Mylar & Titanium Sound
While the Elear and Utopia drivers are revolutionary in this sector of personal audio, the Listen’s driver is a little more traditional in its mapping of parts. That being said it is far from standard and Focal still have really emphasised what they have done. At the source, it is a 40mm driver which has been covered by a Mylar sheet. For optimal suspension and to make the dome a bit more rigid, they have coated the dome with titanium.
Just like the drivers, the sound is not too similar to the high-end open back models. This is not just a low-fi version of Elear. Instead, it is a more delicate sounding can, with great speed and lovely tone. The bass doesn’t really stick its head out too much in terms of presence, a pleasant surprise in a price range full of bassy products but it still has all the qualities you probably require. It has enough extension to portray a light rumble and due to its speed and the stiffness of the titanium dome, it hits bloody firm too! Satisfying punch, decent extension and very level with the rest of the frequencies is a darn good place to start if you ask me!
From then on things are clear and articulate. Nothing is especially forward and we get great balance because of this. Perhaps the more controlled bass puts an extra spotlight on the midrange, which is airy and exceptionally focussed. If I was to say anything particularly stuck out the most I would probably have to say treble so you can sort of see how this tilts. Something that is great about the sound is that while it is relatively balanced in overall frequency response it is still a captivating and extremely dynamic headphone, with good impact throughout the midrange as well as within the bass. On top of that because it is so open in the mids it really is one of, if not the most detailed headphone I have ever owned under £200. I really think that might be the case, it is just such a clean sound with so much finesse to it.
Treble perhaps has a touch of splash at times but I love its energy and vibe, which just stays on the border between neutrality and bright. I think it still provides a touch of coldness to the overall sound. Treble extends magnificently which really creates an ambience to the sound. We do have one peak noticeable as we approach 10kHz but it is a pleasant one, just adding to the nature of the treble which I think tops off this headphone very nicely. That is just it, they do have a bigger than some high-frequency range but it is done in such a manner that has never become harsh or grating.
Perhaps the only thing it does have in resemblance to the flagship Focal’s is it’s slightly smaller soundstage (in comparison to its individual competitors, obviously the open back Focals are much bigger than Listen). It is an intimate and more narrow presentation, there is still air as I have mentioned and separation of instruments is just wonderful but there is no denying it lacks scale. I think this does a much more honest job of working well with the space it has in opposed to sounding artificially big.
The Focal Effect
Elear was magnificent, something performing way above its price range and being overall the complete package. Listen may not achieve the same in terms of technical ability nor reinvention of the headphone driver but it offers the best value I have come across in portable headphones for a while. It may not have the Scandinavian styling of the u-Jays, the feature haul of the Fiil Diva or the market penetration of Sennheiser and their Momentum but in reality, it ticks most boxes. The sound is amazing (unless you want heaps and heaps of bass), the build is great and beyond some initially tight clamping, the comfort is fine. Beyond the lack of a spare cable for home use, I think this includes everything you should need to have an enjoyable music experience on the go, so much so I will be giving this our Great Value award!