Review: Focal Spirit One

Some audiophiles consider Focal’s $180,000-per-pair Grande Utopia EM to be the world’s finest speaker. The Spirit One, Focal’s first headphone, weighs about 99.9% less and costs about 99.8% less. Yet its brushed aluminum metal parts, matte black soft-touch finishes, and detachable cord with a woven cover convey some of the Utopias’ high-end vibe.

The well-padded earpieces swivel up/down and left/right for a better fit. However, Greg and I both had to fold our ears into the too-small earcups. A slim semi-hardshell case and a velour carrying sack are included. The cord incorporates an Apple-compatible inline control/microphone.

Unfortunately, our first sample of the Spirit One was damaged and the new sample didn’t arrive in time for our panel tests, so you’ll have to take my word on this one.

It sounds like Focal designed the Spirit One primarily to appeal to audiophiles, who tend to love dramatic soundstaging. When I played big-sounding rock tunes like Toto’s “Rosanna,” the Spirit One delivered an expansive sense of space. Likewise, in jazz singer Sue Matthews’s version of “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” I clearly heard the sound of the piano reverberating within the studio. The detail was also fantastic: Every little nuance of Matthews’s drummer’s intricate cymbal and high-hat work came through, although at times it sounded as if the region around 3 kHz was slightly too prominent. The bass sounded unusually tight and well defined.

The Spirit One is no audiophile wuss-’phone, though. When I played Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart,” I noted “Tight kick drum, crunchy guitar riffs, huge ambience, tons of dynamics — this is the way it’s supposed to sound.”

So what’s not to love? If you have fairly large ears, you’ll likely tire of the Spirit One’s earcups mangling your pinnae. If you have medium to small ears, you’ll probably love it. 

Test Bench

The Spirit One has a fairly flat frequency response with a slight emphasis centered at 5.9 kHz. Increasing output impedance to 75 ohms produces negligible change in frequency response. Isolation is average for an over-ear model, running -10 to -27 dB between 650 Hz and 12 kHz. Distortion at 100 dBA typically runs below 0.5%, but rises to 7.4% at 20 Hz. Average sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz with a 1-watt signal at the rated 32 ohms impedance is 101.6 dB.