Just placing them on your head, it's obvious that no expense was spared in the making of Focal's new Utopia headphones. Weighing a little more than a pound, the unit has an adjustable yoke forged out of carbon fiber for strength, practicality and attractiveness. The super-soft, lambskin leather used in the headband and ear cups is sourced from New Zealand.
But remarkable comfort alone isn't what justifies the $3,999 price tag. The 35-year-old French company known for creating some of the world's most respected high-end audio technologies has created a pair of wearable cans that are essentially on par with high-end speakers. To achieve this, the company turned to a rare element called beryllium, which is roughly 30 times the cost of titanium. Focal's engineers were able to use beryllium's incredible rigidity-to-weight ratio to create a driver with a completely open front and back, thus avoiding any crossover or passive filtering that's a common flaw in lower-end headphones. This means that the 40-mm driver can vibrate up to 50,000 times a second, resulting in a frequency response range from 5Hz to 50kHz. Utopia produces a sound that is at once airy, but sonically
accurate and pure.
The 13-foot cable that the headphones come with would by itself be an audiophile's dream. Its innards are composed of Oxygen Free Copper, a highly conductive material meant to reduce impedance. Two shielded, locking, bayonet-style Lemo connectors attach it to the phones. A Neutrik stereo jack plugs it into your sound system. And to drive these phones, you'll need a stereo system, not just a portable player. But that's the point: they are intended to be enjoyed while sitting in the comfort of home, listening to music through a high-end audio system. However, forfeiting the portability that MP3 files and other compressed audio formats provide may be a small price to pay. It is no secret that, when compared with physical CDs and vinyl records, digitized MP3 recordings are inferior in sound quality. Audiophiles have known this for years, and typical consumers are now picking up on it as well. The Utopia phones are aimed at the listener who craves full analog, but simply wants to listen in singular privacy without the compromises of low-quality earbuds. If purity of sound is something you seek in your music, then Focal's Utopia are a must-have item.