Focal Utopia Review (collective stream of consciousness)

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Marvey, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Anybody else waiting for the next Katz Corner where his colleagues weigh in on the Utopia vs LCD-4?

    I've been very patient but it's been 2 weeks already :D
     

  2. TonyNewman

    TonyNewman Acquaintance

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    I have just sold my Utopias. They are a brilliant headphone technically - best detail, clarity, dynamics and punch I have ever experienced. However, for me they are just too "in your face" all the time. I can't relax and chill using the Utopia - it is too forward, too energetic - and just not what I was looking for. So mine are sold and am very happy to return to my modded HE6. A much better fit for for my tastes and gear.
     
  3. cskippy

    cskippy Friend

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    Wow! I still need to hear one, but it seems like it's just a different flavor, not necessarily better than HE-6 or other ToTL cans.
     
  4. TonyNewman

    TonyNewman Acquaintance

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    It beats the modded HE6 in several ways IMHO, but is just too "full on" all the time for me to enjoy it and relax with it - and that is kinda the point of the exercise for me.

    Please don't take this as a criticism of the Utopia - it isn't the right headphone for me and my gear - but it could be for you (as it is for many others).
     
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  5. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    Come to the Albuquerque meet in late April and listen to mine :)
     
  6. pippenainteasy

    pippenainteasy Rando

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    If anyone is interested in earpad mods, it appears the MrSpeakers Ether Electrostatic (and possibly the regular Ether or Flow) pads are compatible with the Focal Utopia. The pads are more or less the right size to just pull right over the Utopia earcups.

    In terms of sound I would say it's somewhere between the brighter sound of the stock Utopia pads and the darker, more distant sound of the Elear pads. It has more bass than the stock Utopia pads, but less than the Elear, and the soundstage is wider than with both (makes sense, the pads are huge). It does lose some of the punch being that the driver is now venting over a much larger area. I'd say I still slightly prefer the more focused imaging of the Elear pads, but it's more comfortable than either of the Focal factory pads for anyone with big ears (both Elear and Utopia pads were previously pinching tips of my ears). To me, this mod to me makes it better than the SD HD800 in pretty much every way now (minus the advantage in weight the HD800 has) as it removes the major weakness of the Utopia's (soundstage).

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2017
  7. murphythecat

    murphythecat Almost "Made"

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    Pipe, thaks a lot for this information.
    I decided to order a pair of mrspeakrs pads myself.
    anyone else have tried the mr speakers pads or other pads for the Utopia?

    I dont know what happened with my utopia, but the first few weeks of ownership, i had some doubts on whether the Utopia were worth it.

    this week, ive began playing with interconnects and I have at the moment cardas quadlink 5 c and Cardas neutral reference. To my extreme surprise, switching from 1$ interconnects to the quadlink 5 c literaly removed the slight harshness I experienced somewhere in the upper mid/lower treble of the utopia. Ive been trying to hear again the harshness but it seems the cardas IC'c really helps to remove the brightness.

    I actually tried to sold my Utopia due to the slight hardness that seem to be gone now.

    Anyone compared different headphone cable for utopia? im also looking to upgrade the stock cable. budget around 200-300$...
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2017
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  8. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    There is lots of discussion on cables not he HF "Focal Utopia (& a little Elear) impressions and discussion" thread.

    As for your cable switch, please switch back and see if the "harshness' returns. It might just be your headphones are a little more broken in, or you are just now used to the sound of the headphones.
     
  9. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    In case anyone cares, markertek has the Lemo connector for the Utopia is stock, just not on their web site. You would need to call them and ask for part FGG.0B.302.KLAD52Z. $28.29 with free shipping. Allied has them cheaper, but they charge shipping, and they don't always have them in stock.
     
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  10. strangecargo

    strangecargo Rando

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    I found that my Utopias had a slight high-end/transient "crispiness" out of the box that took a few hundred hours to go away. I can definitely hear the difference between ICs with them, so it could be either of those things that was causing the harshness.

    I recently did a personal cable tour of aftermarket Utopia cables. I tried:
    • Moon Audio Blue/Silver/Black Dragons
    • Kimber Axios CU
    • Lavricable Grand
    • Danacable Reference FC
    One thing I learned in the process was that the stock cable, other than being annoyingly long, is quite good. The only cables that I personally felt were upgrades over stock were the Kimber and Danacable. The Moon Audio cables mostly felt like tone controls. The Black Dragon added some low end "fatness" and weight, but at the cost of considerable smearing/phase distortion. The Blue Dragon was very close to the stock cable, with just a hint of the Black Dragon character (a net minor downgrade, in my book). The Silver Dragon had the stereotypical sound that people associate with silver: detailed, but very lean in the lower registers. The Lavricable, Kimber, and Danacable all sounded clearer and less "smeary" than the stock cable, but the Lavricable imparted an artifical-sounding "sheen" to the vocal registers and tended to round off the edges of transient sounds, giving things like guitar distortion and synthesizers a very weird "corrugated" sound. Of the two cables that I thought were upgrades, the Kimber has analytical leanings, while the Danacable is more organic. The Kimber has a knack for revealing the harmonic structure of instruments and really allowing you to hear attack/sustain/decay. The Danacable excels at microdetail, "plankton", and microdynamics (as I understand these terms are used on SBAF), to the point that I had to do some work to lower the noise floor of my system to really enjoy the cable. I had an initial strong preference for the Kimber, but the Danacable is what I keep coming back to now. The analytical nature of the Kimber relaxes a bit and becomes more natural after a few hundred hours, while the Danacable sounds a little euphonic and rolled off at both ends until the ~50h mark.

    For $200-$300? I couldn't find anything that sounded better than stock. It's considerably better than most stock cables, save for being 3x too long. I would save your money and just enjoy your headphones.
     
  11. KarlStromberg

    KarlStromberg Rando

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    I also bought the Moon Audio Black Dragon Premium with 1.5m length and a 2.5mm balanced connector, but not for the reason to improve or change the sound somehow, but to have a short cable to use when I am not near my desktop amps and listening to the Utopia using my AK player. The stock cable is perfectly fine for me, when listening on my desktop amps. Yes, it's bulky and heavy, but at the same time very sturdy and it bends well. Unlike others I also like the look and feel. I think it is a Sommer cable, the same Beyerdynamic used for their T1. With the second version they now replaced it with a more lightweight, but unruly cable, unfortunately. I can't comment to the difference in sound, because I can only use them with different sources, but I like both so far.
     
  12. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    @KarlStromberg its not the sommercable sc-peacock mk2. That's what the T1 gen has, and I've make a number of cables with it. The focal cable is much thicker.
     
  13. Drifterxny

    Drifterxny Friend

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    can anyone recommend a shorter light weight cable that can be ordered to terminate in 4.4mm trrrs plug, that's less than 400 bucks and won't lose any sq compared to stock?
     
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  14. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    I don't know anywhere that builds those specifically (though I'm sure there are places that do).

    That said, I've built a number of them ... either terminating in dual 3-pin XLRs with an adpater to 4.4mm TRRRS pentaconn connectors, or directly terminating that way (don't have a picture of the cable I built that way here, can post from home later).

    The adapter looks like this (doing it in other colors is no biggie, just linking to this one since I've already posted it here):

    [​IMG]

    And then the first Utopia cable I built looks like this (again, the colors are arbitrary ... see the one below this for another option, albeit the picture will show LCD-4 terminations - and the cable sheath is reflective and glows in the dark):

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
  15. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    You could try http://forzaaudioworks.com/ - I had them build me a couple of cables terminating in 4.4mm (an IEM cable and a 4.4mm to XLR adaptor), and they did a nice job. Their prices are good, the work is always neat and tidy and you have various options depending on how fancy you want it.

    If they don't list the exact connector that you want, you can mail them, and they'll usually sort you out.

    (But if @Torq is offering to help, it'd be silly not to take him up on it, of course.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
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  16. Drifterxny

    Drifterxny Friend

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    I wouldn't have the first clue on how to build the cables myself hah. I'll reach out to some of the cable makers, thanks.

    I wasn't going to bother with getting a utopia cable for WM1A (sounded too crappy in the se out with high gain compared to desktop set up) but I've read that some people have had good experiences with the balanced out.
     
  17. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    I couldn't resist trying the HD650 via balanced out from the WM1A, and it wasn't too bad, amusingly. Certainly listenable- though I'd need to pay more attention to comment in detail.

    If you have a WM1x, sorting out a 4,4mm to XLR adaptor is almost obligatory, so you can pair it will all sorts of unsuitable headphones.
     
  18. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    I built the balanced cables for full-size headphones principally so I could listen to the WM1A with the more demanding cans while sitting outside. If I'm inside then I always use the fixed rig. I don't know of any portables that get anywhere near that level of ability.

    Personally I find the Utopia out of the WM1A quite enjoyable (I'm also one of those types that is content with the capabilities of what I can use in a given situation and don't find that knowing I have a better rig elsewhere, that I can't use at that moment, detracts from other listening).

    I'm always happy to build cables on request - it just tends not to be very cost effective compared to people that a) do a lot of it or b) do it for a living. Since I don't tend to keep stock of parts (especially not now I'm living on the water), individual builds wind up getting saddled with shipping costs from multiple vendors on top of the raw parts costs. And then there's my tendency to do exotic, sheathed, custom/experimental geometry with lots of runs of pricey wire ... which doesn't help matters.

    The cables illustrated are, if you swapped out the wire I used there and went with a simple star-quad cable/geometry instead of one of my fancy deals, and skipped the EBI and cryo stuff, comprised of $125-$150 in parts (and associated shipping). Forza or Impact (etc.) could probably turn out the entire cable for what I'd pay in parts.

    --

    Anyone contemplating building 4.4mm TRRRS cables should read this.
     
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  19. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    You say that like it's a bad thing. Sometimes that's exactly what you need when you're out of things to tweak*. Exotic geometries, and fanciful wires have a place in this world.

    That said, you're right, Forza or Impact are probably more sensible in this case. I'm becoming really fond of Forza's simple, beautiful cables-mostly sturdy, honest copper that inspires a lot of confidence. I'd certainly never dissuade anyone from trying them out.


    *I am most assuredly not, I have a long and interesting mental list, and am also very much enjoying the current sound, which is a very nice state of affairs. I doubt I will ever go for a truly high roller rig, but the listening pleasure only intensifies.
     
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  20. Torq

    Torq Last Remaining Good HF Poster

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    It's more that when people inquire after a cable "just like that" there's a certain amount of sticker shock involved. Which is entirely understandable if you don't build these things yourself. For my own purposes, yes, I like to play around with such things.

    As a simple example ... you jump from ~$150 raw cost for the main parts/shipping when just using Canare L-4E5C (intact, so star-quad configuration, still shielded), to potentially suddenly having several hundred more on top of the other parts just in raw wire. With the L-4E5C you just need two runs for those cables. It's ~$1/foot, so an 8 foot cable needs 16 feet and you so you're at $16 ... and you have all eight, already-wound, conductors as four 2-wire (E)MI rejecting-pairs.

    To do that with fancy wire, you might jump to maybe $4 or $8 per foot. But now you're talking single-conductor. Even to wind that in a simple twisted pair configuration (without all the spacers and fillers needed to do an electrically-consistent star-quad or more complicated geometry), you're talking $2-8 x 64 feet (8x 8ft runs). Or an extra $128-$512 just on the cost of the wire. And then hours more work to put the thing together (there's a reason the big guys are constantly on 3 week to 6 month back-logs for their cables and it's not due to huge volumes of orders).

    That's without screwing around with cryo or EBI treatments.

    And most people, if they're going to spend $150 on a "pretty" cable will tend to think they might as well go for something that's more than just pretty/functional ... and suddenly their reasonable assumption that the thing might be a couple of hundred bucks is staring down a much harsher reality.
     
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