While Focal isn’t french for audio, it may as well be. Since 1979, Focal has been making high fidelity home audio speakers, headphones, car speakers and monitoring speakers. The Sphear earphones are Focal’s first foray into the in ear segment and if our first impression is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat.
Read on for our full review.
The Shpear earphones come packed in a small box containing pretty much everything you could expect at this price point. Beyond the earphones themselves, the package contains three pairs of silicone tips and three pairs of memory foam tips (small medium and large; with medium silicone fitted), one aircraft adapter and a neat focal branded carry case.
Beyond this, a brief Quick Start Guide and a warranty booklet are also included.
The Sphear headphones have a total length of 1340mm from earphone (including the central play/pause/answer button) to the silver Focal branded 3.5mm mini-jack. 920mm from the 3.5mm mini-jack, the cables hit the play/pause/answer button where they fork out individually for another 400mm to each individual earphone. Attached to the left earphone cable is a small cylindrical microphone 120mm from the earphone.
While the cabling looks fairly standard, the connector, button and ear phone all are impeccably built. The 3.5mm mini-jack is polished chrome with the focal branding etched onto its top. The play/pause/answer button has a brushed aluminium look on its front with the focal logo etched into it. The rear has a printed focal logo along with the model name and serial number.
The microphone on the left cable is a matching black cylinder, garnished with a small silver mesh grill and silver bookends.
The earphones themselves are made up of a black inner and brushed aluminium exterior. The exterior once again has a Focal logo but this time rather than having it etched, it is meshed to provide a port for the acoustic chamber within. By contrast, the metallic exterior rim is polished chrome and features neatly etched FOCAL branding at the top.
Even after a good look, we found no build quality issues and the general attention to detail was excellent. A lot of thought has gone into how all the individual elements work together to create an elegant and uniform look and feel.
Over three weeks, we made the Focal Sphear earphones our sole personal music delivery speakers, listening to them in a variety of environments on numerous devices.
Before we get to sound quality, a word on actually living with the Sphears. Overall, the experience was good. The earphones felt solid and despite less than gentle treatment at times, the cabling stood up well. The component parts all felt solid and while not in use, the included case kept things neat and tidy. And afforded ample protection from two inquisitive cats, just as an aside!
Listening is a very subjective experience and while we cannot attest to have super audiophile hearing, we can attest to liking music and knowing what we listen to. From old the school hip-hip, heavy metal, pop music and orchestral music, we sampled a veritable cornucopia of music with the Sphears.
In a word, the Sphear’s sound can best be described as sharp. Highs are near perfect and carry a crispness and clarity that renews old favourites. Mids are good but less pronounced, while bass is excellent (particularly with the foam tips).
We started our listening with some power guitar from Audioslave. The Sphear’s instantly impressed with how cleanly the vocals of Show Me How to Live layered above the deep guitar thwacking away.
Moving to something a little heavier we took in the dulcet tones of Manowar. The Native American inspired guitar riff in Sprit Horse of the Cherokee had a distinctly airy and light quality despite its heavy guitar while Eric Adams’ vocals were clean and well layered atop.
Classical music also sounded fantastic. Mars from Holst’s Planets Suite was as overpowering as it has ever been. Even at its peak of mad intensity, the Sphear’s stayed true, with clean trumpets shining through the majestic cacophony. Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was beautiful with the vocals and instruments imaged cleanly.
The Sphear’s excellent bass reproduction kept us focused on the rolling bass line of Eric B and Rakim’s Paid in Full while Ice T’s I’m Your Pusher was rich with clean vocals and rhythmic bass taking us back to the 1980s.
Sugary pop music also bounced along well. From the bass bopping of Aqua’s delightful Doctor Jones to Carly Rae Jepsen’s infectious Call Me Maybe, the Sphears produced an enveloping and well err.. rounded sound.
Extended listening was comfortable with both silicone and memory foam inserts. After some experimentation I personally found the small ones matched my ear best. While I was happy to have either silicone or memory foam tips in my ears for extended periods, I preferred the deeper bass provided by the memory foam inserts.
The play/pause/answer button worked well also and when connected to either our iPhone and MacBook Pro allowed for pausing, playing and answering/hanging up calls phone calls as expected. Worth noting is that as the button is cleverly very slightly recessed into its housing we experienced no accidental presses or miss-pushes.
While the button plays/pauses and answers/hangs up calls as described earlier, like many other single button music solutions, a double press advances the track while a triple press returns to the previous track.
The only minor gripe I had with the Sphear’s was the omission of some kind of volume control mechanism. While certainly not a deal breaker, accessible volume control is habitual and it took me a few days to adjust to Focal’s minimalist single button solution.
The microphone worked well both with phone calls and also when addressing Siri. Callers reported that the sound was crisp and clear and in A/B testing, the Sphear’s microphone seemed to be much clearer than our iPhone SE’s speaker phone function and at least on par with the regular microphone!
Type: Closed-back intra-aural
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Sensitivity (SPL 1mW 1 kHz): 103dB
THD 1mW (50Hz: 10kHz): < 0.3%
Frequency response: 20Hz – 20KHz
Driver: 10.8mm Mylar electro-dynamic
Focal’s first foray into in-ear speakers is a solid one. Not only is the design and build excellent, but critically the sound quality is superb, bringing crispness and clarity to your music collection, no matter where you are.
Add to this the high comfort levels we experienced throughout testing and you have a very compelling pair of earphones.
Focal’s Sphere Earphones are available now from select retailers for a recommended retail price of $220AUD. For more information about the Sphear Earphones and Focal’s other home audio products, please visit Focal’s website.