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HD800 - where to go next?


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14 minutes ago, Musicophile said:

So, ended up going to my headphone dealer today. The shop used a Hugo 2 that I was feeding from my iPad with Qobuz high-res songs (I could have asked for the Dave, but it wasn't yet connected so I didn't bother). 

 

I started with the Meze Empyrean, indeed, truly great headphones, in many ways (except for transparency) also better than the HD800. But it just didn't "click" for me. Plus, I got really warm ears in a short time from the leather pads.

 

Then came the big mistake. I wanted to try the Focal Stellia, but the dealer convinced me (and he was right) that the open Utopia really is significantly better.

 

What can I say, I fell in love with the Utopia. 

 

I did a final long comparison against the Hifiman 1000SE, another fantastic pair of cans. I could easily live with the Hifiman, but the Utopias are just the perfect "overall package" for me. Extremely comfortable, and a very "musical" sound (if that makes any sense), and it really didn't matter whether I listened to Daft Punk, Mahler's 1st crazy finale, some delicate chamber music, or the Keith Jarrett trio. Everything sounded just wonderful. Plus, they fit me just perfectly. 

 

So, now that I've exceeded my original target budget by more than 2x, I'll need to let this sink in a bit before I pull the trigger, and I should most definitely not try the Susvara that the shop also had on display. 

 

In any case, the quality of all these cans is really fantastic, that said, my good old HD800 still really isn't too shabby compared to the others. 

 

 

Thank you for a nice report! Hope you will find a pair of headphones which will suit your various requirements in a best way possible. Just remember (and this is what I would tell to myself in a similar situation as well) – pick those in which you like music and not the sound most :-)

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2 hours ago, Musicophile said:

The shop used a Hugo 2 that I was feeding from my iPad with Qobuz high-res songs (I could have asked for the Dave, but it wasn't yet connected so I didn't bother). 

 

What can I say, I fell in love with the Utopia. 

 

So, now that I've exceeded my original target budget by more than 2x...

 

In any case, the quality of all these cans is really fantastic, that said, my good old HD800 still really isn't too shabby compared to the others. 

 

I think the upgrade game is very dangerous. Good thing you also didn’t try the Chord DAVE.

 

I had at my work office a Chord Mojo and Sennheiser HD280Pro. I ended up upgrading to Aeon Flow Closed at work. And because I’m used to listening to DAVE & Focal Utopia at home, I ended up upgrading the Mojo to a Hugo 2. And just the past two weeks, having read enough from Mitch Barrett and our great leader Chris Connaker about convolution filters for room correction, I just blew a few hundred bucks on Acourate and after a lot of fiddling and listening got a filter that I’m happy with.

 

The upgrade game is never ending. I think at some point, as Jim Smith said in his book Get Better Sound, it’s just a matter of having a road map as to what upgrades you’re looking for and then deciding whether that’s the path you want to follow.

 

Regardless of your decision, I’m sure you’ll still enjoy great music. In fact, you inspired me to listen to the last movement of Mahler Symphony No. 1 - Claudio Abbado conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Roon (convolution filter using Acourate) > ultraRendu > Peachtree X1 (Toslink) > Chord Hugo M-Scaler > Chord DAVE > Chord Etude > Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature + Sunfire TS-EQ10 subwoofers

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2 hours ago, AnotherSpin said:

 

Thank you for a nice report! Hope you will find a pair of headphones which will suit your various requirements in a best way possible. Just remember (and this is what I would tell to myself in a similar situation as well) – pick those in which you like music and not the sound most :-)

That’s exactly it. When I was noticing that I was tapping my foot to the rhythm I knew I had found my dream pair. 

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15 minutes ago, ecwl said:

I think the upgrade game is very dangerous. Good thing you also didn’t try the Chord DAVE.

 

I had at my work office a Chord Mojo and Sennheiser HD280Pro. I ended up upgrading to Aeon Flow Closed at work. And because I’m used to listening to DAVE & Focal Utopia at home, I ended up upgrading the Mojo to a Hugo 2. And just the past two weeks, having read enough from Mitch Barrett and our great leader Chris Connaker about convolution filters for room correction, I just blew a few hundred bucks on Acourate and after a lot of fiddling and listening got a filter that I’m happy with.

 

The upgrade game is never ending. I think at some point, as Jim Smith said in his book Get Better Sound, it’s just a matter of having a road map as to what upgrades you’re looking for and then deciding whether that’s the path you want to follow.

 

Regardless of your decision, I’m sure you’ll still enjoy great music. In fact, you inspired me to listen to the last movement of Mahler Symphony No. 1 - Claudio Abbado conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The good news is that at least once I get to the Utopias you could pretty much call that end game. It’s going to be very tough to “up”grade from that level. 
 

And after all, I chose my avatar for a reason, I’m more of a musicophile than an audiophile in the first place. Gear will always (or mostly) just be a means to an end. Which is spending even more money on music. 

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2 hours ago, Musicophile said:

So, ended up going to my headphone dealer today. The shop used a Hugo 2 that I was feeding from my iPad with Qobuz high-res songs (I could have asked for the Dave, but it wasn't yet connected so I didn't bother). 

 

I started with the Meze Empyrean, indeed, truly great headphones, in many ways (except for transparency) also better than the HD800. But it just didn't "click" for me. Plus, I got really warm ears in a short time from the leather pads.

 

Then came the big mistake. I wanted to try the Focal Stellia, but the dealer convinced me (and he was right) that the open Utopia really is significantly better.

 

What can I say, I fell in love with the Utopia. 

 

I did a final long comparison against the Hifiman 1000SE, another fantastic pair of cans. I could easily live with the Hifiman, but the Utopias are just the perfect "overall package" for me. Extremely comfortable, and a very "musical" sound (if that makes any sense), and it really didn't matter whether I listened to Daft Punk, Mahler's 1st crazy finale, some delicate chamber music, or the Keith Jarrett trio. Everything sounded just wonderful. Plus, they fit me just perfectly. 

 

So, now that I've exceeded my original target budget by more than 2x, I'll need to let this sink in a bit before I pull the trigger, and I should most definitely not try the Susvara that the shop also had on display. 

 

In any case, the quality of all these cans is really fantastic, that said, my good old HD800 still really isn't too shabby compared to the others. 

 

 

It's fascinating how personal headphone preferences can be! Coming from the HD800, I was addicted to the spacious soundstage, and I found the Utopia to be very closed in, especially on a big Mahler symphony.

 

Were all these 'phones well burned in? The Empyrean especially can initially sound rather unresolving, but really open up after 100-200 hours.

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2 minutes ago, austinpop said:

 

It's fascinating how personal headphone preferences can be! Coming from the HD800, I was addicted to the spacious soundstage, and I found the Utopia to be very closed in, especially on a big Mahler symphony.

 

Were all these 'phones well burned in? The Empyrean especially can initially sound rather unresolving, but really open up after 100-200 hours.

For the Meze I assume yes as it was their regular demo model. Same for the Utopia. The HifiMan was still in a box so that may have been used less. 
 

In any case let’s not forget headphones are even more personal choices than speakers as the fit with your ears and head comes into play. The Utopias were by far the most comfortable for my head. That’s at least 30% of my rating as I love the comfort of my HD800 and can wear them for hours. 

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1 minute ago, Musicophile said:

For the Meze I assume yes as it was their regular demo model. Same for the Utopia. The HifiMan was still in a box so that may have been used less. 
 

In any case let’s not forget headphones are even more personal choices than speakers as the fit with your ears and head comes into play. The Utopias were by far the most comfortable for my head. That’s at least 30% of my rating as I love the comfort of my HD800 and can wear them for hours. 

 

Absolutely! And I'm glad you found the ones that worked best for you. Enjoy!

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@Musicophile  Thanks for the report, I was looking forward to your thoughts.    It is great you were able to find the Utopia is really the headphone for you.  

 

I wish I had a local dealer so I could try the Utopia.  Everything I've read about the Utopia makes me want to try it, with the exception of the pretty consistent reports of the Utopia having a more intimate presentation with a relatively smaller soundstage.  I really enjoy a large and open soundstage.

 

Did you find yourself wishing the soundstage was larger or more spacious on the Utopia, but the other Utopia qualities were so good you decided it didn't matter, or did you enjoy the (presumably) smaller soundstage in that it is something different from what you are used to?

 

 

Home: Melco N1A/2 | EtherRegen+Farad | UltraRendu+Farad | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | 2 Revel Performa3 B112 subwoofers  | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12 

 

Desktop: Denafrips Iris | Denafrips Venus 2/Chord Qutest | Blue Circle Audio SBT preamp|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman 1000SE | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12

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https://www.head-fi.org/threads/focal-utopia-general-discussion.811273/page-826#post-15818801

Quote

Have had my utopia for about 2 months , bought brand new . This week the left driver died . I’ve contacted my dealer and it’s being sent back to focal .
sucks that driver failure is still going on with utopia even with their latest batches. .

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/focal-utopia-general-discussion.811273/page-826#post-15821216

Quote

I appreciate that you posted this. I was re-considering purchasing the Utopia but it seems they still have failures several years after their release.

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/focal-utopia-general-discussion.811273/page-833#post-15836400

Quote

My left driver of the Utopia died on Saturday. This was the replacement pair I got after the first pair with a failed driver ☹.
This is not good, I do not think there will be trouble with Focal, but this is getting tiring and my trust is rapidly dwindling.

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/focal-utopia-general-discussion.811273/page-835#post-15837736

Quote

I babies mine too since early adopter 2016 and drivers failed 3X so far. Last time was in late Dec 2019.

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/focal-utopia-general-discussion.811273/page-835#post-15837873

Quote

I just talked to my Focal trader. He said the last batch he got was troublesome (but no more details), so it might be ... good batches, bad batches. Good for the lucky ones, not great for the unlucky ones especially when the replacement comes from the same batch.

 

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On 10/5/2020 at 10:57 AM, Musicophile said:

Thanks for sharing. At that price point, you'd expect some better QA...

I don't know. That Head-Fi thread has over 12,000 posts over 4 years. I don't know if a few people having issues with their Focal Utopia means necessarily there is a quality control/assurance issue.

Roon (convolution filter using Acourate) > ultraRendu > Peachtree X1 (Toslink) > Chord Hugo M-Scaler > Chord DAVE > Chord Etude > Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature + Sunfire TS-EQ10 subwoofers

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32 minutes ago, seeteeyou said:

Since I grew up in Hong Kong, I skimmed all your links quickly. Good way to practise my Chinese. And to take a break from work.

Hmmm... First, a lot of them are related to Focal headphones but not specifically Utopia. Second, of the few that refers specifically to Focal Utopia, some of them is the same person complaining about the same issue on different forums. (In fact, this is true too even of your Head-Fi links). 

 

That said, obviously, a few people have faulty Focal Utopia drivers. Some people have other faulty Focal non-Utopia drivers. Whether this is more prevalent than other brands, I have no idea. Whether this is a widely prevalent problem for Utopia, I also don't know even if I suspect not. 

 

I've bought supposedly reliable products that are total lemons and I've bought supposedly unreliable products that have lasted me years and years. There is always luck of the draw involved. 

 

The sad reality is that in high-end audio, the high price never guarantees high quality, just usually high performance (and sometimes not even that). You frequently hear about people with supercars that need lots of repairs whereas Hondas and Toyotas seem to last forever. 

Roon (convolution filter using Acourate) > ultraRendu > Peachtree X1 (Toslink) > Chord Hugo M-Scaler > Chord DAVE > Chord Etude > Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature + Sunfire TS-EQ10 subwoofers

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I recently replaced my beloved HD800 with the Raal SR1a.  Everything the HD800 did brilliantly, the Raal does better.  It's tough to go try a pair, but for me nothing shy of the Raal seemed a worthwhile upgrade to the HD800 and I've tried most every TOTL headphone in the decade since I bought them.

Silent Win10 Music Server -> Roon -> HQP -> Singxer SU-1 -> Holo Audio Spring -> ECP L2 -> HD800 / Grado HP2i / HE-1000 / JH 13

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10 hours ago, Miska said:

I have now two office desktop headphone systems:

- Holo Audio Spring DAC + Schiit Jotunheim + HD800

- T+A HA 200 + Solitaire

 

Latter one is now my reference system. Sort of my everyday go-to tools.

 

Wow, the HA200 looks really cool. Love the VU meters. I must admit I wasn't always a big fan of T+A design in the past, but I could see myself buying this (if I get my head around the price).

 

 

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I am still in the middle of my headphone trials.  The Empyrean, HD800 and HD800S all have their own charm.  I just love the "out of the head" presentation of the HD800/S, although the Empyrean head stage is no slouch.  I am surprised how different the HD800 and HD800S sound from each other.

 

The HD800S is comparatively warmer sounding than the HD800 and is certainly more forgiving of poor recordings.  The HD800 have more sparkle and sounds/instruments are more clearly dissected than with the HD800S and the HD800 bass hits a bit harder than HD800S.  The Empyrean is just a great all-rounder that is hard to fault and is also more forgiving of bad recordings than the HD800.

 

Right now it is a tie between Empyrean and HD800S.  If the vast majority of my music was well-recorded, my un-modded HD800 would possibly replace the HD800S on the list.

 

Comfort wise, the HD800/S is still the king, but the Empyreans are close.

 

I wanted to end up with just one headphone, but I am tempted to keep the Empyrean and one of either the HD800S or HD800.  One thing is certain- I remain very impressed with the good old HD800 and it can still compete after all these years.  I have also decided that I cannot live with a headphone with a smaller/more intimate head stage so that crosses off the Utopia as an option (the driver failure rate is also disconcerting).  If Focal ever comes out with a Utopia-level option with a more open head stage, I would give it a try.  ZMF Verite Open is also somewhat intriguing, but I am at a point with these 3 headphones that I don't have much interest in any other headphones.

 

 

 

 

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Home: Melco N1A/2 | EtherRegen+Farad | UltraRendu+Farad | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | 2 Revel Performa3 B112 subwoofers  | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12 

 

Desktop: Denafrips Iris | Denafrips Venus 2/Chord Qutest | Blue Circle Audio SBT preamp|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman 1000SE | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12

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I had the JD800, upgraded to the HD800s . The 800s just has a better low end signature and a little smoother, still a large soundstage. AMPS used ; Bryston BHA-1 and Quicksilver .  DACS used, Bifrost 2, Aqua Voce S3, Matrix X-sabre Pro

 

Other headphones , I would like to try, ZMF Verite, Would like to try the Empyrean, if I can find one at a dealer.

The Truth Is Out There

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HD800 - where to go next? Easy Hifiman HE1000se

  • Sound-stage as big as the HD800
  • Does classical and acoustic as good as the HD800
  • Details and transparency as good as, or better than HD800
  • Clarity and transient speed on the same level as HD800
  • At least as comfortable as the HD800 

But you also get:

  • More, deeper and better bass
  • A smoother and more coherent sound without the irritating 6 KHz spike
  • A bit more musicality without added coloration
  • A less amp picky HP

The bad:

  • Cost more
  • Image and sound-stage depth not as good as the HD800
  • Pads and cable of less quality than HD800
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