Headphones. You see one and you’ve seen them all, right? Well, that depends on what you’re going to be using it for. Depending on what you want to do, the usage of headphones can vary. From gaming to high-end audio playback, to having a full blown AI assistant in your ears, we’ve seen a wide variety of headphones.
Today, we’ll be looking at the Focal Spirit Professional headphones. Priced at LKR 45,000/- and available at Digital Ear, the Focal Spirit Professionals are the latest in Focal’s lineup of professional headphones.
When we say professional headphones, that can mean different things to different things people in this case, the Focal Spirit Professional is aimed both at musicians in the recording studio and also the avid audiophile who wants a good set of headphones when on the go/
Some stellar packaging
There’s no doubt about it, the packaging of the Focal Spirit Professional headphones is extremely classy. Once you slide out the outer box, you are left with a matte black box. It opens up as a flap with the aid of a ribbon located at the bottom of the box. As you open the box, the first thing you notice is the weird spiky foam material on the underside of the flap. This material is actually what is used in studios to keep it soundproof. The headphones themselves are at the bottom of the box along with the other contents.
In terms of package contents, apart from the headphones themselves, you get a detachable 4m coiled cable, a user manual, a carrying pouch, a 3.5 to 6.35mm gold plated jack connector and a straight detachable cable with a remote control for calls and music playback.
Hands-on with the Spirit of Sound
We carefully took all these out of the box and kept it aside so that we could focus all our attention on the headphones themselves. Straight out of the box (literally), the Focal Spirit Professional has a certain something going for it. Starting from the build quality itself, the headphones look like they’re built to withstand its fair share of wear and tear. While not exactly the lightest headphones around, they are not heavy either. Rather, they feel the right weight when worn. This is an important factor when considering that you would probably be wearing the headphones for prolonged periods inside the studio or when you’re traveling.
Composed of a sturdy plastic body, the Focal Spirit Professional packs an adjustable headband so for maximum comfort. The headband also has a pleather strip running along the underside of it to provide more comfort to the top of your head when worn. This is to prevent fatigue when used for prolonged periods. The plastic body is so sturdy that it actually has screws holding part of the body into place.
The headphones themselves look like some liquid has been spilled on them. We too had a small panic attack thinking that one of our bags had leaked. It turns out that the effect is part of the material of the headphones themselves but we’re not exactly sure what purpose it serves.
What moves the Spirit
Packing two 40mm transducers comprised of Mylar/Titanium composite membranes along with neodymium magnet, the Focal Spirit Professionals features a closed-back design. This means that any external ambient noise will be blocked out by the headphones and also minimize the chances of sound leaking from the earpieces. This, in turn, means that you can listen to your music at full blast and the person next to you wouldn’t hear a thing.
Making sure that you are comfortable regardless of what you’re doing, Focal also included memory foam ear cups and added a piece of memory foam to the headband strip as well. This means that once you wear the headphones, the ear cups will adjust to the shape of your ears, retaining that shape for future use, keeping it in its “memory”.
Located at the bottom of the left earpiece is a connector to attach the supplied cables. To attach a cable, all you need to do is insert the cable with the connector into the hole and then give it a little push and you’re good to go.
A cable for every mood
Speaking of cables, the two cables supplied with the Focal Spirit Professional serve two different purposes. The coiled cable is used to provide a highly accurate reproduction of the audio signal and deliver performance close to that of the original track. Essentially, this means that the coiled cable is used for studio recording and monitoring purposes.
The straight cable comes with a built-in microphone and remote control. Using this cable, you can use the Focal Spirit Professional with a mobile phone to listen to music on the go and to make/receive phone calls.
Listening to the spirit of sound
With all the explanations done, we got down to what we were really gunning for: listening to music. We tried music off a phone with both cables. We couldn’t place it as first but then we realized that the cables actually do make a difference. While the straight cable seemed to offer higher levels of bass and elevated levels of treble, the coiled cable offered a flatter frequency.
While a few of my colleagues noted that the straight cable sounded better, the coiled cable for me and my colleague offered a much better listening experience. Regardless, we tried a wide variety of genres. I queued up a few of my favorites from classic rock, to metal, pop, hip-hop, and rap. On the other side, my colleague Mazin queued up a list of his favorite songs ranging from Japanese anime theme songs to classical orchestra collections. We both agreed that the cable we were using was better so in conclusion we deducted that it would take some getting used to.
Its quite.. a-peeling
One thing we did notice was that despite being memory foam ear cups, the Focal Spirit Professional headphones did tend to be a tight fit on one’s head. In fact, it was a bit too tight. We found that after around an hour of music playback, our ears became sweaty and our heads were heavy. For an LKR 45,000/- pair of headphones aimed at studio monitoring and recording, the fact that we can’t use the headphones for a prolonged period of time was a tad confusing.
In addition, if you are using the Focal Spirit Professional as a mobile headphone, you’ll also notice that if you sweat a lot while traveling, this can affect the memory foam ear cups and it can even begin to peel. Not exactly what you’re looking for at a headphone of this price and caliber. But then again, if you’re in an A/C environment or in a country that has a cool climate, then sweaty ears are not exactly something you’d have to worry about.
The Focal Spirit Professional: Worth it or not?
This is the tricky part. By no means a cheap pair of headphones, the Focal Spirit Professional certainly has quite a lot going for it. From delivering a highly accurate soundstage where you can actually hear the different instruments, to a precise and highly detailed sound reproduction minus the distortion, and a carrying pouch as well, the Focal Spirit Professional would certainly fit your budget, if you had the cash to splash.
If you feel that the Focal Spirit Professional are a tad out of your budget, then you can take a look at a number of other professional monitoring headphones in the market from brands such as Sennheiser, AKG and Audio Technica.
Do you own a pair of Focal Spirit Professional headphones? What do you feel about the headphones? Leave a comment below