Review: Focal Spark Wireless In-Ear Headphones | iLounge

Review

Review: Focal Spark Wireless In-Ear Headphones

B
Recommended

Company: Focal

Model: Spark Wireless

Price: $99

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Guido Gabriele

Earlier this week, we reviewed the Spark, a classy and competent wired headphone from established audiophile speaker manufacturer Focal. This time, we're trying out Spark Wireless ($99), the Bluetooth version of Focal's entry-level headphone range.

The Spark Wireless comes with the same accessories as the Spark — three sizes of silicone ear tips and a carry case — plus the a short micro-USB charging cable and magnetic shirt clip. Its drivers are connected with the same type of flat cable as the wired version, and is similarly a little longer than it really needs to be. Unlike its wired sibling, the Spark Wireless has traded aluminum for plastic everywhere except for the accents on its driver housings, we assume to save weight. Though we missed the Spark’s aluminum parts, the Spark Wireless is light and comfortable enough that we quickly got over the loss. Our black model with silver accents and translucent silicone tips still looks good, though the right-angle edges on the battery pod are a little awkward and seem prone to snagging on clothes. One complaint, however — the glossy plastic can be a magnet for fingerprints.

The Spark Wireless works reasonably well as a Bluetooth IEM. We found that it paired instantly with our iPhone and Macbook, displayed its battery level in the iPhone’s status bar, and lasted about the eight hours that Focal advertises. Its controls are slightly different from those of MFi devices — track changes require long presses of the volume buttons rather than double and triple taps of the center button. Connectivity with our phone was generally good, except that we experienced some stuttering and dropouts when walking on NYC streets. We can’t say whether this was due to the especially dense interference of other devices in the area or hard surfaces surrounding us, but we did not experience these problems anywhere else. Regardless of the cause, we think the problem is solvable — we’ve used other Bluetooth headphones that don’t have this problem.

As expected, the Spark’s sound is very similar to that of the wired Spark. It uses the same drivers and is aimed at the same market, so it has the same V-shaped sound signature. This means that, like the wired Spark, it tends to complement popular music but sounds a little dull with rock and metal. Though not specifically advertised, we confirmed that the Spark Wireless uses the aptX codec for music.

We like the Spark Wireless. It looks cool, it’s light and comfortable, and sounds very similar to the wired version, with the added convenience of wireless for just $20 more. We are a bit troubled by the connection issues we experienced in a dense urban setting, but in our testing these incidents were isolated to such a specific set of circumstances that we think most users won’t have a problem. If you’re looking for a set of general-use Bluetooth headphones, the Spark Wireless should be on your list.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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