Best amplifiers for Focal's Utopia 2022 (and a reaction to the early reaction)

Starting with a confession. Six weeks before the official launch of Utopia 2022 in mid-September, Zeppelin & Co. have been privy to the sonic milestone that would be Focal's new flagship headphone.

BUY NOW Focal Utopia 2022

That should be enough cred to be able to talk as authorities on this headphone, and present our long-term impressions with various amplifiers. Tube and solid-state. Entry-level and flagship. As many data points as possible.

Across all sources, with a growing number of hours, sources, and an increasing sample size of first-hand listeners accumulated: Utopia 2022 has more bass reach. It stages wider. It's more immersive.

Focal's revision translates to subjective performance gains. Same resolution. Same detail. Same dynamics. Same realism. Presented differently. Its comparative colourless-ness present new opportunities to make 2022's tuning your own.

The golden question: Is Utopia 2022 better than its predecessor – that would depend on taste and preference. More complete – yes. More will come to love Utopia 2022. It's not a bold prediction to say it will exceed its predecessor in popularity.

So, Focal. Premium loudspeaker company, and elite headphone manufacturer too. Turn out to be bursting with ideas and so release Utopia 2022. Six years after their previous flagship, Utopia [2016]. 

Totally un-controversial. 


Because, apart from the unquantifiable justification of a price hike via a re-tuning and global inflation, Utopia 2022 is, unequivocally, still, a luxury, flagship headphone. Fabriqué en France. Of metal, leather and carbon fibre construction.

Part of the beryllium driver manufacturing process is hazardous and must be done in controlled environments. Not to mention the cost of research and development over the course of six years improving an already fabulous headphone.

How about pricing being commensurate with other uber-flagships? And rumblings that, for all its status and X-factor, Utopia OG could still have been improved sonically (according to some listening tastes).

Utopia 2022 was not only inevitable. It was also a long time in the coming. Regardless. Perhaps we would be naive to think of a flagship launch free of controversy. Despite Head-Fi burgeoning in performance from the very bottom to the top. There's something for everyone.

If we were about to attribute value and pennies to plastic planar polymer film, then the same ought to be done for Utopia's brilliant beryllium. Stiff, light, damped – a perfect piston at all frequencies. 

And whatever can be derived from the spec sheet, let your ears guide you with a listen. Like in subjectively quantifying the unquantifiable justification, from an improvement in sound quality. We can help, because there's no substitute for dealer diligence and groundwork in amp pairings showcasing a flagship.

That's when Utopia's specs truly translate. Because anything before, reading impressions and measurements alone, sees us prematurely project what a headphone is going to be, not just what a headphone is.

Indeed, the mis-association of lean sound to ultra-resolving beryllium was a point Head-Fi's Jude Mansilla was quick to correct on the evidence of Utopia 2022.

Glossing over many of the potential red herrings, oversimplifications and misattributed value over insufficient understanding of the engineering, we fall back onto track record.

If Focal exceeded expectations on what Utopia's dynamic driver could do six years ago, it's entirely plausible they can redefine the recipe, again.  

Certainly, Utopia 2022 doesn't belabour you with pedantic points, impressing you immediately. Its comparative colourless-ness and blank canvas make it lot of fun – not only to listen to, but to make your own with sources and cables.

Something Zepp will help you along excercising our editorial autonomy. Saying what is right, to our judgement. Just there, in service of your listening, giving this Focal the platform to perform.