Welcome to Robb Recommends, a regular series in which we suggest something our editors think might just change your life for the better. The products, services and experiences featured herein are independently selected and vetted by Robb Report’s editorial staff. However, we may earn a small commission if you buy something on this page.
Just how much is premium sound actually worth? In an era where most people stream their music from their phone or computer, it’s easy to wonder how good your headphones or sound system even need to be. But maybe one reason some of us even think to ask the question is because we haven’t really experienced the world of premium audio.
Look, while I’m a big music fan, I’m no audiophile. Stock earbuds are usually more than enough for me. And when I have spent big on audio gear in the past, it’s been for features like Bluetooth connectivity, active noise cancellation and comfort. But after spending some time with French audio company Focal’s Utopia high-fidelity headphones and Arche amp, I’m rethinking this position completely.
First things first: The Utopia cans look sharp and feel great on your head, and the minimalist Arche is a breeze to set up and use. But you’re not plunking down a hefty chunk of change for those qualities. You’re buying an audio set-up like this because it makes all your favorite songs and albums sound brand new. Whether I was listening to jazz, guitar rock or electronica, the bass was full but not overpowering, the mids felt just right and everything else was crystal clear. Each time I used the combo to listen to a record, the output was so natural and precise that I felt like I had been transported to the studio where the cut had originally been recorded.
The Utopia headphones and Arche are just going to make any record you throw on sound better. And when you listen to an album you’ve heard countless times—like, say, David Axelrod’s Song of Innocence—suddenly you’re hearing details or guitar lines you’ve never heard before. That alone could be enough to turn a casual listener into a serious audiophile.