Under the Radar

Review: Focal Sphear In-Ear Monitors



Focal is a French hi-fi manufacturer strong reputation in the pro audio community for their monitor speakers and they've made a significant dent in the car stereo market over the last few years. Their Focal Sphear in-ear monitors have just been released. I've spent an incredible amount of time with a pair over the last few weeks and I'm blown away.


Incredible, because I've never been able to wear any in-ear headphones for more than an hour at a time: I've worn the Sphears for 7-8 hours a stretch with no discomfort. Focal touts a balanced design that centers most of the weight outside the ear canal. When I first heard about the design, I'll confess it sounded like hype or wishful thinking but hours of use have proved it to be true. If you haven't ever liked in-ear headphones, the Sphears might change your mind.

The sound is fantastic. Focal has taken a position on sound here and created an experience that's different from the kind of flat sound you'd expect if you know their studio monitors. These are designed for use with a smartphone in often loud and crowded environments. Not only is there the expected bass boost, there's an added emphasis on the high end, something that really improves the experience of listening to guitar rock. The level of detail you can hear even at moderate levels is outstanding.


There's an omnidirectional mic that you can use for phone calls (or Siri, if you're an iPhone user). Click once to pause (or answer/hang up a call), twice to skip to the next track or give it a long press for Siri.


The Sphear earphones retail for $179 and comes with both silicon and foam tips, a carrying case and even one of those airplane adapters if you're flying an airline that's still flying planes from 1995.

There's no volume control on the Sphear controller and they're not designed for use at the gym, but they sound so good and they're so comfortable that I'll leave my headphones at home on my next trip.

They're just coming to market in the USA, but you can order them now from B&H or Sight & Sound. They should be for sale at Crutchfield soon.

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