Focal Launches Flagship Headphone at The Source A/V


By Brian Hunter

This weekend was a steamy one for residents of southern California. Temperatures rose above 100 degrees in certain parts of the sunny city of angels, but many audiophiles were keeping cool within the confines of The Source A/V Saturday afternoon. The reason for the collective gathering of audio-inclined minds? A new set of headphones was released into the wild from long-time loudspeaker manufacturer Focal.

Focal has recently entered the personal audio market with a 3 part series of closed back headphones, but Saturday’s release party marked a significantly different approach to the subject. A full-on open back flagship called the Utopia ($4k) was accompanied by another soon-to-be object of affection called the Elear ($1k). The $250 “Listen” rounds out the trifecta as an updated refresh to the closed back efforts. The Utopia and Elear represent big moves in two different segments that are both experiencing surprising growth in recent years.


The launch party was hosted by Jason Lord (center) of The Source A/V and featured a whole host of collaborating brands that made the entire experience feel more like miniature audio show. Focal also sent out Product Marketing Manager Nicolas Debard (right) who helped voice the headphones and Brand Director Sebastien Dumas (left).  Including North American Sales Manager Sanjay Sharma, Focal put a big foot forward by providing full access to the brand to the event’s attendees.


Astell and Kern brought along their entire lineup of digital players including the ever-growing 300 series. All 3XX players are capable of connecting to the corresponding collection of accessories including a connect-and-go CD ripper and base station with balanced XLR outputs. In addition to the portable products, two listening stations were equipped with the company’s AK500 home media device as a source.   


Bruce Ball and the Questyle team brought along their stellar dual mono “golden” CMA-800r amp setup ($12.5k with 800pre and 192 DAC). The new pre allows for easy channel-balanced volume control from the two individual 800rs. Questyle’s super golden retriever was fully lined with Kimber Kable interconnects, who was featured predominantly throughout the event. The Utah-based company headed by Ray Kimber has a new cable out that is aimed squarely at the headphone market. The AXIOS series sports a black and copper braided look and comes in various lengths and connector terminations. Kimber even had brand new cables for both the Elear and the Utopia ready for launch and available for purchase at the show.



Cavalli Audio was the featured sponsor of the show and had several tables proudly displaying their premium offerings of headphone amps. The current line has recently been phased out to make way for a new crop of the doctor’s creations, but some inventory is still available from select dealers (including The Source A/V). Available for listen at the show was the newest version of the upcoming Tungsten (~$5-$6k) featuring EL509 tubes by JJ and a set of Liquid Gold’s ($4k) attached to the previously mentioned AK500s.

Warren Chi of Cavalli Audio
Warren Chi of Cavalli Audio
Beryllium, for your ear

The new Utopia (named to correspond with the company’s flagship loudspeakers) utilizes a 40mm Beryllium based driver to generate a quick response. Both the new upscale pieces are around-the-ear headphones with similar design elements. You can read more detailed impressions and backgrounds for Utopia and the Elear on Audio-Head here:

Utopia review:

Elear review:

Supporting players

The Focal launch event is part of The Source A/V’s Summer Series, which features listening events through September on various personal audio topics. 

You can hear it all directly from the crew via the embed below of a live Facebook video stream from the event featuring Jason, Nicolas and Warren from Cavalli.