Focal Clear vs Clear MG Comparison Review

We are only a few months into 2021, and we’ve already got a host of hot new releases from audiophile darling Focal. The French manufacturer has already introduced three new high-end headphones to their current lineup with the likes of the Celestee, Clear MG, and Clear MG Professional. The Clear MG is the most recent addition, coming right off the back of the Pro version, and further developing the Clear name as a landmark headphone for Focal.

The introduction of magnesium to the Clear has changed up the character of the name quite a bit, and with these two new releases, you might be wondering which one is the right choice for you. Focal has made the distinction themselves with the Pro version, but what about the old classic? Does it still hold up against its latest incarnation?

What You Get

The presentation of Focal’s headphones is always prepared in an elegant display. They might look all the same on the outside, but when it comes to accessories, the Clear MG is lacking a key item. The original Clear comes with three different cables, one standard 4ft cable with a 3.5mm headphone jack and a quarter-inch adapter, and two 10 ft cables. One with a 4-pin XLR, and one with a single 6.3mm plug. The Clear MG is missing the extra 10ft quarter-inch cable and only includes the 4ft 3.5mm jack with an adapter. Both offer XLR, but if you’re looking for a longer 6.3mm cable, the Clear MG won’t provide that for you.

Focal headphones comfort

Look and Feel

Focal headphones always have a solid build, and consist of mostly the same structural design. However, when it comes to aesthetics, the difference is night and day. The Clear MG is such an upgrade compared to the original Clear when it comes to material design. The bronze sheen and a metallic grille on the honeycomb earcups far outweigh the plain gray makeup of the Clear. Both headphones still feature Focal’s signature insignia plate which always makes their headphones stand out as classy, but the MG does a better job with its finish, as it jumps out at you more. 

With the combined microfiber earpads and leather headband, the MG sports a superior elegance to the Clear which appears bland in comparison. Even though the MG has the better look, both Clear headphones feature a similar quality of fit. Both earpads are perforated and the exact size makes them comfortable enough for their circumaural fit. The original Clear is made using thicker memory foam, but they both provide a sufficient level of security that seems expertly crafted for a universal match to every ear size. 

Focal Headphones laid down

Design

Each pair of Focal headphones feature their signature 40mm driver complete with an M-shaped dome. These speaker drivers are always high-class, but the MG of course features its major staple here. The new magnesium drivers in the MG improve the headphones’ overall lightness and dampening, superior to the copper voice coil of the original Clear. With magnesium, the transient response has the ability to be a more dynamic and even greater low-end extension. 

Focal Headphones earcups

Output

Clear headphones have never been impossible to drive, but they are best used with a DAC/amp combination. The XLR cable is going to give you the clearest signal, but quarter-inch and 3.5mm connections should flesh out the sound signature with the proper accessories. 

Focal Headphones face off

Soundstage

The open-back models from Focal are always a triumph, but the Clear has always possessed a unique character. While the width and separation still hold up on the Clear extremely well, the MG surpasses it in height and depth. The MG completes its soundstage with the high-end extension that was lacking on the original Clear, making for a more full and engaging signature. It’s the perfect middle-ground between accuracy and color. The original Clear might be more accurate in comparison, but that’s even outdone by the MG Professional. 

Low End

Everything the Clear accomplishes in its bass response, the MG does even better. While the Clear has a perfectly punchy and clear bass, the MG takes advantage of its superior depth to really dive deep into the sub-bass for a more impactful tonality. The textures are so much more defined on the MG, with a much greater sense of scale. In comparison, the doesn’t quite have the energy, but it does have the accuracy and balance. 

Mids

There is a ton of crisp clarity in both Clear models, but they contain vastly different timbres and tones. The original Clear is almost synonymous with exceptional midrange clarity, and even if it is not as textured or fun as the MG, the timbre should get more credit for being so dynamic. The MG has one trick to its mids, and while that trick is a warm and lively response, the Clear is more versatile in its tonality. The timbre of the Clear ranges from full and natural-sounding instruments to easy to discern vocal performances that excel more in subtlety than explicit coloration.

Highs

This is where the MG completely won me over. While the Clear shows some great balance and detail here, the MG goes above and beyond, with smooth sibilance and airy textures. High-end features like sizzle and reverb-tail are much more present on the MG than on the Clear, but if you’re more into a relaxed treble, then the Clear is going to be the winner.

Summary

While the Clear MG proves itself as a worthy advancement of the Clear, there are still some qualities that you can’t beat with the original. The MG holds the superior sense of height and depth, while also sporting a more unique look, but the original Clear still has the more natural response and is the all-around more versatile headphone. They both go for the same $1,490 price tag, so what it really comes down to is taste. For myself, I think I needed a more lively open-back from Focal’s lineup, and that’s exactly what the MG delivered. 

Specs

Clear Clear MG
Type Circum-aural open-back headphones Circum-aural open-back headphones
Impedance 55 Ohms  55 Ohms 
Sensativity 104dB SPL / 1 mW @ 1 kHz 104dB SPL / 1 mW @ 1 kHz
THD 0.25 % @ 1 kHz / 100 dB SPL 0.25 % @ 1 kHz / 100 dB SPL
Frequency Response 5Hz-28kHz 5Hz-28kHz
Speaker Driver 1.6″ (40mm) Aluminum/Magnesium    ‘M’-shape dome 15/8″ (40mm) ‘M’-shaped magnesium dome
Weight 450g 450g
Cables
  • 3m balanced cable (XLR 4-pin)
  • 3m unbalanced cable (1/4″ TRS jack)
  • 1.2m unbalanced cable (1/8″ TRS jack)
  • 1/8″ jack to 1/4″ stereo jack adapter
• 1 x 3.9ft (1.2m) mini-jack cable with 1/4″ (6.35mm) jack adapter

• 1 x 9.8ft (3m) 4-pin XLR cable

• 1 jack adapter, 1 1/8″      (3.5mm) female – 1/4″ (6.35mm) male

The Focal Clear and Clear MG are available at Audio 46.

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