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jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 18, 2018
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Out of curiosity, do you have much experience listening with Focal headphones? As a pretty solid fan, I can tell you that ringing is not as prevalent as you may think and it's more akin to the tonality of other metal treated drivers. So if you're used to that sort of tonality, you know what to expect here. Some people are turned off by it but I've been listening to these types of drivers for years so for me it's the norm. The over excursion issues is hard mechanical clipping. Focal has been pretty outspoken about this, the why, etc. AFAIK, the Clear and Elegia are the only models that don't exhibit this. The Elex may be the worst offender followed by the Elear. And trust, I have to really give the Elex some power to push them to that point. I only really notice on songs with a heavily distorted low-end when the volume is turned way up. Personally, I don't think it's an issue in the real world. Especially with the Clear. They live up to their namesake for a good reason.
(Edited)
Dec 18, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
607
Dec 18, 2018
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I have been able to spend a good amount of time demoing the Elears but never the Clears or Elex unfortunately. I have never subjectively noticed ringing or clipping in actual listening, but I do agree that they share a slight metal coloration with similar drivers. They remind me a bit of Koss Ti coated drivers tbh, although with FAR better bass extension.
Dec 18, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 18, 2018
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Yeah, their extension and high level of dynamics is what drew me to them initially and has cemented the brand as one of my absolute favorites. Why? Because they sound unique and nothing else sounds or performs like a Focal. I would say HiFiMan would be my 2nd fave runner-up as they have a lot in common soundwise that I love about Focal while being different enough for them to sound unique as well. I used to be a huge Senn fan (still am) but I have found their laid back sound is something I don't crave quite like I used to. And as wild as it sounds, I still prefer the HD 579 to the 58X/6XX. There is just something about them that I love. They're tuned very safe and I dig that. On the bass, while they do not have massive quantities of lows, what's there is handled well and maintains the same texture as an actual woofer. For me, there isn't much more I could ask for in the low registers. I have sampled every Focal except the Utopia, and own the Elex, Elegia, and Clear's. I've been tempted to scoop up an Elear since they're dropping in price steadily just to round out my collection. As much as I like the prospect of the Utopia, I don't think it's a signature I would actually enjoy (much like the HD 800/S). My local shop is still finalizing their Utopia rig so I am quite excited to visit and get a good dose of ear time with them myself. And really, if you can sample a Clear, do it. The Elex is so damn close to the Clear that I originally sent my Clear's back when I got them at their full MSRP. With them down in price again, I had a ton of credit and gift card's so picked up a new pair for under $550 (they're going for $1,098 at most vendors currently). if price was a concern, I would say get the Elex as it puts you 90-95% in the Clear's performance range while being much cheaper.
Dec 18, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
607
Dec 18, 2018
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I would jump at the chance to spend quality time with the Clear (I have worn them and listened very briefly, but not a proper demo), I was actually pretty pleased with the actual sound of the Elear tbh, just not enough for me to jump ship from electrostats/Senns for opens.
Dec 18, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 18, 2018
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The Elear is a weird beast. It's so stupidly dynamic and has the hole in the mids/upper-mids that I know some people just loathe. They weren't my fave, but I still enjoyed them. At the time, they didn't make much sense to keep them over the Elex since at that time they were still selling for a grand. Electrostats are my next venture that I have no experience with but look forward to digging into. Hoping to see that drop for the Massdrop Koss unit comes back as that seems like a reaosnable entry point without spending an arm and a leg. The HE-4XX was my jumping off point to planars and I haven't looked back since, ha. It's always nice to sample some of the cheaper gear before spending thousands needlessly.
Dec 18, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
607
Dec 18, 2018
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I really enjoy the ESP950, and I was very pleased to see MD's collab. They are a great entry point for stats :) Back to the Focals, I wonder if the more severe ringing measurements may be outliers from some QC gremlins similar to those Tyll stumbled on for the Utopias. For example, here is a Clear CSD that is impeccable:
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https://diyaudioheaven.wordpress.com/headphones/measurements/focal/clear/ The more severe variations, like those observed by Soundstage in the first post, seem like they are getting into audible territory. . . if only certain units are affected it would also explain some of the variation in how severe the reported clipping issue is (variation in personal volume levels aside).
(Edited)
Dec 18, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 18, 2018
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Well, that's good to hear. Patiently waiting for the MD Koss collab to pop back up here and some of the other planar drops. Just waiting on more real world impressions before dropping $1k on something I can't sample and return easily. On Focal, that's the thing, is just APPEARS to be in the audible range but it isn't. At least, I can't pick up on it with my current pairs. I really think it's a matter of placement on the rig. Focal's are weird about head placement and pushed too far forward or backward really changes their sound (even more for me as I wear glasses). I didn't see any mention of this or repeated measurements for context. I always read his information like he did it all just one time and called it a day. For me, you can see all the other measurements around the web and they all have more in common than they don't. I know that's apples to oranges but I find it odd that one more than one occasion Brent's measurements and insights are opposing to other measurements I've perused. That, and anyone will tell you the Clear is well, Clear. They have that moniker for good reason and if this was evident, it would be more widespread as the Clear's tend to reveal just about everything in a recording and your chain. And sadly, Focal has (had?) some bizarre issues with QC so I wouldn't be surprised if it's just a bad batch. Much like Sennheiser, they're notorious for soft updates without saying a peep (see Utopia). I originally had to send my Elex back to MD for the over excursion was being triggered by my cell phone. Which is absurd. The replacement pair doesn't exhibit this at all and unless I'm listening at uncomfortable volumes, it never raises an issue. And even then, it's only on tracks with distorted lows as far as I can tell consistently. Otherwise, it's usually a subtle "pop" and I just back off the volume by a few dB and all is well. I just tell myself Focal cares and is looking out for my hearing when my headphones start "talking back" to me. Gotta love the french :)
Dec 18, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
607
Dec 18, 2018
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Thanks for this very nice post. Not having had the benefit of spending nearly as much time with these novel drivers as you have, I very much appreciate your insight! I think we agree for the most part if not entirely, but a few points back from my side for clarity: -I agree that it's difficult to de-embed the measurement's author and rig variation from a trend like this - particularly when the sample size that includes CSDs is so unfortunately small. That said, the mid ringing is evident (albeit less so) on the SBAF measures I posted initially as well. -The amplitude level of the soundstage measure is alarming, but it's important to note the very narrow frequency window of each resonance band. It is alarming to see, but in reality our ears do a degree of spectral averaging up the ear canal that could very well entirely mask this sort of thing. I am always shocked to see some of the dips in spectrum I don't notice in my DT770 or Porta Pros for instance. . . it's entirely possible this isn't an audible performance issue and just graphing bragging rights. -The above possibility noted, I think I am more inclined to suspect QC variation. These are new driver topologies, and Focal is comparably fresh to the headphone game. I am a big fan of Tyll's work, and to be honest I was less forgiving to Focal on the Utopia debacle than he was, so this may just be my baggage.
Dec 18, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 18, 2018
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Yup, we agree on all points. A strange thing around these parts, ha. I wasn't trying to downplay the ringing showing it's head on measurements, just the affect in the real world. And unless you have the hearing of a bat, I'd be pleasantly shocked that it would affect the listening experience in the real world. At least, it hasn't for me and the slew of others that have these headphones. If you look around, any complaints about "metallic" treble and ringing are so few and far between. You want to read about ringing issues, then check out the Fostex Purplehearts. That does play in part to the resonance of the wood but also their poor dampening stock and the nature of their biodyna drivers (amongst other niggles).
Dec 18, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
607
Dec 18, 2018
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Thank god you came out swinging on the Fostex there, I was getting worried with all this agreeing ;P Seriously though, the Purplehearts strike me as more of a guilty indulgence than reference for linearity - if the TH900 were a trophy wife, the purpleheart seems like it would be her wilder college years. A little rough around the edges, but DAMN :)
Dec 18, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 18, 2018
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Well, no help there as I still agree with you, haha. I actually have a lot of love for Fostex. I have the T60RP's in transit . The Purpleheart's while a guilty pleasure like you said, we're just to treble happy for my ears. When they weren't, they were an audiophile basshead's dream (we do exist). But, for extended listening and dat sub bass, the Ebony's just call to me and get all the love. I only sampled the mahog and PH and still chose the Ebony. I still haven't heard the E-MU Teak's but same problem of sampling them easily for the cost. I almost got them last drop but I have enough headphones for now and working on other aspects of my chain. I actually love Biodyna drivers and they are my 2nd fave to Focal drivers as I feel they both cover the shortcomings of the other and have great synergy tuning wise when it comes to headphones they're in. I also have heard all the stuff by AudioQuest and still use my NightOwls. I've had a very small amount of ear time with some of the stuff from ZMF and thoroughly enjoyed them sans the weight and price (but, I can justify the latter as Zach is pretty dope and puts a lot of love in his creations). Honestly between the Focal and Fostex, they nail the texture, speed, and tonality I like from my woofers that I think a lot of other headphones miss or smooth over. I'm not a mids or treble head by any means, but WAY too many people put so much credence in mids and highs and lose out on overall tonality and texture in the low-end. And for me, that weight and tone adds meat to music and makes it sound full and lifelike. That, and I seemingly find people love more bloated, boomy mid bass over fast, tight linear bass that extends well. This is my beef with the 6XX compared to something like the Elex. The 6XX has more bass quantity, easily. And if you've seen a 6XX thread, people state how good their bass is despite it being rolled off, lacking in the sub frequencies, and not very linear overall. The Focals extend fully in a linear fashion and sound just like the woofers in my loudspeakers. They just sound "right" despite not having as much bass quantity as the 6XX. Even though the Elex is neutral-bright (IMO), they sound fuller and meatier than the 6XX. Which I find odd as the 6XX are quite warm by comparison.
(Edited)
Dec 18, 2018
Keth
756
Dec 18, 2018
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I just got some Nighthawks and the T60RP, such different sound signatures, but both are super fun and enjoyable. The T60 has a lot of texture, and doesn't really smooth over anything, excellent sound stage and imaging...probably my new favorite headphones for gaming. I never understood all the love the 6XX gets, the K7XX has a far better sound stage and doesn't smooth over the detail as much. That being said, sound stage is king for me, my introduction to quality audio was the Fidelio X2, and compared to that the 6XX sounded like there was a speaker 2 inches from my head.
Dec 18, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
607
Dec 18, 2018
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The Biodyna Fosters are a perfect +1. I'm not sure I'd suggest them as a single all purpose headphone, but for those looking to indulge in a collection, they are an absolute must. RP Fostex is a very different beast, I just got a pair of T60s myself as well (must be that time of year) and they are definitely a more neutral-warm tuning, very complementary. I hope you enjoy them, they are a beautiful bit of headphones!
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A lot of the perceived bass on Senns (which do have great mids imo) is harmonic distortion. It's low enough frequency that we don't really perceive it as such, but I agree completely it is no substitute for the real thing!
Dec 18, 2018
Keth
756
Dec 18, 2018
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Do you're t60's creak when you move your head or speak? The cups on mine obviously came from two different trees as well, one is SO much darker than the other, kind of bugged me at first.
Dec 18, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 18, 2018
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Just had to look at your profile and you also own the TH900 mkII. I am officially a little jealous. I've been eyeing them for a while now. How would you compare them to the Ebony's and now T60's?
Dec 18, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
607
Dec 19, 2018
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Mine certainly creak if it shifts on my jaw, mainly if I'm eating. I had seen enough complaints in this regard that I forced myself to accept the likelihood when I purchased them (I have a big ol' head, literally and figuratively). I have seen comments at Head Fi that the issue can be resolved with a bit of bike lubricant strategically applied to the hinge on the enclosure, but it doesn't bother me enough that I've bothered to try.
Dec 19, 2018
Keth
756
Dec 19, 2018
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I was debating returning them for exchange. I already have to send the Nighthawks back to be replaced, they were sealed, but missing the extra pads and 1/4" adapter. Worried Amazon is going to deny my returns after trying 4 pairs, returning 2 (they were purchased open box thankfully) , and asking for exchanges on the other two...lol
Dec 19, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
607
Dec 19, 2018
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I doubt there are many headphones left to make you jealous! We are blessed to have so many great headphones to sample :) The 900 sounds much closer to the Ebony than the T60. It has been a while since I have listened to mine with stock pads, I currently have Dekoni hybrid (not the 900, the hybrid x00/610 pad) with attenuator ring. The Ebony sounds very much like a flat loudspeaker to my ear, whereas the 900's V profile is strong enough that it colors the tone. If I add 3-5 dB at 500 Hz via EQ, the tone becomes very similar to the Ebony. The soundstage on the 900, however, is much larger than the Ebony, some of this is the pad - I ran the Ebony with the Dekoni 900 hybrid for a while, but I felt the driver struggled in the enclosure a bit. The 900 has more bass impact, its reputation as a bass reference is well deserved. Oh boy, if you like bass. . . Speaking of the extra motor power, the 900 is actually damped with cotton (or something similar) stock, which I think helps remove some of the resonance issues that pop up in the TH series. I don't find the high frequency details gets out of control with sibilance like for say the DT990, but some people do find them excessive which I understand. The other big difference is that the Urushi is just NSFW. The Ebony, and the T60 are gorgeous headphones, but the Urushi is total debauchery. They do a great job making the headphone a luxury experience. The T60 is a totally different beast to the TH/TR. It's much closer to the mid focused 'professional' (voice tuned) Sennheiser. Very complementary to the TH series, I kind of feel like I have finally met the other half of Fostex :) The wood enclosure gives it a slight warm tilt and the RP driver offers a very satisfying extension that keep these from feeling as intimate/claustrophobic as the Senns (600/650). The mahogony and planar mag driver is a deeply satisfying contradiction, the former grounding the latter. It's also a weird SOB to drive, it can take a ton of current and the volume change doesn't feel quite linear (traditional gain switches don't have the expected effect).
Dec 19, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 19, 2018
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I wish I could like this post more. Thanks for your insight. I'm on a particular kick at the moment and I'm trying to round out my collection as I get rid of some older gear. So far, I have it narrowed down to these: Klipsch HP-3 (Ebony or Oak) ZMF Eikon (Black Limba) Denon AH-D7200 TH-900 mk II (I would murder someone for the Sapphire Blue 🤤) Also, this is the video that got me into Fostex in the first place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtKXGbsA94E Just watching real artisans work and use their skills is nothing short of awesome. And, they do look absolutely awesome. I was really leaning towards the ZMF but knowing how rare the SB are makes me more tempted to go for them (as well as the updated tuning).
(Edited)
Dec 19, 2018
Keth
756
Dec 19, 2018
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I can tell you off the bat that if you're going to BioDynamics get the 900's over D7200's, or at the very least audition the D5200's as well, I found I preferred them over the 7200's. The headband was more comfortable, and the sound was far more balanced.
Dec 19, 2018
GiantHeadphoneSquid
607
Dec 19, 2018
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I don't envy you deciding from that list - what a great set of cans! I do know which I'd choose myself obviously;) for me Foster's legacy in this space made them the only choice for a flagship closed. So far, no regrets.
Dec 19, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 19, 2018
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Thanks, added to the list. Admittedly, I don't have much experience with new/old Denon so it should be fun to go down that path. I've read so much about the legacy of these headphones so it should be fun to start sampling more of them. Mind you, I'm honestly looking for a different sound from my Biodyna cans. I want to cover what my Focal's (neutral-bright), Sennheiser's (warm), other Fostex's (V-shaped), and HiFiMan's (downright bright but linear) don't. Kinda why I was really tempted by the Klipsch and Eikon's but the Denon's and Fostex I can actually sample much easier so figure that's probably the better investment at the moment. I'm assuming if I have cabling, pads, rings, etc. for my Fostex cans (TR-X00), they should fit for the Denon's as well?
Dec 19, 2018
Keth
756
Dec 19, 2018
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The Denon and Fostex headphones both use Foster drivers, the D7200's are based off of the exact same model as the TR-X00. They're based off of either the Foster 443742, or 448498, and those E-MU purple hearts are based off of the 443741. So swapping pads or making any baffle/damping changes would make them sound even more a like. Foster OEM products: https://www.foster-electric.com/products/pdf/headphones.pdf
(Edited)
Dec 19, 2018
kjling
129
Dec 26, 2018
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Try the Focals on something humble like a DarkVoice 336 equipped with a Tung Sol 5998 power tube. The bass will be a revelation :)
Dec 26, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 26, 2018
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Just had to comment back but I got my T60's in over the holiday break and hoo boy are they a treat. I've listened to various mk3's (stock and mods) and they arguably sound like they're from a different family of headphones. The T60's sound much cleaner and grain-free compared to what I was expecting. My balanced cable won't be here until Jan 7th but SE on gain II with the THX 789 has been a great pairing. I haven't tried them out of the CTH yet but out of all my other amps, the T60 literally maxed them. And wanted more. I have never had that happen before and had a good laugh about it. It's weird. They keep asking for more and more power but don't seem to get as loud as one would think when cranking the knob. Although it's still too early to reach a true conclusion, I think I may like them more than the Ebony's. While the Eb's are more casual, fun, and punchy, the T60's just sound "right." Nothing about them jumps out at me and everything just gels. Kinda bummed I didn't jump on them sooner but glad I finally did. Also, are your cups really that light? I know wood will have variations but mine are darker (more contrast). They are a deeper "golden orange" color and don't look as "muted" like they do in your photo.
Dec 26, 2018
jaydunndiddit
3214
Dec 26, 2018
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I have. Some WA7's and the iTube2, actually. I still prefer them out of an SS amp. I actually really enjoy the bass in the Focal's as it is. The bass lacks quantity but that's not a bad thing. It's of such good quality I don't mind and it extends quite far. I have the Atlas or X00 Ebony's when I'm in a basshead mood :)
Dec 26, 2018
kjling
129
Dec 28, 2018
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neither the WA7 nor the iTube2 uses the Tung Sol 5998.. take my word for it, and look out for a chance to try it on an amp that runs it one day :) Or sth like the Glenn OTL with 6x 6BX7/6BL7 or 2x 6336 power tubes.
Dec 28, 2018
Themselves
3
May 14, 2020
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Bought a pair of the Clear Professionals to try this out. They clip, just as much as my two Elex do. :(
May 14, 2020
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