Focal Spirit One review: Focal Spirit One

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MSRP: $279.99

The Good The Focal Spirit One combines sleek styling and vivid sound quality in a relatively small circumaural, over-the-ear headphone design.

The Bad Comfort is good, but not great.

The Bottom Line Focal may be new to the headphone market, but its Spirit One is an auspicious debut with the look, feel, and sound of a winner.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 8

The $279 Focal Spirit One is affordable for a headphone designed and engineered in France (but actually made in China). The Spirit One's ear cups are somewhat larger than the Bowers & Wilkins P5 on-ear headphones ($299), but the size advantage pays dividends with superior isolation from environmental noise. I prefer the Spirit One's sound over the P5 because it has more powerful bass, and the overall sound is more immediate and lively. With strong sound performance, cushy ear pads, and a generous two-year warranty, the Focal Spirit One deserves a solid recommendation for anyone shopping for a universal over-ear headphone.

Design and features
Focal's engineers put extra effort into developing a headphone that conforms to a variety of head and ear shapes, but comfort is only average. It's great that the earcups pivot on not one, but two vertical hinges and one horizontal axis to help ensure the soft, faux leather earpads apply equal pressure around your ears.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The clever design improves the seal on the ears to more effectively block external noise and maximize bass. My main gripe with comfort is the moderately high ear pad pressure against my head, but I suspect the stiffness will lighten up after a few months of use. The aluminum hinges that attach the ear cups to the headband should also ensure long-term durability compared with the plastic parts used on many other headphones.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Spirit One's "soft-touch" finished ear cups and lightly padded headband have a luxurious feel, I also liked that the cups are clearly marked "Left" and "Right."

The 40mm Mylar/titanium drivers are rated with 32 ohm impedance and are highly efficient with volume, so this headphone can play as loud as you'd safely want from a phone or portable music player.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Spirit One comes with a detachable, 42-inch long, cloth-covered cable fitted with phone controls for your Apple smartphone. The beautifully finished metal (not plastic) phone controls and base plug are a step up in quality from what I usually see on similarly priced headphones.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The cable's 2.5mm connector makes a reasonably secure fit to the left ear cup, but a moderate tug can inadvertently yank it out of place (a locking connector would have solved the problem). The ear cups can fold in toward the headband for fairly compact storage, and accessories include a semi-hard zippered and padded travel case, a soft cloth travel pouch, airline adapter, and a screw-on 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter plug.