Focal Elear vs Elegia, thoughts from a neophyte

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.
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Thanks for sharing your impressions. I also own a pair of Elegias which I bought after considering the Elears (which I was going to buy from this site in the same deal that you got). However, when I tested the Elears at a local shop (with the stock pads) I couldn’t get over the “mids suckout”. I specifically was looking for a pair of HP’s that had nice mids and the Elears just weren’t it. I liked much of everything else about them and that led me to consider the Elegias which up to that point I had not thought about. I don’t think the Elegias suffer from this behavior and I find them wonderfully balanced (to my ears) and energetic, exactly what I was looking for. Your comments led me to wonder if the Utopia pads “fix” the Elears mids? Did you try your comparison with the Elear stock pads or the Utopia’s?

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Great impressions @FrostyBud.

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Hey MarCo7 - Yes, I used the Utopia pads for this. I’ll say that they do seem to noticeably change the sonic signature of the Elears, although I did not try to quantify the differences. It was mostly ‘Oh, I forgot about these, old pads off, new pads on…huh, something is different from what I recall these sounding like yesterday.’ Maybe I’ll do a run through switching the pads in and out, but I kind of hate to snap things on and off unless it is really necessary.
For sure personal preference and ears are king. Experienced listeners who have sonic preferences should take into account your observations which I have also seen listed elsewhere. So there seems to be something…errr…there. I’d say newbies such as myself could shop price (with the pads) and where they intend to use the headphones as higher priorities, they are both great to my tin ears. - Cheers

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Just one remark considering the Elears. THese phones only truly revel themselves EQ’s, especially with True-Fi or Sonarworks Headphone edition. Their response to these is dramatic, they simply jump from dark to neutral and that makes a world of difference. Just imho

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Agree 100%, they don’d become excellent headphones, but the change is very satisfying.

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Nice impressions! I parted with my Elear’s before I could do side by side but I definitely agree there was a bit of a mid suckout that bothered me as well, when the clear pads were on them it was improved at a bit of cost however to the lower end.

I did like the lower end of the the Elear’s better than I do the Elegia but I think you kinda nailed it with what you said about needing a closed back solution or open back solution as you can always pad swap on the Elear’s to get closer to a Elex sound and of course use EQ or Tone control to get them to sound closer to what you like.

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@MRphotography I have both the Elegia and the Elear and all I can tell you is that the Elear sounds a lot better than the former. Elear has huge potential but Focal launched it prematurely to meet demand for a more affordable alternative to the Utopia which had received raving reviews. Allow me a short comment about this: how many $4,000 phones get widely reviewed? And among the very few that have had that honour, how many didn’t get raving reviews? I have yet to see one lol. If Focal wanted to sell replacements and still make money they had little choice but to ship a work in progress so to speak, they couldn’t afford the time to tune it properly. Due to the unusually pliable construction of its drivers the Elear could have been tuned 20 different ways including a few that would give it flagship status but it would have been too long to wait.

My poor dear Elears lost their online sidekick Tru-Fi yesterday when Sonarworks pulled the plug and for those like yours truly who had bought a life license well, that’s just too bad. Suck it up. But I sorta suspected this would happen because since the advent of the Reference 4 For Headphones, Sonarworks had to support mutually exclusive headphone EQ’ing and it’s sound practice not to have 2 of your products compete with each other. Tru-Fi had become redundant and had to go so they pulled it and lowered the price on Reference 4 Headphone Edition to $99 or so (they say 79 Euros so I’m guesstimating since I have no idea what’s a Euro’s worth), which is the same as Tru-Fi was. It’s a good value but what p… me off a little though is that I had bought my “lifetime” license 6 weeks ago and no one there bothered to mention that “lifetime” meant 6 weeks. Had I known I would have bought the R4HE instead.

Anyway because I was mad at Sonarworks I decided not to purchase the Headphone Edition. Instead I got in touch with an acquaintance who works at a recording studio (it’s a TV studio but I figured they’d know a bit about audio). Indeed she did. She was interested in seeing my collection so I had her for dinner last Thursday and she brought some DSP software that she proceeded to install and configure on my desktops, which took about 4 hours so I took her out to eat instead. We made an appointment for Saturday and in the meanwhile I fiddled with the software and proceeded to fry my older desktop by overloading the CPU and RAM with amounts of data they were not designed to handle. Experienced a few BSODs then poof, computer bricked. No lights, an ominous-sounding beep pattern, won’t boot, black screen. The works.

Sh1t.

Oh well, it was old and possibly suffered from senile dementia, but I used it to surf the net and that was fine. Now since my other much newer and much more powerful desktop (i7 9th generation 64G RAM, can’t miss) is dedicated to music, and it’s at the the heart of the system, I am forced to use my Smurf computer to surf. That’s how I call my good ol’ MacBook, small screen and I dislike those. But I’ll survive.Anyway I attempted to run some of that DSP software but dammit! There were passwords that she was supposed to write down for me but we both forgot. However there was one software-plugin combo that wasn’t locked, EqualizerAPO+Peace, that I knew a little (very little as it turned out) so I played with that and my Elears sounded just meh.

When Nancy came back on Saturday she said it was good I was somewhat familiar with that program because that’s the first one she wanted to teach me. Okie doke. Then she retrieved her email and there they were: Elear’s eq settings for all sorts of eq’s: graphic, parametric, bandpass, passive and some others I forget. Passive ones I knew well from my speaker building years, except those were tiny compared with 8-feet-tall studio passive EQ’s.

Anyway she had gotten the settings from InnerFidelity (they had reversed-engineered them) and Focal Canada (they give them away when you have a friend in the place and she did), these are new and improved settings, perhpas for the newer Elears, perhaps not. It’s not from the current ones, publishing date is two months ago! Then she proceeded to tell me that from the looks of it (the looks of what?) the EQ most suited to the Elear would be a parametric EQ with shelf filters (this is supposed to tame the frequencies so they don’t eat into each other, but there’s probably other reasons as well. She had the numbers on CSV files but the other software (the one with the password, turns out it’s a compiler) was bugged or improperly configured because it’ wouldn’t accept the files and compile them. But Nancy said don’t worry you can compile those files even in Excel or Windows Shell, and on those words she left.

WTF? Has it ever crossed her mind that I wouldn’t have the slightest clue what to do with the resulting files? In any case I fired up EqAPO and Peace, took the csv from Focal, copied the long text, pasted it into Notepad, then into an EQ config file I called Focal Elear ParaEQ.txt and placed that where it goes in the APO folder. I proceeded to load this but the horror that came out of my phones (loud!) well, I can’t honestly call that music, or even noise. “Havoc” is probably what describes it best. So I surfed a while before I found someone who knew how to proceed. You have to save the text under the UTF-8 format, not ANSI, and feed such files with no more than 30 lines, which means cutting off 470 lines or so from a program that has about 500? I decided I would keep 100 files and skip 2 in-between to cover the widest freq range. It had the Q, gain and preamp settings included in the program along with seemingly 250,000 other parameters I had no clue what they are for. This time it worked and I can’t believe how good my Elears sound. Now there’s not a chance in the world my Clears will ever be able to reproduce sound that good. It’s clear, clean, sound stage vastly improved with very accurate instrument placement. Never heard phones with such SQ before, tight, articulated bass, faint brush on cymbal, people clearing their throats. I am floored, all of this was inside my Elears just waiting to bloom prompted by a dude who’s p1ssed off with Sonarworks. Well now I have my own sonarworks godammit.If people knew how (relatively) easy it is to properly tune HP’s when you have access to the manufacturer’s data you wouldn’t even think of paying for a carpet that could be pulled from under your feet any day.

Now if only I could find a way to compile that CSV file and produce something useful in the config subforlder. By useful I mean not in text format.

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Not replying to myself, just thought my previous post was long enough that I better write about this incident in a new post

After the tornado that had hit me and my HP’s when I first tried loading a large config file into APO had made a huge nasty pop in the left cup and the diaphragm was was working noticeably worse than the right one after that incident. I took them to the store/repair shop where I had purchased them from to get repairs under warranty (of course I wouldn’t tell them what had really happened). When I got there the salesman listened to them for a while and agreed with me that there was degradation on the left side “it happens quite often on those” he said. Really? Never happened to me but I sure wasn’t gonna tell him that.

Then next he just says “let me replace them for you”. Wow, replace them? It’s a good thing when you buy high-end items you usually get better service on them but this was unexpected to say the least. But alas! When he came back from downstairs he said they were all out and won’t get new ones 'till Spring (it’s still a hot seller apparently) so would I take the Clear instead? I politely replied that I already had the Clear, what I wanted was the Elear. Then he told me that if there were no HP’s at or below $1,000 that I wanted in the store I’d have to get them repaired upstairs. They had many nice cans there but none more interesting to me than what I already had and besides, I have to keep the Elears if I ever want to complete my Focal Section. Theoretically I only have to buy the Stellia to be done but I don’t know what to do about the Clear Pro and the Elex. I do not consider the Elex a “true” Focal, it’s simply a strip-down job by a third-party. I like the Elex pads though. Clear and Utopia have nice pads too but they don’t improve the Elear much, if at all (well not at all for the Utopia pads, they hamper the sound, get slimy and slippery when hot

Elex do better, but contrary to the majority I happen to like the pads on the Elear. I also like the cable even though it’s long, thick and heavy. Focal and many reviewers say it’s a waste to replace the cable on Focals because they all have cables that are calibrated specifically for the model they come with.

Back to the store. So up I go and there the repair guy listens to them and says there’s nothing wrong with them but just to make sure he’d replace the diaphragms but it could be a 2-month wait… good thing I don’t have to pay 'cause like any aftermarket part Focal sells those are costly: $240 each not counting labor. I grabbed my phones and listened… hot damn the buzz was gone, they sounded like new. Self-healing phones, never saw that before :smiley:

Anyway since those are easy to get at and replace so I asked he order them but just hand them to me when they arrive and I’d installed them myself if need be. Warranty would be over by then so what’s the risk to him? None. Right now I’m listening quite loud and everything sounds like it should. No Idea what caused the temporary failure. The repair guy gave me a pair of Elex pads free of charge, someone had ordered them a long time ago (you have 90 days to pick-up your stuff or call to say you’ll be late, this guy gave no news so his loss is my gain

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Well that is certainly one of the more entertaining and engaging posts that I have read, so thanks for that! :slight_smile: I have continued to occasionally swap out my Elegia and Elear under somewhat controlled conditions to see if I can really hear a clear different between the two using a mostly flat eq. I can usually make the swap in about 5-6 seconds. I should also add that I am around 55 and have my hearing checked annually as part of my job and it is mostly normal with a little high end drop off. But otherwise pretty normal. Despite keeping notes of observations and time stamps I keep coming around to the fact that I really can’t hear a distinctive and consistent difference between the two and the biggest difference comes down to the lightness and openness of the open back Elears versus heavier and almost sound canceling feeling of the closed back Elegia. In my humble opinion, cost aside, that should be the over riding factor to consider for anyone trying to decide between these two headphones.
As far as eq’ing the signal…all bets are off, of course. I can eq. the signal at the driver level and find that all my headphones benefit from some eq’ing on a song or genre specific basis. And that’s just the way it should be (again, in my humble opinion). The variation in preferences between different sound engineers, mixers, technology, target listening environments, and what I personally find appealing is just too great for a one size fits all solution. Fortunately, 9 times out of 10 everything sounds great right out of ‘the box’ and only when I’m somewhat bored or really engaged do I tinker with eq’ing the signal to really dial it in. Others mileage may vary, or course.
-Cheers

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I calls 'em as I sees 'em :sunglasses:
This True-Fi mess we should have seen coming because even to this day old Soviet diktats survive that the customer is far down the food chain so shouldn’t be warned in advance that a ‘life license’ simply means the license would be valid only as long as the licensing company kept making the product covered by the license. In North America this would never fly, with court injunctions regarding consumer rights would be raining down on Sonarworks. But Sonarworks is not in North America, it’s in Latvia and, like all former Soviet republics know too well, Western companies rarely bother to pursue such cases because it’s extremely costly and, more often than not, leads to nowhere. I can only speak for the US and Canada whose legal systems are somewhat familiar to me (I have dual citizenship having been born in Canada to American parents). That by no means make me an attorney but I possess reasonably good common sense, or so I like to fancy.

I believe that what would likely have happened here is that Sonarworks would be held liable for their lacking of a clear definition of what they meant by ‘lifetime license’ and, since they are by no means under bankruptcy (yet), be ordered to offer the replacement product Reference 4 Headphone Edition (similar to True-Fi but with way more sound shaping options) to True-Fi licensees at no charge. That would have been fair, because what they’re doing now certainly isn’t. They don,t seem to realize that prospective corporate clients -which means potentially good business- don’t have much appreciation for unethical tactics that shoo away customers. Latvians or not, it doesn’t make a speck of difference because revenue is generated by sales not by goverment policies like back in the Soviet days. If they keep this on they won’t last long. One needs to deliver.

I have continued to occasionally swap out my Elegia and Elear under somewhat controlled conditions to see if I can really hear a clear different between the two using a mostly flat eq. I can usually make the swap in about 5-6 seconds. I should also add that I am around 55 and have my hearing checked annually as part of my job and it is mostly normal with a little high end drop off. But otherwise pretty normal.

Congrats for being youger than me, I was already born when JFK was shot though I was only 2 months old.:disappointed: The way my doc talks about my hearing sounds pretty much the same as you: some loss in the treble area but not much to write home about. Youèd think that the heavy machinery operator that I was would be more affected but I was one of those suckers who always wore ear protection so my age-related loss is within population average. 680-hp 8-wheel monster tractor makes a lot of noise… mainly from the CD’s I was blasting in the cab while drving it lol

Despite keeping notes of observations and time stamps I keep coming around to the fact that I really can’t hear a distinctive and consistent difference between the two and the biggest difference comes down to the lightness and openness of the open back Elears versus heavier and almost sound canceling feeling of the closed back Elegia.

I can’t either and it’s the same for several people I know. Methinks it’s because the crossover roll-off happens at a lower frequency on the Elear, but it’s just a theory based on the fact that the unusually potent low-end of this can never bleeds into the (timid) mids, contrary to the less massive but more invasive bass on the Elegia.

As far as eq’ing the signal…all bets are off, of course. I can eq. the signal at the driver level and find that all my headphones benefit from some eq’ing on a song or genre specific basis. And that’s just the way it should be (again, in my humble opinion).

Well if it’s of some value to you I have always EQ’d cans based on the headphone response to a flat noise rather than tune it for some specific piece or genre. It’s much more consistent and can be achieved with a DSP bandpass filter, which are simpler to design than parameteric EQ’s. This will only work good for planars and very few dynamics though. Right now I’m using parametric EQ and still am amazed at the SQ the Elear can extract from it. That 'phone was probably more complex to design than I previously thought, considering it’s been used as the matrix for all high-end Focals except for the Utopia. Now bring on that Stellia so I can load those CC’s to the max again Can’t wait :sunglasses:

The variation in preferences between different sound engineers, mixers, technology, target listening environments, and what I personally find appealing is just too great for a one size fits all solution. Fortunately, 9 times out of 10 everything sounds great right out of ‘the box’ and only when I’m somewhat bored or really engaged do I tinker with eq’ing the signal to really dial it in. Others mileage may vary, or course.

The EQ’ing should be used to build a solid sonic basis, itès when you try to fiddle with mids that you are the most likely to f… up the whole affair. The trick is to make use of that priceless feature, the shelving EQ which is best for achieving even response within the ‘presence’ region without affecting phase rotation noticeably. You also got to pay attention to two settings that many neglect: gain and preamp values. You have to use gain for every frequency you are adjusting, not a global, so-so quality single gain control like those found on basic graphic EQ’s

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Nice outcome. The pads are a great bonus.

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What did Sonarworks customer support have to say about this?

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Further discussion about True-Fi licensing/discontinuation belongs in this thread.

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Yeah the pads are surprisingly comfortable while achieving a tight seal. I have tried the Utopia and Clear pads on the Elear but neither made much difference from the original “alpaca” pads of the Elear (the Clear has Alpaca pads as well but it’s hard to tell just looking at them). As for the Utopis it has its memory foam covered with genuine lambskin which looks great but regarding comfort and sealing it’s err…meh. Perforated or not the leather doesn’t breathe and despite the open-back cups it can get hot in there, which makes the leather wet and slippery.

When I use my Utopias (rarely) I use the Clear pads (which makes me look like a complete idiot). But now that I have tried the Elex pads I can say they are my favorite pads for all high-end Focals except perhaps for the Stellia because I don’t have it yet I can’t say in advance what sort of pads it uses. It’s a closed-back so they may be different. However, based on the Elegia they may be very similar.

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Thanks for the detailed reply. I have a pair of Clears and find them a great set of cans. Only downside to owning Focal products is the silly prices they charge for pads.

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4 posts were merged into an existing topic: Off Topic : Complaints Thread

Hey, Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on all things Focal. Very interesting indeed. As I sit here, with a beer or two in tow, listening to Brandenburg Concertos on Amazon HD I am all in on these Focal Elear. For those who are like-minded, the combo deal offered here is a steal for this level of musical enjoyment. As I sit here listening, nothing is ‘lost in the mix’*. Close my eyes and I can pick out almost every instrument and follow along; very wooden sounds as expected from these stringed acoustic instruments; hear the strike of the bows, it’s all very real. I have no idea where the notion of “low end slam” came from and can only hope that these headphones were not the victim of some earlier review biases that got tossed out into the ether onto which subsequent listeners focused. The Elegia is no slouch in comparison, but there now looks to be a $300 difference in price depending on where you shop.
Thoughts on the Focal Clear vs the Elear?

*Disclaimer: Hardware is a thing. Differences in DACs and AMPs can change other’s experiences so YMMV. A real revelation, I know :wink:

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No amount of EQ, nor pads-swapping, puts the Elear (or Elex) on the same technical plane as the Clear. The Clear is ahead in terms of resolution, speed, impact, detail and micro-dynamics.

Same is true of the Elear/Elex/Clear vs. the Utopia (Utopia being meaningfully ahead).

Tonality you can tweak in various ways (pads, EQ, SonarWorks …) but raw technical ability is different.

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[quote=“FrostyBud, post:21, topic:5251”]
Hey, Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on all things Focal. Very interesting indeed. As I sit here, with a beer or two in tow, listening to Brandenburg Concertos on Amazon HD I am all in on these Focal Elear. For those who are like-minded, the combo deal offered here is a steal for this level of musical enjoyment. As I sit here listening, nothing is ‘lost in the mix’*. Close my eyes and I can pick out almost every instrument and follow along; very wooden sounds as expected from these stringed acoustic instruments; hear the strike of the bows, it’s all very real.[/quote]

Yes Elears do damn good “as is” with certain kinds of classical music, AFAIK that’s what they were designed for. However on some different genres opinions about them vs Clear are erm…, somewhat controversial.

I have no idea where the notion of “low end slam” came from and can only hope that these headphones were not the victim of some earlier review biases that got tossed out into the ether onto which subsequent listeners focused.

On the contrary the vast majority of reviews were positive. “Slam” does not necessarily have negative connotations, it more or less refers to bass extension and impact. The Elear has the lowest extent of bass of all Focals. To some however “slam” means this phone is darkish and has overwhelming bass. If we’re talking about rock or fusion or “hard” jazz I would tend to agree that the mids lack energy… which is either a good or a bad thing depending on what you listen to.

The Elegia is no slouch in comparison, but there now looks to be a $300 difference in price depending on where you shop.

The Elegia is a brand new release, it’s actually cheaper than the Elear was originally. Prices drop fast when new models arrive on the market in rapid succession (Hifiman is a good example) but Focal takes its sweet time between releases so the drop is more drastic when a new arrival pops up.

Thoughts on the Focal Clear vs the Elear?

As I was saying earlier the matter of comparison is not an easy choice. Out of the box I preferred the Clear but after a while I was missing the deep bass of the Elear. I felt the urge to experiment with DSP, paramatric EQ, stuff like that. I quickly realised it was not possible to positively manipulate the FR of the Clear as the bass would roll off without reaching the abysmal depth of the Elear’s but the latter on the other hand is one of the most responsive headphone’s to EQ without degradation I have ever heard. Sonarworks Reference 4 brings out the best in it imho. That’s not to say that everyone will agree that it sounds better than the Clear when using RF4 but I prefer it that way, just imho of course.

*Disclaimer: Hardware is a thing. Differences in DACs and AMPs can change other’s experiences so YMMV. A real revelation, I know :wink:

Well obviuoously when comparing phones the only way to reach a neutral result is to use them on the same system :wink:

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