Focus Vocal Review – Time to get serious 5 Focus Vocal Review – Time to get serious I believe the previous Traillii review shook a lot of you guys due to its rocketing launching price! Yes, I feel it. Flagship IEMs are getting more and more expensive as time goes by and that leads us to cherish affordable products even more. Well, today I have a newborn Chi-Fi brand that is all about aiming for a good, wallet-friendly IEM that also shows no compromising in sound quality. The IEM is called “Vocal” by a brand named Focus, who the founder himself is a passionate audiophile that created Vocal in order to pursue his interest and passion for audio, not for the sake of revenue. Perhaps I am already giving away my attitude towards this product, but enough with that, let us jump into the review. In the meantime, Vocal is on sale in mainland China only which is priced for about $169. Packaging While Vocal is the head of the product, Focus has two extra spinoff models (or variants) – each named EDM and Rhythm. Each variant is packed in a nicely designed, white-based box with graphic designs at the front and specifications on the back. Once unboxed, the earpieces expose themselves as well as the accessories. Other than the earpieces, the packaging includes a 3.5mm stock cable, 4 pairs of type-A silicone eartips, 3 pairs of type-B silicone eartips, a leather case, a velcro tie, a warranty card, and some paperwork. Clean packaging, packed with the essentials, pretty much flawless – just expect that they could have included a pair of foam tips. Earpieces Vocal (as well as the other two variants) uses one large CTTM 10.2mm dynamic driver, powered by a tesla-level magnet and a double dome structure. It catches extra attention for me as the drivers are custom made – plus the fact that these are one of the largest diaphragms that are being used for in-ear products. The shells are fully made of metal CNC’d, which are then fine-coated to have a silver hue. The faceplates are made out of real wood, making each earpiece unique to its color and pattern (therefore the L/R color could be different in some cases). The wood faceplates are slightly bouffant out and coated with smooth, spotless resin. Around the wood faceplate surrounds a pale gold rim, overall giving quite an elegant, high-end look to it. The earpieces are detachable by standard 0.78mm 2pin connectors and have non-recessed, flat sockets. The 2pin sockets are especially well terminated, having the plastic filling precisely placed around the connectors that lead to a firm, durable grip. In terms of fitting, Vocal does a great job once again. Nozzle shows an average insertion depth and provides an all-round, edgeless fit. Cable The stock cable is comprised of thick 2-core silver-plated copper wires. Focus claims that the wires are oxidation-prevented and do not cause greening after time. The shieldings are highly transparent and expose the thin silvery wires in a crystal clear state without any yellowish hints. Microphonics are not found at all as the sheaths are very soft and flexible. It is good to keep it noted that the 2pin connectors on the cable are also flattened (or non-recessed), means that once attached, the cable will complete this IEM (or other IEMs with non-recessed sockets) with a seamless fit but will likely be inapplicable for IEMs with recessed sockets. The earguides are slim and provide a snug fit around the ear. It is also terminated in 3.5mm straight jack and a metal housing as well. Sound impression – EDM Sporting a basshead signature, EDM highlights the thick sound ray (or line) from the music. The bass is bold, big, and highly dynamic. The vibrations are extra strong and radical, thoroughly expressing the power and liveliness from the low end. Though I would differentiate its bass from simply being boomy as the bass is still tightly controlled as well as the reverbs being carefully managed. Since that, the strong bass response does not end up feeling stuffy or overwhelming but instead results in being super-thick in density. Detail retrieval on the ultra lows is superb, ringing it with force and clearly presented textures. With a natural follow up, mids are equally positioned with the lows. In case missing the word “stepped forward” on the vocals made you concern the clarity on the vocals, fear not – they are not veiled and in fact stay quite close to the ears for almost all occasions. The edges (where the vocal ends) are kept clear and distinctive, so it is not overshadowed by the lows either. I consider EDM’s vocal position to be very organic as the soundstage flows out as it is supposed to be without any noticeable peak or dip that causes turbulence to the imaging. Nearly as much as it did with the lows, mids are also thick, large, and plentiful. Its gravitational center is slightly lowered from the middle, making the mids to receive the baton and immediately continue its thick density that started from the ultra lows. This intense musical engagement continues all the way from the ultra lows to the mid-range, giving a sober mood to the music. As mentioned, there are no spike or dip, nor does any sibilance on the upper mids. Air is not particularly highlighted on the upper mids, yet the up-close, largely-imaged lower mids and mids compensates it. Besides, upper mids are slightly highlighted with a nudge of shininess, allowing them to gain some crunchiness and brightness as it progress towards the highs. Highs are slightly forwarded than the mids but reduced in quantity. It is impressive how the treble clarity and details are well-preserved despite the strong lows and mids. Small splashes and reverbs are also nicely displayed. Although they are not as strong as other ranges, highs deliver a fair amount of force that is enough to face against from getting overpowered. The treble instruments here in EDM serves as a supplementary, making itself distinctive in existence yet not setting out too strongly. The soundstage is big, weighty, and achieves great depth and distance. Sound impression – Vocal Vocal is the default sound for the tuning of this IEM and it well expresses the characteristics and potential that Focus has. The name “Vocal” may make you think its sound signature has bloated mids, though in fact, it presents a W-shaped signature with all three bands adequately elevated. Lows are deep, tight, and smooth in expression. It portrays a great balance between gentleness and rampancy, thoroughly stressing the dynamics and the vibration of the bass while keeping the bass from getting overwhelming. I could understand why Vocal was set as the default mode in terms of tuning – the style and quantity of the bass would fit just about everybody except bassheads and “flat” heads. The bass is more controlled and cleaner compared to EDM with slightly reduced bass slams that better respect the upper frequencies to shine more – this slightly toned down bass slam makes the listening experience comfier while bringing all the weightiness. Strike and decay are highly responsive and speedy that gives a chewy bite along with excellent tension control. Lows were smooth, but now it steps ahead further to being buttery as the sound transits to the mids. Mids are gently brought to the front without any forming a bulge-out feeling to the vocals. It has great clarity that vividly exposes the texture grain from the vocals but keeping the surface smooth, soft, and creamy enough. There are no spiky, sibilance, or stiff portent found throughout the range. The phasing of the vocals is kept stable and constant without wobbling around in terms of location. Also, mids have a nice thickness to it but the very neutral and do not get lumpish in reaction speed. It sports a slightly bright and shiny tone that forges an extra crisp and refreshing element to the upper mids. Overall Focus Audio did a fine job controlling that tricky balance between airiness and smoothness. Highs are slightly toned down and also a bit stepped back. It is not underdone, but not overdone either. Trebles do not particularly show strong vibrancy or initiative, keeping a rather calm, composed attitude. Though highs do not lack in detail or power. This relative calmness instead levels with the vibrant mids, forming an “equilibrium” of detail emphasis. The rest of the details (layering, headroom size, separation, etc.) lies the same as EDM. Sound impression – Rhythm Rhythm presents the neatest, the flattest signature with a bright tense. But, of course, the diaphragm’s performance went nowhere, still bringing deep extension and depth for the bass. The low-end punches are solid and fast along with clean vibrations. These vibrations ring in much shorter waves and do not leave residues while decaying, keeping the bass tightly controlled. Some bass-lighted IEMs let the lows emerge to the upper side of the headroom and cause cramping to the vocals as well as leaving the low-end to be lonesome. Though unlike that, Rhythm keeps the lows to always linger on the lowest part of the headroom and packed with a good density, despite the lighter bass response. To me, that is worth giving some high praise. Although the bass scales with smaller imaging compared to other tunings, Rhythm still delivers a meaty punch and plentiful enough quantity. It exudes quite a strong bass aura considering how much calmer and cleaner the lows got. This would be an ideal amount for those who want the thumps while keeping the overall sound flattie. Mids take a step forward and butt in as the star of the show. Though it does not cause any big turbulence to the phasing as the vocal kicks in, showing a gradual transition from the lows. Mids are bright and have lots of air going on throughout the range, as well as the imaging of the vocals forming slightly on the upper side from the middle. They are also much shinier and sport a brighter tone compared to the lows, so this clear distinction in both brightness and imaging location draws a firm separation between the three bands. The texture grains are refined, smooth, and as a result, mids keep a crisp yet easy-going vocals. The thickness is close to neutral if not slightly thin. However, vocals possess quite a thick density, so not only it works out great with female vocals but also with male vocals. The tone is transparent with slight coloration but still stays in the ballpark of neutral. It serves more as a sweetener and does not spoil up the timbre. It does not cause any sibilance but instead winds up the upper mids with a crunchy and rather thin bite. This does not lead to a sibilance or overpowering in brightness and keeps the listening experience fairly fatigue-free. Highs continue the same airy atmosphere but with a bit weaker intensity as well as reduced in quantity. Treble snares are elastic and lively, making a clear presence but not rushing out to the front too violently. All other characteristics stay identical but with the best clarity and transparency among the three, and this is the one you should choose if looking for. Extra comparisons (Compared with the default “Vocal” variant) Moondrop KXXS (1DD) – The way how these IEMs highlight the vocals are a bit different. KXXS pinpoints on the vocals with a distinctive spotlight and makes it shine with a crisp, silvery, and airy tone. On the other hand, Vocal aims more about the unity of the sound, having slightly lesser in air and vividness but with a thicker sound ray, visibly fuller in body, and more organic in tonality. Mids from Vocal shows better size and harmony amongst the music, which makes Vocal a better choice over KXXS if looking for a meatier and smoother sound, especially on the vocals. The sound stage is slightly larger on Vocal as well as the sub-bass giving a bit better weightiness. The bass extension itself is similar for these two, so I would not say that the bass is clearly superior on Vocal since those who seek a clean, mid-centric sound would find the bass from KXXS to be neater or less bloated. Upper mids are slightly better on KXXS in terms of airiness and transparency but by a marginal gap. The treble extension is similar. Oriolus Finschi (1BA+1DD) – The sound from Vocal is more bass-driven while Finschi seeks for a calm, balanced sound. Vocal shows better weightiness and stability by thoroughly holding down the lows and mids to the lower side of the headroom, while Finschi creates the sound in more of a fluffy, floating manner. Do not get me wrong, the bass from Finschi still brings a good weight and stableness. It is just that the bass from Vocal is more established with a better build-up and brought up from a deeper end. Headroom size is similar between the two, however Vocal is presented up-close while Finschi is slightly distanced and topped with a spatial airiness. Therefore, Finschi shows superiority in imaging, creating a more 3D-powered headroom – but of course, this also means that Vocal brings better phasing accuracy as the sound is more linear and closer to a natural state. Vocal has thicker mids whereas Finschi is thinner but still in the neutral range. Dunu Falcon-C (1DD) – Falcon-C has a sound that is more lean, agile, and vivid in texture exposure. The bass thuds are lighter and faster, resulting in lesser reverbs or boomy effects. Mids have neutral and thinner thickness compared to Vocal with a cooler and brighter tone. The texture is more grainy and crunchier, being very active in revealing it. Highs are more analytical and BA-ish, while Vocal brings out the sound in full DD style – smooth, warm, and bold. The sound stage is mid-centric with an airy and somewhat light in overall weightiness, showing some clear contrast against Vocal which has a low-centric sound with lots of seriousness applied to the sound. I would say that Falcon-C is more an easy-going sound that focuses more on throwing jabs while Vocal is a sound that goes full force with shooting out hooks. Verdicts I rarely push others to get hyped, but for this one, I sort of want to as an exception. Focus Vocal and its other two variants, EDM and Rhythm, are all very well made and its build quality and sound quality do more than enough for its affordable price. Alongside that, I see very low chances for these Focus IEMs failing to satisfy the general audiophiles looking for a cost-effective IEM where the performance punches far above its price league. Vocal/EDM/Rhythm are not only outstanding in sonic extension but also because how classy the soundstage and texture are presented – not to forget mention that the build quality and its material are beyond the “affordable level” that we usually expect. These different variations could be summarized as such – Vocal, the default variant, for a balanced sound that is rich in all three bands, EDM for a thundering bass and true basshead slams, and Rhythm for a calmer and flatter sound throughout the range with excellent instrumental details. If you are looking to grab a sub $200 IEM and love single dynamic driver, ten to one Focus will suggest you with a good solution. Look no more! Thanks to Focus for providing Vocal, EDM, and Rhythm in exchange for an honest impression/feedback. I am not affiliated with Focus and none of my words were modded or asked to be changed. Focus Vocal / EDM / Rhythm $169 9.1 Sound quality 8.9/10 Build quality 9.2/10 Comfort 9.0/10 Matchability 9.0/10 Value for the price 9.4/10 Pros Well-balanced, bold lows and pure mid/highs Outstanding performance for such a price High quality cable and accessories Available in three versions of different tuning Cons Not many retailers available (in the meantime) Product details 5 Responses K.S July 9, 2020 Is there a manufacturer site? Also, can you ask me about the details of the manufacturer? Reply aboutaudio July 16, 2020 Hi K.S, apologies for the late response – Been on a sick-leave for a while. The guys from Focus are yet to have an official website and currently selling through Taobao only in the meantime. I have heard that they are planning to expand their selling channels, but unsure about the exact dates. Here’s a link to their official Taobao store: https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a230r.126.96.36.199cfc4b125G2GYy&id=597112511827&ns=1&abbucket=3#detail Cheers Reply Anonymous July 16, 2020 I confirmed the link. Thank you for your polite response. Please take care of yourself. Reilly November 3, 2020 Realizing that tuning accounts for personal and musical preferences; If you had to choose between the EDM and the Vocal variants, which would you go with. Reply aboutaudio November 8, 2020 Hmm, that’s a tough choice since it really depends on the music and the type of sound I’d like to listen on that day (perhaps due to my taste being very omnivorous). My fav used to be Rhythm but for the time being, EDM. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName Email Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.