When Focal announced the Elear in 2016, I was on the hype train immediately. A company known for incredible driver design, built off its own research and IP entering the Flagship headphone arena for the first time? It’s incredibly rare (once every 10-15 years, if that) and intriguing.
I saw Jude’s interview with Nicolas and the hype train hit Mach 1. The Elear wasn’t made by an OEM contracted by Focal, it was made by their team in Saint-Étienne, built from the ground up to exacting standards at every level of production. I saw Jude’s measurements... this looks like a super 650... Mach 3. I bought a pair right away. Those were the longest 40 hours of burn-in I’ve done since my first HD800. Put them on, hit play, and... Mach 0. The bass was too strong for me, the mid presence was too weak for me, the FR reminded me of the early 650 when it had a veil and bass distortion. The clarity, transient response, and soundstage was on another level, so the driver technology delivered on everything it promised, but the FR just wasn’t for me.
This spring, discussions around Focal picked up on Massdrop. We started seeing polls asking for Elears and Utopias. The community started to voice their feelings on both within our platform, and the overall sentiment matched closely with my own experience. Folks didn’t like the bass, folks wanted a little more mids (though there was much debate on this, very easy to have too much in the upper midrange), the driver tech was great, but the FR needed to change. Beyond that, the discussions dove into physical characteristics of the headphone. The Elear is heavy, add a thick, rubberized, 4m cable to that (this was on release, it’s been revised down to ~3m since) and you’re hanging a 100g weight from your 450g headphone with the rubberized material catching on everything for those microphonics we all love.
With a detailed community mandate in-hand, we approached Focal this spring, suggesting we work together on a refinement of the Elear, utilizing elements of the Clear to reach these goals:
1. Reduce the bass response to a tasteful ~3 db above neutral
2. Bring up the midrange presence so it’s in line with the rest of the frequency range
3. Change the cable to be lighter and 6ft long
4. Remove the rubberized coating on the cable
5. Simplify the aesthetic with a black on black on gunmetal colorway
Focal was receptive to our proposal and over the next 8 months we worked to achieve these goals.
To reduce the bass response and bring up the midrange, we changed the earpads to a similar style as the Clear while tweaking the damping scheme.
We dropped the long rubber cable and replaced it with two cloth covered cables. One is terminated with a 4-pin XLR, one is terminated with a 1/4”, both are 6ft long.
We changed the colorway from the black + silver combination to a black on black with the cable providing a little contrast with black on gunmetal.
Across all our headphone collaborations, I feel we’ve executed the community mandate most completely in the Elex. This is the Massdrop flagship open headphone collaboration.
None of this would be possible without your interest, your discussions, your insights, and your support. Thank you for your continued interest in our collaborations and community designed products.
This drop is limited to 1000 units, all serialized, the first 500 purchases are guaranteed a serial number under 550.