The Focal Spirit Classic are full-size headphones intended for a serious audience. They cost £300 and don’t have any of the populist trappings of the style headphones that are so prevalent these days.
Their design is a little confusing, and those after purely at-home headphones should also consider an open-back pair. However, the Focal Spirit Classic do not embarrass the Focal name.
The Focal Spirit Classic have a distinctive design, but exactly what Focal is trying to do here is not 100 per cent clear. Large headphones from hifi brands like Focal are often intended to be at-home pairs, but these are closed-back headphones with a fairly tight headband.
There are bonuses to this approach – they don’t leak sound, so you can wear them on the train without committing a grave social sin, and they block out external noise very well. You can fold them up a little too, for easy stowing away. However, they’re not quite as comfortable as something like the Sennheiser HD650, which are open headphones that are only good for home use.
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We think Focal could have eased back on the tension a little as headphones don’t need to be quite this grippy unless they’re intended for joggers. The headband also digs into your head a bit – while it appears to be super-padded, most of the padding is actually on the top (where it is of little use).
First impressions of the earcup padding too are not quite perfect. There’s a lot of it and it’s topped with high-grade synthetic leather but could do with being a little softer. It's memory foam, which gradually mould to the shape of your head. Unusually, these are headphones that get more comofortable as you listen, not less.
You will need to check your street cred in at the door if you intend to wear them out in public, though. They’re not bad-looking, but are large and a little Germanic in their angular design (though Focal is a French company).
Despite some reservations about the design direction, actual build quality is excellent. The headphones are made using a mix of metal and plastic, and Focal has done its best to make as much of the area your fingers come into contact with metallic. It gives the headphones a classy feel that fits with the £300 price pretty well. They feel a good deal more robust than most pairs. Still, we wish they would decide to be either home or portable headphones and design accordingly.
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The Focal Spirit Classic use 40mm drivers, the most common size for large headphones like these. And sonically they’re great in a number of respects.
Their presentation is quite flat, with no odd bass or treble emphasis to spoil an impression of balance. We’d be disappointed with anything less from a name like Focal.
However, bass extension is very strong too – while not bass obsessed like some higher-end portable headphones, the Spirit Classic can provide a convincing thump when required. Mids and treble are warm and smooth-sounding, while imaging is very clear and precise. The latter is probably the headphones’ best asset, and something that marks this out as a serious pair. These are true hi-fi headphones.
What separates the higher-end Focal Spirit Classic from the cheaper Spirit One is a slight boost to the treble, but we still find the top end very easy-going. There’s just about zero sibilance, but if you like your headphones to truly bite, you may not get on with these headphones entirely.
However, sound quality as a whole is excellent, with the sort of high-fidelity presentation we’d expect from Focal.
Smooth mids, good bass presence and great imaging make the Focal Spirit Classic headphones for real music lovers. And many of you will appreciate that their design means you can use them at home or out and about.
Still, we can’t help but feel that they might be improved by picking a side and sticking to it. Open-back headphones tend to offer a more open soundstage than you get here, and they’re a little big and heavy to be perfect portable headphones. The Sennheiser Momentum are better in this regard.
With most of the issues coming from the practical side rather than the sound, though, they’re certainly worth investigating further if a dual-personality headphone is really what you’re after.
The fairly tight grip and large size means the Focal Spirit Classic aren’t for everyone, but great, nuanced sound and pretty good versatility makes them a solid buy for those with picky ears.
Next, read our best headphones round-up