Focal Utopia, the finest headphone yet for classical music

By Truman C. Wang
September 7, 2016

If you are a classical music lover who regularly attends concerts and operas, chances are you want to replicate the live music experience in the privacy of your home.  For the well-heeled music lover with a six-figure budget, few loudspeakers can rival the spectacular “Grande Utopia” from the French high-end audio company Focal in their visual and auditory tour-de-force. 

As Focal’s first foray into high-end headphones, the similarly-named “Utopia” immediately took the world’s head-fi community by storm upon its introduction in June of this year.  A search in Google and Youtube gives the fairly unanimous consensus of the Focal Utopia as “the best headphone in the world”.  I personally spent an hour with the Utopia last week at the showroom of a local Focal distributor.  Upon first hearing, I was immediately taken with the Utopia's bewitching sound, perfectly balanced from treble to bass, full of sweet nuances and details inside a wide, holographic soundstage.  My initial delight grew into amazement as I went through my hi-res playlist of Mozart, Strauss, Bruckner, Verdi and Tchaikovsky, all sounding better than my current benchmark, the AKG K812, or Sennheiser’s newest flagship HD800S, which I also auditioned in the same session.   The Focal Utopia effectively combined the copious bass and perfect tonal balance of the HD800S with the nuanced details and wide soundstage of the AKG K812.   I felt like I was sitting in Row 10 Orchestra of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  With the price tag of almost $4000, it costs more than the AKG and Sennheiser together, but it is worth every penny, particularly when you consider Focal’s own “Grande Utopia” loudspeakers cost 25 times more and take up half of your living room. 

The lambskin leather headband and ear cushions on the Utopia provide superb fit and comfort.  I could easily listen to an entire four-hour Ring opera without being weighed down like Brünnhilde’s heavy horned helmet.  Without a doubt, the Focal Utopia is the Mt. Everest of headphones. 

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