The Elear By Focal
Build & Fit9
Value For Money9
9Our Score

Focal kind of took over HiFi recently, haven’t they?  I’m conflicted at the moment and finding it hard to be objective with my thoughts on this $999 Elear…I’ve got a lot to say, so let’s just jump right into the frying pan.


It comes with just a normal box and a really long cable that is terminated in a 3.5mm standard plug for both cups.  Custom cable enthusiasts should be smiling right now. They’ll be able to fashion some nicer cables very easily with this one…yay for the death of proprietary plugs and good on Focal for going back to the basics.

The headphone is made of an aluminum/magnesium alloy, which apparently was a conscious decision with the intent to reduce sound wave reverberation in the chassis and cup areas.  I’m not spending a lot of time on this section, so I’ll just say the build is excellent all around with a great feel to it.  The rumors are true, it does creak a bit, but it’s not severe and it only happens a bit when I shift my head around.


Comfort Factor

The comfort factor is excellent and I find it immensely refreshing to be able to come off an LCD series headphone or something else that isn’t at all comfortable, then place the Elear on my head and go back to the days where headphones were actually…you know, comfy and cozy.

Any-who, she feel’s fantastic in the hand and on the head, so don’t worry about the 450g weight.  The pads are fantastic as well and have a ton of give. They don’t appear to get warm even after hours of usage for me and also can be removed very easily and placed back on with a quick snap-in-place on the base of the cup.


Sound Impressions


I had a listening session with a friend a few days ago, we compared the LCD-3 Fazor to the Elear and neither of us wanted to use the LCD-3.  In fact, my friend listed his LCD-3 for sale with his phone during the meet.  It could be new toy syndrome with regard to the Elear, but I doubt it.  On the subject of bass, the answer is no to if the Elear has more clarity than the LCD-3.   It does not feel as pure and clean as the Audeze, but it does have a better sense of broadness and depth.


The rumors of impact level are also true.  I guess some others consider this term incorrect and that “dynamics” is a more appropriate term.  Sure, why not?  The dynamics of the Elear are insanely yummy.  If you like your bass depth and extremely satisfying physical slam, go grab an Elear right now and discontinue reading this.  You don’t need to know more if you are a bass enthusiast.  Why?  Well, the headphone simply carries so much substance and weight to the entire spectrum, from the low regions and all the way up to the treble.  This, combined with excellent responsiveness to EQ (that ability to raise or lower the physical quantity of bass via an equalizer or plugin for music software) really makes for a hell of a memorable experience.

DSP and EQ

I can actually run with an absurd +7dB on the bass with Foobar2000’s ‘realbassexciter’ DPS, which is a free plugin for bass enthusiasts.  There are no TOTL headphones that can achieve this level of control without getting ugly that I’ve ever heard.  Not the LCD-3, not the HD800, not the Stax 007 or Noble K10c.  None of the above retain control at these levels of low-end enhancement.  If you want, you can lower the bass instead and get a more linear experience.  No worries, the Elear the response to EQ better than any TOTL on the market that I’ve yet reviewed.

Weight & Dynamics

While on the subject of weight and dynamics, check out the album by Eric Bibb titled Spirit & the Blues (1994).  This album is magnificently well recorded and I am not at all a fan of old school blues like this, but the track called In My Father’s House may be one of the most satisfyingly dynamic tracks I’ve heard in a long time.  He smacks the low E string on his guitar in a slap-pick technique and due to the immense weight carried through the Elear, the literal physical slam of the bass end of the track feels like a velvet, hyper-smooth cloak wrapped around me.

It is incredibly meaty; I’ve never heard another headphone portray bass like this.  Most other TOTL’s go the purer route and stick to raw cleanliness, but the Elear has good cleanliness, as well as serious bass weight.  It is satisfying on every level and has very good everything:  good clarity, good depth and deep reaching potential, very good slam, very good substance factor (weight, thickness), very good response to EQ.




I circle back to that track again from Eric Bibb and I just can’t stop listening to it.  The vocals are eerily realistic, which is not only due to excellent mid-clarity on the Elear but also the ridiculous image depth in the sound stage.  At time-stamp 1:16 in the track, Eric is singing along and I am getting lost in how excellently formed all the vocals are…then it happens.  Another vocalist appears in stereo left and I’m like “What the hell was that!?”.  I jerk my head back away to the right because I thought my Dad was right next to me and just behind me, trying to scare me by yelling at me.  The first time I heard the track was through this headphone and I actually thought it was someone in my room, so very unexpected and satisfying.  Yum.


Yes, the mids really are that exceptionally well formed to my ears.  This has only happened to me with sets like the 007 from Stax, which is an electrostatic driver design.  As for raw clarity, I think it’s clarity lays somewhere between the LCD-X and the LCD-3, but not quite on the level of the LCD-3.  It feels a little neutral in tone and maybe even what I’d call a kind of dry in that regard.  The bass doesn’t even remotely bleed into the mids in the slightest and both feel separated and of their own entity.  Because of this, the entire midrange vocal experience is sublime in physical substance factor.  The headphone also isn’t what I’d call very forward, it is just a tad relaxed in forwardness of the midrange in terms of physical placement.


You’d think there would be something negative hereby this point in the review, but you’d be wrong.  The treble and entire top end are the strongest and most positive quality of the entire headphone.  Simply stunning at times, like a beautiful big cat in the wild and something you want to experience as much as possible.  But like a dangerous big cat out there…as soon as that sun sets, you are in for some serious trouble.


Despite being gorgeous, vivid, engaging, articulate and plentiful most of the time, it can at times also be overly potent in dynamic power.  IE: it hits very hard if the musician in the track strikes something treble potent.  Cymbals, high hats, piano key strikes and sudden screaming guitars are too powerful.  Again and for the most part, this isn’t a problem.  If the track doesn’t have SLAMMING musical cues, you’ll enjoy the hell out of it.  If it does have a physical slam, it feels like you’ve been smacked in the head, the wince factor is high on this headphone.

Matching the HE-6

Do you like the HE-6 and similar TOTL’s regarded for great treble experiences?  This Elear is for you.  I am not a treble head, in fact quite the opposite.  I am sensitive to brightness and potency up top.  However, the HE-6 has the proper sparkle and brightness factor for me, as well as slam factor and the ability to render slow music tracks in Jazz genre’s very well.  The Elear matches my HE-6 in that regard but takes it way too far with regard to that physical impact level sometimes.  Again, not always.  Be prepared and at least know your music tracks a little before engaging with the treble on the Elear because it can wallop you good now and then.

Staging and Imaging


Well, don’t expect HD800 level height or width, but do expect roughly the same depth of field and realism factor.  Nobody is going to make an HD800 clone in the TOTL world anytime soon.  As a sound stage enthusiast myself, I’m a bit let down with the overall size of the Elear’s imaging prowess, but not even slightly let down in terms of stage depth of field or airiness factor.  It reminds me a lot of the T1 from Beyerdynamic but scaled up. That means it has good height and width but nothing special, but great accuracy in a physical sense as well as a noticeably better depth of field than height and width.  In that regard, the Elear is a very improved T1.


Realism factor is again, off the charts and excels past my Noble K10 here, which is the only headphone I own that I regard as offering the best realistically formed experiences overall.  I am beyond impressed because I’ve not heard this type of exceptional depth of field outside of the Stax 007/009 and the HD800.  Combine that impressive depth of image with exceptional positional accuracy and plenty of air, as well as excellent density and substance factor from the bass all the way to the treble and you’ve got one of the most impressive imaging headphones on the market.


Copyright Focal 2016

Our Verdict

I’ve got to say that I am terrified of where Hifi is currently heading with regard to how expensive headphones have become.  Pricing is getting out of control, but there is no doubt that this Elear is the top dog at the $999 and under level.  She is luxurious to boot, looks great, feels great, sounds great, is efficient and does not require much amping to get great sound out of, has incredible responsiveness to equalization and can really pack a punch in terms of dynamics and physical impact.

I am let down by the lack of staging width and height, but it is very hard for my ears to care too much when such an awesome depth of field and realism factor is present.  The Elear scores a 9/10 and is my pick for the best full-size headphone to come along in a very long time.

Price: $999


Technical Specifications

Type Circum-aural open back headphones
Impedance 80 Ohms
Sensitivity 104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
THD <0.3% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
Frequency response 5Hz – 23kHz
Loudspeaker 137⁄64“       (40mm) Aluminum-Magnesium “M”       shape dome
Weight 0.99lb (450g)
Cable length 13.1ft (4m)
Connectors 1 x 01/4“ (6.35mm) stereo Jack connector

2 x 09⁄64“ (3.5mm) Jack

Carrying case 12.8“x10.2“x6.5“       (326x260x164mm)

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  • NightPhotographer

    I was about to get an HD800 but good reviews on ELEAR made me pause. Sound stage and imaging are very important to me, this is why HD800 was on top of my list. How do you compare these two in that regard?


    • 24bit

      Here’s the story. I’ve been a long time HD800 owner, years and years with multiple sales and repurchases of the HD800 for no reason outside of me getting bored and selling, the regretting and rebuying. I resold my HD800 just to fund an Elear because I think it is a superior headphone overall. My favorite quality in a headphone is staging, vastness and realism factor. The HD800 sounds noticeable larger in width and height, it has more air to it and separation is certainly superior. The Elear is more intimate sounding, it’s bubble of sound is more constrained and limited, but the depth of field (forward reaching sound stage property) felt the same as the HD800 to me. The HD800 midrange is more recessed, the Elear is more forward and still matched the HD800 in that realistic forwardness, that reach out and touch the artist feel. Beyond that, the Elear still has good staging properties, just not great like the HD800.

      The Elear sounds much more firm and of a higher physical substance. The HD800 sounds thin, unnatural in terms of the weight carried compared to a real person talking to you. It just never sounded REAL to me in that regard, it’s just too thin sounding. The Elear has even more substance than the LCD series planars from Audeze and carries a much more realistic tone and texture. Everything feels rock solid. If you don’t care about anything else but stage size, then the HD800 will remain the #1 spot for you for some time, doubtful anyone will make anything that spacious sounding in for years to come. But, if you want a more complete experience, something EQ friendly that can become linear, or bassy, and that has a much better substance factor than the HD800 all while retaining good staging properties, well then the Elear is the much better choice. The forward depth of stage is immensely satisfying and as a sound stage nut case it is good enough for my ears to focus on and almost not care about the lacking width and height compared to the HD800.

      hope that helps!


      • NightPhotographer

        Have you been listening to HD 800 through tube amps or solid state amps? I believe HD 800 through solid state amps is meh at best. I think warm tube amps can remedy the HD 800 weaknesses.

        • 24bit

          My favorite solid state amps are all warmish and soft sounding in dynamics, I refuse to listen to the HD800 through anything neutral. It took me years to find a proper amp for my HD800 that I really loved and it only came just recently in the Airist Heron 5. It sounds lovely with the Hd800. No amp will fix the thin sound signature nor increase the bass enough for me to enjoy on a personal level. The HD800 is not a responsive headphone when it comes to EQ and bass boosting sadly. But ya, colored amps will absolutely change things up for sure, as mentioned my hunt lasted years until just recently where I was finally satisfied with the HD800+Heron 5. That changed the day I got the Elear.

  • Khloe85


    Is this a more enjoyable can than the PM-1?

    I own a PM-1 and was considering getting á TOTL dynamic can to pair with my Violectric V281 because I want to try something different. I was thinking of getting the T1 gen 2 or the 800S but then the Elear came along with a BANG. Th900 with lawton level 1 mod maybe??

    I like the bass and the substantial sound of the Pm-1 so the dynamic can should do bass well and have the Realism factor. I don’t plan on selling the PM1. The only open back dynamic I have is the HD650.

    • 24bit

      I couldn’t say which you would enjoy more, but for my own preferences there really is no contest here. I’d much rather have the Elear than any of the others, all of which I’ve owned and tested many times. The Elear sounds noticeably better in every way than the PM1, as well as the T1 and the TH900 even with great cups, which I also have.

      I don’t think you can go wrong with the Elear here if you enjoy a very firm and solid sound signature. The HD800, T1 and the TH900 are all relatively thin sounding by comparison. The TH900 can go deeper, but its bass texture type is completely different, it is purer, thinner, snappier. I very much prefer the way planar bass usually sounds and in this case, the Elear has a bass type that I prefer over even the LCD3 from Audeze. The Elear have immense substance factor, so it feels very heavy, it also goes more than deep enough for me, it responds very nice to EQ and Bass boosting as well. I’d take the Elear over all the above mentioned any day.

      • Khloe85

        @24bit:disqus Thanks.

        More enjoyable than the PM1, wow.
        Does the Elear’s sound have a planar like body and solidity?

        • 24bit

          Equal density, but a completely different texture. Planar’s tend to be what others call “quick” and with a fast decay, especially on the low end in the bassy areas. The Elear is slow in that regard, it is methodical and takes its time, it feels broad and less sharpened. If you have heard the HD650, the Elear is similar in “Thickness” and substance factor.

  • Joel

    What’s the power requirement to get a great experience out of Elear?

    I have a Mojo and was just wondering if it will provide a great experience. I did try to pair Mojo with HD800, it was quite good but a bit lacking in air and dynamics. It sounds to me like HD800 need just a little bit more power than what Mojo provide.

    • 24bit

      I currently don’t own any portable setups that justify the Elear. I thought the Elear matched the HD800 in depth of field, but not width and height properties. So if you felt let down by the Hd800’s realism in a forward sense out of the Mojo, odds are good you will feel the same about the Elear.

      At 80ohm, the Elear will get loud and be pushed more efficiently than the 300ohm HD800, so you might achieve a happy medium with the Mojo. I really couldn’t say. This boils down to subjective tastes. I thought the Elear sounded very good out of my Cowon Plenue M alone, but that has a lot to do with EQ and such helping the low end. Either way, the Mojo will push the Elear noticeably better than an HD800.

  • Shini44

    i am getting Utopia in two weeks, but this review made me decide to also buy the Elear!! BEST Elear review on the internet so far, 10/10. i am from head-fi. but your site in my top 3 (other than head-fi) i loved how you compared it to HE-6. i love the bass on HE-6. i don’t mind more impact ofc. i love the sparkly treble as well.

    so Elear got better mids than HE-6? clear and vivid, not thin in comparison? and is the bass with more impact or as much? so far HE-6 (fully driven by LAu) got the best bass i ever had, nice impact, fast, clear and super controlled. and oh the bass texture. you think Elear driven from DAVE or LAu at least. can surpass that? i would like to hear more before i decide to sell the HE-6 and TH900 ^^

    thanks in advance 😀

    • 24bit

      I thought the Elear sounded more realistic and offered better clarity in the midrange. The HE-6 is the thinner of the two, the Elear has more substance. (crazy to think, but to me its true despite the HE-6 being a Planar). The Elear’s substance factor is off the chart good. I couldn’t say about the driving power of those amps, I never used them and also never heard of them.

      IMO, sell the TH900. Grab the Elear and have it for comparisons with the HE-6. See which you like more and sell the other. For me, that’s a no brainer. The Elear has much better stage depth of field and realism factor, it also doesn’t require anywhere near the amping power the HE-6 does to achieve great things. I compared the Elear to the HE-6 using that blues track I mentioned and it was vividly obvious that the Elear’s realism factor is on another level, especially so during that one brief moment another singer in the track appears in stereo-left in your ear. The HE-6 does not portray that as well as the Elear did, not by a long shot.

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