What’s in the Box?
If there are any surprises in store for the Focal Clear MG Pro, it won’t be in terms of the packaging - as this is exactly in line with the presentation of all of Focal’s offerings. Not that that’s a bad thing, as they have some of the best looking packaging of any luxury headphone brand that you’re likely to find.
The box is the same one you know and love that slides up to reveal the contents slotted in very neat and tidy. The zipper case is always a highlight, and the Clear MG Pro is no exception, with this particular version sporting a beautiful maroon and black color scheme that really makes the material pop nicely. Inside are your headphones themselves, and a 1.2m double ended cable with 3.5mm end. There’s also an included quarter inch adapter.
Your second box opens up to reveal an extra set of earpads and another cable, this one 5m with a quarter inch end as well. Both cables are made of OFC 24 AWG Copper for those of you who demand the best materials out of all components of your gear.
Design and Fit
Focal products are always exceptional on the design front, and this particular look happens to be one of my favorites in their cannon. The outside here is completely black save for the silver accents, and the inner headband and ear pads continue that nice maroon color scheme from the hard case. The earcups feature a honeycomb perforation design that is both extremely stylish and highly functional, as this allows more air to pass through the ear cup and speaker element - an essential feature for any open back unit.
It should come as no surprise that the build here is extremely solid and that materials used are all first rate. The yokes here are solid aluminum, and the headband and ear cups are made of memory foam covered in perforated microfiber fabric that makes these extremely comfortable and welcoming to wear for long amounts of time. The frame feels extremely solid and sturdy - and though you are likely to be extremely precious with them given the price - they do seem very durable against any wear and tear that might come their way.
As for the fit on the head, they enclose the ear nicely and sit on the head snugly and securely without any unwelcoming tightness. If you’ve worn a focal set before, you know exactly what you’re in for.
You can also watch our video review below.
Drivers and Output
The staple of Focal’s driver technology has been the special M shaped driver that is responsible for their distinct and pristine sound signatures. The MG Pro integrates a new full range 40mm magnesium speaker driver that allows this unit to achieve more balanced amounts of detail thanks to its coupling with a frameless copper voice coil. The MG Pro also uses a new alloy that aims to deliver more lightness and dampening to the driver, thus allowing for a much more defined bass response than the previous version
While this does give the low end a bit more power, it’s important to note that the aim of this particular unit is accuracy above all else - thus the “Pro” in the model name. These are going to be much more suited to mixing and mastering in the studio then they are for casual listening, and the tuning and sound signature are going to be reflective of this. Everything about this driver system is specifically designed to optimize details and much more analytical listening.
While you’re unlikely to plug these directly into the headphone jack of your smartphone or computer, these headphones have a low enough resistance that you could and they’d still sound pretty terrific. The impedance here is just 55 ohms, so they will play nicely with just about any amp or DAC, which is certainly the route that most will go here. Using an interface like my scarlett solo is very comfortable, with plenty of headroom to adjust freely according to whatever your needs may be. This is ideal since the optimal uses for these are going to be studio applications.
The soundstage is a bit of an interesting predicament for Focal here. This is an area where their open back headphones usually soar above the pack, providing extremely rich and panoramic amounts of space. The MG Pro definitely goes the route of being less lush in favor of a stage that plays it much more straight, and is focused on an immaculately presented image.
The space may be a little more concentrated than you are used to with a Focal headphone, but the tradeoff is that the accuracy and articulation are pristine here, and different instrument parts have razor sharp edges between them and a great amount of spatial specificity. The open back still facilitates an abundance of detail and the effect is a stereo field that is very holographic, allowing you to easily pinpoint and target whatever area of the mix you want to bring out or adjust. It’s a pretty stark distinction from the Clear, as there’s no sweetness to be found, just pure detail and accuracy.
It may initially seem like a bummer that this set of cans is a much flatter and more neutral than other units, but one pro of this quality is that it actually can make for an even versatile set of headphones for those who are more inclined toward casual listening.
If you have an amp or dac that allows for lots of different customization options that enhance bass, soundstage or eq, then these headphones can be extremely nimble in conforming to your preferred characteristics. For instance, if you’re using something like the iFi Zen Can that has the xbass feature, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much rumble this can add to your tracks. The sub bass growl can really be brought out here and turn these cans into skull rattlers if that’s the kind of thing that floats your boat.
I personally enjoy a bit of oomph in the low end, so this was a welcome feature. But for those of you who prefer to play it straight, the low end out of the box here is generally very accurate and articulate, with enough body to support the rest of the sound signature, but not especially powerful.
While the low end is pretty aggressively neutral, the low mids is where the MG Pro starts to exhibit a little extension, especially in tracks with a lot of effects. Big synths and epic reverbs will be particularly enveloping and reveal a lot of textural nuances that sound really lovely.
The rest of the mids slot in pretty neatly into the overall neutral aesthetic of the rest of the sound signature, sounding very clean and unadorned. For those listening to Hayley Williams new record, the great amount of timbre integrity really brings out the crisp resolution in the upper mid range of her vocal sound and really wraps you into the recording, especially with the ethereal instrumentation and vocal harmonies. A particular standout was the track First Thing to Go.
The meticulous fidelity that defines the MG Pro is perhaps most on display with respect to the high end frequencies. This can be both to the benefit and the detriment of the signature depending on what your particular tastes are.
This is definitely the area of the headphones that is going to be the most source dependent. Because the tonality of the highs is clear and present, you are going to get every last drop of detail out of even the most sensitive of instruments, sounds etc. However, this means that there won’t be anywhere for super bright or sibilant elements to hide. In well recorded material, cymbal crashes and wailing guitars will have just the right amount of sparkle and sizzle to lift your track. In something less refined, you’ll hear that harshness warts and all.
The details are there, but the tradeoff is probably a bit more brightness than you might typically prefer. There’s absolutely no colorization here sharpening the sound or mellowing it out, so what you have is what you get - nothing more nothing less. This added a really unique quality to some recordings, that just towed the line ever so elegantly between sparkle and harshness, but this is definitely a case of knowing yourself and what it is you want.
This is the best kind of follow up to an already great unit, in that it presents something truly different from the original in a way that highlights the pros and cons of both. This is indeed pricey for a reference headphone, but it’s also better looking and more well built than most others you’re likely to find. Focal are masters of crafting immaculate and unique sound signatures, and this one stands purely because of how thorough it is in its mission to be remarkable flat, neutral and analytical.
If you’re someone who likes to customize your sound with gear, you could get a lot out of this, but otherwise this is going to be most valuable for mixers engineers. If the price isn’t a deterrent, then this will be one of the best pairs of studio cans you’ll ever invest in.
You can order Focal Clear MG Pro at Audio46.