Focal Spirit One S – Review
Focal did a excellent job entering this market and they want to show us that they’ve been quite busy lately, as they came up with yet another very interesting headphone: the Spirit One S. It is the same price as Spirit One, actually a bit cheaper than it. While I expected to be in the same league with it’s older brother, this headphone was quite a surprise to me. Hang in for the details.
Build quality and presentation
This is the fourth headphone Focal made and it looks like an evolution indeed. One S is meant to be portable, and it does a great job at that. It is just as portable and it takes the finesse and strong build quality from Spirit Classic. It certainly looks better and it is also more comfortable than Spirit One. The cup size is bigger than on Spirit One and the same size as Classic and Professional. However, the pads are softer, making it the most comfortable headphone from Focal I’ve tested yet.
Spirit One S is designed with portability in mind. Its frequency response has been improved in the bass to provide a perfect equilibrium of tonal balance in noisy environments. Rich mid-treble, spatialisation, exceptional acoustic definition and high dynamic are here for the taking thanks to drivers which have a large diaphragm (40mm/19/16″) with exemplary lightness.
My jaws fell on the floor. I was kind of sleepy when I started this review. The energy and slam of the song with One S were absolutely amazing. Those electric guitars, the bass, voice, drums blended in a perfect energetic beam that inserted life in my vains, kind of a hulk moment or Popeye the Sailor Man with his spinach. The bass had more slam and depth than Spirit One, the voices had better presence and extension. Also the soundstage was deeper and the sounds had more space between them.
The first thing you notice when you come from spirit one, is a bigger, deeper soundstage, a grander sound overall. The bass impact is bigger, presenting better punch and better depth. The voices are better textured, better extended, with a lush, warm tonality. They are not the most natural voices, sometimes being a little too well extended in the lower frequencies region, but very pleasant and fun to listen to. The drums and the other instruments have a very nice tactile feeling that give a very energetic feeling to the song.
The dynamics are great on these headphones. The guitar on the left channel has an incredible tactile feeling, as it was plucked right there, near your ear. While this guitar is tickling your left year, the electric guitar on the right side is very well extended and gives the song a very holographic feeling, showing good layering and instrument separation. The voice is very intimate and very well textured. When both electric and normal guitars start getting serious, the One S becomes extremely fascinating. Loved this song so much on it that I’ve listened to it twice. The extension of the guitars was more realistic and better extended than even on Spirit Classic.
The slam, detail and depth of the bass are amazing, as it’s not slow at all, being quite fast and keeping excellent control. Not to mention the energy of all the instruments and the lush and full voice made the song extremely enjoyable.
Again, the plucks of the guitars are incredibly tactile and have a great and deep extension. The voice is there with you, invading your thoughts and mind, hypnotizing you with it’s very good extension, lush tonality and texture.
This song was made for Focal Spirit One S. The heavy electric guitars hit you with their deep and impactful tonality. All the energy of the song was sent to me, making me head bang throughout the whole song.
Well, One S handled this song better than I expected. It actually had a deeper soundstage than Spirit Classic. It also has a decent amount of details, good instrument separation and layering. However, Classic did have a clearer sound, with a taller soundstage and overall more detailed presentation (except for the lower frequencies, where One S did better).
This was indeed a very interesting surprise, as I think I slightly preferred One S to Classic here. The soundstage was clearly deeper and overall bigger than with Classic. The extension of the instruments was very well extended and the decay was longer but seemed more natural to my ears. This clearly shows that One S can also handle classical/instrumental music very well.
I am not a bass head. If you remember, I wasn’t a big fan of Sennheiser Momentum, as it had too much bass. Well…I’m fascinated with the bass on One S as it is very deep, but managing to keep excellent control. I never felt for one second that it invaded other frequencies. Also the speed, detail and slam of the bass are incredible. Overall, in this department, I think it is my favorite headphone from Focal yet.
The mids are lush, but detailed and very pleasant. Also, the voices are very well extended and textured, giving a very good presence in the sound. This is a very important step up over the Spirit One, where the voices had less presence.
Again, this is a step up over Spirit One, as it is more linear and better extended. However it’s not quite in the Classic’s league here.
I feel like the One S has the deeper soundstage of all 3 headphones. Instruments go further in the scene, having a more natural decay and feeling. Because of this, on some classical/instrumental music, it gives a more natural sound presentation.
Classic, having better extended treble, has a taller soundstage sometimes, but not as deep, and in comparison it sounds a little closed in compared to One S.
One S, keeps the energetic signature found in all it’s brothers. On some songs it manages to transmit the energy so well that it makes you dance while listening to them.
The attack is explosive and the decay is better extended than on all it’s brothers, giving in my opinion, a very natural and extended sound presentation.
All the Focal headphones have this quality, but One S is a little different, as with the others the impact is more sparkly, One S adds more body, making the sounds tactile but fuller and more impact.
Even if it excels at rock and electronic music it proved to be excellent with instrumental and vocal music as well.
Compared to Spirit One
While Spirit One has faster transients that make the guitar plucks and other instruments more sparkly, the One S was clearly superior as it had better extended bass, considerably bigger soundstage, better extended treble, more present and extended voices. Besides that, it has bigger and more comfortable cups. I wouldn’t think too much until I pick the new One S.
Compared to Spirit Classic
This is a tough one. Spirit Classic is a little more detailed from the middle of the mids and on the treble section, while One S has more detail in the lower frequencies. Classic has a faster bass, while One S has a deeper and punchier bass. I like the bass one One S as it was sometimes more engaging and fun and ended up being hypnotized by it . Classic also has better transparency and is overall more detailed. The voices on One S are more present, but seem more natural on Classic. The soundstage is deeper on One S, but taller on Classic.
Classic is overall faster, but One S has some awesome instrument extension. Spirit Classic has a closer to neutral sound presentation, while One S has a warmer but very pleasant tonality.
Considering the price difference between the two, I think that One S is a serious competitor. I personally love both headphones.
When I first heard Focal’s first headphones I knew they have great potential. They had a very refreshingly different sound signature and very good perfomance for their first try. The first thing that I noticed was their energy and impact.
They didn’t disappoint me with their next models either, and worked their way up the top of my preferences ladder in the closed headphones section. Their latest addition was another very pleasant surprise, as it exceeded my expectations by a good margin, and all this at the same price of Spirit One.
Remember when I say that Focal will have a great future in the headphone department. I can’t wait to hear their next generation headphones, as I have the feeling that they were just playing and testing this new market segment. I really hope that they will make some open headphones to compete with the heavy guys like Sennheiser, Audeze, Hifiman, etc.
- good build quality and design
- more comfortable than all the other focal headphones
- excellent deep, controlled and punchy bass
- natural decay and exploding attack
- tactile presentation
- very good instrument and voice extension
- lush, present and textured voices
- very energetic sound signature
- good treble extension
- deepest sounstage from focal headphones till now
- excellent price/performance ratio
- good packaging
- doesn’t have a cable without microphone
- not neutral -> this might be seen as a con by some