Focal Utopia (2022) Headphones Reviewed

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Focal introduced its top-of-the-line wired headphone model, the Utopia, in 2016. In the seven years since, the company has developed some new ways to improve the design. The improvements and time since the initial launch warranted a revision of the Utopia, now dubbed the Focal Utopia (2022) Headphones (buy at Crutchfield) As the flagship model in Focal’s headphone line, the Utopia (2022) represents the company’s current state-of-the-art thinking on wired headphones. It’s a headphone that is willing to go toe-to-toe with literally any of the best wired headphones in the market at any price. Except for a few minor details, Utopia (2022) lives up to even the loftiest of expectations.

Focal Utopia $4,995 Audiophile Headphones Reviewed
At $4,995, the Focal Utopia headphones are among the most expensive and luxurious in the world.

What Makes the Focal Utopia (2022) Headphones Special?

  • The driver is an M-shaped pure Beryllium dome, which Focal claims delivers “pure, dynamic and perfectly balanced sound.” The new Utopia now features an M-shaped grille that follows the curve of the speaker driver, which Focal claims offer better linearity in high frequencies than the previous version.
  • It’s an open design, like the previous version, but improvements have been made to the honeycomb grill that, according to Focal, was designed to “insure openness and full decompression of the speaker driver.”
  • As you would expect from a premium offering, the Focal Utopia (2022) utilizes premium materials, including gorgeous leather in the headband, perforated lambskin covering on the earpads, forged recycled carbon for the yokes, and aluminum on the grills and enclosures. These are some very premium headphones in terms of parts and materials quality. 
  • The headphones come with two removable cables: a single-ended five-foot cable and a balanced 10-foot cable, both of which use an easy-to-attach-and-remove Lemo connection scheme. Along with the presentation box, you will find a hard-shell travel case and a 3.5mm-to-6.5mm single-ended adapter.
  • Although the they’re not super lightweight due to all the metal parts at 1.08 pounds or 490 grams, they are remarkably comfortable, and due to their headband design will fit a wider range of head sizes than many headphones. 
  • Unlike headphones that rely on plastic parts, especially in the yokes or headband, the Focal Utopia (2022) are built to last even when subjected to heavy usage. Multiple drops will have little or no effect on them.

Why Should You Care About the Focal Utopia (2022) Headphones?

For some readers, headphones are an occasional convenience. For others, headphones are the principal way they listen to music. The Focal Utopia (2022) are aimed more at the second group – the folks who require a reference-level headphone that will last for years and rock every minute of their existence. 

They will also appeal to serious listeners who want the highest performance from an open-back headphone that is easy to drive and does not require an ultra-powerful headphone amplifier. With its 80-ohm impedance and 104 dB sensitivity, the Focal Utopia (2022) can be driven be even a modestly priced headphone amplifier such as the Topping A90, SMSL HO200, or Sebaj A20H. Although, after dropping five grand on a pair of headphones, we would certainly understand if you wanted to chase after even more exotic amplification and front-end source components for your wired headphone rig. 

Focal Utopia $4,995 Audiophile Headphones Reviewed by Steven Stone
The Focal Utopia wired, audiophile headphones with a lust-worthy Naim music server and headphone amp.

Some Things You Might Not Like About the Focal Utopia (2022) Headphones

  • The only ergonomic failure on the new Utopia is the single-ended headphone cable. It is stiff, and never in my time with the headphones did the deformations caused by storage go away. The balanced cable is much more flexible and easier to use.
  • Although they come with a nice travel case, the Focal Utopia (2022) are not ideal for travel due to their open-backed design. They are fairly heavy, somewhat bulky in their case, and supply no reduction in outside noise levels, so they may be less than ideal in quiet public environments since others will hear your music if they are within five feet or less.
  • Depending on your fashion sensibilities, you may find the Focal Utopia (2022) headphones are not flashy enough. The basic color is black, relieved only by the red accent behind the Focal logo at the center of the honeycomb grill. 
  • The metal Lemo connections for the cables protrude over one inch from the enclosures themselves. If dropped directly on the Lemo connection or struck hardthe connection point could be bent or even broken off in extreme cases. A shorter connector with flexible strain relief would have been more damage-proof.

Listening to the Focal Utopia (2022) Headphones…

Low bass, the stuff below 80 Hz, is often under-represented in many high-end wired headphones, or if it is present appears in a minimal or a highly distorted form. That is not the case with the Utopia (2022). On Lauv’s track “26”, the low synth bass that begins at 51 seconds in sounds both clean and incisive and through the Focal Utopia (2022) has a drive and push that sounds effortless. 

Lauv’s track “26”

Imaging through the Utopia (2022) has knife-edge precision. On “Coroa de Espinhos” by Deo Rian and Bruno Rian from Choro Em Familia, the lead mandolin is located dead center with the guitar, and back-up mandolin flanks it across the soundstage. Each instrument has its own clearly defined space, making it easy to follow each part in the mix.

“Coroa de Espinhos” by Deo Rian and Bruno Rian

Although the Focal Utopia (2022) has excellent extended bass, it is not bass heavy (except when the recording is). The overall tonality  is nicely balanced, with no part of the audible spectrum out of wack. On Cory Wong’s latest release, The Power Station Tour (West Coast), Sierra Hull joins him for several tracks including “25 Trips.” Her vocals have a silky quality that comes through clearly on this live mix, as does the densely arranged backing.

Do the Focal Utopia (2022) Headphones Have Any Resale Value?

One of the used gear sites I check, Listening Room, had a pair of first-generation used Utopias for $2,500, which is $1,500 less than their list price. If you decide to relinquish your Utopia (2022), you can probably expect to lose at least $1,000 on the deal. Some outlets currently have new first-generation Utopias available at a discount of between $1,500 and $1,000 less than a Focal Utopia (2022). Since I do not have pair of first-gen Utopias to compare with the new model, I can’t say if the sonic differences warrant opting for the upgrade.

Focal Utopia $4,995 Audiophile Headphones Reviewed by Steven Stone
The fit and finish of the $4,995 Focal Utopia audiophile headphones is simply second to none.

Who Is the Competition for the Focal Utopia (2022)?

Since the Focal Utopia (2022) is Focal’s flagship headphone, competition will be other manufacturers’ premium offerings. The Utopia (2022) has more low bass than the Dan Clark Stealth (buy at Amazon), but the Stealth has the Harman low-frequency EQ that makes for a warmer more relaxed midbass presentation. Also, the Stealth is a closed-back design, which will offer far greater isolation. Comfort wise, both offer a superb fit for a wide variety of head sizes.

STAX offers a range of headphones. Some, like the L-300, are less expensive, while the SR-009s system is costlier than the Utopia (2022). The Stax have a very different bass character – fast, but without the visceral impact of the Focals. Imaging is also different – the Utopia delivers a far more solid image in comparison to the Stax earspeakers, which is more diaphanous. Another major difference is that Stax, like other electrostatic headphones, requires a special amplifier that supplies power to the stators while the Utopia (2022) can be driven by any conventional headphone amplifier.  

The Abyss Diana TC, which replaced my reference (now discontinued) Abyss Diana Phi has a very similar form to the Phi. The Focal Utopia (2022) ranks as far more comfortable. I found that without some modification, the Diana Phi was too large for my head-size. Also, the Utopia (2022) has superior adjustability. The Focal has more low bass and greater bass impact to my ears, but that is partially due to the Phi’s rather loose fit on me. Someone with a bigger head will get more bass from the Diana Phi since the side-pressure will make for a tighter fit.

Final Thoughts on the Focal Utopia (2022) Wired Headphones

The Focal Utopia (2022) headphones ranks as among the finest dynamic driver open-backed headphones currently available. Fit is superb and finish is exquisite. Sonically, the headphones deliver an outstanding sonic presentation, with bass extension that you will rarely hear from a headphone. While I strongly recommend that  you try a pair before you commit to buying them, with the Utopia (2022), even if you buy a pair without trying them first, I seriously doubt you will entertain any thoughts of returning them once you’ve had them on your head for more than five minutes. They are simply that good…

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