The Focal Utopia needs little introduction. For years, Audiophiles have praised it for being one of the most talented headphones on the market. Now that the Utopia 2022 has been released, a lot of folks are curious as to what changes have been made since the previous model. So, what can you expect in terms of performance, tuning and design?
In the Box
Hard Carrying case
One 1.5m cable (3.5mm termination) with 1/4” adapter
One 3 meter cable with XLR termination
Look and Feel
The Utopia 2022 has a few noticeable updates worth mentioning. The ear cups now sport a trippy hexagonal lattice pattern similar to the Focal Clear, and they've ditched the silver accents for an all-black look. It’s all very futuristic and Batmanish, if Batman enjoyed a little red flair, such as the classy red logo on the ear cup. I rarely run into problems with fit. And such was the case with the Utopia 2022. Comfort-wise, it's still got the plush sheepskin leather on the earpads and headband. It comes with two cables - a 3.5mm and an XLR. Given the price point, I wish that Focal had also included a balanced 4.4mm, but such is life. Finally, Focal has also included hard fabric carrying case, which is surprisingly small and portable.
While preserving some of the driver attributes from the prior Utopia, several fresh elements have been incorporated to enhance the headphone's performance. The 40mm beryllium driver and the distinct M-shaped dome are still preserved, but now feature a new voice coil that aims to fix certain issues encountered with the original design. The voice coil is now made from 30% copper and 70% aluminum, supposedly prolonging the lifespan of the Utopia’s driver. Additionally, Focal seems to have slightly altered the tuning the in high frequencies. Given that the Utopia 2022’s impedance is only 80 Ohms, it’s super easy to drive. In fact, for this review, I paired the Utopia with my small, but surprisingly powerful Astell & Kern SR35, which provided ample headroom. That being said, I’m sure the Utopia 2022 would greatly benefit from a powerful desktop amp, which might bring forth some added richness and depth.
The soundstage on the Utopia 2022 is somewhat hard to describe. While not incredibly expansive in width, it offers a realistic, yet stunning level of depth that allows ample distance between instruments without feeling like the staging has been manipulated. So, while the soundstage may not feel as vast as something like the Final Audio D8000, the Utopia 2022 is incredibly open sounding. In fact, when I was playing a Yo Yo Ma track, I was certain that the music was coming from my external speakers, causing momentary confusion until my brain adjusted to the reality of the headphones. This kind of auditory experience was a first for me. Without a doubt, there are few other headphones that can match the Utopia 2022's uncompromisingly authentic and remarkably multidimensional soundscape.
Having not listened to the Utopia in a long while, I was surprised to find the bass more reserved than I remember. I didn’t have an older model to compare it too. But regardless, for those who prefer an extremely juicy low-end with significant impact, the bass may not have enough impact. The sub-bass frequencies also fall slightly short of providing a deeply visceral experience. However, personally, I think the low-end has been perfectly tuned, feeling natural without being too stingy. It tastefully folds into the rest of the mix, never overpowering higher frequencies. And the tight and fast response ensures that modern genres still get adequate punch and liveliness. I’ll also note that as we move up the bass clef, the low-end seems to become bolder, as evident in tracks like The Beatles' "Come Together," where the upper-bass perfectly pops out, as you would expect from McCartney’s highly melodic and integral bass performances.
But the low-end truly shines in its lifelike presentation of acoustic instruments. It offers intricate detail and a natural sound without any artificial coloration or thickening. Despite this fidelity, the sound never feels bland or clinical, and you’ll certainly sense that fluidity and rich resolution, which makes the Utopia so famously delicious.
The midrange balance is just as skillfully executed. While the low-mids don’t take the spotlight, there is still just a touch of warmth and lushness. And although upper-mids get slightly more attention, Focal avoids distancing vocals too far forward. So, the instrumentation is never lost to any protrusions in the balance. Much like the bass, the upper-mids make their presence known without punching your in the face. (But will you still get snappy snares? For sure). In this range, it becomes even more apparent that there’s a very cohesive, almost smooth character to the sound. Refined, yet highly realistic at the same time.
The high-end is a big aspect of the Utopia 2022's irresistible personality. It is brilliant and shiny, providing excellent treble extension without any hint of peakiness. For some, the treble was a tad too bright on the previous model, and it seems like they’ve made some adjustments here. Listening to tracks from Daft Punk, for example, the sparkle is exhilarating but I never felt any discomfort.
But this is not a particularly airy of buoyant high-end. Rather, vocals from powerhouse performers like Rihanna and Whitney Houston possess a rich, honey-like quality. And it seems like the smoothness reaches its pinnacle when we creep up into this range. Still, the fluidity is perfectly balanced with a level of detail and transparency that one should expect from a headphone in this echelon.
At first, it might be hard to justify spending this much cash on a headphone. But once you listen to the Utopia’s jaw-dropping talent, you’ll probably agree that few other headphones come close to the Utopia 2022’s performance. With its mystifyingly realistic soundstage, life-like bass, deliciously tuned mids and sparkly, yet forgiving highs, there’s little to dislike. For some, the bass may be too lean, but for those who want a highly natural delivery without skimping on sweetness and style, the Utopia 2022 is impossible to beat.
You can buy the Focal Utopia 2022 at Audio 46.