By: Jonathan Kwan
July 21, 2017
After leaving from an event on a cold Friday night in Edmonton earlier this year, I encountered a check stop and was stopped by the police. As I pulled into the stall, I rolled down my window and the officer began to speak. "Have you had anything to drink tonight?" he asked. "No sir," I replied. "But can I try the breathalyzer?" He chuckled for a bit and explained it does not do anything if I did not drink anything. As persistent as I could be, I asked him if I could try it anyway several more times. He continued to refuse, and eventually politely asked me to leave before stopping the next car. My friends thought I was kind of crazy, but I was genuinely interested in getting tested. And why not? It was something I always wanted to try, and I knew I would blow a 0.00 anyway. The officer could also clearly see that as well, hence he was not interested in wasting his time. However, if someone had something to drink, they probably would have reacted differently. Here at APH Networks, we are kind of like the breathalyzer when it comes to audio reviews. Although we can be very brutally honest at times, I give credit where credit is due like I did in the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless review last month. Today, we have a new manufacturer here to take on our challenge. Focal is a renowned French manufacturer of performance audio equipment since the 1980s, and the company's product portfolio includes the astronomically priced Focal Utopia, which is regarded as one of the best headphones in the world. But they decided to take our challenge not with something that costs $4000, but using earphones with a price tag that barely counts as a rounding error as the flagship. For about 1.75% of the price of the Utopia at press time, how good is the Spark? Read on to find out!
Our review unit of the Focal Spark arrived in a relatively compact, brown corrugated cardboard box from the company's public relations firm in Miami, Florida, USA. They are the same people who got us the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless and SteelSeries QcK Prism last month, but they decided to use a carrier other than UPS to get the product out this time. Using FedEx International 2day, everything arrived in excellent condition to us here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for our review.
We got our Focal Spark quite a bit before it was officially announced, but they still managed to ship it to us in the final retail packaging. As you can see in our photo above, the sleek retail box comes in the form of rectangular prism, and uses a primarily black and white color scheme to give it a more serious overtone. With everything laid out sparingly, the design is clean and easy on the eyes. At the top, you will find the product name in block letters, followed by the color variant and slogan in smaller font. Our particular unit is the silver version. Occupying the majority of the space in the middle is a photo of the earphones at various angles. Meanwhile, at the bottom above Focal's logo is an arrangement of icons show off its aluminum finish, flat cable, and three button remote. Miscellaneous information such as the Focal Spark's specifications and remote usage instructions can be found on the remaining sides of the box.
On that topic, before we move on, let us take a look at the specifications of the Focal Spark, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
Type: In-ear headphones
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Frequency response: 20Hz – 20KHz
Driver: Electrodynamic 9.5mm Mylar
Net weight: 14g (0.04lbs)
Connector: 3.5 mm Jack
After a quick cut of two seals at the bottom of the box, you can slide out a cardboard tray that contains everything. The tray is divided into two partitions; one where the Spark earphones are secured to a polyethylene terephthalate shell, and the other for everything else. In the second partition, you will find a rigid zipper case and a quick start guide underneath it. Inside the rigid zipper case are small and large ear sleeves; the medium sized ear sleeves are pre-installed for you already.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis