Blown Away By First Listen
I was almost sure that spending $600 on a pair of headphones would be a mistake especially with so many claims of quality control issues, and I had the thought that these wouldn't be a major step up from my other cans in the $100-300 price range... Wow was I wrong, right out the box these sound like my Focal Alpha 65's with the volume pumped up, which is great because I love those speakers for even just casual listening. The highs down to the mids certainly have a Blu Ray feel with intense depth / instrument separation, something I'd never really experienced in headphones. Listening to tracks like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, Elvis's And I Love You So, and Miles Davis's Blue In Green, if you blind folded and numbed me you couldn't tell me I wasn't at a live empty show, I had the feeling that instruments were coming at me from all angles. The lows are surprisingly tight and present for open backs with a lot of boom and sub you can feel in tracks like Mat Zo's Only For You or Strong Arm Steady's Trunk Music. Additionally the lows are extremely responsive for even higher tempo music I enjoy like DnB tracks such as Botnek's Deeper Love or old school metal like Judas Priest's Pain Killer. As for loudness, I had read reviews that say these don't get loud, these get loud... Now I'm not some guy that says I listen to my music loud, I do and I have the roaring tinnitus to prove it, I can pump these up to uncomfortable levels with none of the audible reported clipping. As for comfort, these are extremely plush with a decent clamp force that's not too tight or too loose, they can however feel a little heavy in the head band area after a hour or three of use. As for transparency, if you enjoy a lot of independent music these will put their mixes and mastering to the test, sadly one of my favorite tracks Rene La Vice's Let You Go sounded a bit harsh and light in the lows where on lower end cans it sounds phenomenal, so a few favorites might make their way outta your average rotation. The only actual downside to these headphones was the extremely stiff stock cable, which I assume is responsible for many of the reported QC issues, the thing was essentially like a baby tree's branch. However to Focal's credit the cable itself looks good despite the laughable level of rigidity, and they also include a XLR cable. To replace the troubled stock cable I did get the amazingly flexible HC-9 braided cable from Hart Audio, 10/10. As for the stock ear pads they're extremely comfortable and I'd even go as far to say acoustically they sound slightly better than the Dekoni leather sheep skin pads I got to replace them with, just I wanted pads that would last, not to mention they look great. On the topic of looks and style, it's more than fair to say Focal is certainly one of the more stylish options in home audio (ie Kanta) and pro audio (ie SM9), and these headphones with their slick all black steel housing are no exception. To sum this up, I'd definitely recommend these as they have fantastic detailed sound with immersive depth, ample boom 'n' sub you can feel, they're super comfy for even prolonged use, and obviously a stylish option. Just order a nice flexible braided cable ahead of time and you'll be more than pleased. -G
Would recommend to a friend.