I’ve been using the Focal Spirit Professional headphones for professional use for the past few years. A known issue came up, though, because of its headband. Focal responded by developing a replacement, the Focal Listen Professional. I’d searched the forums for a comparison review to no avail. Since I knew and loved the sound of the Spirit Pro, I was extremely curious about the sound of the Listen. Well, the kind folks from Focal sent me a package and to my excitement, I now sit here at my review desk with the Focal Listen Pros! Do they live up to the Focal Spirit Pros? And is their build really that much better? Today I’ll answer those questions with this Focal Listen Professional vs Focal Spirit Professional Comparison Review.
Focal Listen Professional vs Focal Spirit Professional Comparison Review
In the Box – Focal Listen Professional vs Focal Spirit Professional Comparison Review
|Focal Listen Professional||Focal Spirit Professional|
|Focal Listen Professional Headphones||Focal Listen Professional Headphones|
|straight cable with 3.5 mm connector||straight cable with 3.5 mm connector|
|curly cable with 3.5 mm connector||curly cable with 3.5 mm connector|
|3.5 mm to 6.35 mm adapter||3.5 mm to 6.35 mm adapter|
|semi-hard protective carrying case||drawstring carrying pouch|
Specifications – Focal Listen Professional vs Focal Spirit Professional Comparison Review
|Focal Listen Professional||Focal Spirit Professional|
|Type||over-ear, closed-back||over-ear, closed-back|
|Impedance||32 ohms||32 ohms|
|Sensitivity||122 dBSPL @ 1 kHz/1 Vrms||102 dBSPL/1 mW @ 1kHz|
|THD||0.3% @ 1 kHz/100 dBSPL||0.3% @ 1 kHz/100 dBSPL|
|Frequency Response||5 Hz – 22 kHz||5 Hz – 22 kHz|
|Weight||280 g||280 g|
Design – Focal Listen Professional vs Focal Spirit Professional Comparison Review
The most obvious difference between the Focal Listen Professional and the Focal Spirit Professional is their headband design. In fact, the biggest issue with the Spirit Pro is its headband. It is made of plastic, but has a combination of loose joints and odd pressure points that results in cracking. The headband attaches to the earcup via a thin piece of plastic. The weight of the earcup pulls down on the extender, causing gravity to do put stress on the headband.
The Focal Listen Professional has marvelously resolved this issue. While it is still made of plastic, it’s frame is thicker and sturdier than the Focal Spirit Professional. Additionally, its weight is distributed in a more balanced way. As a result, just by holding it in one hand, it is unabashedly more durable. The headband attaches directly to the earcup. Its shape has a roundness to it which distributes the force of gravity across a larger portion of the headphones.
The Focal Listen Professional’s headband has a stronger, more stable clamping force. And while it is tighter, it is not, by any means, uncomfortable. The earcups hold tight to the ears and block out sound wonderfully. On the other hand, the Focal Spirit Professional headband has a lighter clamp on the head. Because of the looseness of the headband, I’d often find myself having to hold the earcups to my head to properly hear the low end.
The earcups of the Focal Listen Professional and the Focal Spirit Professional have a similar shape and size. They both have an oval shape and are a manageable size. Both are made of plastic. The biggest difference between them, other than the way they sit on their yolks, is their coating. The Listen Pro has a simple, matte black look whole the Spirit Pro has a splattered glossy over matte. It also has a strip of silver indented around its diameter. I miss this splattered design, as there was a sense of character and classiness to it. However, the matte of the Listen Pro is solid and maintains a sense of professionalism.
The earpads of the Focal Listen Professional and the Focal Spirit Professional have very different designs. While they have a similar general shape, the Listen Pro’s pads are a bit thicker. Additionally, the Listen Pro’s pads are made of memory foam, whereas the Spirit Pro’s foam is a bit bouncier. To the touch, I love the Listen Pro’s feel. Its memory foam is coated in a soft suede like (perhaps alcantara) material. Conversely, the Spirit Pro is coated in a soft leather-like material.
Both the Focal Listen Professional and the Focal Spirit Professional come with two cables, and they’re quite similar to each other. They include nearly identical curly cables, which attach to the headphones’ left earcups. The only difference between the two are their connectors. The Spirit Pro’s 3.5 mm connector (which has threads for the 6.35 mm screw-on adapter), is a little bit of a different shape. It seems to not have the same type of strain relief as the Listen Pro’s connector. Additionally, the Spirit Pro’s connector is black with silver accents whereas the Listen Pro’s connector is silver with black accents.
Both the Focal Listen Professional and the Focal Spirit Professional also come with straight cables. Like their curly cables, the straight cables are nearly identical with a couple of different details. The Spirit Pro’s cable has a chunky 3.5 mm connector with threads for attaching the screw-on 6.35 mm adapter. It has a microphone with a little button for answering phone calls and playing and pausing music playback. On the other hand, the Listen Pro’s cable has a small, slick 3.5 mm connector that sits at a 45 degree angle to avoid pressure. It has a microphone and a larger, flashier looking button for taking calls and playing/pausing music playback.
Sound – Focal Listen Professional vs Focal Spirit Professional Comparison Review
The low frequencies of both the Focal Listen Professional and the Focal Spirit Professional have even, balanced low ends. However, in a general sense, the Spirit Pro’s low end is quieter than the Listen Pro’s. The Listen Pro’s have a slightly bigger sense of subiness to them. Despite the bigger low end response on the Listen Pro’s they maintain clarity there due to their sense of extension. As a result, it feels like it would be easier to hear details in the low end that I wouldn’t be able to ascertain with the Spirit Pro’s.
For example, when I was listening to the song I’m Callin’ by Tennis, the foundation of the kick drum felt lower in the frequency spectrum with the Focal Listen Professional. It was a little bit higher with the Focal Spirit Professional. As a result, with the Listen Pro, the kick seemed to have a more weight and impact, contributing to the groove in a clearer way. I could see this being particularly useful when rhythm section editing for engineers or for those who are trying monitor in difficult rooms that don’t provide even low ends.
The middle frequencies of both the Focal Listen Professional and the Focal Spirit Professional are full, even, and revealing. They sit slightly differently from each other though. The Listen Pro has a little bit of a boosted low-mid response, a mostly even midrange, and a slightly cut high-mid response. As a result, it has great midrange separation, and is quite non-fatiguing to the ear. Additionally, vocals tend come through thickly, with emphasis more so on the chest than the throat. On the other hand, the Spirit Pro has a small, broad cut toward the top part of the middle part of the midrange. As a result, vocals have more emphasis on the throat than the chest. There isn’t as clear a sense of separation with the Spirit Pro, although midrange instruments still feel realistic and even.
For example, when I was listening to the song Thanks for Nothing by Middle Brother, the bass guitar sounded more forward in the mix when listening to the Focal Listen Professional. Taylor Goldsmith’s voice tilts toward thickness and weightiness with the Listen Pro, whereas it sounds tilted toward articulation with the Focal Spirit Professional.
In a general sense, the Focal Listen Professional sounds slightly brighter than the Focal Spirit Professional. And with both headphones, I was impressed by their level of evenness. However, they both tilt slightly differently, and thus reveal different areas of the high frequency spectrum more or less. The Spirit Pro tilts forward in the upper treble, whereas the the Listen Pro tilts forward in the upper octave. While both have a wonderful sense of harmonic complexity, high frequency instruments sit slightly more realistically, to my ear, with the Listen Pro.
For example, when I was listening with the Focal Listen Professional to the song So Tender by Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette, the sweep of the brushes on the snare drum came through with a lot of texture and nuance. Additionally, the headphones revealed the various cymbals’ tones and sustains with a lot of detail and fullness. They had a sense of air to them, providing a sense of lift and separation. On the other hand, listening to the same song with the Focal Spirit Professional, the attack of the cymbals seemed to have a little bit of extra emphasis. As a result, while the sustains still maintained complexity, they did seem to all have an favoring bump in the upper treble, changing their general flavor a bit.
The soundstage of both the Focal Listen Professional and the Focal Spirit Professional feel similar in many ways. They both have an accurate and nuanced sense of width, providing space and specificity to instruments as they’re placed in the stereo field. Because of the sense of high frequency and low frequency extension on the Listen Pro, it seems to have a little bit of a taller and longer sense of height. The sense of height of both headphones feels different from each other, too, because of the different tilts in the midrange. Because the Listen Pro has more energy in the low mids, it’s center feels most anchored a bit lower in the vertical domain than the Spirit Pro.
For example, when I was listening to the Focal Listen Professional to the song My Honey and Me by The Emotions, the drums, guitars, organ, and shaker feel like they have a lot of space out wide. Meanwhile, the lead vocals and bass hold the sides together in the middle. The vocal creates a sense of intimacy, whereas the bass guitar feels further off in space. Additionally, the shaker comes across up high, seemingly from above my head. However, the midrange instruments, like the bass, guitar, and organ all sit anchored toward my shoulders. Listening to the same song with the Focal Spirit Professional, the guitars, organ, and bass feel a bit higher in the vertical domain closer to my chin area. The shaker a little bit lower, closer to the top of my ear than above my head.
Overall, the Focal Listen Professional is a wonderful replacement for the Focal Spirit Professional. Its build is significantly more durable, it is more comfortable, and it has a greater sense of high frequency and low frequency extension. It has a slightly different tilt to its midrange, but it is just as full and revealing as the Spirit Pro.
Both the Focal Spirit Professional and the Focal Listen Professional are available for the best price here: