This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Handling & wear. The black elements on the pad backs and head band are tricked out with a hi-tech ultra-suede texture. That texture contrasts nicely against the cooler harder sleekness of the aluminum elements. It's a two-tone study not just to the eyes.

On my swollen noggin—hat size 61, XL or 7 5/8—the lower ends of the ear cushions hit my ear lobes with the head band fully extended. The oval openings inside the ear cushions measure ca. 3cm across and 5.5cm tall. With the popular AKG K702 hi-performance affordable full-size design on hand, I attempted to demonstrate this by comparison even though the AKG doesn't fold flat.

For my head this made the Spirit One fall somewhere between an on- and around-the-ear design. I'd call the fit just a tad short for big heads like mine and the ear cushions somewhat narrow. My wife concurred on the narrowness.

I can see Focal's engineering crew nod their heads before politely pointing out that their intended outdoor usage meant that they wanted to keep size as compact as possible whilst still achieving an effective seal. And right they are. Nobody in their right mind would ever don my giantific Audez'e LCD-2 outside the house.

Focal's head band is fitted with a leatherette-covered foam pad as the only direct contact patch with the skull. The ear cups swivel vertically and fore/aft. In conjunction with the double-jointed suspension they really do achieve a tight but still comfortable seal. Standing right next to Ivette with my iPod's volume fully up, she reported zero sound leakage. The mini plug connecting the leash to the left ear cup not only creates a secure connection, it avoids concerns over bent pins from more esoteric asymmetrical plugs. Another nice touch is the 6.3mm plug screwing over the captive 3.5mm inner to avoid slippage. The stylized F logo shows up engraved four times (front and back of each aluminum cylinder terminating the head band) and the word Focal does for another four times engraved in the ear cup receivers and silk-screened to the 3.5mm plug barrel. Add the slogan 'the spirit of sound' engraved black on black across the headband. The branding wizards at Focal have maxed out their 'get to know us' mandate to tasteful effect. With overall appearance and fit'n'finish scoring at the very top of this price bracket, the industrial design department too has earned its keep.

Pierre Maillard on achievable SPL from an iDevice: "The Spirit One's performance on impedance and efficiency was prioritised for iPhone, iPad and iPod whose respective output impedances are generally around 5 ohms. It's of course always possible to kill one’s hearing with unhealthy levels but that's not our focus. And those most prone to excess like young guys mainly listen to compressed music recorded hot. We mean to be a brand that's respectable towards all consumers, hence our mission doesn’t consist of blowing up ears but to gently teach them and make them feel good."

It sure is a noble argument. Will everyone buy it though if their idea of loud is different? That's impossible to predict. On my latest-gen 160GB iPod Classic and a loaner iPad which I quickly filled up to the brim with 18 CD-length playlists of AIFF files, I can envision headbangers maxing out. Once audiophile-type or classical recordings enter with their low recorded median levels (admittedly unlikely for this crowd), an iPod or iPad might run out of steam to warrant assist from a quality portable headphone amp.

For my tastes, the volume control sat essentially as shown here on an iPad. Most should find that setting fully satisfying. Exercise maniacs meanwhile who sweat profusely on a stationary bike whilst chasing new personal records to the invigorating beats of some personal soundtrack might be made of sterner stuff.


With Simon Lee's fantastic Eximus DP1 DAC/headphone amp and what to purists is a decidely illegal +6dB@30Hz analog bass boost option, I had the perfect break-in machine. It surely would tickle Focal's ambitious 6Hz bass spec. If you've never tried it, you really can't appreciate the effect is has on recorded ambiance and the general sense of audible space.