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Focal Utopia 2022 headphones

Focal Utopia 2022 headphones

In 2016, Focal joined the headphone tsunami by introducing its Utopia and Elear models. I reviewed the original Utopia headphone for The Absolute Sound that same year, I concluded my review, “If you want to hear and feel just how good headphone listening can be, I invite you to give the Focal Utopia headphones serious consideration. They are a true reference component worthy of the finest system.”

Since then, Focal has expanded its over-ear headphone line to nine different models ranging from the Listen Professional to the newly revised Utopia. And while it would be easiest to refer to this new model as the Utopia II, on Focal’s website Focal refers to it as Utopia 2022, so that’s what we’ll call the latest iteration of Focal’s Utopia during this review.

Tech Tour

How has Focal improved what was already a superb headphone? Let us count the ways…the first and foremost change is the price. The Utopia 2022 are considerably more expensive than the original version. Much has changed to justify the price increase besides inflation and maintaining profit margins. The new voice coil is the most notable difference between the original Utopia and the 2022 version. Focal engineers developed a voice coil that uses copper and aluminium in an alloy that Focal claims “provides a rejuvenated sound signature that lends even greater neutrality, with powerful bass and more mellow treble.”

Focal Utopia 2022

The Utopia 2022 still uses the same M-shaped Beryllium driver, but now the grills inside the earcups are also M-shaped. Like the original, the Focal Utopia 2022 has a frequency range from 5Hz to 50KHz, and the patented drivers have no active or passive equalisation or voicing to affect their native harmonic character.

The Utopia 2022’s yoke employs a new material – forged, recycled carbon. It has a unique texture and surface that departs from Utopia’s slicker finishes, such as the honeycomb grills and glossy black accents. Other premium details include the genuine leather headband and leather-covered perforated memory foam earpads.


The predominant colour on the Focal Utopia 2022 is black. The enclosures are glossy black, the headband black leather, and the yoke mottled matt black. The only trace of colour is the red circle behind the flame at the rear of the enclosure. This differs from the first-generation Utopia, which had a chrome centre that contrasted with the rest of the unit. I think the 2022 version looks more stylish than the original colour scheme, but I’ve always liked the colour red.

Although the Utopia 2022 is not an especially light headphone, it is remarkably comfortable. The weight does not become fatiguing even after several hours of listening. I have a 7 1/8 sized head, which has proven a bit too small for some headphones without the addition of a baseball cap, but the Utopia 2022 doesn’t require the additional headgear to fit me perfectly. Those with larger heads will find the Utopia 2022 equally comfortable since the side pressure doesn’t change as the headband widens.

Headphones, by their very nature, take more physical abuse than any other audio component except perhaps portable players. The Utopia’s design and materials make it as indestructible as any headphone I’ve seen. There are no plastic parts to break or warp with age. During the review period, my fifteen-year-old cat managed to fall off my computer desk, taking the Utopia with her as she fell. Except for a few minor claw marks on the headband, neither the cat nor the Utopia were worse for wear after their frolic.

Focal Utopia 2022

The only ergonomic failure in the Focal Utopia 2022 is the single-ended cable. While other headphone and cable manufacturers have come up with many excellent cable options which are pliable, lightweight, and ergonomically elegant, the cable supplied with the Utopia 2022 had none of these characteristics. It was stiff, which is odd since it was not especially large in diameter, yet it stubbornly retained the deformations incurred during packaging and shipment.

Given its price and premium positioning, I wasn’t surprised that the Utopia 2022 has a second cable configured for a balanced XLR connection. Although the Utopia 2022 is quite efficient, I’m sure that many prospective owners will want to use a balanced XLR connection because their headphone amplifiers have that option. Since the Utopia 2022 has Lemo connectors changing the cable was easy. I also liked that the balanced XLR cable is 3 meters (ten feet) long and far more pliable than the single-ended one.

Along with the standard big ol’ presentation box for your attic, the Utopia 2022 comes with an excellent form-fitting hard case for travel. It has just enough room for the Utopia 2022 and its two cables. But will anyone travel with the Utopia 2022? Given that the Utopia 2022 utilises an open capsule design so that whatever you’re hearing will also be heard by those in your near vicinity, it’s certainly less than ideal for aeroplanes, waiting rooms, or libraries than a closed capsule or in-ear monitor, which would deliver far more isolation. But it is a lovely travel case.


Some reference-level headphone reviews claim that their subjects can only achieve their full potential when driven by an equally expensive headphone amplifier. I did not find that true with the Focal Utopia 2022. I used a wide variety of headphone amplifiers with the Utopia 2022, including the Topping A90 Discrete, FiiO K9 PRO ESS, Sabaj A20H, Schiit Magnius, Brz Transformer headphone amplifier, Gold Note DS-10+, Inspire Dragon IHA-1, and Boulder 812. In every case, the Utopia 2022 sounded superb. My favourite combination was the Boulder 812/Utopia 2022 combination. This set-up had the most apparent dynamic drive and feeling of harmonic solidity, but even with the least expensive headphone amplifier, the Sabaj A20H, the Utopia 2022 had a level of detail, harmonic cohesion, intimacy, and involvement that was difficult to tear myself away from.

I spend much of my headphone-listening time with my Stax SR-407 electrostatic headphones driven by a Stax 007t or one-of-a-kind hand-wired custom-built tube headphone amplifier. Comparing the Utopia 2022 with my Stax rigs, the Utopia had greater dynamic range and more bass, especially low bass, energy. The Stax systems do a superb job of delineating the entire soundstage and upper frequency’s air. At the same time, the Utopia 2022 excelled at capturing the soundstage in a more controlled manner with less air but greater solidity to the image. At times the Stax can sound diaphanous. In comparison, the Utopia 2022 delivers the entire frequency range with superior solidity and harmonic equanimity.

Focal Utopia 2022

The Utopia 2022 have an exemplary low bass response. The bass below 60 Hz is clean, tuneful, powerful, and rhythmically dynamic on well-recorded music. The Utopia 2022 can output too much of a good thing on some pop recordings where the bass has been boosted. The Utopia 2022 bass never got distorted or out of control, even on bass-heavy tracks like DJ Snake’s “Too Damned Low”, but it could get oppressive and fatiguing to the point where if a bass level control were available, I would have reduced the bass level somewhat.

One sonic parameter where the Focal Utopia 2022 excelled was its precision in delineating the soundstage. All instruments had a particularly convincing solidity and spatial presence, which while not unique, was pervasively obvious. The edges of each instrument’s space were delineated cleanly, with specific dimensionality. Several years back, I had the pleasure of recording a workshop at the Rockygrass Academy by Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, and Gabe Witcher. It was recorded on a single stereo mic onto a 96/24 recorder. I often this use for reference, especially for headphones since when I made the recording, I was monitoring through headphones. Through the Focal Utopia 2022, I was transported back to the moments when the recording was made – all the spatial cues and three-dimensionality of the recording were effortlessly reproduced by the Utopia 2022. It was as if I were in a time machine.


When a headphone is priced in the ultra-premium category, it has a plethora of competition. And while the technologies, materials employed, and ergonomics vary from headphone to headphone, the one thing common to all headphones is the question, “How well do they fit?”

I have some wonderful-sounding headphones that I rarely use, except for sonic comparisons, because they fit me so poorly. The second-generation Abyss Diana is a case in point. I added additional padding to the underside of the headband, but it is still an awkward fit for me. These same headphones could be an excellent fit for you, however.

Focal Utopia 2022

Fit is so individual that choosing the right headphone is even more personal and important than your sonic preferences. For my head and ears, the Utopia 2022 was perfect. It even stayed on my head when I shook it for five seconds vigorously. Very few comfortable headphones stay on for that test. The ones that do remain on my head are usually the ones that I can’t wear for long due to their excessive side pressure. But the Utopia 2022 has that rare combination of comfort and a secure fit.

The two other reference headphones that fit me almost as well as the Utopia 2022 are the Dan Clark Stealth and the Stax SR-407. I have to use a baseball cap with the Stealth for a perfect fit, but they are so light, and the side pressure is just enough so that’s easy to forget I’m wearing them. The Stax SR-407 are also lightweight, and the ear openings are just large enough so my ears fit comfortably inside. But if your ears are a bit larger, good luck.


I’d like to leave you with this – to find your ideal headphone, you will have to try them on and see if they are “the one” in terms of fit. In terms of sound, I seriously doubt you will find the Utopia 2022 wanting. But for me, and I suspect for you as well, the fit will be the primary determining factor in how much you will use and enjoy a reference pair of headphones after you purchase them. If you find the Focal Utopia 2022 as comfortable as I do, it may qualify as your lifetime reference-quality headphone. The Utopia 2022 is simply an outstanding component from a company with a long history of creating high-value, high-performance transducers. And, to quote my previous Utopia review, “They are a true reference component worthy of the finest system.”

Technical specifications

  • Type Circumaural, open-back headphones
  • Impedance 80 Ohms
  • Sensitivity 104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
  • THD < 0.2 % @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
  • Frequency response 5Hz–50kHz
  • Speaker driver 1 40mm pure beryllium ‘M’-shaped dome
  • Cable provided 1 × 5ft cable (1.5m) with 1 × 1/8” (3.5mm) asymmetric TRS Jack connector and 2 × Lemo connectors
    Cable provided 1 × 10ft cable (3m) with 1 × symmetrical 4-point XLR connector and 2 Lemo connectors
    Adaptor provided 1 × Jack adapter, 1/8” (3.5mm) point socket – 1/4” (6.35mm) point plug
  • Dimensions (in supplied carry case) 25 × 24 × 12cm
  • Weight 490g
  • Price £4,699/$4,999




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