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Focal Sense IEM Review – Underdog In The Crowd

Focal, the brand based out of France is well known for their expertise in classic loudspeakers, headphones multimedia, car audio and studio monitors. The brand has a reputed name in the headphone market namely the Clear and Elegia. The Sense is the earphone which is particularly released to occupy the budget segment among the Chinese competitors. Will they really give competition to the Chinese market? Let’s check that out in this review.

Rs. 6,995 Rs. 7,990 1 new from Rs. 6,995
in stock
Focal Spark Wireless Bluetooth In-ear Headphones, Silver
Rs. 9,490 Rs. 9,990 1 new from Rs. 9,490
in stock
Focal Sphear High-Resolution in-Ear Headphones
Rs. 9,990 Rs. 15,000 1 new from Rs. 9,990
in stock
Focal Listen Closed Back Over-Ear Headphones

SPECIFICATIONS:

Impedance: 16 ohms

Sensitivity: 93+-3dB

Frequency Response: 20-20KHz

Driver: 8mm NdFeB

Microphone: Omni-directional

Connector: 3.5mm

PACKAGING AND DESIGN:

The packaging is the ultra premium aspect of this earphone where for the price they have overdone! This comes in a branded outer box which has the earphone image itself. While sliding the cover there is the sandal coloured box inside which has an embossed branding and the box felt extremely good in the hands. Upon opening that the accessories and the earphones are neatly laid out and look very eye-catching. Everything is kept in a separate box and the neatly laid out pattern is the attracting feature here. 

The design itself is an angular and robotic design which is very minimal and clean. They are small in size and the provided eartips does provide a nice seal and fit in the ears. They are built in the aluminium finish so the durability is of no question here. The earpiece, mic controller, jack everything are made out of aluminium and the rubber strain reliefs in those areas are very good in terms of quality. On all those parts of the earphone the branding is done which is quite subtle and personally i like the logo of the focal too ☺.

Additionally you also get a decent carrying pouch which is made of waterproof Velcro kind of material and is closed with a drawstring.

SOUND:

The sound profile of the Sense is a L shaped profile with nice boosted sub bass and mid bass presence. The mid section is not recessed and presented well and forward. They might initially feel recessed due to their very spacious staging. The highs are above average. The staging and the layering are the most impressive aspects of this earphone and we will see that in detail in the following review section.

LOW END:

The low end of the sense is evidently boosted where one can feel the boosted thing in most of the tracks. The sub bass especially is presented well where the reach, rumble and digs nice and deep. Feels like a subwoofer present in the ear canal. The good thing is they don’t muddy up the other things and make the whole presentation as clear and detailed as possible for the price. The decay of the low end is noticeably slower to give that sensational rumble hence purists and faster decay lovers would not approve this.

SUB BASS: The presence is very dominating yet they are very pleasurable and detailed. The rumble and the extension is nicely done while maintaining that clarity that one would expect.

MID BASS: The mid bass is nicely done here. They are not lean and have that thick sounding and presence as that of the sub bass. Of Course it bleeds into the mid range but not to a greater extent. The mid bass gives that nice body and fullness to the mid range. The mid bass is full bodied and thick hence in some darker and bass heavy tracks you might lose out some details but in my listening period it’s very rare to face that situation. The sense handled all the tracks well and it’s my sweet tooth for all my bass needs ☺.

Tracks Used:

  1. Boogeyman – Dead Posey
  2. Take It – The Siege
  3. BigFoot – Malfnktion

MID RANGE:

The mid range of the Focal is more or less pretty balanced. They are not mostly affected by the emphasized bass response; rather they remain as balanced as possible.

The lower mids had that nice body that came along with that nice mid bass presence. The body gave that fullness factor and the male vocals sounded rich and lively. The kick drums and the piano notes are very much audible and have that nice warm and balanced tonality.

The upper mids are not that emphasized hence there is no sort of sibilance or harshness when the female vocals start appearing. The female vocals however slightly took a step back in the presentation hence they sounded slightly laidback but the fullness factor is still present. The stringed instruments have that nice rich presence and the timbre is more or less natural.

The tonality is warm and natural without any sort of artificial nature. The detail retrieval and the separation are above average for the price. The layering of the instruments is the exceptional aspect here where they are presented very well thus creating a nice cinematic experience.

The staging is also done nicely which is pretty wide and deep hence neither the vocals nor the instruments sounded cramped out or dull.

Overall the midrange has that nice energetic, fun and engaging experience which is pretty amazing for the price. The background of the presentation is darker hence some might not like it and I would have appreciated a little bit of brightness which would have brought even more liveliness. The midrange also sounds more fuller hence detail retrieval might lack a bit but still considering the bass it pumps out the midrange presentation that they deliver is quite astounding.

Tracks Used:

  1. Perfect – Ed Sheeran
  2. Blowers Daughter – Damien Rice
  3. When You Say Nothing At All – Susan Wong

TREBLE:

The treble of the sense is more than average for the price. Being a L shaped profile the treble is not that extended and shows an early roll off. The treble is tuned to be on a safer side to avoid any sort of unwanted sibilance and harshness during longer listening periods. 

The upper treble shows no sort of extension where it doesn’t have that brightness that one purists would expect. However the shimmer on the top end was very good. The brilliance factor is average here but apart from all those technical aspects I still feel this watch has one of the safely tuned treble ends where no one would easily neglect this. The cymbal crashes are spot on and of course the decay is not that splashy and feels slightly muffled.

The electric guitar strings sound slightly closed out instead of richer and brighter but as per my taste this does suit me well. The amount of air it contains in the treble region is very good hence as an overall presentation they don’t feel crushed or closed instead they are wide open with darker background.

Tracks Used:

  1. Something Happened On The Way To Heaven – Phill Collins
  2. Jack Of Speed – Steely Dan
  3. Sultans Of Swings – Dire Straits

TECHNICALITIES:

STAGING: The staging of the sense is very good in terms of width and depth and even in the height. The overall presentation feels nice and wide which is pretty impressive considering the size and the driver size of the earphone. The depth is very immersive since the low end of this earphone is a dominating factor. The width is pretty wide hence the separation and the layering of the instruments are brought out really well. 

IMAGING: It’s very good for the price. The precise placement of the instruments and the wide staging made the imaging very easier. One can easily point out the instruments without any issues even while listening to any of the complex tracks. The transient response feels pretty smooth and the channel sweep is also very smooth and nice. 

The detail retrieval and the separation is above average for the price and nothing to complain about. Of Course you can’t expect good tier detail retrieval since this is a single dynamic driver earphone. The highs are not that pronounced hence accompanied with that darker background the detail retrieval it possess for its profile is very nice.

Tracks Used;

  1. June Ponal – Harris Jeyaraj
  2. Jalsa – Yuvan Shankar Raja
  3. Sirens Of The Sea – OceanLab

PROS AND CONS:

Pros:

  1. L shaped profile with Bass Boost
  2. Sub bass Presence
  3. Staging and Layering
  4. Tonality
  5. Design, Packaging and Price

Cons:

  1. Detail Retrieval
  2. Non detachable Cable

VERDICT:

The Sense from the Focal Brand is a well known product and launched years ago. The brand itself needs no introduction in the first since they are one of the leading speaker and headphone manufacturers. The brand is based out of France and their design and craftsmanship is one of the finest if i have to say. 

The sense has  an interesting sound profile which I never expected in this price range. It’s not a v shaped rather its a nicely tuned U shaped profile with one of the best low end responses. The sub bass focus is majorly done with nice reach and trumble. The thick mid bass gives nice body and fullness to the midrange without affecting the vocals. The tonality is pleasing and natural. The highs are above average and have a darker background to complement the fuller sound.

The technicalities are another awesome aspect of this earphone where the staging is nice and wide with superb layering. The separation is nicely done even with that enormous bass response. Overall a well rounded technically capable fun earphone. I never had big expectations for this earphone in the first place since many other Chinese contenders are in this price range already but I fell in love with this earphone from the start of packaging itself which is very premium and the sound of it took this to the next level. Finally i bought this earphone only because it was available for a sweet deal and man!! Why haven’t I bought this before! This is really the true UNDERDOG IN THE CROWD!

Rs. 6,995 Rs. 7,990 1 new from Rs. 6,995
in stock
Focal Spark Wireless Bluetooth In-ear Headphones, Silver
Rs. 9,490 Rs. 9,990 1 new from Rs. 9,490
in stock
Focal Sphear High-Resolution in-Ear Headphones
Rs. 9,990 Rs. 15,000 1 new from Rs. 9,990
in stock
Focal Listen Closed Back Over-Ear Headphones

This Review is Written By KATHIRAVAN.C

KATHIRAVAN

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I’m Kathiravan from Tamilnadu. A budding audiophile here with high love towards music and audio equipment. My first experience of enjoying the hifi audio came when I started to use budget chi-fi gears and now it came all along the way of reviewing the gears with high end stuffs. I love reviewing audio products.

Shubham

Shubham

Shubham Garg (Editor Shubz.in) is an engineer with a specialization in Mechanical Engineering from AKTU, Uttar Pradesh. Being a mechanical engineer he has always loved to learn the inner working of various machines and consumer electronics. He regularly tests various audio, home appliances, and daily use products, to provide the best advice to readers. He is a wizard that can make your shopping easy, saving you time and stress of figuring out what to buy.

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