Focal Radiance Headphones Review

Untitled photo

I purposely did not read any other reviews of these headphones nor look at any frequency response charts or anything- I wanted to have a blank slate and blank state of mind for these.


I like that these are made in France and not China. Focal also makes and designs their own drivers versus just buying some off the self drivers, which is nice. My first impression out of the box is that these sure are photogenic!

With styling cues from Bentley, they look very much like ‘primo’ headphones perhaps costing more than they actually cost. The colorway of them is really nice and lush and the grills on the outside of the earcups has a MUCH more luxury look and feel than on the Focal Clear (just a wire mesh) or Focal Elegia’s (just a pitted hard plastic).

Focal has also been listening to us regarding their included cable! The cable on the Radiance is not as thick or stuff as prior Focal models so is a definite improvement. It is however still a bit too short at 1.2M. That’s fine for portable listening, but at home, you would want probably at least 2 to 3 meters. It’s almost like Focal over-compensated since with the Utopia, the included cable was insanely long and too thick and heavy, and now with the Radiance, the cable is too short to be usable for anything but connected to a portable player…

The clamping force seems a bit high and the headphones are not super comfy, at least when comparing to other headphones that weigh a bit less and have a built in comfort strap such as my Hifiman Arya’s. That said, these are by no means uncomfortable to wear.


The Radiance have a fun sound signature right out of the box. I purposely did not EQ them at all in order to get a good sense of their stock sound signature which I can say is fun and involving. The bass is boosted (these have way more bass than the Elegia for example), yet not overly so like the Sony Z1R. To me, bass is about right. I find with many other headphones, I need to use some bit of bass boost to make them more to my liking but with the Radiance, not necessary!

The mids and highs are certainly very resolving. I would put them about equal in this respect to the HD800 series, although not quite has peaky in one frequency as the Sennheisers. That said, these do sound a bit thin in the upper mids with a bit of brittleness in the treble as well.

This fact had a tendency to make vocalists sound a bit thin and as if they were singing from one floor above the rest of the band, not in terms of volume, but in terms of height position in the soundstage. In fact, vocals are ever so slightly recessed when comparing to my Hifiman Arya’s which are planar magnetic headphones, so overall smoother sounding in general. That said, the overall sound signature is actually quite similar between the Focal Radiance and the HifiMan Arya. You could almost say the Radiance are like closed-back Arya’s although the Arya’s do have better mid and highs with an overall smoother tonality.

As with all Focal headphones, the treble on the Radiance can at times seem too harsh and can be seemingly over-driven when playing music loudly. You get the sense at times that they are almost too resolving in the highs. This was most noticeable for me when listening to old recordings where the vocalist may have been over modulating the microphone for example. The aluminum-magnesium drivers probably have something to do with this as the metallic driver material does play a part in a headphone’s sound. That being said, all dynamic driver headphones exhibit some level of distortion (typically in the highs) just based on the limitations of traditional drivers. This is a minor quibble on my part because I do feel this could be compensated for using a bit of EQ.

By the way, my sources are the Chord Hugo TT 2 with M Scaler. I also listened portable with the Chord Hugo 2. The 35 Ohm Radiance’s were driven perfectly well with each. 


All in all I feel that the Focal Radiance are actually one of the better closed-back headphones available today at this price point, and certainly much better than the Focal Elegia that I've tried before. The Radiance offers a much more engaging listen and stylish look and feel. In fact, I think they are the best looking Focal headphones so far.

Reviewed by Tristan Tom

  • No Comments
Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In