Some would have you believe wired headphones are dead. But audiophiles still value wired designs for their reliable audio fidelity. Focal have kept both camps of listeners happy with the release of the Spark ($69) and Spark Wireless ($99). We’ll look at the wired version today, although you can check out our review of the wireless model here. We found that the Spark is a good-looking, easy-to-use headphone with a detailed, powerful response. Can it clinch the title of the best wired in-ear headphones in the sub-$70 market though?
Spark provides great audio results
Focal have definitely hit the spot with the Spark’s audio quality. It provides a focused sound with a pushed low-end. This is enabled by the 9.5mm Mylar driver, which features a 20hz-20KHz frequency response. The Spark has a consumer-friendly sound that will go down well with fans of various genres, including rock, hip hop and electronic music. The great thing about this model is that it retains a balanced sound despite providing a tailored response. If like me you’re an audiophile or musician who wants a daily wear while out and about, the Spark will do the trick.
Both the Spark and Spark Wireless sound great, although I definitely prefer the wired version. It retains clarity throughout the spectrum, while the wireless Spark can get a tad muddy in the mid-range. The average listener probably wouldn’t be concerned about the small difference in response between the two models though.
Hardshell case is a tight fit
The Spark ships with three eartip sizes and a hardshell case. I always appreciate getting a hardshell case to protect my earphones. Unfortunately the Focal case is a bit on the small side. The case works fine for the wireless version, but you have to take the time to meticulously fold up the wired Spark to fit it into the case. It’s not a huge gripe but a more generous case size would have been nice.
No worries with tangle-free cable
Focal provide a straight jack on the Spark’s cable that accommodates phone cases nicely. The cable is tangle-free and incorporates a three-button remote and microphone. The white Spark is reminiscent of Apple aesthetics, while the bullet-shaped earpieces brings to mind the Powerbeats design. I prefer the wired Spark’s looks over the wireless version, as the smaller remote and lack of battery gives a cleaner appearance.
The Focal Spark is comfortable for the most part although the design has a few sticking points. The earpiece chassis is on the larger side so I found it dug into my ears a bit during longer sessions. I also found the eartip sizes weren’t quite right for me, as I seemed to fall in-between the small and medium sizes. Eartips are cheap to buy online though so it’s not a huge issue.
Is the Spark a contender for the best wired in-ear headphones crown?
There’s a lot of companies that are gunning for the crown of best wired in-ear headphones under $70. Looking around the market, the R6i from Klipsch is a comfortable, bass-heavy in-ear that comes in at $60. They aren’t as detailed as the Focal Spark though, and only come with a soft case. The Sennheiser CX 5.00G are tough to beat at $54.99. They are light-weight, sharp-looking and feature a balanced audio response. The Sennheiser design is easy to wear and very comfortable. The “tangle-free” cable is anything but however.
The Focal Spark can indeed be considered a solid contender for the best wired in-ear headphones in its price-range. It certainly has the sonic punch to lead the pack, with its detailed response and solid low-end. The Spark looks good and is competitively priced, although the earpiece fit could be improved.