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Focal Listen review:

'Phones bring audiophile sound, reasonable price into focus

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The Good The Focal Listen has a sturdy design and a comfortable and snug fit, and it sounds excellent for the price. Detachable cable includes an integrated one-button remote. The headphone folds up to fit in an included neoprene case.

The Bad Headphone is a tad heavy, may fit a little too snugly for some folks, and may not have enough bass for some listeners.

The Bottom Line French company Focal's closed-back, over-ear headphone is designed for mobile use and delivers excellent sound for $250.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.1 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Sound 9.0
  • Value 8.0

You may not have heard of French company Focal, but it makes some very good-sounding headphones. The latest case in point is its new Listen closed-back over-ear headphone, which retails for $249. No word yet on an international launch, but that price roughly translates to £175 or AU$340.

Although this is a full-size headphone, it's designed for mobile use and works just fine with phones -- it has a one-button remote and microphone integrated into the cord, which is detachable. The single-button remote allows you to skip tracks forward and back, pause and play music, and answer and end calls (call quality was good).

focal-listen-headphones-05.jpg

Focal's Listen headphone is an excellent sounding and comfortable full-size over-ear headphone that's fairly affordable.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Although there are no volume controls on the cord, I like that Focal separated the microphone (a decent quality omnidirectional mic) from the one-button remote, which sits lower down on the cord and is easy to access.

The Listen may not look superstylish, but it is comfortable and is a better designed headphone than Focal's earlier Spirit One, which we reviewed back in 2012. The Listen feels nice and sturdy, but -- at 9.9 ounces or 281 grams -- it isn't the lightest headphone. That weight takes a little away from its comfort level. (Bose's around-ear models and Sony's MDR-1A are more comfortable overall.)


Both Steve Guttenberg, who writes CNET's Audiophiliac column, and I really liked the way this headphone sounded. It offers well-balanced sound with excellent detail; potent, tight bass and clear mids. It also sounds pretty open for a closed-back headphone, so the sound doesn't get stuck inside your head.

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