Focal Sphear review: An audiophile-grade in-ear headphone for less than $200

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The Good The Focal Sphear is a lightweight, comfortable in-ear headphone that stays in your ears and sounds impressive for the price, with full bass and pleasantly crisp treble. There's an inline one-button remote and microphone for cell phone use and a carry case is included.

The Bad They let in a little more ambient noise than your typical noise-isolating headphone and the headphone's added transparency magnifies the flaws in poorly produced tracks or heavily compressed recordings.

The Bottom Line The Focal Sphear is a relatively affordable audiophile-grade in-ear headphone that's easy to listen to for long stretches.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

After I shot my video for the Focal Sphear (embedded above), I got an email from the PR rep for the company telling me I'd made a small mistake -- a faux pas, if you will.

"Great video," he wrote. "Just a heads up for the future -- the company name is pronounced 'Faux-cal' versus 'Focal' as you would say when referring to a focal point. Remember, they are French."

Yes, my bad. Not to make it a focal point or anything, but Focal is a French company. And aside from the fact that most people in the US, UK and Australia will probably not pronounce the company's name with a French accent, it makes good headphones. We particularly like its new in-ear Sphear, which retails for $179 in the US, £100 in the UK and AU$249 in Australia.

What you get in the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

So, why do we like it? For starters it's lightweight, very comfortable to wear and it stays in your ears. It also seems sturdily built and comes with a thick main cord that terminates in an L-shaped plug. The mic on the cable is located high up on the left cord, close to your mouth for making calls, while the single-button remote is conveniently located farther down on the cable at the Y junction. That button acts as a call answer/end and pause/play button and skips tracks forward when you tap it twice and backwards when you tap it three times.

Call quality was good when making calls with the headphone and the Sphear works well as a headset.

In terms of accessories, you get two sets of small, medium and large tips -- one silicone set and one foam set -- and a small carrying case. The headphone features 10.8mm headphone drivers and impedance is rated at 16 ohms.