Amp Pairing with Focal Clear

Hi all. First post here. Sorry in advance for the length.

I recently pulled the trigger on a pair of Focal Clear HP. Got a sub $1K deal on them new from a reputable dealer with a great return policy. I did read the Clear thread and see a number of potential suggestions re Amp and Amp/DAC combos. Ideally I’d like a rig that can complement the new cans as well as my Etymotic ER4(S), Alclair Studio Quad 4 CIEM and Sennheiser 595s. The IEMs were purchased for mixing/recording use as well as listening pleasure. My current DAP is the iBasso DX90 which was my entry into headphone audiophile listening paired with the IEMs. Obviously I want to get the most out of the Focals and certainly don’t want to emphasize any of their shortcomings but would ideally like something that would benefit the IEMs, and future (possibly Planar?) purchases.

Of the SS amps the RME ADI-2 looks enticing as I have seen some reviews that describe it as a bit warmer than some SS amps with a fairly wide sound-stage, areas that the Focal Clear may benefit from. The DAC, IEM input and EQ capabilities are also compelling with the RME. The SPL Phonitor gets some praise. Schiit said that the Asgard 3 (inexpensive!) pairs well with the Clears (they did not mention the Jotunheim?). Curious about the Mojo as well. On the other hand hybrid amps have been recommend to provide a degree of warmth, albeit at the potential sacrifice of some resolution. Suggested have been the Schitt Lyr 3, Mjolnir or Vali 2, Monoprice Liquid Platinum, and Massdrop x Cavalli.

I listen to everything but do love Prog, Prog Metal, Classic Rock, Psych, Funk, Electronica, Deep Soul, Alt Indy/Alt County, and Jazz especially Hard Bop. Oh yea I should also add that I listen to a lot of Vinyl so there is that to consider somehow. Stuff I love I get in every format.

So… Anybody loving the RME or have direct experience with it in comparison to the any of the a fore mentioned amps when paired with the Clears?


Hi! Welcome to HFGF!

Congrats on the new cans! The Clear is a great headphone. From my understanding it’s not overly amp picky, but several around here have said they really like it on the Rupert Neve RNHP amp. I own a Monolith Liquid Platinum myself and love it, but with Clear I might hesitate to recommend it. The Clear has a small bump around 1KHz and the MLP is already a touch mid-forward, so that might be too much for some listeners.

For your use case I’ll steer you away from the ADI-2. Unless you really need all the EQ features the ADI-2 offers, you can assemble an amp and dac combo that will easily outperform it for the price. Also, you mention vinyl. If you want to use a new headphone amp with your vinyl system you’ll need one that has analog inputs, and the RME has none. IIRC many around here like the Schiit Bifrost 2 as a DAC to use with the RNHP. I’ve also used the Bifrost 2 with a Lake People G111 and it sounds really good. In fact, that was my favorite signal chain (that I had, anyway) with my Focal Elegia. The RNHP has 3 inputs so it would be easy to connect a DAC for digital sources and then use another analog input from a phono preamp.

Good luck on your search!

1 Like

Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated. I really should audition it. As a recording engineer, I am very familiar with Neve. I love their stuff in the studio, the vintage equipment and his new gear. I even got to work with a Neve 8068 board that was used by the BBC in 70s. It now resides in a studio in Nor Cal. It was literally breathtaking to hear fine instruments recorded via that board. (1938 Martin D28>Sony C-37A >Neve played back on ATC 200s and Dynaudio BM6A near-fields) I have never heard anything that good since. I have little doubt that it is a great headphone amp. That said while the industrial look of the Neve in the studio is great, I am not sure it will fit with the living room esthetic. Hmmmm

1 Like

I personaly prefer the clear on warmer gear. Apparently it doesn’t tube well (havent tried that) but something to bring forward its lush mids and take a dash of the sharpness away from the treble is ideal. Im only portable so I can’t comment on desktop gear, but I quite like my clears on the honey H1 and Micro BL.

I actually was looking at the micro iDSD Black Label. Do you use the 3D or xBass features?

I dont. I got a used unit for cheap and if I’m honest I’m not even sure my xbass works. I dont hear any difference at all. The 3d gives some extra treble sparkle which is a bad thing on clears imo. Something else I keep in mind on the micro BL is it is not a good move is you like to listen at low levels as there is channel.imbalance at lower volume levels due to using an analogue pot.

Imo, I wouldn’t bother with the micro BL unless yoy need the power (600ohm cans or stupid low sensitivity like arya).

Edit: Its a great ancillary device, bit not as a main setup imo. I use mine daily, there are just things to keep in mind with it I feel no one talks about

Thanks for the candid remarks!

1 Like

Np at all. If you have a 1k budget yoy should be able to get a sweet setup for the clears btw.

I have ~1.5K budget for Amp and DAC combined.

1 Like

Well shit. Thats a lot. Isn’t that breaking into archie territory if you go used?

If u are ok with buying used, a questyle cma800i pairs very well with the Clears. You can find them for sub 1k. Its an amp/dac combo.

Are you in the US? A Bifrost 2 and RNHP combo I hear is a great combo that pairs really well with Clears. I think I’ve also seen that Focal generally pairs well with Violectric, so something like a Soekris 1321 and Vio V200 might be attainable within budget.


Thanks! I’ll check em out.