I got a pair of the Sphear In Ears in the mail the other day, and the first thing that went through my mind was wow ANOTHER headphone company trying to play in the higher end In-Ear category. As you probably know, there are a lot of mediocre headphones companies out there trying to muscle into the space with false promises and gimmicky design details, etc. Focal is not one of those companies hiding behind a flurry of marketing messages and cool graphics, these guys are legit and have a long history in audio.
After I had done my research I got excited, they promised an In Ear with rich mid tones and audiophile quality for under $200 along with excellent comfort. They had my attention.
"Sphear is faithful to Focal’s historic acoustic signature, the “Spirit of Sound”, with a particularly rich mid-range which is never muffled, accurate and clear sound, it is extremely faithful to the original work, and offers harmonic richness, from the low end to the high end, for true listening pleasure.Thanks to their unbeatable performance in this price category, Sphear are the most accomplished in-ear headphones to date, the most comfortable and the most generous for getting the most out of your music, wherever you are. In this age of “High-Resolution” and CD quality audio files, through its spherical design and its preservation of Focal’s acoustic signature, Sphear provides an original and unique solution for those passionate for high-resolution sound." - From Focal's Website
There are a lot of companies coming out of Europe and the UK that are bringing high-quality sound at a lower price point than their Asian competitors.
Focal is coming into the US market with several models of headphones and is making a compelling case for their brand. Focal has also released the Spirit Classic, Spirit One S, and Focal Sphear) and Spirit Pro.
Focal walks a challenging line with this price point, trying to deliver the quality sound of a monitor and the comfort of a bud is no easy task.
The comfort factor was something that peeked my interest as I have tons of great sounding buds but none that is great in the comfort department. I usually can go about an hour and a half max and then need to remove in-ears due to fatigue and discomfort.
The good news, these things are indeed as comfortable as they claim to be, and you almost start to forget they are there. I did about 4 hours of straight listening on them and only had to fidget with them once to keep them comfy.
Focal Sphear Specifications
Type: In-ear headphone
Sensitivity: 103 dB SPL (1mW@1kHz)
THD (1mW, 50Hz-10kHz): <0.03%
Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
Driver: 10.8mm electrodynamic Mylar
Weight: 0.53 oz. (15 g)
Includes: 3 pairs silicone ear tips (S/M/L), three pairs memory foam ear tips (S/M/L), airplane adapter, zippered carrying case
Focal Sphear in-ear Headphones Driver Design
The Sphear's have a larger than the usual driver coming in at 10.8mm and Mylar electrodynamic transducer with 103 dB SPL sensitivity. In other words, these things get loud. These buds are tuned like a bass reflex speaker with small holes on each side of the central chamber to help ensure accuracy.
I've always been adamant about getting a good seal with in-ears as that creates the most isolation and always delivers the best sound. The Sphear comes with a variety of silicone and memory foam tips to help you get the most comfortable, and sealed fit.
There is also a mic and remote on the cable for those of us that are on the move. These features should pretty much be a standard on any level of ear bud as it's just essential kit for any user.
Per my usual testing regimen I listened to just about every genre you can imagine seeing where they might have any weak spots. The buds performed very well with every genre tested delivering a really crisp clear sound across all lows, mids and highs. The staging was about what I expected at this price point, solid but not game changing.
In you are picky about your mid range and listening to a lot of high quality audio files (Lossless, HD, etc.) this pair of buds should be on your radar. They are fantastic for traveling and perfect to drown out the ambient noise in airplanes. For $179 you get a great case, plenty of tips, a mic, a remote and amazing sound. There are no filters to mess with; they just sound incredible out of the box. These headphones are more impressive than many that I've tested at much higher price points, and the comfort factor was a HUGE bonus. For more information visit the Focal website.