Focal Elear Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.4
Updated Dec 20, 2018 at 11:21 am
Focal Elear Picture
5.1
Mixed Usage
7.8
Neutral Sound
3.8
Commute/Travel
5.2
Sports/Fitness
4.6
Office
4.6
Wireless Gaming
6.6
Wired Gaming
1.6
Phone Calls
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Open-Back
Wireless No
Noise Cancelling No
Mic No
Transducer Dynamic

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.

Our Verdict

5.1 Mixed Usage

Sub-par for mixed usage. These headphones are designed for critical listening, and their open-back design doesn’t isolate any noise for commuting or the office. They are too bulky and not stable enough for sports and don’t have a microphone for online gaming. If you’re looking for headphones to watch TV without disturbing your household, they leak too much for that usage too. They have great audio reproduction, and you should use them in a quiet environment to benefit from their open design.

Pros
  • Good audio reproduction.
  • Sturdy, durable build quality.
  • Comfortable design.
Cons
  • Poor isolation and leakage performance, by design.
  • Bulky and heavy headphones.
7.8 Neutral Sound

Good for neutral listening. The Focal Elear have a great audio reproduction with good bass performance, an even and flat mid-range and decent but slightly veiled treble. Their open design helps to create a more open sound, and they are versatile for a variety of music genres. They are very well-padded and comfortable headphones for long listening sessions, and their excellent build quality will last you for years. However, they lack sub-bass for bass fans.

3.8 Commute/Travel

Bad for commuting. They are open-back headphones and do not isolate any ambient noise, making them a bad choice for commute and travel, especially since they leak a lot, meaning people surrounding you will be disturbed by your music.

5.2 Sports/Fitness

Poor for sports. These over-ears are bulky, heavy, and not stable enough for physical activity. Over-ears also trap heat under their ear cups, making you sweat more than usual, even with an open-back design.

4.6 Office

Unsuitable for office. While they are comfortable for long hours, they won’t isolate ambient chatter, and you will disturb colleagues with your music since they leak quite a lot.

4.6 Wireless Gaming

Sub-par for gaming. Even if they have great sound quality and a long cable that should let you game from your couch, they do not have a microphone for online gaming. However, if you’re gaming alone in a quiet room and have a stand-alone microphone, these could be great headphones to game with thanks to their wired connection, great comfort, and great sound.

6.6 Wired Gaming
1.6 Phone Calls
  • 5.1 Mixed Usage
  • 7.8 Neutral Sound
  • 3.8 Commute/Travel
  • 5.2 Sports/Fitness
  • 4.6 Office
  • 4.6 Wireless Gaming
  • 6.6 Wired Gaming
  • 1.6 Phone Calls
  1. Update 3/24/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.
  2. Update 11/21/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  3. Update 11/21/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.

Check Price

Test Results

Design
Design
Style

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.

8.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 1.4 lbs
Clamping Force
1.1 lbs

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.

0
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
No Controls
Ease Of Use No Controls
Feedback No Controls
Call/Music Control No
Volume Control No
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls No

These headphones do not have an in-line remote with controls.

6.7
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 5.0 C

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.

5.2
Design
Portability
L 8.5 "
W 7.5 "
H 4.1 "
Volume 261 Cu. Inches
Transmitter Required No

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.

0
Design
Case
Type No case
L N/A
W N/A
H N/A
Volume N/A

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.

9.0
Design
Build Quality

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.

6.0
Design
Stability

These headphones are not the most stable and won’t be suitable for sports. They have decent clamping force to help the headphones to stay in place, but they will come off fairly easily during physical activity. This shouldn’t be a problem for casual listening sessions.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Focal Elear headphones
  • 10.4-foot 1/4” TRS cable
  • Manuals

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-3.57 db
Treble Amount
-2.66 db
8.2
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.35 dB

The frequency response consistency is great. The maximum amount of deviation across our five human subjects is under 3dB at 20Hz, and the rest of the bass range is consistent. The treble delivery is also very consistent across multiple re-seat, especially under 10KHz.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
7.3
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
3.44 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
59.93 Hz
Low-Bass
-6.71 dB
Mid-Bass
-0.98 dB
High-Bass
2.12 dB

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.

9.2
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.09 dB
Low-Mid
0.9 dB
Mid-Mid
0.23 dB
High-Mid
1.28 dB

The mid-range is great. The response is even and flat throughout the range and is within 2.5dB of our target curve, suggesting a clear and well-balanced reproduction of vocals and lead instruments, with a slight overemphasis.

6.0
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
5.36 dB
Low-Treble
-2.59 dB
Mid-Treble
-2.98 dB
High-Treble
-6.1 dB

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.

7.3
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.62 db
Dips
1.76 db
8.7
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.17
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.34
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
2.06
Weighted Phase Mismatch
5.71

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.

7.7
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
4.39 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
3.97 dB
PRTF Distance
10.24 dB
Openness
9.5
Acoustic Space Excitation
8.5

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.

0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
No
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
No App
8.1
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.240
WHD @ 100
0.082
Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
No Firmware
Power
Passive
Connection
Wired
Codec
PCM, 24-bit, 48kHz
EQ
No EQ
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Default
Microphone
No Microphone
Isolation
1.2
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-2.52 dB
Bass
-0.03 dB
Mid
1.19 dB
Treble
-8.42 dB

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.

1.8
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
62.88 dB

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.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
No
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
0
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
N/A
LFE
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
N/A
HFE
N/A
Weighted THD
N/A
Gain
N/A

These headphones do not have a microphone.

0
Microphone
Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise N/A
Speech + Subway Noise N/A
SpNR
N/A

These headphones do not have a microphone.

Active Features
0
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
No Battery
Continuous Battery Life
N/A
Additional Charges
N/A
Total Battery Life
N/A
Charge Time
N/A
Power-Saving Feature
No
Audio While Charging
No
Passive Playback
Passive Headphone
Charging Port None

They are passive headphones that do not require a battery.

0
Active Features
App Support
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
No
ANC Control
No
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
No

There is not a companion app for the Focal Elear headphones.

Connectivity
0
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
No Bluetooth
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
N/A
PC Latency (SBC)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
N/A
Android Latency
N/A

They do not have Bluetooth connectivity.

Being wired headphones, they practically don’t have any latency, which is suitable for gaming and watching video content.

0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
9.5
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
Yes
USB Audio
No
Detachable Yes
Length 10.4 ft
Connection 1/4" TRS
Analog/USB Audio Latency
0 ms

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.

Connectivity
PC / PS4 Compatibility
PC/PS4 Analog
Audio Only
PC/PS4 Wired USB
No
PC/PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox One Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
Audio Only
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Wireless
No
0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
No Base/Dock
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
No
Power Supply
No Base/Dock

The Focal Elear do not have a dock. If you want open-back headphones that have a dock, try the Sennheiser RS 185RF HDR.

Compared to other headphones

Comparison picture

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.

Focal Elegia
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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.

HiFiMan Ananda
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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 Focal. On the other hand, the Focal are better-built headphones and feel sturdier.

Audeze LCD 2 Classic/LC2C
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Focal Elear and the Audeze LCD2-Classic/LC2C are very similar headphones, but the Focal 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 Audeze is better.

Sennheiser HD 800 S
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Sennheiser HD 800 S are better headphones than the Focal Elear, but are also way more expensive. The Sennheiser  are one of the best-sounding headphones we’ve reviewed so far. The Sennheiser 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 Focal are slightly better-built headphones and feel sturdier.

Sennheiser HD 650
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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 Sennheiser have flatter treble, and they are more lightweight and stable on the head. Both are great headphones, but the Sennheiser  might be a better choice if you’re looking for your first pair of audiophile headphones.

Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation 2016
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The open-back Focal Elear are slightly better critical headphones than the semi-open Beyerdynamic T1 2nd Generation 2016. They are more comfortable to wear during long listening sessions since they aren’t as tight as the Beyerdynamic and are remarkably well-built. They also don’t sound as sharp as the Beyerdynamic. Overall, the Focal offer a better value than the Beyerdynamic.

Sennheiser HD 660 S
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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. The Focal 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.

Focal Stellia
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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.

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Focal Elear Price

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