Finally, Utopia offers flat out amazing dynamics. It can handle large-scale macrodynamic outbursts, small-scale moments of microdynamic expression so subtle and fleeting that most headphones gloze them over, and everything in between. But the thing that is absolutely riveting—and at times downright shocking (in a good way)—is the manner in which his headphone exposes dynamic contrasts within individual pieces of music. The effect can be almost unnerving at first, because in comparison to the Utopias almost all other transducers sound as if they are guilty of some form of dynamic compression. Through the Utopias, however, that compression is suddenly removed leaving you face-to-face with sheer dynamic power of the music. As an example, listen closely to Tomasi’s Fanfares Liturgiques for brass ensemble as performed by organist Mary Preston and the Dallas Wind Symphony conducted by Jerry Junkins on Crown Imperial [Reference Recordings, 24-bit HDCD]. The composition is revealing because it ranges all the way from almost monastery-quiet meditative passages on through, toward its conclusion, to moments of epic and uplifting grandeur. Through all these moods the Utopias not only remain unflappable, but are at once powerful, expressive, delicate, and nuanced—at any and all volume levels.
The Utopia is a headphone worthy of its name and one that shows what’s possible when a firm like Focal turns its engineers loose to create the finest headphone they possibly can. In fact, I consider this headphone a masterpiece—one that will probably still be considered a benchmark product long after would-be competitors have come and gone.
Type: Full-size, open-back, circumaural, dynamic driver-equipped headphones
Driver complement: 40mm full-range dynamic driver with a pure Beryllium diaphragm featuring a (patent pending) ‘M’ shape dome
Frequency response: 5Hz – 50kHz
Impedance: 32 Ohms
Sensitivity: 104dB SPL/1mW @ 1kHz
THD: <0.2% @ 1kHz/100 dB SPL
Accessories: 4m shielded, low-impedance signal cable with OFC conductors and fitted with Lemo self-locking bayonet type headphone connectors and a Neutrik 6.35mm headphone plug; rigid carrying/storage case with magnetic closure system.
Price: £3,400 UK, $3,999 US
Manufacturer’s Information: Focal
Tel.: +44 (0) 8456 602 680
US Distributor’s Information: Focal North America Inc.
Tel: 1-780-439-3901, 1-844-FocalNA