Focal Utopia review

I’d start this post with ‘Here I am — finally got those legendary headphones for the test!’, but no, let’s wait a bit.

Focal Utopia are not just legendary, they’re a subject of heated discussions in the world of audiophilia and melomania. Almost every Utopia review is usually posted under such titles as ‘Probably the best headphones in the world’, ‘Still the best in 2020?’, ‘Detailing benchmark headphones’, ‘Melomaniac’s dream’, etc. These headphones take pride of place in the Wall of Fame of the reputable innerfidelity website, and the first (01.2021 – second) place in the personal list of Crinacle — the well-known audio equipment reviewer.

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Pure Dope

The Dope Audio is a company Saint Petersburg, Russia, and was established in July 2019. Now the company manufactures and sells 3 models of in-ear headphones. I’ll introduce you to the balanced armature Heavy Dope headphones in one of the upcoming reviews. And in this one, I’m going to tell you about their flagship model.

Pure Dope are technologically unique, since they’re an in-channel isodynamic model. Along with this, they don’t have that weird jug-like shape as Audeze iSINE or Unique Melody ME1 do — in fact, they’re a particularly compact medium sized (for in-ear class models) headphones. I can remember exactly two models of such headphones: the RHA CL2 and the Tin HiFi P1. The manufacturer also hints at a technologically complex design inside using, for instance, horns. No details given, though.

All images are clickable to enlarge.

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Kennerton Audio. About headphones, manufacturing culture and future plans

Kennerton Wodan headphones impressed me oh so much, so I immediately got myself invited to the Kennerton office. And asked them about different things. About everything I wanted.

Q: Let’s start with the current line of headphones. Why does this line look exactly this way and not in any other? How are these headphones models different from each other, what is your vision?

K: There are 9 models making the basis of the current line. These are Thror, Thekk, Tridi, Wodan and Odin (2019) for planars, Vali, Gjallarhorn, Magni and M12s (2020) for dynamic ones.

All planar models are open-back.

Let’s start with Thror headphones. Thror are the flagship of the line. These are the most smooth, balanced headphones of the line, the most ‘right’ from the common audiophile point of view, and extremely close to the Harman Target Response Curve in what’s related to the settings matter. We’ve put a lot of effort and time (and a significant budget, too) into their development. They reflect our vision of the ‘right’ sound, our progress relative to the previous flagship model, which is Odin (2015). The original Odin were very popular, but not everyone liked them. So while developing Thror, we tried to improve every weak point.

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Kennerton Wodan

Эта статья на русском языке.

Kennerton (Fischer Audio at that time) headphones introduced me to the world of audiophilia. It was the DBA-02 mkII. Then, when I started to look for my perfect sound, I tried their products a couple of times (they were TBA-04 and Odin), but something just wasn’t right with them, I didn’t like their sounding (it wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t perfect to me).

As the time went on, the company developed, mastered new technologies, improved design and quality. Kennerton headphones have become famous and popular among fans of good sound in different countries around the world. They’re now sold under the brands of some well-known companies. So I was happy to get to know their new model, the Kennerton Wodan.

Build and design

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About audiophilia and melomania, Meze Empyrean and RME ADI-2 DAC

I love music: I have listened to it since I was just a kid, and I do it a lot. And with a lot of passion. Music isn’t just ‘important’ for me: it still sends shivers down my spine, and I couldn’t control it even if I wanted to. The thing is that the music actually controls me.

I remember falling asleep to Pink Floyd and Toto Cutugno (you only may know Toto Cutugno if you’re Italian or Russian of at least 25 years of age) when I was 4 to 6 years old wearing those vintage Soviet Amfiton TDS-17 headphones. Then I graduated from the piano class of the music school, went to Bach organ music nights in the City Philharmonic Hall with my parents and did many other academic music-related things when I was younger. As I grew older, my musical taste evolved with me: starting from those very first post-Soviet pop bands and Scooter and the so called Russian rock, passing through Placebo, Portishead and Marilyn Manson and ending up with growling metal, industrial and howling delta blues. By the age of 25 I realized that the fact of liking one or another genre doesn’t actually say anything about a person except that the person is tunnel-visioned. In fact, there’s no bad genres (let’s not mention Russian rap or Russian chanson, these are objectively worse than anything you’ve even heard in your lives), there’s only bad music and good music. Regarding the good one, you can find it in any genre, you just need to learn how to listen to it and to perceive it.

As incredible as it may seem, I’ve always been looking for good music and not equipment to make any track sound better. My musical ‘growing-up’ happened in the first post-Soviet decade, when you had to decide whether you want to have some decent sound while listening to the music or to have something to eat (no kidding, these were tough times in Russia). Obviously, most people including me chose the physiological over the aesthetic.

That’s why I was more than happy listening to the music via cellphone and the headphones provided with it, until I met them: the in-ear Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII headphones. After the very first time I used them I discovered that the music can actually sound differently, even somehow unearthly. It was wide, bright and very detailed.

So I dug into frequency response, square waves, output impedance and other specs and started to look for my own perfect sound, that special combination of devices to make the music sound just like I love it: as if the band performed right in my room, and a little bit better. Then I started trying different cables, earpads, portable players experimenting with their firmware etc. I ultimately found my perfect sounding after 7 years of stubborn searching. To be more precise, it wasn’t a perfect sounding or perfect equipment, it was an approach that spared me all this typical audiophile drama.

That is, this post is for those who want to know how to find a decent sounding and skip years of information digging. To be honest, I’d give anything to have somebody give me this post on a silver platter at the very beginning of my journey.

Here are the 3 main principles to remember when building your own sound system.

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