Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
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
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.
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.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. 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.
The two-year parts and labor warranty doubles the usual length of coverage for many headphones, and the Focal importer handles the repairs. Keep your invoice or proof of purchase with the box; you'll need both to initiate a warranty claim.Performance
I conduct all listening tests on my iPod Classic, but I also tried the Spirit One at home plugged into a FiiO E17 USB headphone amplifier and digital-to-analog converter. The extra power juiced up the bass, but the Spirit One sounds surprisingly better plugged into the iPod! That's atypical for an over-ear headphone since most full-size headphones sound better with home amplifiers, but the Spirit One really does its best with portables.
Finally, it's a closed-back design, so it does a good job blocking external noise, and won't leak much sound to anyone nearby.
No surprises here, Focal knows the sound that audiophiles want, and it delivers the goods. The Spirit One not only scores with superb sound quality, but it's reasonably comfortable with first-rate construction quality and a classy style.