Focal has updated the Utopia with a new blacked out look and a few changes internally. Most of the glossy black and silver is gone. It now has an updated voice coil made from 70% aluminum and 30% copper (The original was all aluminum). Inside the ear cups over the drivers, they’ve changed the flat grille to a M-shaped grille matching the shape of the driver. How will these changes affect the sound? Is Focal taking a step in the right direction with the updated looks and sound quality? In my opinion, yes!
Let’s get into this!
I’m not a reviewer. I haven’t heard it all, but I wanted to give my impressions because I’m sure there are people like me who want some additional info on these beauties before buying.
Build & Comfort
Build: Which leads me into the updated looks and build quality. In my opinion they’re beautiful. Even better in person. I think the refresh is awesome. I really like the blacked out look and the way the honeycomb hexagon pattern flickers as the light hits them. It’s just enough flash without being over the top. The looks kind of remind me of the Focal Radiance and IMO they’re a great looking headphone, but these take it to another level. The forged carbon fiber on the yokes is a cool change up from the original. The OG Utopia has the weaved carbon fiber, which is nice as well and I could take either style, but this was a smart decision to change it up. If you’re refreshing the look, you have to do more than just the cups, so the new yoke style is a good move. I do like the location of the connectors now. I think it was wise to relocate them to the ring of the cup. Not sure if this helps to allow the grille to be more open, but regardless I think it was the right move. I don’t mind the Lemo connectors. I know some aren’t a fan but it’s fine. I do think a simple 3.5mm connector like the rest of the Focal lineup would be best, but at least it isn’t a HD800S connector or something worse. I can live with them, they’re easy on/off in my experience and that’s important to me. Which bring us to these cables… They’re amazing! Almost as good as Hifiman. Come on Focal, you’re so close to perfection! But in all seriousness, it comes with two cables. One 10ft, terminated in 4 pin XLR and one 5ft, terminated in 3.5mm. Both cables are janky and not the easiest to work with. They sound fine and do the job, but at this price point you’d hope for a little more. Outside the cables, which many change anyways, I’d say overall a solid build. No real complaints here.
Comfort: Getting into comfort, I find them very comfortable. I can wear them for many hours with no problem. The weight could cause issues for some, but I don’t find them too heavy or a problem. The headband has excellent cushioning and I don’t develop a hotspot or anything on the top of my head. The pads are the same as the OG and I feel they’re very good quality. And they should be (don’t look up the cost to replace them). I don’t find the leather ear pads get hot at all. Probably the best leather pads I’ve used. The perforations most likely help here and again, just really comfortable. I’ve owned just about all of the Focal headphones and I’ve never had an issue with comfort and these are no different. If you fall in this category then I think these will be comfortable for you as well.
Audio Chains & Burn in
Audio Chains Used: My main audio chain is Roon > Rockna Wavelight > DNA Stratus or Bryston BHA-1. I mostly use the Stratus but for a more affordable solid state option the Bryston does really well with the Utopia 2022. It’s a pretty solid pairing and still adds a little warmth for a solid state. The second audio chain I use is Roon > Chord Mojo 2 + Poly. The Mojo 2 leans a little thinner compared to the other two, but it’s still enjoyable IMO. You lose some impact in the bass, warmth, and the holographic elements of the Stratus, but it’s a portable AIO option so we can’t expect too much.
Burn in-Brain burn in-Adjusting: After about two weeks of owning these I feel like the Utopia has settled in quite well. I think some burn in definitely helped, though some will say it was all in my head, but I really feel it was a little bit of both. For the first 24 hours I didn’t really listen after the first initial impressions, which was quick and not the best. Afterwards, I let them play with some bass heavy music for about 24 hours straight and came back to a much better low end and a lot punchier headphone. I want to say the dynamics improved as whole as well. If you pick these up and think they’re not right initially, I’d definitely give them time. Either use them right off the bat and ride out the burn in or just let them burn in while you work, go to the gym, watch cartoons, or whatever it is that you do. But give them some time.
(No measurements, fancy graphs, EQ adjustments, or a pair of fake ears. I’m no Resolve and ain’t no body got time for that!)
Bass: Starting out with the bass. The Utopia’s bass is very nice, it’s fast and hits hard! Without ever hearing the OG Utopia I don’t know if I’d want less bass than this. I like what this is doing and it definitely fits my preferences. For a dynamic the Utopia is pretty linear in the bass too, it’s really enjoyable. Bass guitars have a growl, texture, and it’s fast. It’s just about perfect. I feel it has body and weight. It’s not a lean or thin bass with just texture and slam. It’s solid. If I could ask for one thing, it would be a linear sub bass like the Susvara with its texture. I found that trait of the Susvara really enjoyable, but that’s a planar and we can’t have it all.
Midrange: The Utopia comes off really nice in the midrange to me. Guitars, drums, violins, vocals, etc. they all seem spot on. Vocals aren’t metallic, they seem pretty natural. Nothing seems off here. It’s not recessed or pushed too forward. Various instruments that live in this range seem accurate. Guitars have weight and are crisp when needed. Drums have a nice punch and smack when called upon, natural as well. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but this area of the FR is pleasant and I don’t know what I’d change in the midrange. It’s just accurate to me.
Highs/Upper FR: This is about as high as I’d want the upper FR to lean, but don’t let that scare you away. It’s enjoyable! It allows details to pop through without being too harsh. Cymbals splashing are awesome. The highs are about perfect to me. It can sometimes seem like it’s getting close to being too much (electric guitars really getting on it or higher notes from a violin) but honestly to my ears, on my chain it doesn’t get there. The Susvara was similar, close but never really harsh (maybe with some bad rock recordings the Susvara could be harsh but that wasn’t the norm). This area is just about right to me. Even off the Mojo 2 it’s been enjoyable and it leans thinner than my main chain. I think they did a good job here. From what I’ve read about the OG Utopia, I’m not sure it would be for me if the upper FR pushes things any farther. I’d have to listen to be sure. Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity one day for a comparison.
Outside the Frequency Response
(Detail, Dynamics, Separation/Imaging, Stage, & Timbre)
This is where I feel the Utopia pulls away from the pack. The detail, dynamics, separation/imaging, and stage is awesome. Sure, some headphones do a few of these well, but not many do all of these well and I feel the Utopia is getting close to the total package.
Detail: The Utopia has crazy detail and clarity. I’m hearing things I haven’t before. I know people say that a lot, but it’s true. It’s up there with the best that I’ve heard and I’m satisfied with its abilities. Something about the way the Utopia does it. It allows these little details to pop out in the background or maybe a breath from a singer between lines. It’s not distracting or anything, just more detail but in natural way. Hard to explain, but I love it.
Dynamics: The Utopia is one of the fastest and punchiest headphones I’ve experienced. And it does it in a smooth and enjoyable way. It comes off coherent and it just works. Its very musical… yes I said it. It is what it is and I’m not ashamed haha! It’s really good! Much faster and punchier than any dynamic I’ve experienced. The speed of the Utopia is wild. It’s almost planar fast, or as fast. The Susvara was fast but IMO this is up there and very, very good too.
Stage: A really nice stage! The Utopia has excellent width and depth to the stage. Some of the best I’ve heard (HD800S and Empyrean have it beat in width, but that’s probably it). I wasn’t expecting the stage to be as good as it is… Maybe due to other Focal headphones having a smaller stage? Maybe that’s why I’m so impressed, but regardless I like it. It’s not congested at all. Instruments and vocals have plenty of room to work. The way it does depth is up there with some of the best I’ve heard. Other headphones will do width well but not depth. These do and it’s really impressive how it does both so well. It’s very enjoyable off the Stratus. I love the holographic feel and how it uses the stage. Transients from things like cymbals or electric guitars float out into space. Certain tracks will have things zipping through the air by your head, and it does it probably better than any headphone I’ve had. I’m sure the crazy speed of the Utopia, along with its depth in the stage is assisting with this mind game. It’s trippy, exciting, and I dig it!
Separation/Imaging: The separation and imaging on the Utopia is great. So pin point accurate. I think it may be as good or better than the Susvara and HD800S in that area. Working from memory I think this may edge it out. Or it’s possibly how my brain perceives it? I’m not sure, but it’s very good. This was off different chains too, so that plays a part, but it’s close! The presentation of the image is bigger off the Susvara, but I don’t find the presentation of the Utopia small. It’s just smaller when comparing the two.
Timbre: Before the Utopia, the Susvara was hands down the best headphone I’ve heard. The Susvara has it beat on linear bass, texture, and presentation size, though the Utopia does very well for a dynamic. I find the Utopia really engaging. Probably more energetic than the Susvara. It’s so dynamic, punchy, and just full of energy. The Susvara may be a tad bit better in timbre, but the Utopia’s timbre isn’t bad at all. It’s a close one in the timbre category, but I’d probably give it to the Susvara. Again, this is also comparing the two headphones off two different chains and also working from memory. But at no time while using the Utopia have I thought the timbre was off and this is coming from someone who loves Sennheisers (HD580, HD650, and HD800S).
Thanks for sticking it out to the end!
Whew! Maybe a little too long, but I wanted to do my due diligence and give you the best info I could offer. I hope this helps anyone that may be looking into this headphone. Throughout these impressions I’ve compared it to the Susvara and that’s saying something. It really does trade blows IMO. The Utopia scales really well with the chain you have behind it, so feed it well and it’ll be an enjoyment. If you have any questions feel free to ask on the forum and I’ll do my best to help.
I love all types of music and trying out audio gear along with it. I’m still on my never ending journey to find endgame.