One of the most highly regarded brands in the audiophile game is shaping up to have a busy 2021. Focal’s announcement of the new Clear MG Professional caught me by surprise. The Clear on its own is one of the top open-back headphones around in my opinion, and I didn’t expect it to be receiving a new edition like this. The MG Pro brings a lot to this prestigious model and aims to match the Clear’s rigorous standard for detail retrieval. So what’s the purpose of the MG Pro? Let’s take a look.
What You Get
Being familiar with most of Focal’s selection. I expected the MG Pro’s packaging to match with their other models, and it does. You’ll receive that classic slip-open case that presents the contents in an organized fashion. Let’s start with the hard case. It’s the same as every other Focal headphone and that’s more than fine considering these are some of the best-looking cases around. This time, the case is a classy red with tinted black inlays. Inside is the headphone, along with a 1.2m cable and a quarter-inch adapter. In a separate box is an extra 5m coiled cable, also with a quarter-inch end. Both of these cables are made from OFC 24 AWG copper. Lastly, you get an extra set of earpads which is always a nice treat.
Look and Feel
Focal is known for having some of the best looking headphones around, and the MG Pro is definitely in line with their more luxurious models. If you’ve seen a Focal headphone before, then the Clear MG won’t surprise you, and that’s good when you have achieved an almost perfect build for your selection. The MG Pro is completely black on the outside, with red earpads completing a lavish aesthetic. Each earcup has a new honeycomb grille pattern, a design that matches the inside M-shaped driver. The honeycomb pattern is a bigger opening and allows for more air to escape.
In terms of materials used, Focal is always on their A-game. The cups are held in place with a solid aluminum yoke, with a perforated microfiber and leather headband. This makes for a very rigid design that’s sure to supply a respectable amount of durability. Then there are the earpads, which are made from memory foam and covered in a perforated microfiber fabric. The headphones rest well over your ears and provide a level of comfort that feels steady and secure. If you know what a Focal headphone feels like, then you should get used to the fit pretty quickly. The MG Pro is both familiar yet unique for a Focal headphone.
The M-shaped driver has become a staple for Focal’s headphones, and with the MG Pro, they’ve integrated a new full-range 40mm magnesium speaker driver. The magnesium is combined with a frameless copper voice coil in order to achieve a more balanced level of detail. The MG Pro also uses a new alloy that aims to deliver more lightness and dampening to the driver. With more lightness, the MG Pro has the ability to provide a much more substantial bass response than originally perceived. However, Focal is also going for a more accurate sound than you might expect. They want this to be a headphone you bring to the studio rather than one you listen to casually. Everything about this driver system wants to bring out a grander spectrum of detail for the purpose of analysis.
Though they’re always better off with an enhanced DAC of some sort, Focal’s headphone always features a low impedance making them friendly with most headphone jacks. The MG Pro rests at 55 Ohms, making them an easy match with almost any amplifier. If you haven’t guessed it by now, the MG Pro is mainly designed for technical use, mixing, and monitoring for producers and engineers. Using the MG Pro with an audio interface will work well, giving you a comfortable level of gain with plenty of headroom for volume adjustment.
Being a studio centric headphone, the MG Pro finds itself in an interesting position in terms of sound signature. It can’t be like its predecessor in that rich, colorized detail sense. It needs to both do its job as a studio reference headphone, and also live up to other open-back headphones in this price range. With that being said, the MG Pro plays it unapologetically straight with its accuracy. Don’t expect the extended width of other audiophile open-backs, the MG Pro aims to create an uncompromised image quality that lays everything out for you with clarity and articulation. They achieve this tremendously in my opinion.
Space here is concentrated but accurate, and the open-back nature helps bring out the details into a much more holographic stereo headspace. This way you have an advantage when looking for what to fix in your mix, as these elements stick out of the sound field a lot clearer. The spacing of elements is strictly solidified in its intended position, no airy qualities could be perceived unless you have a DAC/amp that can bring some extension to the soundstage. Overall the stage establishes the more accurate nature of the MG Pro and sets itself apart immediately from the original Clear.
But what about for unanalytical, casual use? You might be let down a bit knowing that the MG Pro has a much flatter, more referenced focused sound signature, but that also makes it a much more versatile headphone too. For instance, if you want to use a DAC/amp combo that houses a lot of features that enhance bass or soundstage, or an EQ, then the MG Pro is sure to respond with your more preferred timbre. This is where the bass can really shine.
When I was listening to “Ship in a Bottle” by Brian Eno, I used the XBass feature on my iFi ZEN CAN, and the bass appeared a lot deeper than it would have originally, laying down a more fulfilling bed for the sound, and at one point even surprised me with its sub-bass rumble at the end that made me shake. Otherwise, without extra peripherals, the bass appears generally accurate with enough body to sit comfortably and balance out the rest of the frequency spectrum.
While the bass sets itself apart in a more neutral space, the low-mids have a bit of extension in comparison. You really get a sense of this in effects-heavy tracks, with big synths or ethereal reverbs. Tracks like “Anywhere Out of the World” by Dead Can Dance exhibit more enveloping instrumentation within its mix, which could be the intended expression of the track in general, but with the MG Pro the effects do a lot of the heavy lifting in the low-mids and it shows.
Timbre-wise, the rest of the mids are a lot flatter and respond with a convincing output of what the midrange is supposed to sound like. It’s clear, articulate, and can sometimes have a crisp resolution in the upper mids. Hayley Williams’s vocals on the track “First Thing To Go” really bring out the clarity of the performance in a way that brings you into the space of the recording, especially when paired with the harmonies.
As I stated in the soundstage section of this review, the MG Pro is unapologetic about its timbral accuracy, and that couldn’t be more true in the treble range. This works for and against the MG Pro as a whole because while the highs are presented in a balanced and clear tonality, it’s completely relentless when it comes to brightness. You’re going to hear everything the highs of a track has to offer, whether that be sizzling crash cymbals or a piercing harmonic, the MG Pro presents it all without any hint of coloration.
I thought the track “Theater of Nature” by Anna von Hausswolff showcased the dynamics of this response the best with its organ playing these highs notes that broke through the barrier of harshness but still sounded like the intended mix. The long duration of synth chords layer this bright texture over the sound field that can be hard to listen to at times but the more I listened, the more comfortable I was with it, and I overall thought the treble stuck out in a rather unique way. It didn’t have to be airy or sparkly to be enjoyable, but the details are there if you can handle the brightness.
Whichever way you see it, the Clear MG Pro is an interesting follow up to the original Clear. Focals offers a tried and true open-back studio headphone that is unashamed of how flat and analytical its sound signature is. Its design is unparalleled with most other reference headphones, which might be worthy of its $1490 price tag. You won’t get much of a fun factor here unless you have the specific outboard gear that can morph the sound to your liking. Otherwise, I can see producers and engineers benefiting a lot from this headphone, as long as they’re willing to spend the money. If you thought that the original Clear was analytical then the MG Pro will really take the cake.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Great reference sound signature, rigid design, great build quality, versatile
- Type: Circum-aural open-back headphones
- Impedance: 55 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
- THD: 0.25% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
- Frequency response: 5Hz – 28kHz
- Speaker driver: 15/8″ (40mm) ‘M’-shaped magnesium dome
- Weight: 0.99lbs (450g)
- Cables supplied: 16.5 feet (5m) asymmetric cable (1/4″ – 6.35mm TRS jack)
3.94 feet (1.2m) asymmetric cable (1/8″ – 3.5mm TRS jack)
1/8″ (3.5mm) to 1/4″ (6.35mm) stereo jack adapter
- Spare earpads 2 x spare earpads supplied
- Carrying case provided 97/8×91/2×43/4″ (250x240x120mm)
The Focal MG Professional is available at Audio 46.
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