I bought my first pair of Focal headphones a few years back. They were the Focal Spirit Professional headphones, and I used them everyday for editing, mixing, recording, and just for pleasure. Well, when I learned about the headphones to replace the Spirits, the Focal Listen Professional headphones, I was eager to give them a listen. This week I got a chance to do just that. So how did the Focal Listen Professional headphones perform? Let’s take a closer look with this Focal Listen Professional Review.
Even and Natural! Focal Listen Professional Review
In the Box – Focal Listen Professional Review
-Focal Listen Professional headphones
-zipping, protective, semi-hard carrying case
-detachable straight cable with microphone and remote (3.5 mm connector)
-detachable curly cable (3.5 mm connector with detachable threaded 6.35 mm adapter)
Specifications – Focal Listen Professional Review
-Impedance: 32 ohms
-Sensitivity: 122 dBSPL @ 1 kHz/ 1 Vrms
-THD: 0.3%@ 1 kHz/100 dBSPL
-Frequency Response: 5 Hz-22 kHz
-Weight: 10 oz (280 g)
Design – Focal Listen Professional Review
The matte black headband of the Focal Listen Professional headphones consists of thick, strong plastic. The band is quite thick width-ways. As a result, it exudes a sense of balance. Placing it on my head, I feel it run across the entire top of my head. The headband has a secure, yet comfortable clamping force. It holds the soft earpads firmly around the ears. Additionally, it has a bit of flexibility, although there is a sense of rigidity to its frame.
On the underside of the headband of the Focal Listen Professional is a bit of padding. This padding is unique because it is coated in what feels like a silicone material. As a result, to the touch it almost feels like it could be a stress ball. Will you relieve my stress, kind Listen Pro?
The headband of the Focal Listen Pro is foldable. It has plastic hinges directly above the plastic extenders. These help the headphones fold compactly and fit perfectly in their case. The base of the headband attaches to the back of the earcups via a ball joint yolk. There, the earcups can rock gently.
The earcups of the Focal Listen Professional headphones are moderate in size. Like the headband they are made of plastic. They feel light in my hands. It’s look is matte black, but looking closer and touching it, there’s actually a bit of a rough texture to them, providing extra grip.
The earpads of the Focal Listen Professional headphones are made of soft memory foam. They take a second or so to regain their shape after pressing my fingers into them. The pads are coated in a soft velour-type material. They feels comfortable and breathable on my skin. Additionally, the size and shape of the earpads compliment the clamp of the headband. Thus, the Listen Pros are effectively sound isolating.
The Focal Listen Professional headphones come with two detachable cables: a straight cable and a curly cable. Both cables twist and lock into the left earcup. Their connectors feel durable and high quality.
The straight cable features a built in microphone. Additionally, it has a unique looking circular remote for controlling playback and skipping tracks. It’s 3.5 mm connector is angled at about 45 degrees, keeping gravity from pulling on the cable itself.
The curly cable has a hefty, reinforced 3.5 m connector. It has threads for the screw-on adapter. And while the cable is bulkier than the portable straight cable, it’s length and convenient velcro cable-tie makes it manageable for stationary use.
Sound – Focal Listen Professional Review
The low frequencies of the Focal Listen Professional headphones is deep, flat, and extended. It seems to have a general, broad bump starting in the sub region. This provides audibility and clarity to the lows as a whole, without disrupting their representation of low frequency rich instruments.
For example, when I was listening to the song Prince Johnny by St. Vincent with the Focal Listen Professional headphones, I could hear the full depth and sustain of the kick drum. Additionally, I could clearly hear its unique low-frequency overtones (which give it a lot of character). It seemed to shoot downward. However, when the bass guitar came in, it felt even lower and more extended than the kick. I could hear the specific notes of the bass, and each note felt even and smooth in relation to the others.
The middle frequencies of the Focal Listen Professional headphones feel full and mostly even, with a sense of spaciousness. The low-mids are boosted a bit. As a result, bass guitars, low strings and horns, and thick synths and electric guitars have a bit of extra precedence in the mix than normal. However, this low-mid boost doesn’t sound cloudy. It doesn’t seem to mask other frequencies in the midrange. Rather, it adds a sense of clarity, specificity, and tightness to the low-mids.
The middle part of the midrange mostly feels even on the Focal Listen Pros. As a result, midrange rich instruments come through with a sense of naturalness, harmonic complexity, and realism. Additionally, the high-mids seem to have a slight, broad cut. For most mixes, this didn’t come across as a cut. More so, it felt like the midrange leaned toward fullness, as opposed to a leaning toward articulation. As a result, the tonal quality of vocals felt like it slightly emphasized chesty fullness rather than mouth sounds and/or consonants.
For example, when I was listening to the song When It Was Wrong by The California Honeydrops with the Focal Listen Professionals, the bass guitar, felt a bit more forward in the mix. The other midrange rich instruments in the tune (the organ, horns, electric guitar, and vocal) seemed to have a great sense of separation from each other. Lech Wierzynski’s vocal sounded clear and detailed, but felt slightly thicker than it usually feels.
The high frequencies of the Focal Listen Professional headphones have a light, broad boost in the upper treble. As a result, the high frequencies feel extended and spacious. Harmonically, the highs represent fully. However, they prioritize the top octave which makes them lean backward from both sibilance and presence.
For example, when I was listening to the song One Lonely Light by Amos Lee with the Focal Listen Professionals, his vocal came through with a quiet bit of air on top. His vocal seemed to have more body and less throat than usual. However, it did present nice texture on the top. The attack of the acoustic guitar and mandolin felt deliberate, yet light and delicate. Additionally, the tambourine and shaker had a sense of texture, so even though they are transient in nature, they felt detailed and specific.
The soundstage of the Focal Listen Professional headphones presents with a sense of nuance. The height feels long and extended. Across the frequency spectrum, different instruments sit in very accurately placed parts of the vertical domain. Because of the way the high frequencies lean upward, the high part of the vertical domain sits particularly high above my head and contributes to the sense of spaciousness in the highs. That said, there seems to be a slight gap in the height between the thickest part of the midrange and the upper treble.
Additionally, the sense of width feels nuanced and accurate. Panning feels precise and provides good separation. Meanwhile, it feels congruent and maintains a sense consistency.
Lastly, the sense of depth is detailed. While it is not remarkably deep like an open-back can, it has a scaled dimension and thus a sense of realism. It feels spacious, especially for a closed-back headphone. Additionally, because of the evenness in the midrange, room mics and reverbs come through evenly and accurately, contributing to the sense of space where the instruments sit.
For example, when I was listening to the song Miles Runs the Voodoo Down by Miles Davis with the Focal Listen Professionals, the left leaning guitar, drums, and percussion each hold their own space in the height, keeping great separation between them. The right learning saxophone, guitar, drums, and percussion do the same thing. The bass, which moves places in the stereo field over the course of the song feels anchored in its low-mid solidity toward the base of the vertical domain. One noticeable example of the depth is the contrast between the far off organ and Miles’s intimate trumpet. Not only does the organ sound far off, but I can hear the room microphones of it clearly. In comparison, the trumpet sits front and center marrying the extremes of the left and right.
Overview – Focal Listen Professional Review
Overall, the Focal Listen Professional headphone is a great option both for mixers looking for a closed-back reference headphone, as well as those looking for a high performing headphone to take on the go. In fact, it is one of the best options out there, especially at this price point! If you’re looking for a portable headphone with an even and natural sound, I highly recommend checking out the Focal Listen Professional.
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