Focal Listen Wireless review: A premium wireless headphone with refined sound and presence

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The Good The Focal Listen Wireless has a sturdy design, fits comfortably and snugly, and sounds excellent for a Bluetooth headphone. It folds up to fit in an included neoprene case and comes with a cable for wired listening. It also works well for making calls.

The Bad The sound is a tad bright, which can make some music sound harsh. Heavier than some competing models. Lacks active noise cancellation.

The Bottom Line Focal's Listen Wireless is well-built Bluetooth headphone with rich, refined sound imbued with a lot of presence -- perhaps too much for some people.

7.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 7

You may not have heard of French audio company Focal, but among audiophiles its speakers and headphones stand in high regard. The Listen Wireless is the company's first crack at a full-size premium Bluetooth headphone.

This $300 model looks similar to the wired Listen, which I liked a lot, but it has a more eye-catching glossy black finish instead of brushed silver. It folds up to fit in an included neoprene carrying case, and also comes with a cable for those times when you want to go wired.

The headphone feels sturdily built, although at 300 grams it's slightly heavy. While I found it easy enough to wear, it isn't as comfortable as Bose's QuietComfort 35. I do like that Focal's ear pads are equipped with thick, high-quality memory foam, and they managed to seal out a lot of ambient noise Unlike the Bose, however, there's no active noise cancellation. 

The Listen Wireless is sturdily built but slightly heavy.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The headphone has a dedicated on/off switch, which I liked, and it paired and re-paired without a problem, maintaining a steady Bluetooth connection. It doesn't offer multipoint pairing, which means you can't connect two devices at once and switch between them. Some people care about that feature.

I thought it also worked well as a headset for making calls; there's NFC tap-to-pair technology for devices that support it. Battery life is rated at up 20 hours of listening time, which is decent. No complaints there.

Rich, refined sound but a tad bright

Like the wired Listen, this model served up rich, refined sound, with punchy, well-defined bass and relatively open, airy sound for a closed back headphone. The mids sound natural and accurate. 

The only problem I have with Focal's sound is that it's a tad bright. It sounded great with some material -- it's designed to be revealing, but that also makes it a little unforgiving. With some tracks that extra bit of presence boost in the treble can lead to a touch too much sizzle and perhaps even some listening fatigue.