Focal Elegia - Closed Back Headphones - Official Thread

closed
focal
#181

After spending enough time to properly evaluate the Elegia on my own equipment now, I’ve decided to compile and revise some of my impressions. I’ve posted similar thoughts in other places, and felt like I might as well put it together with a more complete opinion here. As a general preface, this evaluation takes both the default Elegia tuning and the Elegia with a bit of EQ into consideration. While I don’t think it’s essential to EQ it, I have found that overall my very minor preliminary adjustments have made a notable improvement, and if anyone is thinking about getting the Elegia, know that it does respond well to a bit of EQ.

For the most part my impressions line up with those of antdroid and Torq. But I actually think there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why impressions have been so different for the Elegia.

Source: Burr-Brown DAC -> Cayin IHA-6 balanced 4pin out -> Focal Clear XLR cable -> Elegia

Comfort:

Slightly tighter clamp than on the Clear but not as much as the Aeon or the HD6XX, but I also have a slightly larger than average head that just doesn’t work with the Sennheiser line, even after stretching it. Also slightly lighter than the Clear (I think?). The Elegia has the same slight cup swivel capability of the other Focal’s with a bit of give so it’s able to fit reasonably well. I rate comfort like this: Nightowl (don’t judge me) > Ananda > HD800s > Auteur > Clear/Elegia > TH-X00 > Aeon (without headband mod) > HD6XX > Sundara >>>>>> HE-500. Keep in mind that it’s just over 400g, so it’s lighter than some of these on this list (lighter than the Eikon as well), and although I rate the Auteur more comfortable, many will prefer the Elegia’s comfort due to the lower weight - especially after long sessions.

Performance:

The Elegia was apparently designed to be a closed-back Clear, and just like the Clear, the Elegia has incredible resolution, detail, and transient speed. While the tuning is different, I consider the performance closer to the Clear than to the Elex/Elear. I’m not sure the resolution quite matches that of the Clear but that could also be due to the different tuning of the Elegia. Even without EQ, resolution and detail is still superb and comes very close to that of the Clear. Detail retrieval is definitely superior to the Aeon Flow Closed, and about on par in terms of speed. It’s both faster and more resolving than the ZMF Biodynamics (Eikon/Auteur) - however those have a more agreeable tuning and timbre. Overall the ZMF offerings feel more ‘rich’ and ‘full’ sounding with a bit of extra sweetness to the tones, with the Elegia sounding more clinical and articulate.

Tonality:

The Bass - Some impressions indicate that the Elegia lacks bass, or feels thin. Rest assured it absolutely does not lack bass. It actually has more than the Clear up until about 100hz (maybe higher). The confusion is likely caused by one of two potential issues (or both):

A) The Elegia sound critically depends on having a good fit. I had to tweak it a bit to get it comfortable and as I was doing so I noticed a substantial change in the bass response. I can imagine someone with glasses that mess with fit feeling super left out when it comes to anything below 300hz.

B) There is a dip in the upper bass region that ensures nothing bleeds into the midrange. Some tracks simply don’t have the frequency range to be able to take advantage of the lower frequencies, and they bottom out at or before the dip. This leaves them sounding a bit thin and anemic. But for the tracks that do reach low enough, you’re never left wanting more quantity. A simple boost at around 100-200hz by a few db might fix the issue but I think if anything, one of the Elegia’s strengths is that it’s so clinical with frequency range.

Overall the bass is well extended and hits deep with good authority. After a 2db boost between 100-200hz, it feels just right.

Midrange - This is definitely a mid forward headphone and it’s one of the highlights, especially the lower mids. It reminds me of the mids from my old HE-500, although perhaps a bit sharp in comparison to something like an HD650 - but super detailed, tight and well-controlled. If you’re after a V-shaped experience, this will not sound good to you without EQ. At first it was a bit forward even for me, and I’m all about mids, so I tried a -1db reduction for lower mids, but quickly got rid of it since I quite like the mid-forward presence after my slight bass boost. The upper midrange starts to get some weirdness in it, but I think this is just the Focal sound, because I found the same quality in the Clear. Without EQ, it can sound a bit claustrophobic and/or ‘metallic’, and my guess is that’s partially due to a cut around 3-4khz. After boosting that by about 3db it started to open up quite a bit. This is honestly the only major adjustment I feel is necessary with this headphone, but that’s also only after switching back and forth between off and on.

Treble - At first, this was my least favourite part of the Elegia, but after a bit of tinkering with the lower treble and upper midrange I’m loving the rest of the treble. Speed, detail, and clarity is all there, with lots of air and openness. From a purely characteristics perspective, the Elegia is one of the most open sounding closed-backs I’ve ever heard. So far I find it most enjoyable with a bit more energy between 5-8khz (2db), and then brought back down between 8.5 and 9khz to remove any sharpness from the sibilance area. Again this is not essential like I consider the boost between 3-4khz to be, but I find it helps a bit.

As far as whether or not it sounds ‘metallic’ - there’s definitely something wonky going on in the upper midrange/treble, but nothing I’d call metallic. I did notice this same quality on the Clear, however, so that might be what Ishca is picking up on. I don’t think this would be all that difficult to EQ though. The limitations of being a closed back do show up in the treble, since, while it’s got lots of treble energy, it’s still not that effortless pillowy airy goodness of something like the Sundara or the HD660s that’s both smooth and resolving at the same time.

Staging

This is also a major strength for the Elegia. As mentioned, it is very open sounding for a closed back. But it also has a surprisingly wide soundstage, with lots of range across the headstage for instrument separation. This isn’t the ‘three-blob’ type of stage we all fear, and it has a very “full circle” in front of me feel. The Auteur sounds like you’re at a concert sitting a few rows back. By contrast, the Elegia sounds like you’re much closer to the stage, but the instruments go just as far in either direction. Depth is reasonable but nothing spectacular. To give a comparison, the Elegia has a bigger and more accurate stage than the Aeon Flow Open (and closed). In short: it comes close and intimate, but it can also throw far when called upon.

Conclusion

This is one of the best closed backs I’ve ever heard. It’s a step up from the AFC without a doubt. I’ve now also heard the Eikon, and that’s a more difficult comparison because it may have a more agreeable tuning. But the Elegia is straight up faster than both the Eikon and Auteur, with better resolution and detail retrieval. With EQ I’d take it over the Eikon (likely not the Auteur), but Without EQ, I’d still take the Eikon. If you like the Clear, and wish it were closed back, this is the closest thing to it that I’ve found. While it’s an excellent office/work headphone, I’d also consider it quite good for ‘pro’ use, specifically because it’s so revealing of the full frequency range. The one downside is that, in my opinion, it does need a bit of EQ to get it just right. But I also tend to take that approach with just about every headphone I own (the one exception being the Auteur).

Overall, my impression of the Elegia is that it excels in its performant qualities:

  • Speed
  • Resolution

And is unapologetic in its representation of tracks that don’t sufficiently make use of the frequency range, which leaves the following areas to be either a question mark or a matter of musical preferences:

  • Upper bass
  • Upper midrange and treble tizziness and oddities

And I think these drawbacks are fine for a closed back, especially given that it doesn’t look too difficult to EQ. I also didn’t hear the driver clip at all, and I’d never want to play it louder than I heard it.

Here’s my video Review

4 Likes
#182

Like the Elear, Jude pronounces Elegia wrong over and over again, and even when the Focal guy says it correctly. Kind of bothers me, but overall this is a really nice video on the stuff Focal developed to make this headphone.

3 Likes
#183

I like the approach to damping, and I’m impressed with how well it isolates, given the porting on the back. Very cool from a technological perspective. It definitely sounds more like the clear than the elear too, which is a good thing in my opinion.

1 Like
#184

That is rather grating… I commented on it lol.