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Review: Focal Listen Mobile Headphones

by Paul Strauss
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French audio gear maker Focal may not be a common name among everyday electronics buyers, but they’re well known in the audiophile community for their high-end speakers, which can cost thousands of dollars. With the release of Focal’s Listen headphones, buyers can enjoy some of the engineering know how that goes into such fancy listening devices without breaking the bank.

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I recently spent some time wearing a pair of Listens as my daily headphones for work, which includes listening to a whole lot of audio, from music to movie trailers to podcasts to video games. The Listen headphones did more than a fine job across a wide variety of audio sources, making them a great everyday headset. I appreciate the clean and modern styling of the Listens, with their chrome-plated earpieces and smartly designed earband, which manages to flush-mount its padding rather than having it stick out. The band is also hinged so they can fit into the included padded carrying case.

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The headphones offer a snug, but comfortable fit for usage on the go or at your laptop, with large foam ear cushions that do a good job isolating your music from background noise. Inside each ear cup is a 40mm (1-3/4″) mylar and titanium full-range driver which is designed for smooth and clean sound across the listening spectrum. Nice touches include a detachable, but locking cable connector, and inline controls and microphone for your smartphone.

Audio quality is very clean and natural without overemphasis of any particular frequency range. There’s a slight dropoff in the top end of the spectrum from about 18kHz and above, but it’s imperceptible to all but the most sensitive ears. There’s a good amount of low-end – reaching smoothly down into the 10Hz range without being boomy or rattly. When plugged into my iPhone 6 Plus, they produced very good volume without perceivable distortion, and without the need for an external amplifier or DAC.

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While they add little in the way of unwanted color to recorded tracks, I did find they were happiest with pop, jazz, rap, dance, rock, and R&B, and less nuanced than I prefer with classical tracks. Still, they’re quite versatile, and most listeners will be quite pleased with their overall abilities. Vocals are crisp and clear, making these headphones ideal for listening to audiobooks and podcasts in addition to music.

If you’re looking for a good all-around set of over the ear headphones, you should definitely consider the Listen Focal. You can pre-order a pair of Listen headphones from a Focal dealer via their website for $249, with deliveries starting this July 15th.

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