A few years ago, renowned speaker maker Focal shook up the headphone world with a line of exceptional headphones — the Utopia, Elear and, later, the Clear — featuring new driver technology and big price tags. More recently, Focal has released the Listen and Listen Wireless, portable headphones with more of a consumer focus. This week we’re trying out the new “Chic” variant of Focal’s Listen Wireless, a special edition available in three new colors. We think the Listen Wireless sounds very good, though its blocky design might not be for everyone.
The original Listen Wireless was available only in black. Upgrading to the Chic livery offers options of semi-iridescent olive, purple, and blue. We like these colors — they’re a refreshing change from the shiny “look at me!” colors of so many other consumer headphones. Other than that, the Chic is the same as its basic-black counterpart: an over-ear Bluetooth headphone made almost entirely of plastic with fairly large and deep ear pads. Though we’d usually cringe at an all-plastic build, the Listen Wireless Chic feels solid and doesn’t have any creaks or squeaks, which is more than we can say for the more expensive ATH-DSR9BT we tested recently.
The Listen Wireless Chic comes with a charging cable, 3.5mm analog cable, and a soft zippered storage case. At a reasonable 300 grams, the Listen Wireless Chic is generally comfortable, except that its thin rubbery headband padding can cause hotspots if worn for a long time. Controls are also cast in silicone, with track controls located along the front of the right ear cup and volume and power/pairing on the rear — they’re large and tactile, making them easy to operate on the go.
Listen Wireless Chic is primarily a Bluetooth headphone — AptX and SBC are supported, but not AAC. It lasted through our week of testing without needing a recharge, probably close to the 20 hours of advertised life. The Bluetooth system the Focal used for the Listen Wireless Chic is, in a word, strange — it beeps every time anything happens on the headphone, including volume changes and track changes — even when a track changes on its own. We experienced the occasional skipping, but only when our phone was in our opposite-side pocket in areas where the surrounding environment seems to cause drops on every Bluetooth product we test.
Inside the Listen Wireless Chic are 40mm titanium/mylar drivers with an advertised frequency response of 15–22 khz. We expected a pop-focused sound signature, but were pleased to find that the Listen Wireless Chic has a fairly balanced presentation. Its treble presentation is, to our surprise, more crisp than even our familiar ATH-MSR7 but with less low-end extension and body.
For the price, we like the sound of Focal Listen Wireless. That said, whether the squarish design of the Focal Listen Wireless, even with its new color options, really is “chic,’ well…chicness is in the eye of the beholder.
Company and Price
Model: Listen Wireless Chic