I picked up a pair of Focal Elegias and Elears (plus Utopia pads and case from here) for about the same price. Obviously, the largest difference between the two is that the Elegia is closed back and the Elear open back. I have heard comments about the performance of each and I was curious as to the differences on my system to my ears. I have been switching back and forth over the past several weeks under a variety of conditions and streaming quality and this time around I wanted to control my variables a little more closely*. So I fired up AmazonHD, selected Melody Gardot - Who Will Comfort Me, and repeatedly switched only headphones and listened to the track over and over. I focused on listening to the differences in the finger pops, acoustic bass strings, drum reverberation, and so on.
Result: The sound signature of both headphones is very close to being the same to my ears with a slight edge of “liveliness” to the Elears. With the Elears, the bass strings and drums resonations carried through a little more clearly. However, the real difference that anyone should take in mind if considering either one of these phones is the open back versus closed back. When you put the Elears on, you are sitting in the same room, from a sonic point of view. They are light, comfortable, and you hear your daughter feeding the the guinea pig and the space heater over there running (yes, that was going on). There is very little sound isolation. Almost the opposite with the Elegia. Putting those on is like turning on noise canceling; you are immediately out of the room and in the headphone. One thing I noted and chalked up to the closed back was when there was a finger snap it tended to ‘hit’ your ear a little more than with the Elear. I guess rapid movements of the diaphragm can’t equilibrate with the outer atmosphere as quickly so your ears get a little flick, as it were.
So long story short, if you are considering these headphones, the primary driver isn’t sound quality IMHO, but the environment in which you plan to use them. A quiet listening room? I prefer the Elears. A busier place where you want a little more isolation (and you don’t want to share your sounds with others around you) then the Elegias would be my go to. Sonically, from super high quality streams to crappy streams ala YouTube it is hard for me to suss out a consistent preference of one over the other; both are great.
- The source was AmazonHD Music played through my computer using an EVGA Nu Audio sound card. Music was output digitally and the EVGA software allows me to specify audio properties to be consistent with the track being played (in this case 16b/44.1). The optical signal was fed into a Topping D70 DAC which was connected through balanced cables to a Drop THX AAA 789. The audio cable was a balanced audio cable which fits both the Elears and Elegia. I should note that I have less formally done this analysis all the way up to 24b/192 kHz tracks and the results are mostly the same.