FOCAL Clear MG PROFESSIONAL vs. FOCAL Clear MG REVIEW

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FOCAL Clear MG PROFESSIONAL vs. FOCAL Clear MG REVIEW

Two fresh pairs of headphones by Focal. The Clear MG versus the Clear MG Professionals. From the looks, its easy to tell the difference - the Professionals rock black with red cushioning, while the regular MG's don smooth, golden shades all around. 

Then we look at the specs. 55 ohm impedance - check. 5-28kHz frequency range - check. The Focal classic 40 mm M shaped magnesium driver - check. So... where does the difference lie? 

Well, for starters, the Clear MG comes with a 4-pin XLR. The Professionals come with an extra set of ear cushions. A little give and take between the two. With the same design, its the difference of color that really give them each their own vibe. 

LOOKS

CLEAR MG PROFESSIONAL
Clear MG Pro Full
Clear MG Pro Shell
Focal Clear PRO Cushion
CLEAR MG
Clear MG Full
Focal Clear MG Shell
Focal Clear MG Cushion

 

How do they sound though? Let's jump right in. 

SOUNDSTAGE

 CLEAR MG Professional CLEAR MG 
Exceptional width, height and clarity Still exceptional width, not as spread out, in exchange for a tighter sound

 

Side by side, after seeing the identical spec sheets, I was relieved to find a difference. The Clear MG Professionals sound completely open, wide enough to fit everything in comfortably, with an added measure of airiness at each end to give the sound real texture and breath. The Clear MG's were not as spread about, but what they lacked spatially they made up for with overall tightness and depth. 

Listening for the soundstage alone, I can tell that there are different applications for each of these headphones. Let's compare their sound profiles. 

 
CLEAR MG Professional
CLEAR MG
LOWS

Thick, more defined, pumping at times

Great body, slightly less definition but held the songs tighter together. Comparable spatial placement
MIDS

Pinpoint accuracy, everything was identifiable and clear with zero milk.

The same pinpoint accuracy, with the same clarity, but they blended more with each other thanks to a little extra warmth
HIGHS

Crisp, airy. Cut through the mix seamlessly without taking on any unwanted brightness. Very accurate sounding. 

A little more relaxed in overall positioning, but with a greater amount of brightness. It made vocals really fun to listen to. Although there was less airiness in comparison, it made up for it with the brightness and punch, which is hard to pull off in a way that remains pleasing to the ears. They pulled it off.

 

SIMILARITIES

What Focal delivers equally to these headphones is accuracy and width. Besides slight tonal differences, which I'll get into in a second, both soundstages had precision when representing each frequency range. The space provided by their open-backs was breathtaking. Everything had a place, and it never sounded like I wasn't getting what I needed out of either of these.  

DIFFERENCES 

The sound profile varied between pairs, though slightly. The Clear MG Professionals are more open, with more air for the highs to breathe. Because of this, acoustic and live performances gave off an insane amount of depth and texture, leading me to think I was in the room watching Eric Clapton's Unplugged Session. 

The Clear MG's exchanged some of the airiness for brightness. This gave rap and pop vocals that extra push to the front of the songs, and boy was it nice. Along with that, there was more overall warmth of the music around the mid-lows, giving the songs as a whole a feeling of oneness that kept me coming back for more.

WHAT SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

Choosing between these off sight would be difficult. Same price, nearly the same name. I am relieved to say though that depending on what you're trying to get out of the pair you choose, one may be more pleasing than the other. 

I'm setting up a list of criteria you may be following on your journey to sonic satisfaction. If it applies, then you may have found which ones are right for you. 

 CLEAR MG Professional CLEAR MG
  • If you listen to more ambient-based music - live performances sound like you're there
  • Rock and electronic music with a lot of space about them are very fun to experience on these
  • If you like a spacious field to your soundstage, to hear every piece in detail, these are more accurate as far as that is concerned
  • If you like airiness and shimmer in your highs. You get crystal clarity without any sort of brightness from the headphones themselves, for a high-purity sound
  • If you listen to a lot of rap or pop, vocals sound impeccable in these. A little brightness to make things pop. 
  • If you love bass, you might get slightly more enjoyment out of these - the warmth adds a sense of oneness for the listener. 
  • If you like a tighter feel to your music instead of a wide one, these provide both, with a bit more emphasis on the tightness, and more of a pop to the music as a whole.

 

CONCLUSION

If you are looking to fully experience every single aspect of a song, I would recommend the Clear MG Professionals. They are more accurate to the sounds they represent, and that stereo field makes it so you are fully enveloped by the experience. The music is all around you, and you get lost in it. That's what this stuff is all about. The Professionals will keep you on your toes (in a good way), for the space provided by them was an adventure in itself. 

The accuracy also makes these ideal for people who work in music or audio, hence the Professional in the name. Not a wave goes unnoticed with these. Not only that, but the clarity was amazing, and I think that mixing with these would prove fruitful. 

If you are looking to listen a bit more casually - you would like to experience music in a way that is not so analytical, but more geared towards pure enjoyment - then I would recommend the Clear MG's. The warmth that they provided versus the Professionals, again, gave a sense of oneness that makes them hard to take off. Listening to "Break the Law" by Mac Miller, I was fighting the urge to start moving. They'll get you pumped up thanks to the tightness in the low-mid range. 

Key differences:

The Clear MG's were brighter and warmer than their counterpart, made for listeners.

The Clear MG Professionals were more spacious, airy, and clear, made for both listeners and pros alike.

Which one would you go with? 

Focal Clear MG on Audio46

Focal Clear MG Professionals on Audio46

 

 

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3 comments

  • These headphones (Clear MG Pro/Clear MG) are mechanically, electrically and physically identical. The specs/graphs on both are also identical. They both sound the same. PERIOD. During a blind listening comparison I would bet BIG money NOBODY could tell one from the other. Obviously, the color scheme is different but that plays no part in performance. The real difference between the two is the cables that come with them. The MG Pro only comes with cables that allow for a unbalanced connection to whatever you are plugging them into. The non-Pro MG comes with a balanced 4 pin XLR cable. That, is the ‘real’ difference. Using the balanced cable and plugging into a quality high end headphone amp/DAC (capable of true balanced output with no shared ground and independent DSP/amps for each earpiece) gives you a 3-4db increase in S/N ratio, a wider dynamic range (2 amps = more power) and lower THD (thanks to the channel isolation and lower demands from the amps). Do these headphones sound exactly the same using unbalanced cables? Absolutely. Do they sound the same using balanced cables? Yep.

    This brings me to my pet peeve regarding advertisers and marketeers. They lie. They lie all the time. They are tasked with ‘creativily’ differentiating one product from another or one manufacturer from another . Usually with no regard to the truth. Many are pretty good at spinning a yarn and even manage to drag experienced reviewers down the path to ‘smoke and mirrors’ while they try to verify the complete BS they just read about a product. “The folks at Focal said ‘XYZ’ about these headphones so it must be true, right”? WRONG. I’ve seen the graphs, charts and test results for both of these headphone and there is NO difference between the two other than minor differences that can be attributed to manufacturering tolerances. By the way, I own a pair of the Focal Clear MG Pro headphones. I like them but I ended up getting a custom made balanced 4 pin XLR cable from Moon Audio for them as I much prefer balanced to unbalanced, for all the very obvious reasons.

    I have an Associates Degree in EE, a Batchelors Degree in Solid State Electronics, a Masters Degree in Computer Science and a PHD in Advanced Computer Engineering. I am a recently (twice) retired DR./Professor of A.C.E at a major University. I mention these things not to brag but to add some veracity to my comments here. As there is no certified college one can attend to get an actual “Audio Engineering” Degree it’s safe to assume that spending a lifetime behind a mixing console or on the road doing shows doesn’t make you any more of an ‘Engineer’ than reading a shelf full of books on brain surgery makes you a ‘Brain Sugreon’. Yes, there are some ‘schools’ that specialize in audio courses but …. you see where I’m going here, eh? Before I took up educating others I spent 10 years on the road operating a 30,000 seat flying sound system for national and international acts. I have over 90 international acts on my resume. Everybody from ABBA to ZZ Top. A lot of work and a lot of fun. While I spent a lot of time behind the mixing console, I never called myself an ‘Audio Engineer’.

    Listening to music is pretty subjective. It’s the old “One man’s trash is another’s treasure” thing. We all hear things differently. We all prefer one type of ‘tone’ over another. Terms like tonality and spatial distancing are purely subjective observations and again, no two people hear exactly the same way. Only Metrology (the science of measurement) can show a ‘provable/factual difference in the specs/performance between similar (or even vastly different) items. Obviously, some headphones are better at bass vs treble or better at treble vs bass. While most of us can easily hear this, none of us can give exact specs on what we are hearing. Better bass? What frequencies and at what DB levels? Better treble? Same deal. How about THD or S/N ratio? No way to determine that without some pretty good test gear. By now, everybody should be pretty clear about where I’ve been going with this mini-rant. I’m not being mean. I’m trying to shed some light on reality.

    This is getting ‘wordy’ so I’ll stop here. Remember that no matter how big a BS hole marketeers dig, there is no reason for anybody to blindly jump into it. ‘Truth in advertising’? Don’t count on it. Looking for headphones or speakers? Make it a point to listen to them before buying them. The only thing that matters is whether or not YOU like them. It’s your money.

    Stay safe, everybody.

    Ray Hall
  • Is there any chance these differences have to do with the pads? I had been under the understanding that both the MG and MG Pro were tuned exactly the same, with only a different color scheme and different accessories. Isn’t that the statement made by Focal? I have a pair of MG Professionals that have been great for both music and gaming. I’m enjoying them a lot, but I would like to experiment with different pads (I’ve been looking into the Dekoni variants) to subtly play around with the dynamics and sound signature.

    Steven
  • Great review, thanks! I have both on-hand and I’m having one hell of a hard time deciding between the two. Funny enough, gaming performance might be the deciding factor. Silly as that sounds, especially for the price and what they’re truly meant for, but I can see them being incredible for gaming with the detail and soundstage. They come across like they have surround sound at times. What do you think?

    Casey
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