Available from: focal.com
If you’re not invested in the world of high-end audio, Focal probably doesn’t sound like a company that you’re likely to remember. For people such as myself though, their professional monitoring solutions such as the CMS line have gotten quite a following among audiophiles.
Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that Focal control everything in the audio production cycle. Design, manufacturing and testing is all performed in-house back at their France HQ, which makes for some very perfected products. The Sphear headphones are the company’s first attempt at a pair of in-ears and on paper at least, they have a lot going for them. A full-bodied frequency spectrum of 20HZ – 20KHz and impressively low harmonic distortion rating of under 0.3% puts them on a par with the competition, though the comparatively priced Sennheiser Momentum can get a little lower on those bass notes. They also come with an in-line microphone which is compatible with all three major mobile operating systems including Windows Phone, a big plus in our books.
The decision to go with dynamic drivers at this point makes a lot of sense, as the armature setup really only lends itself to the most premium costing headphones. At this price point, the armature drivers on offer rarely stand up to a quality dynamic pair of in-ears. The Focal Sphears have some pretty beefy 10.8mm drivers, which is on the larger side for sure. They’re also quite big to look at, with a much larger footprint than other in-ears that we’ve seen in the past. It’s not necessarily a problem though, since they really look the part with premium metals on the rear and that machine cut Focal logo standing proud. We were also pretty impressed by the fit and comfort, with the Sphear’s having no problem sitting snug in my rather awkward earlobes. They ship with a variety of ear buds out of the box, including some tailored memory foam versions that work especially well.
Moving onto the sound and this is an area where the Sphear headphones really manage to excel, with an extremely natural sound that doesn’t particularly exaggerate in any area. Bass is controlled yet weighty, while the treble is smooth and easy on the ears for long periods. Those used to the ‘disco smile’ may feel underwhelmed by a lack of over-enthusiastic thumping at the low end but for everyone else, you’ll be hearing new sounds that went previously unnoticed. Dynamics are also suitably punchy, with transients hitting through the mix with power and force. In a well mixed track, you’ll literally feel the snap of each snare hit like a shot to the gut.
At £99.99, the Focal Sphears are in a tough place with regards to pricing. The sub £100 category is littered with excellent bargain in-ears such as the Beyerdynamic DTX 101ie and Sennheiser Momentum M2, but the Sphears definitely deserve consideration due to their honesty and clarity. If you like turning up the music loud and want to be wowed by a natural sound curve that fits most types of material, paying the extra premium for these suddenly seems quite sensible.
A beautifully revealing, comfortable set of in-ear headphones that have a natural tonal balance perfect for any audiophile who demands to hear every nuance.