Focal, the French speaker, car audio, and headphone manufacturer, can now add in-ear headphones to their list of products. Our Focal Sphear review takes a look at these high-fidelity in-ear headphones that Focal claims are faithful to their historic acoustic signature, the “Spirit of Sound.” Read on to see why the Focal Sphear in-ear headphones earned a spot in our Top Picks of 2016.
The Focal Sphear in-ear headphones feature the following features and specifications:
- Bass-reflex system
- Silicone and memory foam tips
- Stainless steel ring and grille
- Impedance: 16 Ohms
- Sensitivity: (SPL 1mW 1 kHz) 103dB
- THD 1mW [50Hz: 10kHz]: <0,3%
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20KHz
- Driver: 10.8mm Mylar electro-dynamic
- Microphone: Omnidirectional
- Weight: 0.030lb (15g)
What’s in the Box
When you purchase the Focal Sphear headphones, you receive:
- 1x Focal Sphear headphones
- 3x 2 silicone tips (S/M/L)
- 3x 2 memory foam tips (S/M/L)
- 1x airplane connector
- 1x carrying case
At first glance, I must admit that I was unsure about the bulbous design of the Focal Sphear earbuds — but we’ll get to that shortly. These earbuds do exude quality though, from the 3.5mm jack to the earbuds themselves. The rubberized main cord is slightly thicker than other earbuds, and is angled at about 45 degrees to the 3.5mm jack. The portion of the jack that connects to the cable is encased in a stainless steel enclosure with the word FOCAL etched into each side adding a nice premium touch.
Both the multi-function remote control and earbuds have a black high gloss finish; the front of the remote control is a circular brushed stainless steel button with the Focal logo etched into it, while the earbuds have a stainless steel ring on the ends. The earbuds are also brushed stainless steel with the Focal logo cutout of it so you can see the stainless steel grille beneath it. The edges of the stainless steel ring have a gloss finish with the FOCAL wordmark etched into it. The microphone for use during calls is a simple looking matte black cylinder with stainless steel ends and a small oval cutout in which you can see a stainless steel grill.
Remote functionality is easy: press once to answer or hang up a call, press once to play or pause the current track, press twice to skip to the next track, or press 3 times to go back to the previous track.
Focal has included both silicone and memory foam ear tips for the earbuds in three sizes, so finding the right fit isn’t difficult. I mentioned previously the bulbous shape of the earbuds themselves. It turns out, these are some of the most comfortable earbuds I’ve tried to date. According to Focal’s website:
Its innovative concept when it comes to shape, Sphear has redefined the approach towards the ear canal which dominated the in-ear market: memory foam tips on the front adapt naturally to the ear; an extended housing at the back shifts the weight of the headphones to the inferior auricle of the ear.
This relieves the ear canal from excessive volume and weight which generally resulted in temporary discomfort.
I’ll be the first to attest that whatever the reasoning, it works and unlike other earbuds which can get a bit uncomfortable after long listening sessions, I didn’t notice any discomfort even after a few hours of extended listening on these earbuds. Once inserted they didn’t feel like they were going to fall out at all and fit pretty securely, even when shaking my head back and forth.
The Focal Sphear in-ear headphones also come with a carrying case with the Focal logo embossed in the top, which is soft to the touch and pretty rigid, and a double 3.5mm jack for use in airplanes. The headphones fit pretty snugly into the case, and you do have to wrap them pretty tight but they will fit, and there is an inside pouch to store the airplane connector.
Overall, these in-ear headphones have some nice premium looking features design-wise, even if the bulbous design is a bit odd looking at first glance.
The bulbous design, again according to Focal, also “allows for the 10.8mm driver to offer a particularly rich mid-range, while slightly increasing the bass level for mobile use in noisy environments.” And, as with the reasoning for comfort, the design works with the sound as well. Initially the bass tones did sound a bit flat but when I dug into it, a number of other people indicated they get better sounding after a break-in period and sure enough the sound offered by these earbuds is fantastic. All types of music — from classical to rock to hip hop, and even gaming — sound crisp and clear, and even at full volume (which was too loud for my aging eardrums I might add) there wasn’t any noticeable distortion.
Of course, one of the flip sides to such great sound is if you are streaming on a lower audio quality to save data, you will notice the difference in quality much more than you might normally.
This is my first pair of Focal headphones, and if this is what their historic acoustic signature, the “Spirit of Sound” sounds like, then I can’t wait to hear what some of their over-ear headphones sound like.
I found call quality on the Focal Sphear’s just fine, and unlike some other earbuds the mic is placed in just the right spot and when speaking I didn’t have to hold the microphone near my mouth. During our test call, the other party had no issues hearing me speaking.
Priced at $179.99USD ($199.99CAD), the Focal Sphear in-ear headphones are on the pricier side. The included semi-hard shell carrying case and airline adapter add value as well — especially if you travel a lot. They can be found on Amazon currently for $149.99USD, which definitely makes them a great value considering the build quality and sound they produce.
Although a bit pricier than your standard earbuds, the Focal Sphear in-ear headphones are well designed, well constructed, and have fantastic sound.