What's this about Focal timbre?

I’ve been reading about the Elex and Clear and figure both might be great options for me, but then I read that Focals have an odd metallic timbre, which would be bad for someone like me who’s really into acoustic instruments and voice. So what’s the deal?

It’s really only when you compare the Focal line directly with headphones that are well known to have natural timbre (Sennheiser HD650, ZMF headphones, and Audeze) that you notice the timbre. At least that is my experience. I think it’s caused by a few sharp and narrow peaks at 6 kHz and 10 kHz, and least for the Elex and the Clear. You probably won’t notice it much with acoustic and vocals, at least I don’t. It’s mostly with stuff like cymbals, hi hats, and other high frequency instruments. That being said, I use EQ in those areas and the timbre is a big improvement with EQ. I would first try the Elex to see if you like the Focal sound, and then maybe try the Clear MG down the road. To me the Clear MG has the most natural timbre of the Focals I have tried.

Do you have any Sennheiser HD6XX series headphones? Those are really good for vocals and acoustic music.

I used to own both the HD600 and HD650 and liked the timbre very much on those. I ended up selling the 650 and keeping the 600, which then died on me :frowning: I’d be tempted by the 660s if it cost a lot less.

Aww sorry to hear that. You may want to give the 58X a shot as well. I actually prefer the 58X over the 600 as an all rounder, especially with some EQ. It hits harder and extends better in the bass, and reduces some of the upper mid shout. $170 on Drop right now, but they were on sale for $129 not too long ago.

For me, the metallic timbre of the OG Clear was the thing that in the end made me sell a headphone i otherwise liked quite a lot. But how much it bothers you is apparently very much a matter of individual perception.

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To me the closed back Focals don’t have this “metallic timbre” (or maybe the Stellia does a tiny bit). And among their open backs, the Clear Mg don’t exhibit this, to my ears at least.

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Uh… audeze has some of the worst timbre in the market… they eq well but even still just aren’t great


First off… I love my FOCAL Clear MG Pro…

BUT when comparing the timbre to other headphones that have more natural sounding timbre, it’s very obvious to tell the difference. A few examples would be the Sennheiser 600, 650/6XX or ZMF Aeolus. Here’s mine…

The metallic quality to the OG Clear was the biggest gripe I had with it. Luckily, the Clear have a lot of other technicalities going for it like resolution/detail, clarity imaging and separation. I feel the Clear MG has improved timbre vs the Clear OG but it’s still not it’s strong point when compared to other headphones.

It’s generally the difference between a somewhat warm/natural and inviting sound signature vs one that is more clinical.


Depends on model, but in general I agree Audeze has some timbre struggles.

To the OP, I think Focals just hit in a frequency range where there is enough variation in human hearing where some notice the metallic sound and others don’t*. In some sense it’s kinda like that Laurel-Yanny thing from a couple years ago but without the equivalent of the person who actually spoke it around to say what they actually said.

*It makes me nervous to talk about hearing differences because the differences in our ears is much smaller than the differences in our brains. We are all of the same species, so two people with healthy auditory systems will hear much more similarly than differently. Still, physiological frequency sensivities exist and in a case like this, Focals presence in their frequency tunings in the range of that metallic timbre just may not work for all. Fortunately they’re not the only makers of excellent headphones!