The name is a play on words, and torture on a spell-checker. Focal’s Sphear earphones are ‘SPHerical’ in shape, they follow Focal’s ‘SPirit of Sound’ concept, you ‘HEAR’ good sounds through them, and they go in the ‘EAR’. Hence ‘Sphear’. And yes, I did play Burning Spear through them. Well, it was either that or Spear of Destiny.
Focal has been making headphones for several years, joining the steady stream of loudspeaker manufacturers putting their acoustical nous to the in-head world. But Sphear is the company’s first thrust (see what I did there?) into the universal-fit earphone market, and it has priced Sphear very aggressively, at £100. It has also recognised that universal-fit earphones at this level (as in, not custom-fit models) are more commonly used on the move, so Sphear is an easy 16Ω load and, at 103dB, efficient enough to run well from iThings and Androids. Sphear also includes an omni-directional microphone for calls.
The company is said to have spent two years developing Sphear; not simply for sound, but because Focal suggested most earphones are not built for comfort. I tend to agree – being contrary, one of my ear canals is ‘dinky’ and the other ‘kinky’, and finding off-the-shelf earphones that fit both equally well can be difficult (RHA scores well for me, here). Focal seems to have addressed this problem well, and Sphear sits comfortably in both ears without long-term stress or strain. The box comes complete with silicone and Comply-style memory foam tips for small, medium, and large ears, so it is taking care to provide a good array of options for listener sound and comfort (from personal experience, my advice here is don’t just assume your ears have the same S, M, or L fit, and you may find one lug ‘ole slightly larger than the other).
Focal also claims to have built Sphear in a manner akin to a loudspeaker, albeit one with a single, 10.8mm electrodynamic drive unit sitting in the matt-black ABS housing. It is a bass reflex design, with the port rear-firing into the stainless-steel outer ring and grille. A gloss black acoustic chamber sits in the ear, with a one-piece port that enters the ear canal (covered by an appropriate tip). There is an in-line microphone on the left channel and the two channels meet in a custom Y-connector that has touch-sensors for phone and music controls, and is shaped to look like one of Sphear’s earpieces, and there’s a metre of cable between that and 45° entry mini TRS jack. I would prefer the cables to be slightly more no-tangle than supplied. Anatomically speaking, the bulk of the outside of Sphear is designed to fit in the concha of the outer ear without resting on the crus helix, with the yoke of the cable outlet fitting between the tragus and antitragus. In other words, it is shaped to fit the ear, but doesn’t press against any of parts of the outer ear. Clever.
Along with the ear-tips, Sphear also comes with a small zip-up clamshell case, and an adaptor for double-jack in flight mode. Tellingly, it does not include a full-sized jack-plug, emphasising the ‘on the move’ aspects of the design. In sum, Sphear is an elegant and extremely comfortable design, and well executed for the money.