Focal is one of the most powerful companies in the loudspeaker market, making mainly domestic hi-fi speakers and car audio components. Everything is produced in France under one roof, or rather several to be more precise. The scale of production has forced the company to build a large complex of factories and laboratories and take over the cabinet factory where most expensive enclosures are manufactured. After the launch of Aria and Easya models, Focal decided to expand its line of headphones. The first Spirit One model was very successful, so engineers decided to continue this winning streak and create a whole series of headphones based on the same design. New models had to be targeted at different customer groups. Because the basic construction remained the same, functions and applications of new headphones had to be different. The Spirit Classic for example is designed for audiophiles listening to music at home, while the third remix of Spirit One is a product aimed at professional market. This begs the question - are the changes visible just from the outside, or perhaps the three models also sound different? We wanted to check it ourselves, so we took all three.
Design and functionality
Let's start with the looks. French headphones arrived in chic and neat packages. As if that wasn't enough, in each of the boxes we found a whole bunch of accessories to suit specific purpose of each model. In the box of the Spirit One we get a hard case, soft pouch, two cables and a plane adapter. One of the wires is equipped with a remote control with three buttons. The cable is ended with a standard 3.5-mm jack with a 6.3-mm adapter. Inside the Spirit Classic box we find a very long and thick cable designed for home listening. There is also a significantly shorter and lighter cable with a single button remote control. The box itself looks very nice and has a magnetic cover. In addition, we get a soft bag and several tiny accessories. The Professional model has a twisted cable, which is a proof that Focal's engineers have really done their homework and did some research about the needs of their customers. The additional equipment of Classic and Professional models looks very similar. In both cases all the accessories are arranged and decorated in a box which looks like a piece audiophile jewellery.
When it comes to comfort, already in the Spirit One model we can see nice earpads. The headphones are pretty light and cosy in feel. Even during longer listening sessions we didn't feel any discomfort. The socket for cable is mounted on the outer side of the aluminium housing. Spirit One is the only one of these three models which can be folded completely flat. This allows us to use the hard case or put the headphones in a small bag. In other two models, thanks to quite interesting hinges, cans have a rather large freedom of movement, which makes them easy to adjust to the size and shape of our head. But at the same time they are not suitable for briefcases. In the Classic version the bottom of headband and pads are covered with leather. The Professional model is more raw and cold. There are no cuddly accents here and the cans covered with stippled paint. At first glance all Spirits look similar, but in reality only the shape of earpads and the position of the jack remains the same.
Spirit One is aimed at younger users, mainly because of the availability of different colour options and its ability to work with iPhones. Classic and Professional versions are targeted at more specific customers. Spirit Classic will be suitable for audiophiles listening to music at home, and the Spirit Professional - as the name suggests - for music producers, sound engineers, radio presenters and DJ's. Their future buyer would probably use a desktop audio system or a studio console as the source. That does not change the fact that both models will work with smartphones and tablets. The Spirits can be treated like cars which share the basic structure and have the same engine, but completely different bodies suitable for different tasks.
I started the listening test with a lot of enthusiasm, because the Spirit One is a well-known product. Earlier in our office we had a chance to get familiar with them, and one of our colleagues is using these headphones day to day. I tried to give them a clear scoreboard, but it's hard to do with a product you already know. These headphones can give a lot of listening joy right from the first moments. Powerful bass and clear midrange are their most characteristic features. Spirit One doesn't aspire to become a headphone hi-end, but in terms of dynamics and the experience of intimate contact with music, you get a lot for your money. French engineers didn't forget about high frequencies. Sometimes there is a lot of them, but I wouldn't say they are pushy or sharp. Spirit Ones have a fairly natural character with good clarity and musical contrast. They become slightly more aggressive and punchy when you listen to more powerful music with lots of bass. They are definitely not boring. These are not the kind of headphones that would cause you to get a nap on a chair.
If you are looking for headphones with even more natural and consistent, but still detailed sound, try the Classic version. Compared with the Spirit One, we explore new horizons here. Changes can be heard immediately. There is no doubt that Spirit Classic is a more audiophile and simply better product. Well, that's what the price suggests and it turns out to be true. Listening to these headphones was a bit like discovering old songs once again. Additionally, they have even more powerful bass. It is not only deeper, but also faster and more dynamic. Nevertheless, the headphones don't sound extravagantly, and the music doesn't seem to be exaggerated. This is an example of a high-end product, much better than the base model. I can't say that it's a knockout, but a big leap forward for sure.
When it comes to comparing the Classic model with the Professional version, I'm not sure which one has more advantages. Spirit Professional are slightly recessed and colder in terms of the sound temperature. They offer excellent soundstage, but the most important thing to them is to preserve the real, honest approach to musical reproduction, even if it means that the sound would be harsh sometimes. Focal did exactly what it should, and I have a feeling that this product offers exactly what professional sound engineers and artists want from their gear. Truth is what matters in every good recording studio. Nobody is interested in audiophile fairy tales about the bass reaching the bottom of hell. Spirit Professional goes with this aesthetics and I have to admit that there is something about them, especially when combined with their original looks.
Classic and Professional versions are excellent developments of the Spirit One. The base model is very good, but its two remixes are even better. Which headphones should you choose? It is a matter of individual approach to sound, as well as purely practical requirements. I'm glad Focal took this so serious. Instead of making a dozen versions of the same product, their engineers developed two new products for specific tasks. This is what real professionals do.
Build quality and technical parameters
Each of the described models is built quite similarly. Closed-back constructions have the same size of earpads and headbands. 40-mm drivers made from a mixture of titanium and mylar. In Spirit One and Spirit Classic models there are aluminium inserts on the earpads, referring to the design of French speakers. Red cloth, protecting the transducers in Spirit One model is a nice accent. The cheapest model is available in black, white and red, but the cloth mentioned above remains red.
The hinges are flexible and easy to adjust. In Classic version we have lots of brown leather. They weigh slightly more, but it is only a few ounces, so you don't uncomfortable. The design of the Professional version is a bit rough, but they are almost as nice to wear as Classics. Technical parameters of all headphones are almost identical. Spirit Ones have a slightly higher efficiency, while the other two models have a wider frequency response. 32 ohm impedance should allow you to connect Spirits to any sound source, including mobile devices.
I started listening with iPod Classic and Asus Nexus 7. The next step was to connect the headphones to the Musical Fidelity M1 HPA amplifier connected with a laptop vie the USB port. During the test I also used Meridian Explorer DAC and iPhone 5S.
Listening to these three heapdhones was a very positive experience because it confirmed my belief that a company like Focal simply cannot afford to make mistakes and introduce a rubbish product. If someone thought this whole idea is like a magical multiplication of models just to fill some gap in the catalogue, it's not like that. Spirits are different in appearance, functionality, equipment and the most important thing of all - the character of sound. In each case it fits the overall image of the product perfectly. So which model should you choose? I hope you have already know it at this point.
One model is like a good pizza, the other is like a warm apple pie with ice cream, and the third tastes like stuffed snails. Everyone knows best what they want.
Headphone Type: Dynamic, Over-Ear, Closed-Back
Frequency response: 6 Hz - 22 kHz (Spirit One), 5 Hz - 22 kHz (Classic and Professional)
Impedance: 32 ohms
Sensitivity: 104 dB (Spirit One), 102 dB (Classic and Professional)
Jack Type: 3.5 mm
Price: $279 (Spirit One), $399 (Classic) $349 (Professional)
Written by Małgorzata Filo