The Clear Mg Professional from Focal is the successor to the Clear Professional. Those come from the French manufacturer’s Professional series and are expressly aimed at professional and demanding sound engineers, while Focal offers the Clear Mg to the audiophile music lovers segment of the market.
This open, wired, French-made design is functionally completely straightforward. The construction is of the highest standard, robust enough for everyday use in the studio, and the red and black colour scheme is modern, elegant and stylish in equal measure.
The headband is leather-covered and heavily padded, and the ear cups are fitted with replaceable, red, ventilated earpads on memory foam. A pair of replacement pads can also be found in the decorative packaging.
The connection cable is routed on both sides and is, of course, replaceable. The package includes a short straight OFC cable (1.2 m) with a 3.5 mm connection and matching 6.3 mm screw adapter as well as a longer OFC spiral cable with a 6.3 mm jack – both with low impedance. The connections to the headphones are made via conventional 3.5 mm jacks. Symmetrical connections tend not to be an issue in the professional sector. Finally, a neat transport case is included in the price. The only thing that bothered me here was that you have to remove the cables to stow the headphones.
Technically, Focal use newly developed dynamic 40 mm drivers, the so-called “M-inverse domes” with a diaphragm made of pure magnesium and adapted flat 1″ copper voice coil. According to the manufacturer, this exceptionally light, solid material with the best damping properties is supposed to deliver an exceptionally balanced and precise sound image.
The construction is stabilised by black grilles on the outside of the capsules and in an ergonomic shape that follows the driver. The strong padding with a large opening safely ensures that the ear is consistently and comfortably placed in front of the drivers.
In fact, due to the comfortable, replaceable padding, wearing comfort is exceptionally high and suitable for long listening sessions. Here I give these headphones top marks because I noticed neither a feeling of pressure nor annoying sweating. The black lacquered aluminium headband is precisely adjustable in length, while the earcups are only slightly movable and remain securely in position during everyday use, thanks to the well-thought-out design with consistent headband flexibility. At 450 grams, the weight is completely unproblematic for the intended range of use. For an open design, the “perceived” noise isolation was quite high, meaning that one decouples oneself from the surroundings when working, which was quite adequate for the requirements of recording studios.
I listened to the Clear Mg Professional both with the RME ADI-2 Pro FS R and on the headphone amplifier of an Euphonix CL2000. In both cases, the test device with its averaged impedance of 59.7 ohms proved to be completely uncritical and with ample level reserves.
Generally, I would describe the sound impression as pleasantly balanced, powerful and with a warm fundamental tone as well as high detail resolution. Thanks to its comfortable carrying construction, it conveys an impressive closeness that open constructions by no means always manage.
The test unit has important features for professional use: It provides a clear demarcation between great and less good recordings. Sometimes it sounds tight or cramped, but elsewhere it certainly sounds grand and brilliant. In the same way, the Clear Mg Professional delineates the characters of different productions. This becomes obvious when comparing the opulently bass-tuned “Systemagic” by Goldfrapp and Britney Spears’ taut “Toxic” for example. Despite its rather rounded tuning, the Focal is able to detect the limit of harshness.
It is just as easy to identify deficiencies in the source material. These headphones can detect even subtle differences in tonality and timing; for example, when voices are doubled. Interventions, sound changes, edits with analogue and digital tools can be easily traced.
The panorama is reproduced broadly and precisely, including all movements. An assessment of the depth of the room and the reverberation is quite possible. However, the Clear Mg Professional is still a pair of headphones. I would therefore not describe the sound as detached and it is also different from that of a studio monitor.
In the bass, the Clear Mg Professional is punchy, clean and precise, but not overemphasised (Donald Fagen: “Morph the Cat”). This range is reproduced with equal precision and warmth, including really low bass. Tonality, dynamics and decay, e.g. of electronic bass drums, are conveyed just as reliably. The test unit maintained accuracy even at high levels.
These headphones are also impressive in the mid-range. Dense mixes are finely differentiated with a fast response. The timbre of acoustic instruments, such as the solo violin in Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61”, was brought out precisely by the Clear Mg Professional. In the recording of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with Anne-Sophie Mutter on the solo instrument under the direction of Herbert von Karajan, the Clear MG Professional also reproduced the dynamics of the orchestra in a very comprehensible way. Even minimalist pop compositions like Sophie Zelmani’s “Precious Burden” sounded coherent to me and conveyed the necessary emotional closeness, especially with voices. With wide, distorted guitar sounds and rock drums, on the other hand, I found the mid-range slightly undifferentiated and too rounded towards the top.
In the treble range, the fine detail resolution was commendable. There was no harshness in the treble reproduction, and the tightrope walk between deliberately open and “over the target line” is quite successful. The Clear Mg Professional is just as effective when it comes to reproducing the presence and airiness of voices and instruments. For example, there are clear differences between Boris Blank and Malia’s “Celestion Echo” and the Jethro Tull classic “Songs from the Wood” in the remaster. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the Focal product lacks the final transparency, which also affects the reproduction of subtleties, transients and spatial information. In a direct comparison, such details are less jumpy than with Sennheiser’s HD 800 S or the Hedd Audio Heddphone. For example, in my opinion, the HD 800 S came out on top for rock mixes (Alice in Chains “Check my Brain”). However, the difference was also clear in other respects and a question of personal taste. The Focal product not only sounds different, it “feels” different. The HD 800 S, which fits firmly, is more transparent, explicitly subtle and has advantages in room imaging, while the Focal was closer to the ear and played more muscular, warmer and fuller sound, but without losing balance.
For a second comparison, I drew on Sennheiser’s more affordable HD 660 S, which also performed impressively, but ultimately the listening experience felt less intense. Hence they’re in the other price range.
Focal is targeting professional users with the Clear Mg Professional. In addition to first-class workmanship, excellent design, the highest wearing comfort and high-level reserves, I was also impressed by the sound tuning. The Clear Mg Professional offers a finely resolved, dynamic and precise overview of the sound material. At the same time, it was audibly in a higher class than the tried and tested studio classics. At a price of around 1,500 euros, it has to compete with its modern, audiophile rivals from Sennheiser, Audeze and Hedd, which offer more transparency. In the end, personal taste is the deciding factor. As is so often the case, you have to dig deeper into your pocket for the last percentage of performance. The extra price compared to the upper mid-range is significantly higher due to the more complex development, production and quality control.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)5 - 28.000 Hz
- Impedance59,7 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)96,21 dB
- Pressure averaged from big and small head705 g
- Weight with cable497 g
- Weight without cable451 g
- Cable length150 cm
What's in the box
- 1 x coiled cable, 5 m
- 1 x straight cable, 1.2 m, with 3.5 mm mini jack plug
- 6.35mm stereo jack
- 1 pair of replacement ear pads
- Carrying pouch