Focal Spark Wireless Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

The Focal Spark Wireless is available in three color schemes, which is black, silver, and rose gold. Our particular example is the silver version. For those who like visual simplicity for a clean appearance, the Focal Spark Wireless has you covered, just like the wired Focal Spark. As you can see in our photo above, Focal's logo is engraved onto the back, with the company name on the outside of both earbuds. Its aluminum finish looks great, and its material choice makes it very lightweight at 14g. The Spark Wireless is designed to go straight into your ears, but you can wrap it around your ears as well. I would like to commend Focal for making such lightweight earphones for improved comfort as well as being compact in size, so it still fits well for most people, including me. In the end, I went with the medium sized silicone ear sleeves after trying out the small eartips for the best fit. As with all in-ear monitors, users with different sized ears will be happy to know that the company has included three different sized sleeves.

Located in the middle of the Focal Spark Wireless is the battery module. An LED on the battery module shows the connection and charge status. It blinks blue every few seconds to indicate a connection is active, and glows steady white when charging. The LED is almost impossible to see anywhere that is slightly brighter than a pitch-dark room; thankfully, your earphones will say "Connected" in plain English when a successful connection is established. Charging takes around two hours, but you cannot charge and listen to the Spark Wireless at the same time.

The Focal Spark Wireless earphones connect to your audio device via Bluetooth 4.1. The aptX protocol is supported over Bluetooth in addition to SBC, but no AAC for Apple devices. SBC, or Subband Coding, is the default Bluetooth audio codec with reasonably good audio quality and low processing power requirements. aptX is a time domain ADPCM compression algorithm that promises "CD like quality" according to the people promoting it -- but so does MP3 at 128kbps, which, in my opinion, is quite an overused marketing term in the industry. Do not get me wrong; it is probably still an improvement compared to the standard profile, since it has a more efficient encoding algorithm and higher bitrates. In case you are asking, Apple devices does not support aptX, but many high-end Android devices do.

A closer look at Focal's Spark Wireless earbuds. As aforementioned, the company's logo can be found at the back, while the "L" and "R" markers can be found on the cable guard leading into the earbuds. Its drivers are 9.5mm Mylar electrodynamic-type with a rated frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz. These specifications are within the hearing range of a normal human being. Meanwhile, the rated sensitivity is 103dB with an impedance of 16 ohms. Like many modern in-ear monitors, the drivers aim directly into your ear for a more direct and transparent sound reproduction characteristic. At the same time, it makes the earphones much easier to clean in the long run too. The sleeves assist the aim into the user's ear canals, and since these earphones are designed for a closed configuration, the Focal Spark Wireless are made for passive noise canceling. As aforementioned, they come in three sizes for best fit and audio performance to the end user.

The Focal Spark Wireless earphones comes with a three-button remote and is compatible with Android, Apple iOS, and Windows Phone devices -- if anyone still uses the latter, that is. The buttons provide decent tactile feedback. Compared to its wired relative, the remote on the Spark Wireless is slightly bigger, because it has to house the Bluetooth wireless hardware in addition to the USB Micro-B port for charging the battery. The remote also comes with an integrated omnidirectional microphone located behind the remote to go with your smartphone, since it is hard to find anyone nowadays listening to music on a dedicated digital audio player exclusively, haha. The remote module is located on side closer to your left ear. This makes one side a little heavier than the other, which could make for some funny swinging motions when in use that may bother some users. Thankfully, a battery clip is included to keep things in place.

A flat cable about 55cm in length connects the left earbud to the right earbud. The flat cable is not only light and easy to bend, but also tangle-proof. Based on my experience, the microphonics characteristics of the Focal Spark Wireless are similar to the most earphones I have used in the past. During usage, like all in-ear monitors, rustling noise is inevitable -- and with the Spark Wireless, it is no exception. It does a fairly decent job at things rubbing against it such as your T-shirt, but if the cable is loose and it is swinging into a foreign material, you will hear more noise.

With all this in mind, how will it perform? As always, we have the entire Page 3 dedicated to presenting our auditioning results.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis
4. Conclusion