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Focal Adds Wireless Listen Headphones and Affordable In-Ear Monitors to Lineup

by June 22, 2017

Get a bunch of red-blooded American adults in a room and ask them what their dream car would be, and chances are a lot of them are going to name supercars from Ferrari, Mercedes, Porsche, or BMW. But ask that same group what they'd drive if they actually had to pay for it and you'd get a whole different set of answers. The same goes for home audio, including headphones -- sure, it's nice to dream about owning a set of cans that cost several thousand dollars, but who, exactly, is about to go out and pay that much?

Enter Focal, a French hi-fi audio company that has been making sine waves throughout the audio world since merging with JMLabs and Naim Audio in 2011 then releasing some of the best headphones on the market in 2016 with Utopia and Elear. The only problem: Utopia and Elear both retail well above the price range for most headphone consumers.

Focal has maintained a line of lower-cost headphones, designed but not built at its French headquarters in Saint-Étienne, France. The company says every product bearing its name carries the same audiophile pedigree. Unfortunately for Focal, high-end audio brands often remain obscure when priced out of reach of the average consumer.

In an effort to bring high-quality audio to the masses and expand its appeal, Focal has now unveiled several new and much more affordable products. The first and arguably most exciting of these new headsets is Listen Wireless, an over-ear, closed-back headphone with memory foam ear cushions made from fabric and leatherette and boasts Bluetooth wireless functionality. What sets these headphones apart, according to Focal, is the quality of the Bluetooth audio. Whereas most Bluetooth headsets struggle to compete with their wired counterparts, Focal says Listen Wireless will feature audio that's close to CD quality. With Bluetooth version 4.1 and aptX Listen Wireless headphones will also boast a 60-foot reception range, roughly 20 hours of listening time, and a charging period of under three hours.

But the number worth noting here is the price: $299 USD. That puts the Listen Wireless headset in a highly competitive market dominated by names like Bose, Sennheiser, Sony and of course Beats. And that's not all. Focal has also unveiled two new in-ear monitors; Spark comes in both wired and wireless versions while Sphear S is Focal's first stab at a high-performance in-ear monitor. The wired version of Spark sells for $69 with the wireless Spark going for $99. Focal Sphear S will retail for an MSRP of $129. Those who enjoy the portability of earbuds will have more options to consider. Focal expects to seduce many new listeners with all of its new modestly priced, portable headphones.

“Last year, Focal took the audio world by surprise with Utopia and Elear high-end headphones, which integrated some very innovative technologies,” said Ben Jensen, president of Focal North America. “With this collection of portable headphones, Focal was focused on developing mainstream mobile products in-line with the brand’s core values, while integrating our mastery of wireless headphones. We want to play a leading role in this growing sector giving the consumer freedom of cables and making 2017 the year of wireless headphones for Focal.”

Of course, the question will be how much a high-end home audio company like Focal has to sacrifice in order to hold its own in such competitive markets. We'll know more when the Listen Wireless and Spark line become available later this month.

Learn more about at Focal Headphones

About the author:
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Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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