Focal Clear MG Professional Review
In the following review, we want to clarify whether the extravagantly designed Focal Clear MG Professional is a worthwhile investment for ambitious sound professionals or even a new top dog.
- Superb sound—clean, clear, open
- Neutral, precise tonal balance
- Wide sound stage
- Super comfortable
- Very expensive
First of all: do headphones have to be that expensive?
Again and again, you discover, for example, on social media, critical comments on the pricing of headphones that cost high three or even four-digit euro amounts. Regardless of whether the Focal Clear MG Professional is worth the money, “expensive” headphones, in my opinion, are not a sign of entirely extreme decadence, but rather the opposite is the case. In my opinion, high-priced reference headphones are a “downsizing symptom” since the work of sound. Music creators are very often less and less in studio rooms with an acoustically perfect listening situation due to budgetary reasons, which is why the highest possible quality playback via headphones is a welcome and “inexpensive.” A remedy for many work steps of production is. The performance of current reference headphones exceeds the usefulness of various old-school legends strikingly so that there is often an added value. Back to the Focal headphones: does all of this apply to the Clear MG Professional?
Construction and processing
The fact that the Clear MG Professional are headphones with an open design can be easily recognized because you can virtually look through the honeycomb-like auricle covers. On the other hand, the oval and generously dimensioned, circumaural ear cups give the studio headphones a bulky appearance, which is also noticeable in the above-average weight for open, dynamic headphones. The Clear MG Professional weighs 450 grams (without cable) as much as its predecessor.
They are made in France: The excellent design and the high-quality material mix of aluminum, microfiber pads, leather, and plastic match the premium quality of the Focal headphones, while the design fits seamlessly into the previous Professional product line. The aesthetics of the Clear MG Professional reminds me subjectively more of a prop from a futuristic Luc Besson film than of a professional tool, which does not necessarily correspond to my preferences. But tastes are known to be different.
Scope of delivery
The features of the Focal headphones fully meet the requirements of sound professionals. A sturdy hard case is used for transport and storage, and replacement ear pads are also included in the scope of delivery. The essential part, however, is the two cable options supplied. The spiral cable with a 6.3 mm jack plug, which can be stretched from about one to a maximum of five meters, will probably be used most often. On the other hand, the 1.2 meters long smooth cable is ideal for mobile playback devices or tablet computers. This ends in a 3.5 mm jack plug, including a screw adapter to 6.3 mm. The respective cable routing is laid out on both sides and is attached with mini-jack plugs in both ear cups.
Technology and key figures
The “MG” in the product name stands for magnesium. While the membrane of the dynamic driver of the previous model was made of aluminum and magnesium, the 40mm driver of the current test object is now exclusively made of magnesium. The goal is (as always) to achieve a high level of sound fidelity over the broadest possible spectrum, in this specific case 5 to 28,000 Hz, with the help of a light and pulse-true membrane. You can read in the practical part whether this measure is crowned with success.
The technical data of the Focal Clear MG Professional does not offer any significant anomalies compared to the current headphone market. With a moderately low impedance of 55 ohms, the ambitious French can be used on mobile playback devices without volume restrictions. Moreover, compared to high-quality headphone amplifiers, sound losses are limited – no surprise – to the resolution rather than a changed frequency reproduction. Further technical manufacturer information can be found at the end of this review.
Due to its open design, the Clear MG Professional is suitable for implementation and assessment during mixing, mastering, and creative production phases. However, due to its poor insulation properties, it is not recommended to monitor in a noisy environment or during microphone recordings.
The weight, which is slightly above average for open headphones, does not have a negative effect on wearing comfort, in my opinion. However, the relatively courageous contact pressure of the auricles corresponds more to the character of closed monitoring headphones. The fact that the wearing properties can still be rated as good overall is mainly due to the highly effective, airy, and skin-friendly memory foam cushions covered with a perforated microfiber fabric. The headband and the generously dimensioned ear pads adapt perfectly to the shape of my head and should also easily enclose large ears. However, a self-test in this highly subjective assessment category is always advisable.
Import process + test environment
There is a specific recommendation to play the Clear MG Professional on the manufacturer’s homepage for around 24 hours with bass-heavy music before using it. However, I was curious enough before the recording process to do a bit of mini soundcheck beforehand. In my opinion, the playback, especially the decay time of low-frequency impulses, actually improved after the playback. One after the other…
The Focal Clear MG Professional was tested on the following amplifier/headphone outputs during the test:
SPL Phonitor mini
Lake People G93
Universal Apollo 8 Universal Audio Apollo X4
In addition to analyzing a cross-style mix of third-party and in-house productions (mastered and unmastered), I used the Focal headphones for various DAW activities. I carried out acoustic experiments (oscillator, noise generator, etc.). For comparison, I often used my AKG K812, which is also open, which has proven itself in numerous music productions that I have worked on since its appearance (2014).
For me, the just mentioned AKG headphones mark something like the golden mean of (so-called) reference headphones from other manufacturers regarding frequency reproduction. There are various popular competing models with a noticeably more pronounced and reduced reproduction of bass, middle and high frequencies. Where does the Focal headphone come in?
In the bass, the Clear MG Professional develops noticeably more pressure than the K812 but always remains dynamic, tonal assessable, and is integrated homogeneously and musically into the overall context of the frequency spectrum. In short: In my opinion, the Focal headphones are one of the best headphones I know (and there are quite a few!) For a professional assessment of the bass range.
The entire midrange also appears highly natural and of impeccable quantity, tonality, and liveliness. Moreover, the Focal headphones can cope with technical and aesthetic evaluations during the mixing and mastering process and tonal corrective measures without restriction.
The Clear MG Professional sounds quantitatively a bit more covered in the high frequencies than my AKG K812, which in turn seems a little shrill and even disenchanted after longer listening phases with the focal headphones. I’ve never felt this before. How is that to be judged? Both have their justification, and both playback characteristics can be worked professionally due to the high resolution in each case. While the K812, for example, reveals noise and cutting artifacts a little more relentlessly, the treble reproduction of the French competitor, for example, has the advantage of preventing hearing fatigue during long-term use. Don’t get it wrong: The Focal headphones cover absolutely nothing.
Spatial mapping and impulse behavior
The high-resolution Focal Clear MG Professional is one of the elite group of headphones that I take off (for some audio samples) in the meantime because I have the impression that I am listening through my studio monitors. The natural spatial reproduction in width and depth and the authentic dynamics are among the best I have heard with headphones so far, and I am impressed. Transients and also low-frequency decay phases reach my ears, as I know from reasonable control room-monitor constellations.
Finally, I would like to add that I find the playback properties of the Clear MG Professional to be much more sophisticated and convincing than the previous Clear Professional model!
With the Clear MG Professional, Focal has succeeded in creating exceptional headphones that, in my opinion, are worth every single euro – which, in my assessment and experience, I cannot say about every “expensive” headphone! The reproduction properties, which are impressive in all parameters, are suitable for professional assessments during mixing and mastering and come as close to a listening situation via good monitor speakers as I have rarely seen with headphones. The quality is excellent, the equipment is practical and professional, which you can expect for the price. If you are able and willing to invest a four-digit euro amount in open headphones for mixing and mastering, you should try the Focal Clear MG Professional!