making the headphones very sturdy. They also have a detachable cable, which is convenient and easily replaceable if broken, which makes them more durable. Overall, they have few moving parts that are susceptible to breaking and are made like premium headphones.
The Focal Elear are good sounding open-back over-ear headphones. They have a good, consistent, and punchy bass, a great and well-balanced mid-range, and decent treble. However, their bass lacks a bit of thump and rumble, and their treble is slightly veiled. They are still very versatile headphones that sound great for a variety of music genres, especially classical and vocal-centric music, but fans of heavy-bass might find them slightly lacking.
The Focal Elear have good bass. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 44Hz, which is decent. Low-bass is under our target curve by 4dB, and could lack thump and rumble, which is common to bass-heavy music like EDM, hip-hop and film scores. However, the lack of sub-bass is not too noticeable, especially on headphones. Mid-bass, responsible for the body of the bass guitars and punch of the kick drums, is almost on our neutral target. For slightly more bass with an open design, take a look at the semi-open Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation, although the Elear might still offer better overall value.
The Focal Elear have good treble performance. The overall response is relatively well-balanced and even, which is important for producing accurate vocals and lead instruments but is slightly veiled. The dip around 4KHz to 6KHz will have a small negative effect on the brightness and detail of the vocals and instruments while other S and T sounds might feel too sibilant. However, not everyone will have the same listening experience.
The imaging performance is great. Weighted group delay is at 0.17, which is excellent. The GD graph also shows that the entire group delay response is below the audibility threshold. This ensures a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were well-matched in frequency, amplitude, and phase. This is important for the proper placement and localization of objects (voices, instruments, video game effects) in the stereo field. However, these results are only valid for our test unit, and yours may perform differently.
The Focal Elear have a decent soundstage. The PRTF graph shows a decent amount of pinna activation, with an average amount of accuracy. However, there is not a 10KHz notch present. This suggests a decently large soundstage that may be perceived to be located inside the listener's head as opposed to in-front. Also, due to the open-back design of these headphones, their soundstage may feel more open than that the closed-back counterpart Focal Elegia and Focal Stellia.
The harmonic distortion performance is very good. The amount of THD produced is very low throughout the range. Also, at 100dB SPL there is a decrease in THD in mid and treble ranges, which is probably due to the increased flexibility of the driver under heavier loads.
By design, the Focal Elear don’t isolate ambient noise well. Their open-back design will let noise seep into your audio and will not be ideal for commuting. Open-backs are also quite leaky, which may be distracting to people surrounding you. They are made to be used in quieter environments where you can appreciate the benefits of an open design.
Poor isolation by design. This performance is expected by open-back headphones. The Focal Elear don’t offer any isolation up to 2KHz and achieved only 8.5dB of isolation in the treble range, which is sub-par.
Bad leakage performance, but this is also expected by open-back headphones and part of their design. The significant portion of their leakage is spread between 300Hz and 20KHz, which is very broad. The overall level of their leakage is quite loud too. With the music at 100dB SPL, their leakage at 1 foot away averages at 63dB SPL and peaks at 78dB SPL, which is over the average office noise floor.
The Focal Elear are for critical listening and are not designed to have a microphone.
The Focal Elear are simple, passive, wired headphones that do not have a battery and don’t have a companion app for customization options.
The Focal Elear are straightforward wired headphones. They do not have Bluetooth connectivity and only provide audio when connected. You’ll also need to get a 1/4” female to 1/8” male adapter if you want to use these with consoles and PCs. They aren’t wireless headphones, so you’ll be limited by their cable’s length, but on the upside, they won’t have latency issues.
These headphones have a 1/4” TRS connection that will need a 1/8” adapter to be used on PCs and consoles. However, they do not come with the adapter in the box, unlike the Focal Elegia that have an included 1/8" to 1/4" adapter.
The Focal Elear do not have a dock. If you want open-back headphones that have a dock, try the Sennheiser RS 185RF HDR.
The Focal Elear are great critical listening headphones that have good audio reproduction and are one of the better-built headphones we’ve tested so far. Their sound signature is well-balanced and is versatile for a variety of music genres, especially classical and vocal-centric music. They are very comfortable headphones for long listening sessions but may lack sub-bass for fans of bass. See our recommendations for the best audiophile headphones, the best wired headphones, and the best headphones for studio use.
The Focal Elegia and Focal Elear are two similarly-designed headphones that have the same great comfort and build quality. However, the Elear are open-back headphones, while the Elegia are the closed-back variant. Both have good audio reproduction, but the open design of the Elear will give you a more speaker-like experience. On the other hand, the closed design of the Elegia will isolate more and leak less, making them more versatile for outside use cases.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S are better headphones than the Focal Elear, but are also way more expensive. The HD 800 S are one of the best-sounding headphones we’ve reviewed so far. They have more accurate reproduction of the treble range than the Elear and also have a better speaker-like soundstage. On the other hand, the very large cups of the Sennheiser might be too big for some and could create gaps. Also, the Elear are slightly better-built headphones and feel sturdier.
The Focal Elear and the Audeze LCD2-Classic are very similar headphones, but the Focals might be slightly better thanks to a more comfortable fit and a slightly better build quality. Both headphones have very similar frequency responses and should sound practically the same way, but the soundstage of the LCD2-Classic is better.
The Focal Elear are better critical listening headphones than the Sennheiser HD 650, but they are also more expensive. They have better build quality and feel like more premium open-back headphones. On the other hand, the HD 650 have flatter treble, and they are more lightweight and stable on the head. Both are great headphones, but the HD 650 might be a better choice if you’re looking for your first pair of audiophile headphones.
The Focal Elear are better open critical listening headphones than the Sennheiser HD 660 S. They aren’t as tight on the head and will be more comfortable for long listening sessions. They are also one of the better-built headphones we’ve reviewed so far. Sound-wise, their treble is more uneven, but they should sound more open due to their better soundstage performance.
The HiFiMan Ananda are better critical listening headphones than the Focal Elear. Their sound quality follows more our target curve with excellent mid and treble ranges. They also interact more with the pinna and create a more open soundstage than the Elear. On the other hand, the Focals are better-built headphones and feel sturdier.
The open-back Focal Elear are slightly better critical headphones than the semi-open Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation. They are more comfortable to wear during long listening sessions, since they aren’t as tight as the T1 and are remarkably well-built. They also don’t sound as sharp as the T1s. Overall, the Elear offer a better value than the Beyerdynamic T1.
The Focal Elear are better critical listening headphones than the Focal Stellia, but the Stellia are a bit more versatile. The Elear are open-back headphones that produce a more spacious soundstage than the Stellia; however, they’re a bit bass-light. Although the Elear provide better value for use in a quiet listening room, the Stellia have deeper bass and also isolate more noise, which is better for use in environments with more ambient noise.