The Focal Spark Wireless are mid-price Bluetooth earphones. They cost £89, just £30 more than the wired version.
Light, slight and neckband-free, they’re well suited to those who like their earphones minimalist in style – but not so minimalist that you’re left with just a couple of earpieces and a battery life of three hours.
Sound quality is decent but below the the brilliance you might expect from an old hi-fi hand such as Focal. However, if you find them online at a decent price, they’re a solid buy.
The Focal Spark Wireless have a design that attempts to incorporate the best bits of the main wireless earphones styles. There’s no neckband, which may turn off some – but there’s also more than only a cable bridging the two earpieces together.
A plastic block sits by the back of your neck – it appears to hold the battery – while a familiar second brick is home to the three buttons that make up most headphone remotes.
Despite its large-ish size, the battery block doesn’t weigh too much, and also doesn’t bounce around erratically if you’re wearing the Focal Spark Wireless while running. The design works pretty well.
Of course, it isn’t the most sophisticated style going. These aren’t earphones that you’d be comfortable wearing round your neck all day, even when not in use. I’ve found they tend to slip around with movement, and the earpieces don’t magnetically link together.
You’ll also feel the cable around your neck as you turn your head far more than most thanks to the anchoring effect of the battery block and the chunky, flat cable design. There’s a solution to the slippage issue, though. A little magnetised clip lets you anchor the Focal Spark Wireless to clothing. It isn’t the most elegant solution, however.
The Focal Spark Wireless earpieces are all-metal, with a two-tone black-on-silver look, and they’re chunky look fits well with the style of cable.
There’s an advantage to that more chunky build: battery life. While simple cable earphones rarely last much longer than five hours between charges, the Focal Spark Wireless last eight, putting them in the next league when it comes to stamina.
Wireless reliability isn’t that hot, however, particularly compared with the rock-solid (and cheaper) SoundMagic E10BT. I find them prone to movement-related blips. Such issues have rapidly declined in mid-price rivals over the past year or so.
There’s no aptX or NFC either, but it’s no great surprise when the cost bump over the wired Focal Spark Wireless is relatively small.
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Focal Spark Wireless – Sound quality
I know Focal as primarily a maker of hi-fi speakers, which leads to certain expectations when it comes to sound. However, the Focal Spark Wireless aim for a more mass market appeal.
Bass and treble is far more prominent here than in the SoundMagic E10BT. The bass is there for power and punch, the treble injection for clarity and a sense of overt detail.
As such, they don’t lack energy or bulk, and the soundstage is respectably wide for a pair of in-ears. The Focal Spark Wireless do a fine job with electronic music, making synths and samples sound vital, while the thick but not outright overblown bass keeps the rhythm taut enough to satisfy at the price.
Feed the Focal Spark Wireless some more natural sounds and you’ll begin to hear their limitations, though. The treble is a little hard, at times verging on brash, giving some voices a harsh edge.
There’s conspicuously less texture and detail in the mids than the emphasised treble too, which leaves some guitar music sounding a little flat. Listening to the Focal Spark Wireless next to the SoundMagic E10BT, they make the E10BT sound a little treble-shy and soft at the top end, but the SoundMagic earphones have a more even spread of detail across the frequency range. The mids are clearer, making them more comfortable genre-hoppers.
Should I buy the Focal Spark Wireless?
The Focal Spark Wireless are mid-priced wireless earphones for those who hate the neckband style of rival pairs, but don’t want the so-so battery life of sets with earpieces joined by a near-naked wire.
The result is not the least awkward wireless earphone I’ve used. But having to remember to bring a magnetic shirt fastener with you every time you go for a run seems a little ambitious.
And the sound quality? Well, it’s good if not the best at the price; it isn’t quite what I expected from a brand such as Focal, with hard treble, soft mids and standard crowd-pleaser bass. Flaky Bluetooth reliability is another knock that keeps the Focal Spark Wireless from challenging some of the top alternatives.
They may not have perfect sound balance or perfect wireless performance, but the Focal Spark Wireless have plenty of energy.