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Focal Utopia 2022 vs. Utopia 2020 Comparison Review

Focal Utopia 2020 vs Utopia 2022 Comparison Review

Audiophiles who are familiar with the French audio company Focal have been speculating on a new and revamped 2022 release of the open-backed Utopia across various forums this summer. They weren’t wrong: the day is upon us, with the Utopia 2022 now available for a whopping $5,000. This 2022 edition has a new look and an upgraded voice coil build from the Utopia 2020. Of course I know what you really want to know: what’s different about the sound? We’re going to get into that, and more.

Look and Feel

Like the 2020, the Utopia 2022’s earcups and headband are padded with memory foam and a soft, black, porous lambskin leather that provides ventilation for longer listens. Both versions have some sort of spring pressure on the axis of the speakers and the sliders, which works with the fine-tuned tension in the headband to provide a comfortable and balanced fit.

 

The most noticeable differences reside in the look and aesthetic of the two headphones, which have undergone quite a makeover. The 2020 Utopia has a simple and serious studio-like look, with a black grid on the back of the cans and a silver honeycomb grill over the driver being some of the only distinguishing visual features apart from some sparse silver lettering. The 2022 edition takes on a bit of a snazzier and perhaps sportier look: the Focal coil logo sits on top of the exterior honeycomb grill, and a more geometric, hexagonal grid covers the backs of the speakers. The sliders have an intentionally speckled-metal look as well, unlike the sort of woven design imprinted on the metal sliders of the 2020 model. The silver ring around the honeycomb on the 2020 has been replaced by a black ring on the 2022, which is now attached to the cans from the inside, hiding the small bolts that were visible on the 2020.

 

I find it fairly bold but also respectable for Focal to have gone from a serious and professional look to a spunky, fun look on such a high-end model that’s designed with audiophiles in mind. Even if its price suggests otherwise, there is something about the new style that seems more casual, personable, and less exclusive.

 

Design Comparison

The one-of-a-kind, massive formerless coil in the Utopia has also seen an upgrade. It is now composed of copper and aluminum; the copper serves to improve reliability, while the aluminum keeps it lightweight, thus further optimizing its high frequency representation. The metal sliders on the 2020 edition have been swapped out for carbon sliders which relieve the Utopia of some of its heaviness; while the weight remains unchanged at 490 grams, the engineering principle that goes into these new sliders assists in distributing its weight more effectively. This change seems like Focal did its best to listen to some of their more critical customers who complained about the heft in the 2020 model.

 

Sound Comparison

Let’s start with what they have in common. Much like the 2020, the Utopia 2022 goes for a highly balanced and precise sound character. Both models are very open and transparent, with a listener being able to easily hear the happenings of the outside world while wearing them. It still doesn’t have the widest-of-wide sound staging, but the extra precise imaging that keeps mixes sounding as-intended is still there in all its glory.

 

The difference in EQ balance between the Utopia 2022 and its 2020 counterpart lies in the extremes of the frequency spectrum. Lower end frequencies have noticeably more heft on the 2022. In the 2020 model, subs came through accurately but, as many users have noted, a tad flat; a case of bass being heard but not felt. In this regard, the Utopia 2022 delivers a more satisfying bass experience by providing more tangible sub rumbles that are felt more prominently in the ear pads. This is not to say that the 2022 is a bass-heavy headphone; at the end of the day, anyone who enjoyed the timbre of the 2020 is going to be familiar and plenty satisfied with the 2022 upgrade.

 

The highs in the 2022 Utopia present with smoother control, less resonance and faster response; I found some of my twangy Cocteau Twins test tracks were somehow less grating than they were on the 2020 without sacrificing the loudness of the treble. This high-frequency improvement is subtle, but I found it gave the 2022 a more realistic sound, particularly noticeable on its response to acoustic drum transients. It also smoothed out and fine tuned the expression of high frequency harmonic layering comparatively to the former model.

Focal Utopia 2022 open-back audiophile premium headphone

Overall

I’m happy to see and hear the tangible adjustments that Focal made for the Utopia 2022 beyond just its newer, spicier look. It’s clear that very meticulous engineering and tuning went into the new edition, which is somehow even smoother and more accurate than its already-near-perfect predecessor, while otherwise retaining its best qualities. If you’re the sort of audiophile where every last shred of accuracy and fidelity counts (if you’re shopping in this price range, you probably are), the Focal 2022 is a very worthy consideration, as it has outdone the 2020 to become, arguably, the most advanced and innovative dynamic headphone currently out on the market.

 

 

The Focal Utopia 2022 and Utopia 2020 can be purchased at Audio46.

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