I am so glad to finally get these headphones in for review. I first heard them at RMAF back in November where they stood out amongst about 10 other very good closed back over the ear headphones. They impressed me then and continue to do so.
Many thanks to Simon Cole at Audio Plus Services for providing the loan of the Pros for review. As many know, Focal has a great reputation for making outstanding speakers for both the Pro and audiophile markets worldwide. When I heard they first came out with a headphone I knew I had to give them a listen. They released the Focal Spirit Classic first for the consumer side of the headphone market, then the Spirit Pro, and finally the Spirit One for the “on the ear” mobile market. Before I could get a chance to hear any of them they were all at RMAF. My listening there confirmed the Focal Spirit Pros as the ones I was attracted to the most. They are the most neutral of the three and I like that they were circumaural and closed. The Focal Spirit Pros sell for $350 in the U.S.
The Pros differ from the original Classics in that they are more linear and do not have the slightly warmer lows of the Classic and have a more open, up front midrange, more in line with a Focal Monitor in a nearfield setting. They also look different. The cups and parts of the headband have a kind of knockdown textured black paint on them that resists scuffs, scratches, and dents which is brilliant for use in a working environment. They also have a very sturdy metal band up top with well designed pivots on the cups that move in both axis to adjust automatically to your head. Cups are fitted with a pleather type material that is vey soft and backed by memory foam. The drivers are 40 mm, impedance is 32ohms, and sensitivity is 102db/1mw. They come in a nicely padded storage box with both a coiled cable and flat cable with remote functions as well as a ¼ inch screw on adapter.
|Focal Pro in storage box – click to enlarge|
After some burn in I got to try them out. Upon the first few initial times I tried the Pros, I had a bit of difficulty in getting them to be fit my ears. I noticed, for my head, that I need to slide the cups down an inch or so but this left the cups slightly tilted in at the tops of my ears. This caused more pressure on the top part of my ear which to caused me to fidget and adjust after about 10 minutes. Weirdly after about 20 minutes they got more comfortable. I noticed like some other over ears, can you say Momentum, where my ears did not quite fit inside the large cushions. The Pros are similar although offer a larger opening than the Momentums. Okay, I must have Dumbo ears, I’m sorry. Many days and weeks later I found a solution to my big ear dilemma. First put on a ball cap, works in lieu of hair:) Then adjust the cups down a bit more. Aha, no more undue tightness up top. And by the miracle of time spent with the memory foam getting warm, I began to get more comfortable in them. I found a way to get the tops of my ears inside the cushions and just rest the bottom of the cushions on my ear lobe. Still got a good seal and much more comfy. Not as comfy as larger cushion opening would be but workable.
The first impression was the one I heard at RMAF and what I really liked about the Focals. The midrange was there right where it should be and sounded great. The mids on the Pros are really neutral, not veiled nor hyped. And I do not mean analytical, I mean voices that were pure and clear, easy on the ears, yet detailed and intelligible. They have no awkward coloration, no nasality or honkyness or sibilance. On Beck’s “Golden Age” Track from Sea Change, the Pros reproduced the second Beck singing backup on the left rear better than any other headphone I have tried the cut on. Fiona Apple, Bjork and Goldfrapp all sounded superb with great enunciation and timbre. Piano and other mid centric instruments also sounded clean and true. And that flat neutral quality rode up and down both sides of the mids. Lower mids and upper bass are clean and free of any extra warmth. Bass is solid and there when it is in the music with no false bumping of mid bass to give it a more warmth. The Pros do not seem to not go down on the extreme low end as well as some other headphones like the Sony 7520. On several well known cuts, I noticed the that the Pros might not be getting all the way down in the rumble area, yet for most of my time with them, I did not miss it. One might think it is a little bass shy until you put on some Massive Attack or a Cyrus Chestnut jazz piece and you hear good detailed bass.
|Headband Closeup- Click to enlarge|
Treble is smooth and exhibits a nice balance with no strange grainy or gritty peaks. The one area I am particularity sensitive because of ear resonance is the 7k or so range. The Pros are nicely linear all the way up to the limits of my hearing. I get no weird rising top like I did with the Beyer DT-880 which start their rise about 6500 or so and go eclipse the midrange level right on up to 10k. The Pros keep that balance with the mids in line with my tastes and do not emphasize the highs. Soundstage on the Pros is about average for a closed headphone. Height and width are not nearly as great as with an open can, as expected, they’re closed. The best way I can describe the presentation of the Pros is that they bring the mids closer to you than many cans with an intimacy that is neutral and the rest of the spectrum is also right there across the stage for you to enjoy and discover. No wonder it is sold on the pro side of the market, you get a great tool for easily picking out details in your mix.
|Focal Spirit Pro – Click to enlarge|
The Pros work really well straight from an iPod Touch 5th gen, sound even better with the fantastic little HRT Musicstreamer, and, well, even better with a computer source, full sized dac and separate headphone amp. They also worked really well with the pro audio Dangerous Music Source dac/ headphone amp and VLC playing files on the Mac. Build quality is good and I hear no creaking from the pivots like I do on the Sony 7520s. I do have a bit of concern about larger heads and the amount of flex I see in the band where there are seams to either side of center, but it is holding up well stretching over my fat head and the connections may just be designed to do that.. I did not try the other controlled cord since I prefer unadorned type cables. Any nits. Yes, I would like to see even larger ovals on the next generation with perhaps a slightly wider (as in separating the cups so my fat head fits better) headband and a bit more padding under the band. Spirit Pro MkII perhaps?
So how does the Pro stack up? I love the way it sounds. I would put it in the top 3 closed headphones I have heard at or near its price point. The Spirit Pro serves up music clearly and with great texture from top to bottom. You can listen for hours and be sonically happy. For all the music lovers out there that want a great, natural sounding closed headphone for under $500, you owe it to yourself to seek out and audition the Focal Spirit Pro.