Focal Elear HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.3
5.5
Mixed Usage
7.8
Neutral Listening
4.7
Commute/Travel
5.5
Sports/Fitness
5.1
Office
4.8
Wireless Gaming
6.6
Wired Gaming
1.6
Phone Call
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.

Test Results
Design 6.9
Isolation 1.4
Microphone 0
Active Features 0
Connectivity 3.8
Pros
  • Good audio reproduction.
  • Sturdy, durable build quality.
  • Comfortable design.
Cons
  • Poor isolation and leakage performance, by design.
  • Bulky and heavy headphones.
  1. Update 11/6/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.

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6.9

Design

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.

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 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 Controls
OS Compatibility
:
Not OS specific
Ease of use : N/A
Feedback : N/A
Call/Music Control : No
Volume Control : No
Microphone Control : N/A
Channel Mixing
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through
:
N/A
Additional Buttons : N/A

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

6.6 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 Portability
L : 8.5 "
W : 7.5 "
H : 4.1 "
Volume : 261 Cu. Inches
Transmitter required : N/A

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 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 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 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.

Headshots 1
Headshots 2
Top

Sound

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. 

Sound Profile
Neutral
:
7.6
Bass-Heavy
:
3.4
Warm
:
7.5
Bright
:
5.2
7.4 Peaks/Dips
Peaks
:
1.51 db
Dips
:
1.83 db
8.2 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.

8.7 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.

7.5 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.

8.1 Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
:
0.240
WHD @ 100
:
0.082
1.4

Isolation

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.

1.2 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 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.

0

Microphone

Integrated
:
N/A
In-line
:
N/A
Boom
:
N/A
Detachable Boom
:
N/A

The Focal Elear are for critical listening and are not designed to have a microphone.

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

These headphones do not have a microphone.

0

Active Features

The Focal Elear are simple, passive, wired headphones that do not have a battery and don’t have a companion app for customization options.

N/A Battery
Battery Type
:
N/A
Continuous Battery Life
:
N/A
Additional Charges
:
N/A
Total Battery Life
:
N/A
Charge Time
:
N/A
Power Saving Feature
:
N/A
Audio while charging
:
N/A
Passive Playback
:
N/A
Charging Port : N/A

They are passive headphones that do not require a battery.

0 App Support
App Name : N/A
iOS : N/A
Android : N/A
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
:
N/A
ANC control
:
N/A
Mic Control : N/A
Room effects
:
N/A
Playback control
:
N/A
Button Mapping : N/A
Surround Sound : N/A

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

3.8

Connectivity

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.

0 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
N/A
Multi-Device Pairing
:
N/A
NFC Pairing
:
N/A
Line of Sight Range
:
N/A
Default Latency
:
N/A
aptX Latency
:
N/A
aptX(LL) 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 Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line of Sight Range
:
N/A
Non-BT Latency
:
N/A
9.5 Wired
Analog Audio
:
Yes
USB Audio
:
No
Detachable : Yes
Length : 10.4 ft
Connection : 1/4" TRS
Wired 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.

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

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

In the box

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

Compared to other Headphones

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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

Audeze LCD 2 Classic/LC2C
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

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.

+ Show more
5.5 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.

7.8 Neutral Listening

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.

4.7 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.

5.5 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.

5.1 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.

4.8 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.

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