Why do my Focal Utopia and Spendor A4 speakers sound different?

I am using Focal Utopia and Spendor A4 speakers. I am using the headphone amp in my SN3 with Cardas Clear Beyond Headphone cable. The headphones sound very good as do my speakers. However my A4 speakers sound thinner, with less bass and less midrange presence. The speakers come alive if I turn up the volume and also left right imaging becomes more equal for the speakers if I turn up the volume.

Using an NDX2 with PS that has 300 hours.

I am new to headphones. What is going on. The Utopias also have 300 hours.

I think you will find that the sensitivity of 86db is giving you that thinner sound until you up the volume a bit. Even my Spendor A9’s at 90db sensitivity need the volume dial at 8.45 before they really come alive. Once there though, they fill the room gloriously.

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All loudspeaker models sound different from one another. Some far more so than others. More than any other system component in a [loudspeaking[ system they set the sound character, and what one person may love another may hate, and vice versa. None is a perfect transducer producing exactly the same sound waves in the room as electrical signals they are fed, and the amount by which they depart from that varies hugely. Whilst I don’t have personal experience of headphones I suspect much the same is true for them. Add to that the fact that the sound you hear from speakers is modified by the room, totally out of the control of the speaker designer. Heads/ears will also vary affecting headphone sound, but with nowhere near as much variability as rooms.

Given all that, it would be very surprising if speakers and headphones sounded identical, or anywhere near, unless both were very high quality neutral, accurate designs, and the room treated to minimise room effects. To find similar sounding would require either luck or auditioning, perhaps a very large number - though an obvious place to start might be speakers and headphones from the dame manufacturer.


In my experience you are always likely to get better vslue for money with a headphone setup than speaker setup .

You are comparing a £2,800 speakers with £4,700 headphones. The Focal Utopias are pretty much reference headphones. Reference speakers usually cost £50,000…

Plus headphone listening is different to listening speakers. Some prefer headphones and feel you can’t beat them for detail and immediacy.


… and it rules out room modes et cetera.


I’ve heard some Loudspeakers cost silly $$$, they didn’t live up to their price at all.
I’ve heard some cheap loudspeakers cost reasonable, they played excellent.

Comparing apples or oranges doesn’t always makes sense as do price exclusion neither.
As for the Focal and Spendor that I have heard, I know what I’d choose if forced only.

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Sure we have all heard exceptions, but as a general rule you get better value for money with headphones setup.

The headphone focused audiophiles occupy a different world see Headfi website. They often pair a £1000 chinese sourced DAC/Amp with £4000+ reference headphones. That combo buys a lot of performance for the money.

I have heard the Focal Utopias using a Benchmark headphone amp. I found them very detailed but with everything close up - like I was on the stage with the musicians , no soundstaging. It’s a matter of preference whether you like that presentation or not. It wasn’t for me and chose another reference pair of headphones.

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That surely depends on whether or not you like the effect of listening to music on headphones. It’s only value for money if you do. For me their primary use is when I want to listen late at night without disturbing others in the house, but I much prefer listening through my speakers with all the expense and sonic compromises that brings with it.


@PeakMan I’m the same way.

Pretty, simple. Just reverse the process. If all speakers (or headphones) sounded alike, there wouldn’t be much reason to audition or seek out the ones sound "best " to you. So, the real question is why would you expect them to sound alike ?

Bar the source, you’re effectively listening to 2 different systems in 2 different rooms. They will sound quite different!

@jay they are in the same room. Same SN3.

Sorry, they’re really not.

Your speakers are not being powered by the same amplification circuit. Your headphones create a room between the cups/drivers and your head. That isn’t the room your speakers sit in unless you sit really really close :grinning:

Nothing is the same bar the source and SN3 pre-amp.

Comparing the two is going to drive you crazy, just enjoy the differences they present.

PS. You really need to borrow a decent headphone amplifier. I imagine you will be aaaamazed.

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@jay I’ve been through the amplifier question on the forum already. I have no shelf space for another component. Also I listen to TT, CD ands streaming and I need all the sources to come through the headphones. It is easier to do that through the SN3. Given my vision and eye hand coordination, I can’t juggle around cables. I can’t see using an Atom HE, since my streamer is better.


Oh that’s fine.

You get what I mean by rooms and amplifier though don’t you? Comparisons like you are making are fine but you are fundamentally listening to different systems.

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@jay i get it thanks. BTW it took a long time for the Utopia to open up. They were new. The headphone amp in the SN3 was never used before I got the Utopia headphones. The system except the NDX2/XPSDR and headphones were installed in October 23. The new streamer and headphones came during March 24.

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I think it all has to do with the magic words ‘high fidelity’… :smile:

Change your Spendors for Sopra1s and, guess what, it will sound completely different. As explained completely different process.

They are the opposite to each other.
Spendor, warm soft pleasing
Focal, cold analytical upfront

Whatever you prefer get a good listen first, I’d choose elsewhere.

@PerF i just listened again today to my A4 speakers. As my new streamer (NDX2 plus PS) gets more hours, the Spendor sounding even better. Thanks.