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.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Sound 9
  • Value 8

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'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.)

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