The Focal Elegia is the latest addition to Focal’s acclaimed range of hi-fi headphones. After the Focal Clear, Elear and Utopia, the manufacturer once again went the “Made in France” route to ensure an audiophile-grade portable listening experience.
Focal Elegia: closed-back headphones
Focal’s other three headphones, the Clear, Elear and Utopia, are open-back models. This isn’t the case with the Elegia, which are closed-back headphones. The obvious advantage to this configuration is better isolation from surrounding sounds and, by extension, an improved signal-to-noise ratio. This is an important aspect for those who are considering listening to their music in a noisy environment, and a major strength in favor of the Focal Elegia.
Focal Elegia: technical constraints
The drawback to this attribute is that it puts the drivers in a much more complicated situation when it comes to acoustic conditions: the soundwave becomes trapped inside the headphone shell, which results in acoustic interference. Furthermore, the drivers are restricted by this trapped air, which exerts pressure with each movement. This isn’t anything new for Focal, as the brand solved this issue decades ago for its acoustic speakers.
Focal Elegia: homemade drivers
We were lucky enough to visit Focal’s headquarters near St-Étienne. The brand allowed us into their production site and we were able to observe the production of speaker drivers as well as the headphone production line. The machines used to punch the aluminum and magnesium that make up the drivers in Focal’s headphones are developed on-site. Focal therefore has total control during the production process. The Focal Elegia’s drivers are directly derived from the research carried out for the Utopia tweeter. They’re larger, however, in order to produce low frequencies and the Al/Mg cones are mounted onto a more flexible surround.
Focal Elegia: ultra-precise construction
Without going into the assembly and sealing techniques, we can assure you that the precision involved is quite remarkable. The aluminum and magnesium blend ensures a wide frequency response, whilst the powerful coil guarantees high efficiency. Therefore, the Focal Elegia can be powered by a mere smartphone, even though it is recommended to use a high quality source (a DAC or a DAP) in order to make full use of them.
Focal Elegia: manufacturing quality
It’s one of the headphones’ strengths. The Focal Elegia reflect the expertise developed with the Focal Clear, Elear and Utopia. When handled, the perceived quality is excellent: the headphones are simultaneously flexible and sturdy, the semi perforated aluminum shells are pleasant to the touch, the velvet earpads are snug and the headband is lavishly covered in leather and velvet. The Elegia’s outstanding balance is immediately noticeable.
Focal Elegia: comfort
It’s just as enjoyable to put the headphones on. The pressure exerted, particularly around the ears, is perfectly dosed without any of the tedious constraints that would be detrimental to long listening sessions. There’s no hint of stiffness and you can nod along to music without worrying that the headphones might move. The memory foam earpads are particularly soft. The unwanted noise caused by the cord rubbing when the listener moves around is only a problem when there’s friction at the cord’s extremities.
Focal Elegia: listening impressions
We paired the Focal Elegia with different USB DACs and portable music players. We used the iBasso DX150 DAP with FLAC and DSD files for most of our listening sessions. The Elegia is neutral and placid regarding sound restitution, with an airy soundstage, suitable for a closed-back model. When compared to the rest of the family, the Elegia isn’t quite as open and focuses on the center of the soundstage. However, the headphones remain serene and are capable of meticulously layering the sound stages in the depths.
We found the lows to be reserved, but this range proves itself to be swift and linear.
As a matter of fact, the sound signature is characterized by the mids and highs, which are balanced in terms of sensitivity and dynamics. With the Elegia, we’re dealing with a very consistent and rarely exuberant pair of headphones, even at high volume. Listening to non-electronic music is enjoyable, as the quality of the headphones’ timbres is emphasized. Classical music, acoustic and jazz are a pleasure to listen to. More energetic and electronic tracks can use some bass EQ at the source, or an increase in gain on a quality headphone amplifier.
Focal Elegia: compared to…
B&W P9 Signature: the Focal Elegia is more expressive yet more linear in its frequency response. The Focal headphones come out on top.
Audeze EL-8 Closed Titanium: the Audeze features Planar Magnetic drivers and comes with a DAC amp cable for iPhones. As a result, it has a better transient response. It is, without a doubt, the best alternative to the Focal Elegia headphones.
Kennerton Magister: with real wood and sheepskin, the Kennerton has the advantage for perceived quality. The Magister is even more rigorous when restituting highs thanks to its titanium drivers.
Focal Elear: it’s more or less the open-back version of the Focal Elegia. The open structure frees the driver and opens up the soundstage. The Elear is, for those who are planning on listening to music in quiet surroundings, one of the best choices on the market.
Focal Elegia: conclusion
On the market at around 800€ and in view of their qualities, the closed-back hi-fi Focal Elegia headphones have few serious rivals. Anything released by Focal is a safe bet.
What we liked:
- The balanced restitution
- The comfort
What we would have liked:
- A more expansive response in the lows