Focal have entered the crowded wireless headphone market with their new Spark Wireless, but does the newcomer stand out? The company have delivered a punchy but balanced pair of earphones with an eight-hour battery life. The Spark Wireless is budget-friendly at $99, while the wired model will set you back $69. The earphones are designed for use with iOS, Android and Windows.
How does the Focal Spark Wireless fare in the audio department? No headphone will please everyone but the Spark hits a good middle-ground that will please most listeners. Focal have presented a bass-heavy, consumer-friendly sound with this model. It’s punchy and in-your-face without being obnoxiously overhyped. It’s definitely not a flat, audiophile sound. But I think audiophiles probably won’t hate it either. The bass is accented for sure, but the overall sound is balanced.
You can get a feel for how the original mix was intended to sound, unlike some headphones which EQ things so heavily that everything starts sounding the same. Both the wired and wireless versions feature 9.5mm Mylar drivers that boast a 20hz-20KHz frequency response.
Consistent audio quality between Spark & Spark Wireless
Focal have done a great job of keeping the audio quality consistent between the Spark and Spark Wireless. It’s common for wireless headphones to have a noticeable quality drop off from their wired counterparts. The difference between the Spark wired and wireless models is quite small though. On guitar-heavy songs I picked up more punch in the mid-range on the wired version. There’s also more detail throughout the spectrum as a whole. If you’re a real audiophile then you’d benefit from getting the wired version but the average listener probably wouldn’t be bothered by the small differences.
Which sounds better, Australian Metalcore or Canadian Electro-pop?
Listening to The Amity Affliction’s ‘I Bring the Weather With Me’, the drums sound punchy and aggressive, with a nice detail throughout the kit. The mid-range in the rhythm guitars is recessed. The treble is brought forward, which accents the lead guitars, keyboards and vocals. Likewise, the bass is prominent, making the kick drum and the low end on the guitars sound massive. The pushed treble and bass results in a lack of detail in the lower mids, but you can’t have everything in a $99 pair of wireless headphones.
Electronic music “right at home” with Spark Wireless
Synth-pop siren Lights should provide a nice contrast to the heavy sounds of The Amity Affliction. I tested the Focal Spark Wireless on her tune ‘Running With the Boys’. The song sounds beautiful through the Spark. You can hear all the layers and little details in the mix clearly. The kick drum is very prominent, which seems to be something the Spark really brings out in a lot of material. Lights’ vocals are also brought forward strongly. The synth bass is prominent but not overpowering. The guitar melodies and rhythm guitars are pushed back a little.
The Spark without a doubt seems right at home with electronic-based music. In fact, Lights sounds so good on the Spark, doing this audio test got me back into her music after forgetting about it for a while.
How does the Spark stack up in terms of comfort?
The comfort factor is essential for wireless earphones. The Focal Spark Wireless scores fairly well in this area, although it’s not perfect. It ships with three eartip sizes. I usually use the middle size, although I found the Spark middle tip was bigger than I was comfortable with, while the small was too small. In search of a better fit I ended up replacing the stock eartips with those from an older pair of Sennheisers I had lying around.
Scores in appearance, design could improve
The Focal Spark Wireless has a sharp design, and definitely scores in the looks department. In any event, the bullet-shaped earpiece gives off a Powerbeats vibe. Looking closer at the earpieces, I would say they are on the chunky side – consequently the end of the chassis can dig into your ears a little. With this in mind, it’s not a massive issue; although I prefer earphones with a smaller, more compact earpiece.
There’s a three-button remote and a battery pack included on the short cable which links the Spark’s earbuds. Satisfyingly, they are both fairly light so they don’t bother you while wearing the headphones. As expected, the short cable sits behind your neck and is unobtrusive to wear. The connecting wire is flat and doesn’t tangle up. All things considered, the remote is quite large which detracts from the aesthetics somewhat. Other than that, it’s hard to fault the Spark’s appearance.
Solid wireless headphone coverage
The Focal Spark Wireless provides solid coverage and range for a pair of Bluetooth wireless headphones. There’s no hiccups over the short range, and it will keep a connection as you walk into the next room or up the hallway. If you go up a flight of stairs or walk 10 metres or so then you can expect it to start breaking up.
Focal ships the Spark with three earpiece sizes, a charging cable and a zipper hardshell fabric case. I always appreciate when companies include a hardshell case as earphones are very easy to damage while travelling. The pairing and operation of the Spark Wireless is fairly easy and self-explanatory. In case you didn’t realise, the integrated three-button remote includes a mic and gives you control over calls, playback and volume.
Spark performs well in the sub-$100 range
So, is the Spark Wireless worth dropping $99 on? If you want a versatile set of wireless headphones that looks good and is easy to use, you could do worse than picking up the Spark. It’s reasonably comfortable although it doesn’t score perfectly in this area, mostly due to the earphone chassis. I needed a good pair of wireless earphones and the Spark has impressed me enough to become my daily wear when out and about.