In 2016, Focal introduced the Utopia headphones as the world’s first beryllium headphones, reflecting the company’s experience in its range of ultra-premium speakers. It also signaled the opening of a brand new headphone manufacturing facility, which allowed Focal to create this new reference product. In 2020, Focal refreshed the headphones’ packaging and accessories. Now, Focal is introducing the Focal Utopia 2022 Edition, an evolution in terms of acoustics, design and aesthetics.
Before 2016, the French manufacturer was not exactly considered a serious player in the headphone space. Until then, Focal had tried (and failed) to convince professionals that it could offer headphones to compete with Audio-Technica, Sony, Beyerdynamic or Sennheiser. The circumaural Spirit headphone line from Focal gradually expanded but it didn’t convince the mobile audio enthusiasts, the hi-fi market, or professional users. Even though its drivers showed lots of promise, the choice of plastics for the construction, and the overall design, were not convincing. Also the headphone community was already spoiled for choice in the affordable and mid-market segments.
2016 was precisely a pivoting year for personal audio enthusiasts, expanding its love for premium headphones into a global community. The market saw a lot of new niche headphone designers entering the premium market with electrostatic, planar magnetic, and new approaches and materials for dynamic drivers. That was also the year when some major brands announced serious new attempts in the headphone space, refreshing their approach in the premium market.
For Focal, this meant a unique opportunity to expand its approach. After 35 years of development and manufacturing of premium loudspeakers, Focal’s introduced the Utopia reference open-back headphones, using the first Beryllium drivers especially designed for such applications, and the Elear, at an attainable price but still targeting the most demanding hifi enthusiasts. This new series of headphones signaled also the inauguration of Focal’s brand new headphone production line at its site in Saint-Etienne.
This investment and a strategy targeting the premium market allowed Focal to remain in the segment successfully. The Focal Utopia was the product that established its reputation. For Focal, the Utopia headphones are now a long-lasting luxury item that capture the imagination of consumers. The new Focal Utopia (2022 Edition) reinforces that strategy with an improved package and a refined product that looks better and features both sonic and material innovations.
A new voice coil was developed for the new Utopia using aluminum and copper to improve the reliability – approx. 30% of copper and 70% of aluminum, which is a lighter material. The dome and the ‘M’ shaped inside grille, developed for the latest Clear Mg (magnesium dome) headphones (pure beryllium dome in the Utopia), are now tighter together. Less gap between the driver and the grille, helps improve the linearity of the frequency response, mostly for trebles, as Focal explains.
The overall design is also now more in line with Focal’s latest products, while allowing the Utopia to standout as the flagship model of the family, with its distinctive honeycomb styling. The honeycomb earcups are an essential part of the experience of the open design, which in the Focal Utopia 2022 Edition is even lighter for greater listening comfort by using yokes forged from recycled carbon fiber. And all Utopia headphones are handcrafted in France in Focal’s specialist headphone atelier, which has received a significant investment since the original Utopia introduction in 2016.
In addition to its Black Chrome rings – now attached on from the inside for a cleaner appearance – these headphones also introduce new design codes, which Focal says will also be used on future Utopia products. Among them, the “Yin & Yang” featured on the outer case symbolizes the perfect balance between design and technology, as well as the black and red double grille on the speaker drivers’ motor unit.
In addition to these innovations, the new Utopia headphones still include everything that made the first editions a success, such as the drivers with pure beryllium, ‘M’-shaped dome, and full open-back earcups for improved neutrality, dynamics and transparency. The genuine leather headband and perforated memory foam earpads — also leather-bound — provide unparalleled comfort and softness.
And finally, the Focal Utopia 2022 Edition headphones come in faux-leather packaging with a black fabric thermoformed carrying case and two high-fidelity cables (10ft and 5ft / 3m and 1.5m) with two Lemo connectors on the headphone side, and a Neutrik XLR connector with gold-coated jack adapter on the other end. The new Focal Utopia 2022 Edition headphones are available for $4999.
Focal and Naim – the English brand united with Focal as part of the VerVent Audio Group – are also promoting a bundle with the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition all-in-one integrated amplifier, preamp and player.