Focal was standing tall on the front line, center-stage even, with a horse-shoe full of Focal headphones. Along with being the big one-ring circus of headphone listening, busy throughout the weekend, the exhibit was standing room only — no chairs. This allowed more people to crowd in, and also not stay put too long as the chairs often find show-goers settling in for a listen and a rest. I prefer the “standing-listen” format, and wish other exhibitors would follow suit.
Still the star of the show, it was Focal’s Stellia headphones riding high, and in my experience one the cleanest sounding pair of headphones I’ve heard yet. Their easy to drive 35-Ohm impedance has me giddy, and the lightweight beryllium driver is razor sharp to my ears.
Also on display was the NEW Focal Arche DAC/Headphone amplifier. Which was developed in partnership with electronics company MicroMega. The Arche’s internal decoding is AKM based chip-set and is faithful in reproduction up to PCM384 and DSD256. A fun feature is that this headphone amplifier includes preset profiles to maximize operations with all of Focal’s reference headphones: Stellia, Elegia, Utopia, Clear, and Elear. The Arche also comes with a removable integrated headphone stand, which also has an arch built into its design. Coincidence? I think not.
The Arche DAC/Headphone amplifier lived up to all of the hype surrounding it. It complimented the Focal headphones best attributes better than what I’ve heard more recently on other popular amplifiers. Including one (that shall remain nameless) that I consider one of the best in the world. There wasn’t enough time to visit and listen to all of the headphone/amplifier combinations that Focal had on display, but looking at the smiles around the horn, I would say that Focal’s product line-up was impressing handily.
by Eric Franklin Shook