I have lost count of the number of audio devices that I’ve reviewed over the past 10+ years. I am privileged to be able to review audio gear and I’m never without a good pair of headphones or speakers. Furthermore, I’ve reviewed countless brands, some of which include, Sony, Bowers & Wilkins, Apple, Bang & Olufsen, Master & Dynamic, and Focal. So when Focal and Naim reached out and asked if I wanted to take the Focal Utopia 2022’s and the Naim Uniti Atom HE for a spin, I did not hesitate to say yes.
Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
The Focal Utopia 2022 and Naim Uniti Atom, HE was next-level audio for me. The Utopia headphones are off the charts in terms of price and tuning. The Naim Uniti Atom, HE is also an insane Hi-Fi streaming player that highlights the best the Focal Utopia has to offer. It’s important to note, this review is coming from someone who is experiencing this level of Hi-Fi device for the first time. I’ve used Focal headphones in the past, but never the company’s high-end offerings.
So this review will not be filled with technical jargon, but rather it is geared more to the common man who might be thinking of stepping into the high-fidelity world. These are my newbie thoughts and this review is going to mainly focus on the Focal Utopia with some gleaning thoughts on the Naim Uniti Atom HE.
Table of contents
The Quick Take
Before I give my quick take and waste anyone’s time. The first thing you should know about the Focal Utopia 2022 and the Naim Uniti Atom HE is that they are not cheap. And they are not wireless. The headphones are going to set buyers back $5,000 and the headphone amp will cost an additional $3,800. That is nearly $9,000 for this particular setup, and that is a lot of money. Going forward, I can only assume you are reading because you are agreeable to this price. That said, here is my quick take.
Firstly, you can save yourself the $3,800 by not buying the Naim Uniti Atom HE. The Focal Utopia headphones will work with any device that has a headphone jack. But, do not expect the performance advertised if you’re not using a device that can drive these headphones to their max performance.
You can find other amps and DACS that will set you back less money and deliver some decent performance, but I highly recommend the Naim Uniti Atom HE, as it is designed to work hand in glove with the Utopia’s. The gist of this is. A different amp or DAC will give you great results, the Atom HE will give you the superior result, but don’t expect fantastic performance from directly plugging into a smartphone without some sort of amp or DAC.
I need to get to the point, otherwise this quick take is going to get drawn out. The Focal Utopia 2022 headphones are on another planet of sound. They sound great when directly plugged into a smartphone, but their performance is elevated when using something like the FiiO Q3 MQA. They are at their best when using the Naim Uniti Atom HE.
I know these headphones aren’t for everyone. I mean, they are freaking expensive, I get it. But, now having experienced them paired with the ideal headphone amp, if you have the money to spend and want one of the best listening experiences you will ever have. I highly recommend both the Focal Utopia 2022 and the Naim Uniti Atom HE. If you can only afford the headphones, at the very least, get a decent headphone amp to pair them with, it will only enhance your investment.
If the Utopia is way unreachable for you, then I recommend the company’s Bathys headphones. These are the very best wireless ANC headphones I’ve used and are my daily driver. These are usable wireless and wired, but still deliver the best-in-class sound.
Focal Utopia 2022
- Type: Circum-aural, open-back headphones
- Impedance: 80 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 104dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
- THD: <0.2% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL
- Frequency response: 5Hz – 50kHz
- Speaker driver: 19/16″ (40mm) pure beryllium ‘M’-shaped dome
- Weight: 1.08lbs (490g)
- Cable provided
- 1 x 5ft cable (1.5m) with 1 × 1/8″ (3.5mm) asymmetric TRS Jack connector and 2 x Lemo® connectors
- 1 x 10ft cable (3m) with 1 x symmetrical 4-point XLR connector and 2 Lemo® connectors
- 1 x Jack adapter, 1/8″ (3.5mm) point socket – 1/4″ (6.35mm) point plug
- Carrying case included 9.8×9.4×4.7″ (25×24×12cm)
- High-end, open-back, high-fidelity headphones ; for home use
- Full-range speaker driver with ‘M’-shaped, pure Beryllium dome:
pure, dynamic and perfectly balanced sound
- Made in France in the Focal workshops
- Design that adapts to all head morphologies: optimum comfort
- Premium materials and sophisticated finishes:
genuine leather, forged, recycled carbon, aluminum, etc.
Naim Uniti Atom HE
- Ethernet (10/100Mbps)
- Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n/ac with internal antennae)
- Multiroom: Sync up to five Naim Streaming products and control via the Naim App. The Naim App can accommodate up to eight streaming products.
- Audio Inputs:
- Digital: 2x Optical S/PDIF up to 96kHz, Coaxial RCA (up to 24bit/192kHz, DoP 64Fs)
- Analogue: 1 x Stereo RCA pair
- USB: 2x USB 2.0 (Type A connector)
- Streaming: Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast Built-in, UPnPTM, Spotify® Connect, TIDAL, Roon Ready, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, Qobuz
- Audio Outputs:
- Balanced XLR Preamp output
- RCA Preamp output
- Headphone Outputs:
- 4.4mm Pentaconn (balanced) 4 pin XLR (balanced) 6.35mm (¼ inch) jack (unbalanced)
- 1.5W RMS per channel into 16 ohms, suitable for headphones from 16 ohms and upwards
- Power Consumption Typical use: 17W
- Network Standby mode: No-network Standby mode: Auto Standby time User selectable: adjustable from off up to 2 hours
- Mains Supply: 115V, 230V; 50 or 60Hz
- Dimensions and Weight: 95 mm x 245 mm x 265 mm (H × W × D) 7 kg
What’s In The Box
Focal Utopia 2022
- Focal Utopia 2022
- Hard-back carry case with thermoform internal padding (9 7/8 × 9 1/2 × 4 3/4 inches (250 × 240 x 120mm)
- 1 x 5ft (1.5m) cable (1 × 1/8” (3.5mm) asymmetric TRS jack connector and 2 x Lemo® connectors)
- 1 x 10ft (3m) cable (1 x symmetrical 4-point XLR connector and 2 Lemo® connectors)
- 1 x Jack adapter, 1/8″ (3.5mm) point socket – 1/4″ (6.35mm) point plug.
- Documentation and Instructions
Naim Uniti Atom HE
- Uniti Atom HE
- Cleaning Cloth
- AAA Batteries
- Remote Control
- Power Cable
- Documentation and Instructions
Let me touch briefly on the Naim Uniti Atom HE design. First off, it’s heavy. But that is expected due to the massive power transformer inside and the metal construction. The sides basically work like a heatsink, to keep the internals cool. The back has all the ports, including:
- USB-A 5V/16A
- 2 Optical Inputs
- Balanced Headphone Jack
- Preamp Outputs L/R
- RCA Inputs
- Ground Switch (Floating/Default)
- Service Port
The front houses a display, power button, play/pause button, favorites button, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1/4 headphone jack, and a powered USB-A port. The display is not a touchscreen, fine by me, but you can control the unit with the app or the included (massive) remote. We’ll get more into functions in the ease of use section. Overall, the Naim Uniti Atom HE is built like a tank, the materials are all top-notch and it looks beautiful sitting on my desk.
Now, on to the Focal Utopia 2022 headphones. Firstly, these are not wireless headphones, these are very much wired and those wires are substantial. So, if you’re not a fan of wires, these are not for you. Take a look at the Focal Bathys for that.
The design language of the Utopia sticks with the Focal aesthetic, which is one of the company’s calling cards. The headband is made of genuine leather and is soft, plush, and extremely comfortable. The clamping force is not too much, but enough to keep them on your head. I never felt uncomfortable, even after hours of wear.
The ear pads are perforated lambskin, which helps to cool your ears, with memory foam. These ear pads are super comfortable and there were times my ears got warm but never sweaty. The inside of the ear cups show off the driver’s inside and the M-shaped grille inside curves to the driver offering, what Focal calls, “better linearity of the high frequencies.
The yoke is made from forged, recycled carbon and it looks fantastic and helps cut weight down. The outside of the ear cups have that Focal honeycomb grille design and these are an open back design. So be aware that sound can be heard from those around you.
The Focal Utopia 2022 are probably heavier than other headphones you’re used to. But these are really designed to be an at home headphones paired with the Naim Uniti Atom HE, so weight isn’t an issue for portability and the weight is not uncomfortable here.
The connectors are Lemo connectors with a locking mechanism, this keeps the cables securely in place in the headphones. As mentioned, the cables are thick and broad, but I never felt like they were in the way or uncomfortable.
Every part of the Focal Utopia is made with high quality premium materials and you can see the level of detail and care the company takes in making them. The included protective case is fantastic. I have never seen a case for headphones this robust and well-made. It makes sense, this is a $5,000 investment you want to protect.
Overall, the design of both the Naim Uniti Atom HE and the Focal Utopia is as good as expected from a company like Focal. These are both out of this world in terms of design, build, and aesthetic.
Ease of Use
Using the Naim Uniti Atom HE is super simple. You can play music from the unit through a USB drive or connect via the Focal/Naim app and enjoy streaming from all the following:
- Spotify Connect
- Bluetooth aptX HD
- Internet Radio
- Optical In
- USB Storage
- Roon Ready
- Tidal Connect
Once you connect the app to the Atom HE, you’re mostly ready to go. Plug your headphones into the balanced output in the back of the unit, choose where your media is going to come from in the app, and listen. The app is basically a bridge between the Atom HE and the headphones.
Naim did include a three-month trial to Tidal in the box, this may or may not come with yours. I used Tidal and Apple Music with the Atom HE and I found little difference between Tidal lossless and Apple Music lossless. But of course, you are free to pick whatever streaming service you want. Loading up FLAC files on a USB stick and playing through that is also a fantastic option.
Using the Focal Utopia headphones is really not hard, considering they are dumb headphones. They are wired and there are no buttons, so plug them in and listen. That is it.
Overall, using the Atom HE and Focal Utopia is simple. There is nothing to it. The most you may have to deal with is some simple setup of the app and your streaming services within the app. Otherwise, this is as simple as it gets.
If you’ve ever read any of my headphone reviews, you know that I am very much a fan of a neutral soundstage. I prefer hearing what the artist intended me to hear, not some coloring of what a headphone engineer wants me to hear.
Most headphones are soundstaged and setup by engineers employed by the company who is making the headphones. These days, numerous headphone companies favor a bass heavy or bass leaning soundstage. So those frequencies are boosted inside the headphones.
Some companies, like Skullcandy, boost the bass so much that it absolutely crushes everything else. The company even has a pair called Crusher. This is great for many people, they enjoy music that is mostly bass and little of anything else.
But I am not one of those people. I listen to a lot of music with multiple instrument layers that live in the mids and highs. Yes, there is bass in my music but it’s not what drives the music I listen to. For me, music is like a pyramid, bass, and drums are the foundation of the pyramid and should support the rest of the instrumentation and vocals, not be the star of the show.
Without that supporting role that the bass and percussion play, the rest of the pyramid will fall. And if you push too much bass into the mix, the rest of the pyramid gets fuzzy and difficult to make out. For me, music is about balance, depending on the composition, of course.
The Focal Utopia 2022 brought my listening experience to another level. Paired with the Atom HE, I was hearing things in songs I’ve listened to for years that I’d never heard before. Subtleties, like small percussion instruments in the background, layers of vocals I never knew existed.
The clarity and precision of music played through the Focal Utopia is something discerning listeners will appreciate. I also used the FiiO Q3 MQA and got similar results, though not as good, as I did with the Atom HE. I also tested with an iPhone and S23 Ultra directly plugged in with dongles. The sound was still remarkable, though again, using the Atom HE noticeably elevates the experience because it can properly drive the headphones’ capacity.
Overall, the Naim and Focal are on another level of sound. I wouldn’t say that this is an essential pairing for the average user. I think the average user is a passive listener who is really just trying to drown out their world and not truly listening to the nuances of the music. For that, any old pair of headphones is going to work. For the listener who looks at music as art and wants the best sound they can get, these will do exactly that.
At this price point, I can’t really give a definitive assessment of price/value. This is really a personal call on the buyer’s part. What I will say is this, if I had the funds to afford both the Naim Uniti Atom HE and Focal Utopia 2022 headphones, I would buy them in a heartbeat.
I think I did a fair job of wrapping things up in my Quick Take. But in case you need more. These headphones and amp are truly for those who care about music as an art form. This pairing will draw out the best in the music you are listening to and deliver what the artist intended you to hear. The average user is a passive listener and probably won’t get much from either of these. For the audiophiles out there, now I know why you spend this much money on gear.
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Last Updated on September 13, 2023.
Focal Utopia/Naim Uniti Atom HEFocal $5,000 / Naim $3,800
- Both the Utopia and Atom HE are beautifully designed
- Pairing the two produces an amazing audio experience
- Other more inexpensive DACs or AMPs will work to bring out the loveliness of the Focal's
- Amazing sound
- Easy to use and setup
- The price is the only downside of both of these products. Though, if you're reading reviews for these products, you are probably prepared for the price. So this is not a huge con if you know what you are getting.
- The Atom HE remote is rather large