Focal Elear Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Marvey, Aug 12, 2016.

  1. TMRaven

    TMRaven Friend

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    For reference, what are the other most dynamic sounding headphones you've heard Marv? I'm just trying to get a sense of what people mean by dynamics and hopefully I've heard of a couple of them. Is the Elear sounding extremely dynamic very amp/dac dependent as well?
     

  2. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    HD600, HD650, HD800, Grado, AD2000, CAL, Nighthawk. The list goes on. Basically almost any open traditional dynamic with good efficiency will not suffer the dynamic compression that I hear with planars. The Elear was able to demonstrate this with the modest Vali 2. The Sennheiser cans seem to require a bit more ampage to get going, and even then, they are not as dynamic as the Elear.

    Might want to ask @OJneg too, as he is the other outspoken member of the traditional dynamic driver society.
     
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  3. TMRaven

    TMRaven Friend

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    Ok that goes right in line with my impressions then, I get the sense of what's being said and how it relates to what's being heard. Of all the headphones I've listened to, I've found the HD650, HD800, and the Fostex TH-X00/old Denon series to be the most dynamic sounding. Hifiman's planars arne't that bad-- at least they're better than Audezes or Oppo in this regard, but they were a step down from the Sennheiser/Fostex 'phones.
     
  4. Kevin5236

    Kevin5236 Rando

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    High five gbeast!

    Well said.

    Let's all keep in mind everyone has different ideas of what sounds good and what doesn't.

    There is no 'absolute sound'.

    Audiophile magazines such as the big two we see on the shelves have been trying to earn our money for over 30 years with the promise of reviewing the next best component or speaker that hits the shelves.

    These new products get 'hyped up' purely based on the advertising dollars that go to the reviewer and the free sample they receive in return for the 'product of the year' award.

    Thank goodness for SBAF and actual measurements or all we'd have are biased reviews and paid product awards to go off when making our purchases.

    Kinda like that site we all came from to get away from this exact problem. I think a guy name Jude runs it...

    The Elear will have its own sound just like every headphone. When paired with gear that has good synergy, it will come alive and sound great.

    Isn't that why we are all in this hobby: for the journey to find what sounds good to our own ears?

    Sorry, I'll go back into my hole now and post something next year or the year after that.

    :)
     
  5. imac2much

    imac2much Friend

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    Yeah I've come to realize I have really different taste than most others on this site and Marv seems to have figured me out haha. I still love the Elear even as I compare it my HD650 (the only other headphone I have now). It's funny because I actually have a Lyra instead of the beloved Andromeda and it's known to be bassier and a little more veiled, but it's perfect for my tastes.

    That said, I've decided to get the Utopia as well and hope to try them with Elear pads. If I end up liking the Elear more, all the better for me and my wallet. I do want to try the andromeda too and compare to my Lyra.

    This is all coming from Oppo HA-1 and HA2 units which may also explain why I like warmer headphones and IEMs.
     
  6. Serious

    Serious Immature child

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  7. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Warning, lots of random notes as a preface to my eventual impressions/measurements post: Having played around with placing various shit in front of and/or behind the headphone (i.e. fingers or tape against cup mesh exterior), the Elear is stupid sensitive to basically anything inside, on, or in orbit of the headphone. The smallest things can shift CSD ridges around, create totally new ones, or totally eliminate them. Yes, sometimes placing stuff on the back of the headphone cleans up CSDs. Must be the way the drivers are angled, really open in various spots behind the cone and around the magnet, and have a very open design where anything could possibly cause sound waves to bounce around every which way and interact with everything else.

    This ain't no HD650, with straight facing drivers and a relatively closed off front baffle. Many more intricacies going on with the Elear.

    On second though, these drivers might work in a config similar to an MA900. Lots of bass to spare, that's for sure.

    And regarding bass, it's definitely on the full and dynamic side of things, but it's shifter lower in the spectrum than compared to HD650 AND is a lot cleaner sounding due to much lower distortion. Taking those things into consideration, I actually really like the low-end tuning.

    I think to decrease bass you are looking at either venting the pads a bit underneath (tough with stock) or need to replace the filter material next to the driver that leads to the inside of the cups with something more porous. Blocking that up further increases bass.

    Opening these up is possible, but wires inside are short and leave little room to play without removing the full 3.5mm jack. Lots of exposure to the magnet, back of cone around and from "inside" the magnet, visible super tiny wires leading to voice coil from solder point. Yeah, poking around in here will require a delicate operation.

    The upside is using a bit of tape to keep the HM5 Hybrid pads in place + some front damping foam gets these just about where I'd like them. I don't think anything will match the smooth, super balanced tone and clean decay of the HD650, but a slightly tweaked Elear is more dynamic, better extended, clearer/less veiled, and still has a nice top-end tone. I guess you can't win everything!

    More to come on all of this over the next few days.
     
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  8. Vent

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    You're awesome, Hands. Seriously.
     
  9. Hands

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    Here be my Elear impressions and measurements!

    Build quality and comfort: Great build quality! Good looking headphone. Good news, the entire headband assembly, including the metal part attached to the cups, are all quite pliable if you find the stock comfort lacking. Be careful not to screw it up too bad or else they won't let you adjust them up and down until you fix it back into a good place. They do not clamp as much as a stock HD650. They are still a bit heavy and clampy for me, meaning less comfort over time compared to my stretched and lightweight HD650. Not great with glasses. HD650's are OK with glasses. Stock pads are kind of rough feeling and compress too easily.

    Cable: A million feet long.

    Sound:

    - Forward sounding. Paired with Jotun it's like an assault on your ears. Stage is very compressed and sits very close to you without a ton of depth or width.

    - Bass heavy, but honestly very similar to the HD650, just with the emphasis shifted down to 60-70Hz or so and cleaner sounding bass. Better extension, slam, and dynamics. I really don't hear these as being too thick in the bass or lower-mids at all. But if you're used to the HD650 and are fine with those, the Elears should be fine too.

    - Kind of shouty sounding, akin to the HD600, just not as "hot" sounding. I wonder if it's a similar upper-mid emphasis. This paired with the inherent forward sound and Jotun is pretty painful at loud volumes.

    - Treble overall is similar in overall balance as an HD650, just not anywhere near as smooth or cohesive. Very rough sounding. Lots of little dips and peaks.

    - Placement and clamp levels really affect the sound. Not quite as sensitive as the HD800, but getting there. Even the slightest changes can shift the upper-end dips, peaks, and overall levels around for better or worse. I think that ~5KHz dip will shift around from person to person and greatly depend on these factors. You can basically eliminate it with the right placement, but expect other trade offs. I find the dip in that area less severe subjectively than others have mentioned.

    - Overall faster, less hazy, less veiled, and clearer sounding than an HD650.

    Amp pairings: See comments about Jotun. With my modded Super 7, which I've tweaked to synergize with the HD650 really well, it really helps the Elear. Gives it a lot more space, lets it breath, smooths out some rough edges, but the inherent traits are still evident.

    Random note about reducing clamp and stretching headphones: Will cause some spots in treble, for me around 5KHz, to become boosted. Will lower bass a little bit.


    Let's check out measurements!


    Similar bass bump as seen on HD650, but perhaps less broad and smoothly integrated, shifted down about 20-30Hz, and with better extension. HD650 hits that 90dB mark right around 20Hz, Elear around 10Hz. Some might find the Elear bump less pleasant given it is more focused, but I think it's just fine.

    I know not everyone has measured or heard this, but that 2KHz bump sticks out for me. Rather shouty sounding. I picked that out right away. Sounds banshee-ish.

    Rough treble characteristics are noticeable. Overall treble levels are fine, but it's not particularly pleasant like the HD650.

    [​IMG]


    Here are some results I took the following day, with a subtly different position and level of clamp. Overall characteristics are the same, clearly, but given this was from a subtle difference on my head, that means placement will affect what one hears on the Elear.

    [​IMG]


    Distortion results are very similar to the HD650 on my rig, which pushes the limits of what my mic can handle, BUT has much lower bass distortion overall. Sure, the Elear has more 3rd order distortion creep, but levels are low enough that the bass still sounds much more articulate and clear on the Elear compared to HD650. Even on my limited rig, bass distortion stays below 1% even down to 20Hz. Nice!

    [​IMG]


    CSD results are a bit concerning, but not horribly so. I think this is a mixture of the pads and the very open nature of the headphones. The drivers are angled and have a very open entry leading to the internal area of the headphones. I also think the magnet has a small gap before the back of the cups and some shit in the way, like that metal ring right behind the magnets and stupid Focal local right behind the driver that exacerbate reflections. Sure, the back is mostly mesh, but it's not like a straight shot out of the headphone like the HD650 in most cases. Sound waves are bound to reflect off structural elements, the driver and magnet, and the mesh isn't as open as on the HD650 by quite a bit. Then you have sound waves bouncing around on the front side and off the pads, which are not breathable like most velour, so on and so forth. The HD650, by comparison, is a straight shot in back and front, not angled, and your ears sit much closer to the drivers. These still sound a whole hell of a lot cleaner than the Ether Flows, for example, but not quite at the level of an HD650 or 800.

    I say some of these things because I've noticed if I place my fingers or pieces of tapes in random places on the cup mesh, CSDs can actually become cleaner or shift ridges around, suggesting, there is a surprising amount of sound wave bazoonga bouncy interaction (TM) going on inside this very open headphone. The slightest changes will shift the bouncy interactive interactioness.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Up next, some quick pad swaps and tiny, tiny modding!
     
  10. Serious

    Serious Immature child

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  11. Hands

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    MOD TIME! VERY EARLY RESULTS

    Step 1: Take off stock pads. Do not consume!

    Step 2: Take Brainwavz HM5 Hybrid or Velour pads, my preference is Hybrid. Stare at them until you feel funny inside.

    Step 3: Get some strong, thick double sided tape or roll up electrical or duct tape to make it double sided and place it on the part of the baffle where the stock pads used to sit.

    Step 4: Stick HM5 pads on headphones. Use strong tape, and lots of it, to make pad placement resilient. Use little tape and rely mostly on pressure against your ugly head to keep pads in place for testing purposes.

    Step 5 (optional depending on tastes): Apply various materials directly in front of driver, not over the mesh leading into cups, to tweak treble results to taste. I personally use 1/4" grey open-cell foam from Foam Factory. This helps tone down the 10KHz peak that becomes evident on HM5 pads and helps smooth out remaining rough edges. I have not yet figured out a good way to adhere these into place, so right now they're cut to shape and kind of just sit there. If you leave the pad fabric liner in place, you could cut a disk and slip it in there rather than directly in front of driver. Experiment.

    This is like an alpha mod, and more as a stepping stone to encourage you all to try your own mods!

    Other things you can try: Cut off "lips" of pads and fabric liner. Stick something under the pads to give them a small vent in back, which will reduce bass levels and extension a bit, but thankfully these have plenty to spare. Use material to cover up vents leading inside cups if you want to boost bass. Get real crazy and replace the mesh material leading into cups with something more porous to reduce bass. Place a piece of tape or something on outside of cups in a particular spot if it sounds better to you. Have fun!

    Please see my random notes a few posts above here.

    Notes on results with HM5 Hybrid pads - Shaves off that 2KHz bump and as a whole really makes the treble sound much smoother, even, and more cohesive subjectively. Much more like the HD650 in tone now. Note that 10KHz can be a bit sharp without additional front damping. These headphones are so dynamic, sharp, and clear enough as-is that some material in front of the driver really doesn't kill things.

    That big null around 8KHz could be an artifact. Placement and clamp levels matter. Additional front damping can actually help here, believe it or not. Personally, this is NOT something that sticks out like the dips seen with stock pads.

    Note these results do NOT include additional front damping, just the pad swaps! There's a reason I suggest front damping to tone the 10KHz spot with HM5 pads.

    Not captured in measurements is how much less forward these sound. Still very dynamic and lively, and not laid-back, but staging, air, and layering are much improved.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Velour pads might have the best CSD results but kind of do the opposite of stock pads by making more of a suckout around 2KHz. May be desirable. Still more even sounding than stock pads, but other treble oddities appear too. Less of an 8KHz null. Might be an ideal pad if the exterior was pleather and the rest velour.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016
  12. Hands

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    Maybe it's an issue for those with German ears. :)

    It's possible the Focal CSD results won't correlate as well subjectively as some other headphones. Even though they're still not super duper great with different pads and additional front damping, they still sound very clean and clear. Less veiled than HD650.

    Once I get my mods just where I like them, I'll post those results.

    The internals of this headphone are seriously intimidating. Not sure it's worth poking around there much.

    Other random note: Placing a small portion of my finger in some very particular spots on the external part of the cups almost entirely eliminates the 5KHz, low-level ridge. Weird shit.

    Note #437: Only took left measurements due to in-ear mic not wanting to fit in my right ear anymore, which even then provides slightly different results, and the angled nature of drivers preventing me from measuring L/R both from one ear alone. Matching should be just fine, so I'm not concerned about it anyway.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016
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  13. Hands

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    Ah, dangit, sorry to flood with posts, but some other impression points I wanted to mention post-pad swap and with some extra front damping:

    - Really wanted to reiterate how much better the stage gets. It probably sits somewhere between a modded HD650 and modded HD800, the latter of which sounds less open and diffuse to me than a stock HD800. Maybe less of a straight line stage and more 3D than HD650. Layering and individual elements sound clearer on Elear.

    - Clipping distortion is more apparent on the tweaked Elear vs. HD650. At first I thought something was wrong with my Elear until I ran a DR test on the problematic tracks to find the distortion was indeed clipping in the tracks.

    - Random shit in the background that gets picked up in recordings is no longer hidden like it can be on the HD650, or, rather, it pops out more. I started thinking shit was going on in my house until I realized my bork-bork anxious dog was dead asleep. Tweaked Elear has more of those spooky real characteristics.

    - I still find it weird that those fine with HD650 mid-bass emphasis and extra distortion find the Elear to be too much down low. Y'all are weird!
     
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  14. PoochZag

    PoochZag The Shadow knows - Friend

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  15. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    It's the upper mid / lower treble suckout combined with bass emphasis with the stock pads. I see that the alt pads really did address the suckout, so might have not been an issue for you. Also HD650 actually have a slight emphasis around 5-6kHz.
     
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  16. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I guess I was too busy worrying about the midrange shout and rough treble to notice, haha.
     
  17. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

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    Makes me want a pair again. Thanks for sharing
     
  18. Hands

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    Stream of consciousness time: I must have been having a good day or had just the perfect positioning down with my early HM5 pad measurements, but the 10KHz bump gets real annoying real fast and is hard to tame without screwing other things up. Don't get me wrong, with the hybrid pads and some extra front damping, it's a step in the right direction for about $30 and certainly listenable. It's just tough when you switch to an HD650 and get a nice, smooth, balanced tone.

    So far, they've been the best pads for midrange and lower treble. It's the upper treble that gets you.

    Right now I am trying...alpha pads, of all things, and with a disc of felt over the driver, temporarily secured with velcro. Not as smooth and even in the upper-mids and lower treble as HM5, but still better than stock. These seem to have much cleaner decay like this, especially above 5KHz. (To me, this is funny, because usually the alpha pads boost upper treble quite a bit, except in this one case.)

    I am also beginning to wonder if having the tight-knit mesh and plastic Focal local directly behind the driver is contributing to a less refined sound compared to the Utopia, which has a much more open backing there. Of course, different drivers, magnets, and pads, but can't help but wonder.

    Very quick and dirty measurements. Please ignore distortion results, as there is a lot of noise going on right now, and overall I was taking measurements every minute or so real quick for rapid testing purposes with various configurations. I can't rule out the pads are doing something funky to bass distortion, but ignore for now unless confirmed later with ideal measurement conditions.

    alpha pad w felt.PNG
     
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  19. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

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    I bet ZMF Cowhides would tame that peak but also make them a bit darker unfortunately and increase the bass. ...I bet... not saying it will for sure.
     
  20. cskippy

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    Is the felt disc equivalent to a doggie treat? That looks great!
     

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