French manufacturer Focal aren’t the fist name that comes to mind when you think about headphones but perhaps they should be given Harry and Linette’s opinion on their Spirit One S headphones costing just 179 EUR.

Beats killers

When most teens think of buying their first “quality” headphone, they often look at a bSpiritOneS_03_smallrand that is quite infamous with most audiophiles, Beats by Dre.
So why do people buy Beats?
Well first of all they look good, there are plenty of colour choices and they have loads of BASS!!!!!
Apart from this however the build quality is poor and the sound suffers from the bass overload. You can barely hear the highs or mids.
But this isn’t a review of Beats so I’ll tell you why I’m talking about them …
Many Hi-fi companies have failed in trying to knock beats of its pedestal by bringing great sound and build quality to the “on the go” headphone market. But is that about to change?

Focal are a big French name in the Hi-Fi business and are world renowned for their speakers. The  Spirit One S is Focal’s big leap in to the head-fi world and an upgrade from the previous Spirit One Headphone. I briefly listened to the Spirit One at the High End Munich show earlier this year. Both headphones are designed for “On the go” usage.

Starting with build quality. The Spirit One S feels solid and their were no faults with the example that SpiritOneS_01_smallI was given. Focal have combined high quality plastic and brushed metal in the design that give it a great weight and feel. The cable provided is thick and doesn’t get tangled up in your pocket. You can also detach it completely from the headphone which helps for carrying it around your neck. There are also in-line controls to that can be used on most mobile devices for pausing the music, skipping tracks and answering calls. There is also a very nice hard carrying case that comes with them.

The Headphones are also very comfortable, there is plenty of foam padding on the ear cups and headband. They feel a bit tight at first but they adjust to your head size after around an hour. I had them around my neck or on my ears for most of the day and never felt any strain on my head or ears. I love the over-ear design that provides plenty of noise isolation from outside noises.
Personally, I think they look very stylish and stand out from most headphones. I think however that OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthey could benefit from a better choice of colours.

When it comes to sound, the Spirit One S wipes the floor with any pair of beats. The bass is warm and there is plenty of it without loosing too much out on the highs and mids. The sound is very balanced maybe leaning in favour of the bass a little. The sound on the whole is dynamic and caters for most genres of music.
The stand out song with these headphones was ‘La La La’ by Naughty Boy. The heavy bass line really complimented the high notes of Sam Smith’s voice. A lot of headphones struggle wit this song as there is such a huge contrast between the bass of the instruments and the high pitch voice but the Spirit One S handled it perfectly.
They actually performed very well with more or less anything I could throw them. A great all rounder!

Harry SmithOUTSTANDING PRODUCTboxred

Build quality – 8/10

Comfort – 9/10

Sound – 8/10

Value – 9/10

Total – 8.5/10

Price when tested: 179 euros

Focal have created a great headphone for use in home and out ad have designed something that (with the right marketing of course) could steal the Teen market from its competitors. A Beats killer indeed!

And now Linette takes a listen and gives her opinion.

Having been lucky enough to visit the Focal factory and offices in Ste Etienne, France earlier this    SpiritOneS_BoiteOuverte6smallyear, I know how much work goes into their R&D. They also ‘filter down’ the technology developed for the higher end products into the cheaper ones, so that you know when you see the Focal logo, you are getting a quality item.

That certainly goes for the Focal Spirit One S headphones. Properly packaged, they come with some nice accessories like a rigid carry case and a soft bag, along with a cable with a remote on it that will work with your ipod or phone….if you are that way inclined. There is also a full sized jack adapter and an adapter to use on aeroplanes.

The ‘phones themselves are very stylish looking in tones of dark grey, black and brushed aluminium with a pop of red inside the earcups.
They have a modern, slick look to them and I imagine they would draw admiring glances from the younger generation….there is good but discreet use of the Focal logos and branding.
They fit very comfortably on and around the ears, with a good grip so that you would feel safe walking or doing exercise whilst wearing them, but they are not so tight as to be uncomfortable. There is the sense of isolation from the outside world that I like to have with a set of headphones.
They are also very light for what feels a very solid and well made set of headphones at just 280g.
They adjust easily and feel ‘right’ on the head; overall I am very impressed with them straight out of the box. After wearing for quite a while, I can tell that I have them on…but they are not uncomfortable at all.

I want to kick off listening with something bassy, on goes car Cox’s ‘Phuture 2000’. Right from the start there is the big ‘whump’ of bass that I expect to hear from this album, but it sounds controlled and tight rather than woolly and though these come across as bass heavy there is still plenty of top and mid to prevent the bass from becoming too much. I’m getting all the little breakbeaty snaps and jumps in a nicely defined manner.
The soundstage is not as big and open as with some of the other headphones that we have reviewed, but it is pretty damn good, especially when you take into consideration that these cost around 179€.

Feeling ‘at one with da yoof’ I stick on Deadmau5 and ‘Albumtitlegoeshere’
This sounds great on the Focals, driving, bassy and energetic…particulary one of my favourite tracks ‘Professional Griefers’….a banger if ever I heard one.
Not just a wall of noise though, great detail too.

Before I try something a bit calmer I have to put on ‘Once again back’ by Hardfloor. It sounds tight and fast with plenty of growling sub bass…. Not quite as ‘out of the head’ as some of the headphones I have reviewed recently, but some of those were up to 10 times the price of the Focals.SpiritOneS_02_small

I switch to ‘Beautiful Freak’ by Eels and the track ‘Susan’s house’ sounds excellent, guitars and vocals come across well. These are not just a set of ‘phones for fans of electronica, they sound great with more rocky music too as is further proven when listening to ‘Rags to Rags’ with its grungy guitars and vocals.

For the sake of comparison Gil Scott Herons ‘Lady Day and John Coltrane’ goes back on again. Once again it is obvious that the presentation is better with some of the other headphones I have listened to…however the difference is not as big as you would think from the difference in price, overall I am very, very impressed with how the Focal Spirit One S perform for the money.

The whole Beats by Dre phenomenon has opened up a new market for headphones, now, rather than just using a cheap pair of earbuds, loads of teens want ‘proper’ headphones…and Beats filled that marketplace.
Hopefully if we can get today’s teens using something much more well built and better sounding they will develop a much more educated ear and not just immediately go for that little ‘b’ logo……we need some good headphones to fill the gap in the market at a price that kids can aspire to.

With their Spirit range, Focal seem poised to do just that, perhaps a few more colours would be a good thing, but I think the more discerning will be more concerned about the build and sound quality of these headphones than whether they come in a rainbow of colours.

Not only for the kids though, these are affordable, comfortable, portable and stylish and have benefited from the Focal legacy of great design and sound….I reckon if you buy them for your teenager this Christmas you will and up pinching them back again!

Linette SmithOUTSTANDING PRODUCTboxred

Sound – 8/10

Comfort – 7.75/10

Fit and finish – 8.75/10

Value – 9.5/10

Overall – 8.5/10

Great all-rounders, with a build quality that I would expect from much more expensive headphones, a lot of headphone for your money! Heartily recommended.

Review system: Ami MUSIK DDH – 1 DAC and Headphone amp, The Chord Company USB cable and laptop running Foobar 200.

 

 

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