Focal for Bentley Radiance headphones – HiFi Review

Focal for Bentley Radiance headphones – HiFi Review


In the last few years, several audio companies have been partnering with the automotive sector to attract brand awareness from new audiences that share similar passions and values. Focal is among one of the latest audio companies to just this and has joined forces with luxury car maker Bentley to create this set of headphones.  Both brands are known for their high-quality products in their respective markets, and this pair of Focal for Bentley Radiance headphones exude sumptuous build with the beautiful style you’d expect from either brand name and is emblazoned with Bentley’s iconic wing motif. Focal’s partnering audio component brand Naim has also given its Mu-so one-box music system a Special Edition for Bentley release and has similar design flourishes.

Design

Focal for Bentley Radiance

Bentley Wings

Looking at the full range of Focal headphones from the Utopia model down, I am surprised these Focal for Bentley Radiance headphones are not sporting Beryllium M-shaped dome drivers used elsewhere in its range, although I would have thought that the Bentley name alone would be enough to warrant the use of the Beryllium tech. At £1,200, the Focal for Bentley Radiance goes some way to bridging the sizeable pricing gap left between the £2,800 Stellia and £800 Eligia closed-back headphone designs in Focal’s line up, and is a welcome mid-priced addition.

The Focal for Bentley Radiance headphone is a circumaural headphone design featuring Focal’s 40mm Aluminium/Magnesium M-shaped driver and offers a claimed frequency range of 5Hz – 23kHz. The specification has a lot in common with Focal’s Elegia closed-back model but the Radiance has benefitted from some acoustic re-tuning to Bentley’s specification and is a formidable addition in its closed back range.

Quality

As the exacting reputation associated with both brands suggests, there’s no sign of compromise in terms of build and design quality. The Radiance design incorporates Bentley’s ‘Copper’ flourishes and ‘Diamond’ quilting borrowed from the iconic Bentley Mulliner Bacalar car seats to its earcups, headband and cable. Each detail has been carefully thought out, from the luxury ear cushions finished in soft, breathable Pittards’ gloving leather to bring incredible comfort, to the Bentley ‘wings’ emblem found on either side of the headband.

Focal for Bentley Radiance

Bentley Mulliner Bacalar

The headphones come with a copper accented hard case sporting a leather Bentley winged handle and a 1m FC 24AWG cable with a 1/8in (3.5mm) unbalanced TRS jack connector. A jack plug adapter for full-fat 1/4in (6.35mm) sockets is also included.

Suggested retail pricing is £1,199/€1,299/$1,299 for the Focal for Bentley Radiance.

Performance

Review arrangements

Focal for Bentley RadianceI’ve been using the Focal for Bentley Radiance headphones in my desktop setup for a few weeks now and they had a thorough run-in before I received them. In the course of my review, I have paired them with a variety of desktop headphone amplifiers, including Questyle’s CMA400i and Auralic’s Vega G2.1, reviewed. To assess the versatility of these headphones, I’ve also used them with a Dragonfly Red portable headphone amp/DAC, an iPod and other portable players.

Tonality

The headphones … are exceptionally comfortable and long listening with a laid-back, warmer and rounded feel

First off, the headphones lean towards the ‘low frequency’ spectrum in respect of their tonal balance. This seems to be the trend of many headphone makers, and I suspect is a result of the popular ‘Beats generation’ of headphone wearers. This is no bad thing with Focal and I am enjoying the headphones; they are exceptionally comfortable and long listening with a laid-back, warmer and rounded feel. When needed, though – in a Daft Punk Get Lucky or Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer moment – there is a load of dynamic punch that really works for me and the Focal for Bentley RadianceAluminium/Magnesium driver delivers remarkable speed and energy. That said, as I listen longer with a better amplifier in place to drive the headphones more efficiently, the resolution is very impressive. A recent favourite album Wednesdays by Ryan Adams, comes across very nicely and the guitar on Who is going to love me now? has brilliant levels of detail.

With Pioneer XDP-100R portable/old-school iPod

With this Pioneer portable digital player driving the headphones, they sound beautiful and produce a very clean signal. Resolution is always excellent with the Pioneer and I’m back to listening to my 24-bit Radiohead tracks from the SD cards I have inserted into the player. The headphone cable length is too short, even for desktop use, so I decided to dig out my old iPod for a bit of casual desktop listening. I have a mashup of Queen’s We Will Rock You, AC/DC’s Back in Black and Weather with You by Crowded House thrown in too. The track could be from the soundtrack to Iron Man 3, although I am not entirely sure… (perhaps see YouTube). Nevertheless, the mashup track sounds epic, punchy and loud, and the Radiance headphones handle it easily with very good separation in the soundstage.

Just to note: during the pauses while I was fiddling between sources, I noticed that I’d left the radio on in my office. Being a closed-back headphone design, I hadn’t been aware of it playing in the background until I removed the ‘phones from my head.

With Pixel phone and AudioQuest Dragonfly Red

Focal for Bentley RadianceI have finally shelled out for the DragonTail Carbon USB A-to-C adapter for my phone so I can use the Dragonfly Red headphone amp/DAC with my Pixel 4 phone. The playback is exceptional and Tidal with MQA in the Red is really nice indeed.  I am pretty sure I have it set-up correctly with the Tidal App and the colours on the dragonfly appear to be consistent.  Trying the headphones out with different portable devices and not experiencing any difficulties in achieving a decent listening level, clearly shows they are very easy to drive.

With Questyle CMA400i

With a desktop amplifier or my stereo in the lounge, the cable length is woefully short and I am surprised that a longer cable option isn’t supplied at the price. I’ve spent some time with Focal’s Utopia and Clear headphone models in the past where several cable lengths were included. This seems like a more practical approach. Otherwise, with a bit of desktop re-arrangement to accommodate the short cable, the Radiance headphones continue in delivering a fine performance. For example, Taylor Swift’s album evermore retains its charm and lyrical journey and the track Champagne Problems, showcases some excellent details.

With Auralic Vega G2.1

Focal for Bentley RadianceHeadphones are so immersive and when they are great, like these Focal for Bentley Radiance, the world is a beautiful place

Auralic’s Vega G2.1 builds on the Questyle headphone amplifier and moves performance up a gear. It brings a greater and wider stereo image with a new insight into the space in recordings, like Nils Frahm’s still epic Solo album. Tracks like Some fizz and the space between the piano and the background energy of the room fill the soundstage. Headphones offer a fully immersive listening experience and when they sound this good and have a warmth that facilitates longer listening, the world feels like such a beautiful place.

I’ve also noted often that channel separation is particularly defined in these headphones, I am not sure if that is the DAC or the headphones, but it is good here. Have a listen to Accidently Like a Martyr (Live) by The War on Drugs or, better still, Thinking of a Place.

Overall

These are particularly dynamic headphones that have fantastic resolution and during my listening sessions have become easy-going friends. I appreciate the styling, particularly with the very comfortable leather cups, but the Bentley styling is really the secondary factor when it comes to headphones that sound this good. Longer listening has been particularly enjoyable due to ease of the sonic performance characterised by the warm tonal balance and the long-term comfort afforded by the use of luxury materials – not unlike a long car journey in a Bentley, I would imagine.

 

 

Love
Styling with the Bentley brand
Leather ear cups
Dynamic and fast
High Resolution
Like
Good sound
Easy to drive
Wish
The cable was a lot longer or there was a ‘home friendly’ cable option

Specification

Focal for Bentley RadianceType Circumaural closed back headphones
Impedance 35 Ohms
Sensitivity 101dB SPL / 1mW @ 1 kHz
THD 0,1% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
Frequency response 5Hz – 23kHz
Speaker driver 15/8″ Aluminium/Magnesium “M” shape dome
Weight 22.05lbs (435g)
Cable supplied – 4ft. (1.2m) OFC 24 AWG cable with 1/8″ (3.5mm) unbalanced TRS, jack connector, jack adapter, 1/8″ (3.5mm) point socket – 1/4″ (6.35mm) point plug
Hard-shell carry case – provided 97/8×91/2×43/4″ (250x240x120mm)

Focal and Naim Audio

With a combined 88 years of expertise in hand-crafting the world’s best music systems, Naim Audio– based in Salisbury, Wiltshire – and Focal, from St Etienne in France, have been sister brands since 2011. Both are recognised as exceptional brands in their respective countries: Naim is a multiple Queen’s Award winner, while Focal is designated by the French state as an Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (EPV, or Living Heritage Company). Since their 2011 merger, Naim and Focal have united their unique areas of excellence and innovation, meaning even higher level of authentic audio performance are possible – taking you closer to the music you love.

Bentley Motors

Focal for Bentley RadianceBentley Motors is the most sought after luxury car brand in the world. The company’s headquarters in Crewe is home to all of its operations including design, R&D, engineering and production of the company’s three model lines, Bentayga, Continental and Flying Spur. The combination of fine craftsmanship, using skills that have been handed down through generations, alongside engineering expertise and cutting-edge technology is unique to UK luxury car brands such as Bentley. It is also an example of high-value British manufacturing at its best. Bentley employs around 4,000 people at Crewe.

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