Focal is entering the audiophile DAC and amplifier market with the launch of its first product in that space, the Arche.
Entirely designed and manufactured in France, and developed by Micromega for Focal, the Arche combines a digital-analog converter with two pure class-A amplification modes (voltage and hybrid) designed especially for headphones. Arche also offers presets for every pair of Focal headphones, and will be updated with new firmware for every new Focal launch.
Upon entry of the digital signal, Arche offers a resolutely audiophile design through its dual mono construction, from signal processing to amplification. This way, says Focal, the design reduces crosstalk to an absolute minimum. The two premium digital-analog balanced AK 4490 converters take care of the left and right-hand channels, respectively. Each converter has a dedicated regulated power supply. Used frequently in high-end electronics, these converters have an extended operating range of 768kHz - 32bits, specially designed to ensure the "pure and perfect reproduction of high-resolution audio formats," says Focal. Arche processes PCM format signals, 384kHz, as well as DSD 256.
As for power, the dual mono design continues with two amplification channels equipped with a dedicated power supply. Each amplifier operates at pure class-A, regardless of the impedance of the headphones used. With 2 x 1W, Arche powers the headphones easily, providing extremely high impedances.
With Arche, there is the option to select two amplifier types using the multifunctional rotary potentiometer located on the front panel. A pure current amplifier is available in the Amplifier section under the designation Voltage. This mode provides an output impedance of just 0.1 Ohm, which results in major listening dynamics. The second Hybrid integrated amplifier is similar to a power amplifier as it benefits from a higher output impedance. Here, the tonal balance slightly favours the bass, midrange, and extreme treble registers.
Arche comes with a solid aluminum headphone mount, inspired by the brand's logo. The rear panel is dedicated to the connection of sources via an analog input (RCA) and three digital inputs (USB, toslink and coaxial). Arche can also be used as a digital-analog converter to drive the signal towards a power amplifier used for powering a pair of headphones or high-fidelity loudspeakers. To do this, Focal has focused on performance with an XLR format balanced output, doubled up with two RCAs for amplifiers with more traditional connectivity.
Arche's front panel lets you connect up to two pairs of headphones via ¼" unbalanced stereo jack outputs and a balanced 4-point XLR. The multifunctional rotary potentiometer enables control of the system. As well as the selection of inputs and volume control, the output level can be optimized in relation to the impedance of the headphones connected.
Arche will be available in March starting at US$2,500.
Meanwhile, Focal has launched its newest pair of closed-back headphones, the Stellia, which integrates a new generation of exclusive speaker drivers, capable of working at low sound levels while offering an extremely extensive frequency response (5Hz- 40kHz), says the company.
Vents are integrated to extend the speaker driver's frequency response; an EVA foam positioned behind the speaker driver absorbs high frequencies; acoustic diffusers break up standing waves to achieve sound reproduction free of interference. Focal has also strictly overseen every stage in Stellia's creation, from the development process to industrialization, even developing a specific robot to meet the requirements of manufacturing these headphones, says the company.
Stellia uses the headband and yoke mechanical features originally developed for the flagship Utopia headphones. The consistent curve between these two elements offers comfort, regardless of the shape and size of the listener's face and head. This comfort is enhanced by the high-resilience memory foam used for the high-isolation full-grain leather earpads.
The Stellia headphones come in a cognac or mocha finish, and with a storage case with two matching cables: one that's three metres long, and another that is 1.2 metres long with a 1/8" stereo jack. The headphones start at US$3,000.