Clément Auzou is the Project Development manager at Focal, and he is in charge of the Focal Clear, Focal Clear Pro and Focal Elegia headphones. He agreed to talk to us about the new Focal Elegia hi-fi headphones.
Why did you choose a closed-back structure for the Focal Elegia? Was it by popular demand?
When we revealed our first open-back, high end headphones, the Focal Elear and Focal Utopia in 2016 then the Focal Clear in 2017, we demonstrated our expertise in creating drivers for audiophile-grade headphones. However, the open design of these 100% Made in France products mean they must be used in a relatively quiet environment as they have minimal sound isolation. Having a closed structure allows the headphones to be used for different purposes. With the Elegia, our first high end closed-back headphones, our most discerning music-loving customers now have the possibility to listen to their favorite tracks everywhere without distraction, even in a noisy environment. Thanks to their ultra-insulating unperforated earpads, the Elegia can be used to enjoy music in loud or quiet environments, without bothering the people around you.
What are the differences in sound restitution between the Focal Elegia and the open-backed Focal Elear?
Our project to design and produce open-back headphones like the Focal Elear originated from our wish to develop acoustic solutions that would allow our clients to experience the same listening sensations as they would with the best acoustic speakers. Our starting point was therefore our knowledge of acoustic speakers, and we consequently adapted and applied our speaker’s technologies to headphones.
The Elear, Clear and Utopia have an open-backed design which provides a more natural and precise listening experience, along with a broader soundstage. With open-back headphones, we can achieve greater dynamics and there is no compression due to the absence of a rear cavity that would cause reverberation. In a closed-back design, reverberation and distortion can occur if the rear parts of the headphones aren’t properly assembled. Because the Elegia has a closed-back configuration, we had to design a large ear cup in order to generate optimal decompression and damping.
A vent situated where the logo is dissipates the lowest frequencies and allows for a full dynamic range.
The transducer’s unique build (considerable length and diameter) results in a linear restitution. Additionally, EVA foam absorbers situated inside the ear cup, behind the driver, absorb the highest frequencies. Lastly, thanks to acoustic diffusers, energy produced by the rear soundwave doesn’t bounce back toward the driver’s cone and therefore doesn’t interfere with the sound signal. These dampers also have the effect of solidifying the rear shell, which helps to avoid any unwanted vibration.
Is the Focal Elegia’s driver unique? Was it developed for use with closed-back designs?
The Elegia’s driver was specifically designed to be used in closed-back configurations. It has the same structure as the drivers from our open-back headphones, with mobile components and a connected frame. The M-shaped Aluminum/Magnesium membrane is the same as the one used for the Clear, but all of the other elements that make up the Elegia are unique. Firstly, the spider is more rigid (110 microns compared to 75 microns in our open headphones). Its conception was adapted in order to limit the motions of the surround because less movement is needed in a closed design.
The coil is also shorter (5 mm for the Elear, Clear and Utopia; 4 mm for the Elegia), which results in reduced impedance.
The copper used for the coil is the same in the Clear. The motor, however, is closed and features decompression vents at its center and around its perimeter. This high-performance motor, like those in our open headphones, uses the highest grade of Neodyme available on the market. Lastly, a new frame was developed in order to make way for a new industrial assembly procedure. For the assembly, we have built a robot capable of exceptional regularity and stable production.
How are the Focal headphone drivers different from tweeters, which are also made from aluminum and magnesium?
Our speakers’ tweeters and headphone drivers are made from the same materials. The Elegia uses an Aluminum/Magnesium dome, which you can also find in our Aria speakers, for example. The Utopia headphones have a Beryllium dome, just like the tweeters in our Utopia speakers. We use full-range drivers in our headphones, which require a special type of surround. Additionally, unlike the tweeters in our speakers which only reproduce the highest frequencies, the drivers in our headphones are capable of reproducing the entire frequency range (from 5 Hz to 23 kHz for the Elegia).
Can the Elegia headphones be driven easily, using a digital audio player for example?
The Elegia has an impedance of 35 ohms (lower than the impedance of our open headphones). Therefore, they can easily be driven by a DAP. In order to get the most out of the headphones, we recommend using high-resolution music players, fitted with an integrated DAC and amplifier. Combined with high-resolution files, listeners will be able to rediscover their favorite tracks. The Elegia also comes with a screw-on (to limit any loss) 6,35 mm jack adapter. It can be plugged directly into an amplifier for an ultimate listening experience.
Do the Focal Elegia headphones have a break-in period and if so, what changes can we expect?
The break-in period is important for our headphones. We recommend a period of a hundred hours, depending on the sound volume, so that the drivers can function to the best of their abilities. Because the surround of the Elegia’s driver is more rigid than those of our open headphones, the breaking-in period will make it more flexible. As the hours go by, you’ll have a better response in the lows and a more linear delivery.