Focal Elear headphones

Focal Elear

Oh right, speaking of sound... that is the point after all, is it not? When auditioning music it would stand to reason that the Elear’s rigorous focus on frequency perfection and dynamics would manifest itself during music playback in the ability to reproduce the tiniest nuances of a well crafted musical recording. Aimee Mann’s album Lost in Space[SuperEgo Records] is certainly an album worthy of such a charge as it showcases a healthy dose of delicate earcandy that the liner notes tantalizingly refer to as “space loops.” These celestial space echoes wind their way through a melancholy palette at wonderfully unpredictable intervals and are tailor made for a nuanced headphone to bring them to life and make them pop. 

Looking forward to settling in, I decided to bring along the well regarded HiFiMAN Edition X to my couch to provide a basis of comparison. By way of Tidal Hi-Fi through the exemplary Hugo TT DAC the track ‘Real Bad News’ always proves to be a sonic rabbit hole that rewards well made equipment with continued visions into just how deep the tunnel can drop. In other words, a perfect place to set up shop and see how the Elear and the Hifiman Edition X compare and contrast when it comes to sorting out musical detail. The track’s climaxing “da-da-da” layered vocal finale ties together quite a few elements: a shimmering cymbal cloud cover on the top end, a tar-like sticky bass foundation, and a gloriously well recorded and presented mid range all of which are pushed to the max for the final 30 seconds of the track. This half minute run will push any equipment’s ability to keep the playback crisp and not slide into a soggy mess, but the Elear’s ability to glide through this dense mash of information and keep expanding the soundstage further and further away from my ears was nothing short of jaw dropping. 

What I had perceived on previous tracks of the album to be the limits of the soundstage were shattered as the Elear when asked was able to effortlessly shift into a new top gear of horsepower to handle the tracks final push towards infinity. For comparison when the HiFiMAN Edition X were given a chance against the same stretch of music they performed bravely but just could not express the expanding depth and intention of the information that the Elear so effortlessly pulled out of ‘Real Bad News.’ The HiFiMAN Edition X’s presentation of the vocals over the course of Lost in Spacewas quite impressive and the warmth they brought to Aimee’s lyrics in my opinion surpassed the Elear’s presentation in this particular musical aspect. However, outside the vocal warmth the Elear was in a different universe when it came to the fullness of the sound and the captivating way that it rolled a multitude of minute details in the music into a complete balanced ecosystem all of its own. The Elear consistently outpaced the HiFiMAN in proportioning and placing instruments in the music and was simply intoxicating to listen to for long periods of time in large part due to the gentle yet hyper-detailed quality of sound. Lost in space indeed. 

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