Focal is a bit of an institution in the audiophile community. Pronounced “fo-cal”, this company has long been known for its high-end speakers for home and car audio. Last year, Focal made a splash with two ultra high-end headphones, the $1000 Elear and $4000 Utopia, which some have called the best in the world. Focal now seeks to expand its reach with the Spark, an entry-level IEM. We found them to be consistent with Focal’s heritage and, at $69, worthy of a recommendation despite one significant flaw.
The Spark comes in white, blue, or black — we received the white version, and it looks great. The long white cable is offset nicely by the aluminum 3.5mm plug, Y-split, and control pod, each of which feature subtle chamfered accents. Its driver housings are equally classy — they’re also made of aluminum, with the Focal logo doubling as a port on the rear. Included in the box are three sizes of translucent silicone tips (a perfect complement for the aluminum housing) and a sturdy zippered storage case. At this price, we couldn’t ask for more.
In our testing of the Spark, we felt that the cable was a bit longer than it needed to be, and was prone to microphonics when walking around. On the bright side, however, it is resistant to tangles as advertised. The Spark’s three-button control pod works with macOS, but did not play nicely with our iPhone through a Lightning adapter; the volume buttons were not recognized by the phone, but the center button worked for play, pause, and track changes. Other than that, using the Spark was a pleasant experience — it’s light, easy to drive, and isolated well enough.
Focal says that the Spark is aimed for a young, mobile, connected audience — we think its sound signature is well-matched for that goal. The Spark’s 9.5mm drivers are tuned for the V-shaped presentation; boosted bass and treble pairs well with today’s popular music, but recessed midrange leaves metal and rock music sounding a little dull. That said, we found the Spark to have very good soundstage and imaging for an IEM. Our favorite part of the Spark’s sound was the punchiness of its bass, which reminded us of the much more expensive Elear.
As long-time fans of Focal’s speakers and headphones, we had high hopes for the Spark. Our only real complaint about these headphones is the failure of their volume controls to work with the iPhone — we think this is a significant oversight for a headphone from a major company aiming their product at mobile users. Still, the rest of our experience with the Spark and its price makes us comfortable recommending them. If popular music is your thing, the Spark is worth checking out.
Company and Price