Focal might not be a brand that most of you are familiar with, but they should be. The French audio company is making some downright excellent headphones, ranging from the ultra high-end Utopia open-back headphones to their more accessible Listen over-the-ear headphones. Now Focal has released a new, value-priced line of in-ear headphones, and I’m happy to say that they sound great too.
There are two styles available in the Focal Spark lineup – a wired version, priced at $69, and a Bluetooth wireless version, priced at $99. They share the same driver technology, spec’d at 20Hz to 20KHz frequency response, 103 dB sensitivity, and <0.3% total harmonic distortion. The only major difference between the two is whether or not you want to deal with wires or with charging. Both models are available in black/black or silver/white, and offer a clean, modern design highlighted by aluminum housings, and flat, tangle-resistant cables. They each come packed with three sizes of eartips, and a zippered nylon carrying case. Changing eartips was a little tricker than with some brands, as they’re made purely from silicone, and there’s no sort of stiffener to keep them open. Fortunately, this isn’t something most people are going to do more than once.
I’ll start out with the Spark wired headphones, shown in white and silver here. Thanks to their minimal design, they fit neatly and comfortably into my ear canals, which is critical to good sound reproduction with in-ear headphones. Sound reproduction is excellent – on par with the best in-ear models I’ve tested. With the volume pushed to the limit, there’s not an iota of distortion that I could hear, and like Focal’s other headphones, sound is natural and free of coloration. There are brilliant highs, smooth mids, and surprisingly punchy and clean lows, without artificial boosting of frequencies.
As is the case with all in-ear headphones, the Spark’s soundstage isn’t particularly wide, but imaging is definitely above average. Their dynamic range is very, very good, and I was able to pick out subtle instrumental sounds (like the clicking of piano keys, or thumping on a guitar’s body) that I’m not always able to hear on other headphones. Plus, they’re good for listening at any volume level.
The Spark’s wireless version, shown here in black, offers up the same excellent sound quality as the wired model, though peak volume isn’t quite as high. They still still get plenty loud, just not quite as intense as the wired ones when pushed to top volume. Focal did a great job keeping the same minimal earpieces, and adding just a small receiver and battery pod. They’re not as sporty as some wireless headphones on the market, and without any sort of ear-locking hooks, they’re not ideal for sweaty workouts. But they’re great for commuters, headphone-jackless iPhone 7 users, and anyone else who wants to lose the wires. Battery life is good, maxing out at 8 hours, depending on volume level and distance from your audio source.
Focal has another line of winning headphones on its hands with the Spark series, with excellent sound quality, comfortable wearing, and fantastic pricing for their quality. I’ll be testing out their Focal Wireless over-the-ear headphones soon, and have high hopes that they’ll be just as good.