Unless you’re really into audio hardware, Focal is a name that quite possibly may have escaped your attention. Don’t be fooled though, they’re no new player in the field of audio; in fact they’ve been producing pretty much anything you can think of in the consumer audio realm for around 30 years now. Home Cinema, Car Audio, Multimedia, Wireless Audio, Professional Audio (DJ) and of course Headphones are in their extensive range of equipment. Their no-compromise approach to building their products shows through when you find out that all products are manufactured to a set standard, tested thoroughly and distributed through a tightly controlled distribution channel.
So when they announced they announced that they were bringing their products to Australia in partnership with Naim Audio my spidey senses started to tingle. So I understandably hesitated for about a nanosecond before accepting the offer to review the Focal Spirit One S mobile headphones.
Design & Comfort
As soon as you open the box you have a clear indicator that you’re looking at a quality product with the really sweet looking, solidly build case that will protect your investment. Then the big reveal brings forward the over ear design of the Spirit One S headphones that you’re about to enjoy.
The silver and grey design is pleasing to the eye and stylish but without being as out-there as some of the other big name headphones on the market at the moment. An immediate impression of they physical hardware is that the headphones are surprisingly weighty, but very comfortable. They sit nicely on my head, despite the weight, due to their exceedingly good balance. Naturally its important to look at whether the sound quality matches the design and comfort of the headphones.
There is no hiding when people spend more than $150 on headphones they want quality build and brilliant sound, these deliver both. But like most things when it comes to electronics it is a bit subjective and to say these are “perfect” would be a lie, there is no such thing as perfect headphones. They’re extremely good, but for some types of music that are particularly bass oriented you’re probably going to be disappointed if you buy these. For readers who have seen my audio reviews previously, you’ll know I’m somewhat eclectic in my music tastes and this is something that assists me in giving an honest opinion on equipment. So sticking true to previous form I have listened to everything from classical Mozart, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Rap, Indie and even a little bit of Pop. Each had strengths and weaknesses, but where the Focal Spirit One S headphones excelled was when clarity of sound was of the utmost importance; classical and “soft rock” with acoustic instruments and vocals.
Ultimately the decision on whether a set of headphones is right for you or not should be made on design, but more if the sound quality is right for your ears/music taste and comfort. No one can tell you which is right or wrong, but hopefully offer some guidance on what to investigate in more detail and what to steer clear of. The only caution I would put forward after spending some quality time with the Focal Spirit One S is that if you’re after punchy bass you probably need to look elsewhere, but if you’re after really high quality sound that has near flawless mid range (where vocals come in) you should definitely check these out.
The sound quality is genuinely outstanding in the high range, dazzling in the mid range but slightly lacking the *punch* in bass as mentioned. An equaliser can help moderate this – to an extent – but these are not headphones designed for bass-heavy music. This is far from a failing of the hardware, more a decision made to maintain the quality of audio in the mid range; as with anything, there are often compromises to be made to deliver the best all round product. Focal have done exactly that, an outstanding quality build and amazing sound but at a price with an RRP of AU$399 this isn’t a purchase anyone should enter into lightly; find a store that has some on display and spend a bit of quality time with them before you drop your hard earned on them.
Would you consider the Focal brand for your next cans, are you loyal to another brand or do you shop around for the best deal at the time?