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Focal Elegia Review (Closed Back Headphone)

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 30 17.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 88 50.6%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 45 25.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 11 6.3%

  • Total voters
    174

theoblue80

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there are headphones reviewed on this website with clear distortion and at ridiculous prices. While it is buyer's money , one would hope objective data needs to form a decision ie next step of testing a headphone to one's liking or not. objectivist vs subjectvist debate has been beaten to death on this forum so i dont want to reopen that chat. I am suggesting an in between-ist method of checking data first and then testing headphone to one's preference.
Fully agree. Maybe objective measurements have more value over subjective opinions on devices as DACs
 

Firefly00

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Fully agree. Maybe objective measurements have more value over subjective opinions on devices as DACs
Headphone taste varies between individuals, which makes assessing headphones that much harder based on measurements alone. Differences between DACs and amps are probably also down to personal preference, but the difference is usually completely inaudible
 

tential

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Nice review, thanks Amir. Seems to be few, if any, hp's that can stand on their own without EQ.
I wish he'd cover the rest of the Dan Clark line up, it's the only one he's shown to be clean without eq. They have all had great reviews.
 

theoblue80

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I wish he'd cover the rest of the Dan Clark line up, it's the only one he's shown to be clean without eq. They have all had great reviews.
Since the DCA headphones are very popular here, I have posted an ad for DCA AEON Flow Closed in the Sales forum of the site for anyone interested. :D
 

pk500

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OK, So what was your question then? Why put a question mark when what you wanted to do is a statement that DCA is a better headphone for the price? My answer was about telling why Focal's line are a better value for me. Not more expensive if you consider the premium for the amp. I said DCA like most planars needs a desktop class amp, Yes there are hard to drive dynamic out there, but we where comparing 2 specific headphones.
DCA definitely need a powerful amp to sing. I have HiFiMan HE-400se, which have an impedance of 25 and sensitivity of 91. The DCA Aeon Closed X/RT have the same sensitivity but an impedance of 16 -- they're going to need something with some serious juice to power them to their potential.
 

pk500

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My statement was rhetorical one as I could not understand why people fancy this headphone over another which is objectively superior for lesser price. i have no issue how you spend your money and find value in things for specific use case. $100 for a great amp and even less in used market. amp price would have been a good $ consideration a few years ago.
Objectively superior if you don't want the same detail as the Focal, especially in the mids, and have a nuclear reactor for a portable amp. Or if strings and vocal music aren't your preferred genres.

I know this is Audio Science Review, where measurements and stats are king. But what you want and hear in your ears still should matter, correct?
 

HenryZ0057

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Oct 24, 2021
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It is not easy to design a sealed headphone. I tried Elegia, it lacks bass and the depth of the soundstage.
 

Music1969

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Excellent headphones.
Hard to beat in this price range with Oratory's EQ Settings + Dekoni Stellia Pads...

View attachment 164497

But did oratory1990 share EQ for these earpads? Not that I can find for Elegia

From what I've seen with other headphones he's measured with different earpads, the freq response can change quite a bit, so the EQ can change quite a bit too
 

Music1969

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One thing I like about Amirs EQ is it is easy to do with anything with 5-band EQ.

RME ADI-2 can do it !
The wild west of headphone design continues with the Elegia presenting yet another frequency response

I just hope another pair of Elegia measure close to yours.

Otherwise your recommended EQ could make certain things worse.

Unfortunately we don't all have a GRAS 45

So it all comes down to Focal's QA/QC

For science, it would be interesting for someone else to send their Elegia for you , just as an experiment about the state of variability of headphones, same mode.
 

Bow_Wazoo

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But did oratory1990 share EQ for these earpads? Not that I can find for Elegia

From what I've seen with other headphones he's measured with different earpads, the freq response can change quite a bit, so the EQ can change quite a bit too
Unfortunately there is still no measurement of the Elegia with the Dekoni Stellia pads.
Therefore there is nothing left to do,
but adjust again by ear.
Unfortunately, I am no longer in possession of the Elegia.
But anyone who has them, has the option of sending the headphones to Oratory,
to have them measured.
 

Music1969

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Unfortunately there is still no measurement of the Elegia with the Dekoni Stellia pads.
Therefore there is nothing left to do,
but adjust again by ear.
Unfortunately, I am no longer in possession of the Elegia.
But anyone who has them, has the option of sending the headphones to Oratory,
to have them measured.

What headphones are you mainly using now?
 

Bow_Wazoo

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After I had almost all of the TOTL headphones in my possession, i ended up with the Lcd-i4. Smartphone + Neutron Player + Hidizs S9 + Crinacles EQ settings.
NTS is over, and yet there is no need to try something else.
Amazing...
 

Peterinvan

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Dec 10, 2021
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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Focal Elegia closed back headphone. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $543 on Amazon including Prime shipping.

Focal nails the luxury look and feel of their headphones:

View attachment 164442

It is a heavy headphone at 420 grams but felt quite comfortable on my head:

View attachment 164443

Drivers are angled so there is quite a lot of depth in the cup on that side (62 mm x 54 mm x 32 mm: height x width x depth).

By far the worst aspect of this headphone is the super stiff and short cable that I received with it. Yes, it is sturdy but if the idea is portable use, who wants to carry a stiff rod in their backpack or purse? It is also microphonic. Fortunately it terminates in mono 3.5 mm connectors so you can make or buy a replacement easily.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. Headphone measurements by definition are approximate and variable so don't be surprised if other measurements even if performed with the same fixtures as mine, differ in end results. Protocols vary such as headband pressure and averaging (which I don't do). As you will see, I confirm the approximate accuracy of the measurements using Equalization and listening tests. Ultimately headphone measurements are less exact than speakers mostly in bass and above a few kilohertz so keep that in mind as you read these tests. If you think you have an exact idea of a headphone performance, you are likely wrong!

Fitment on the fixture was good.

Focal Elegia Measurements
Let's start with our usual frequency response:

View attachment 164444

This is a very wavy response. It is one thing to decide to have flat response in bass and midrange but why the ups and downs? I am also not used to seeing the sharp drops so low in frequency. Macro level picture is obvious with lack of bass to go with lack of lower treble:
View attachment 164445

Is it me or every Focal headphone I have tested has a different response?

Distortion measurements are good but not exceptional:

View attachment 164446


View attachment 164447

Since we need to boost the bass, I expect audible issues there at elevated playback levels.

Group delay says something is amiss at three frequencies that we had troughs in frequency response:
View attachment 164448

Zoomed version of our impedance measurement tells the same story:
View attachment 164449

View attachment 164450

Likely there is an out of phase resonance that causes cancellation at the upper two frequencies.

This is a very sensitive headphone despite its low impedance:

View attachment 164451

So you should be able to get good dynamics out of it even with low powered sources. Keep this in mind however as you do any AB tests against much less sensitive headphones. These may seem less dynamic without equalizing levels.

Focal Elegia Listening Tests
Per my past experience, lack of energy in a few areas translates to an uninteresting but non-offensive sound. The lower treble energy made my female vocals much less enjoyable. So I dialed in a few parametric filters in my Roon Player to compensate:

View attachment 164453

The difference as expected was dramatic. The sound opens up with very nice spatial effects. Deep bass is now easily heard and even felt at elevated levels. Alas, if you crank it up, the bass notes start to produce static. It is soft tone though and doesn't ever fall apart like Focal Clear did in my review. Turn the levels down a bit though and the deep bass is there without much of any distortion.

EQ combined with the comfort this headphone provides, allowed for very enjoyable experience.

Conclusions
The wild west of headphone design continues with the Elegia presenting yet another frequency response. I hope the industry starts to rally behind something -- anything is better than each headphone producing its own response gambling for some adoption. Fortunately equalization is incredibly beneficial on this headphone, elevating not only its tonality but also its spatial qualities.

I can't recommend the Focal Elegia without equalization. With EQ, it becomes very good to superb if you don't turn it up too high and cause static in the drivers.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Many thanks for the Roon EQ suggestion. Makes a positive difference on my Elegia w/ Dekoni Fenestrated Sheepskin pads. Bass is more defined. Top end is much clearer. Roon remote with Tidal > iPad Pro > DDHiFI 2.5mm USB-C adapter > Meze 2.5mm balanced cable. The Meze cable is light, flexible, and no microphonics
 
Last edited:

Peterinvan

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Dec 10, 2021
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Fair enough. I wonder why nobody has made a tonally neutral headphone that also has great bass extension and volume, at whatever price. Maybe somebody here can explain it? In the pro video world, you can spend tens of thousands to get everything right according to the standard (although there will still be one or two tradeoffs between different technologies for illumination, e.g. OLED vs dual-layer LCD vs FALD). In the audio world, it really does seem to be the wild west.
I have a new reference… just auditioned the LCD-5 for about 20 minutes. I have never heard anything with such good isolation and soundstage. The sound is very neutral. Pure pleasure. Must remember to buy lottery ticket!
 

Peterinvan

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Dec 10, 2021
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The sturdy cable is annoying, but it can be replaced easily. Worse problem is a broken headband. Mine broke spontaneously, unexpectedly and without abuse 2 days ago - a few months after the warranty expired :-( And according Uncle Google I am one of many users who have the same problem...
Tip for all…Don’t try to bend the headband to reduce pressure on your head.
 
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