Focal Elegia Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Aug 16, 2019.

  1. Ntbm3

    Ntbm3 Almost "Made"

    Mar 13, 2018
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    Loaner impressions:

    I do a decent amount of my listening at work where it is a busy/noisy open office environment. So closed back is a must.

    Current work set-up:
    Bifrost multi gen5 - > Jot and ZDT jr -> sonarworks -> Aeon closed

    I screwed up and had expectations/hopes of a closed back Clear I could use in my work set-up. Hoping the slightly higher impedance of the Elegia would pair better with the ZDT jr. and have more sub bass and bass impact than the Aeons.

    At work I mostly listen to pop/electronica/house/chill house to keep my energy up to churn out endless power point documents.

    What I found was an over all solid headphone with most of the traits I was familiar with from the Clears, but....there a surprising lack of bass and bass impact that the Clear does have. Also like mentioned already funky upper mids that are just off enough to distract you. Some tracks ok, some tracks it was distracting.

    I use EQ at work to tweak things a bit when I do low volume listening or when I want some more bass. I found the Elegia not responsive in the way I was hoping with EQ adjustments where the Aeons respond well.

    Comfort wise the Aeon's win for me as well, but they are the most comfortable HP I have experienced . I guess I have giant ears that touch the Focal pads, then get hot spots over time.

    Overall the Elegia did not have what it takes to replace my daily driver Aeon closed.

    Glad I had a chance to experience them through the loaner program!
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2019
  2. YMO

    YMO Friend

    Apr 1, 2018
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    So after selling all of my cans except the HD600, I was thinking about maybe I should do a separate setup again that isn’t attach to my computer desk. I’m pretty happy with the Modi 3 + THX AAA 789 on my computer desk. CA Solaris, CA Andros, and HD600 sounds quite well for the price when running it on the computer desk setup. It doesn’t sound close to a TOTL setup at all, but it is very comfy sounding when I’m typing up my impressions with my meow cat right in front of me. “Comfy” is important IMO in a computer desk setup.

    When I saw people talking about the Elegia being really good for a closed headphone, I was interested. I like IEMs due to they don’t really leak sound that much. The HD600 I can still hear things that’s outside my computer desk. In other words: I want to focus on music if I was doing a standalone setup. No noise, but be in a “zen” mode when listening to music. Weird way to say it, but that’s the best way I can explain it.

    I’m always the person who say to try to listen to anything first because we hear things differently, have biases and tastes. Some here on SBAF like them, some don’t. I actually like the sound of the Elegia quite a lot. I agree with @purr1n with this one, its a closed headphone that doesn’t suck. Elegia gets a plus from me due to the sound signature is similar to my biases (relaxed highs with a focus on the mid range, plus I don’t want heavy subbass). The ZMF Eikon I had before does a good job with better traits than the Elegia (subbass, more richer mids, even more relaxed highs depending on your setup), but the Elegia is cheaper, not a heavy headphone, and I feel it is a better all rounder than the Eikon.

    Setup: Thinkpad > Modi 3 > THX AAA 789

    Build Quality: Standard Focal. In other words it doesn’t feel cheap. Due to the cost it doesn’t look fancy like the higher end models, but it gets the job done. At times it makes a little more than usual noise if I move it around (both earcups and headband). However, I really hate the Focal headband. Doesn’t matter how much adjustments I do with them, the headband force puts a minor pressure on the top/side of my head. Sometimes after taking off the Elegia I get a minor headache. I sold my Clear due to the headband was annoying (not due to the sound signature, which is great provided if using Neutral with a minor warm turning), and sadly this trait is back with the Elegia. If you never like the pressure from the headband of any Focal headphone, you will feel the hate with the Elegia here. Focals to me sound mostly right to me (Elegia is no exception), but the headband SUCKS! Worse part right here folks.

    Highs: Relaxed, maybe I consider them smooth without the micro details. In my local audio club I’m the guy who can test if a setup is too bright, due to my ears is very treble sensitive. Elegia past this part just fine to my ears, however, due to the highs being relaxed it can make the music sound more like a recording than being live. I always love Steely Dan – Aja (screw you @yotacowboy) due to how well the recording is, and also how the dildo band sells you on doing drugs. On many setups I use the album to test realism and also how “alive” the music is. If the album sounds alive, then I imaging the music to be played in right in front of me in real time. On the Elegia it kind of fell-short here. I think due to the Closed nature of the headphone, it didn’t sound fully alive to me. However, I was happy to have the same headphone for Grace Jones – Hurricane and various Bandcamp releases. This is due to it partly hide how digitally compressed/hot those recording were.

    I wasn’t impressed with the layering in this region, or how well the Elegia handled micro details in this region. Going back to Aja there were some high frequencies information (closer to tape hiss, the sense of space) that were squashed. However, it didn’t really brother me that much because the Highs were smooth like wine. Like at times I was like damn, this is nice. As someone who is pretty treble sensitive, I appreciated the laid-back nature of the Elegia. I’m going to say this with a gain of salt since I’m running the Elegia on a $500 desk setup: If you think the Clear was too much treble for you, you might like the Elegia more.

    Mids: Very nice with no serious flaws, except for maybe some vocals sticking out a little too much. I was playing Talking Heads – Little Creatures and I thought at times David Byrne’s vocals stick out a little bit much. Same in some of the Grace Jones albums I played in my collection (Slave To The Rhythm and Living My Life). However, I think this is a very minor quirk because the rest of the Mids were semi-relaxed. Perhaps due to the Closed Headphone nature of things the Mids might be sightly weird in the Upper level of things. So I understood why some of the members here wasn’t the biggest fan of this piece. It didn’t brother me too much to be honest.

    I didn’t have a problem with various Male/Female vocals here, or a lot of instruments here. Like I said in the Highs part above, playing music in through the Elegia makes it feel more like you are listening to a recording and less of listening to live music. I think I been so used to open headphones that I like every music to flow in the air, not damped inward. With that being said, the Mids here sound quite good even with its downsides. I was able to catch a lot of layering of different musical pieces from David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees, to Weather Report – Weather Report (the 80s album, not their debut). I was surprised how the Elegia was able to hold up to Jaco Pastorius – Word of Mouth with regards to separating musical pieces even in the most hectic parts in the Elegina’s limited soundstage.

    Bass: More than enough for bass guitar fans, bad for bassheads. The bass is tight here, not full or bloated. If you want a closed headphone with much nicer bass and better technicality, try the ZMF Eikon. However, the Eikon weighs more than the Elegia, so trade-offs. I like Jaco’s bass guitar in every track that I played here, and also the nice subbass touch in David Sylvian – Gone to Earth. However, anything Kraftwerk, rap, or electronic music with a focus on subbass will disappoint here. I can listen to those genres just fine here, because I’m not heavily dependent on subbass for musical enjoyment. However, others are for the “smile” factor. If subbass makes you happy, don’t even brother with the Elegia. It just not a whole lot of it.

    With regards to how refined the bass is on the Elegia, it’s ok. There’s enough layer in the region where I can pick up different parts of the region, but it isn’t really that great. When I had my Clear, it was a lot better here than the Elegia. In other words it will be enough for enjoyment and getting the job done, but it won’t shine here.

    Soundstage: Classic Focal. Not much in Soundstage, but there’s enough to go around if that make sense? Some might said it sounds congested, others will say everything is playing on the stage and you are in row 3. I don’t think Focals are known for their Soundstage, so if you want a headphone with a lot of Soundstage then I don’t think Focals are for you.

    Summary: Even with some part that I was being negative with my impressions, I enjoy my time with the Elegia. I stated that I do have biases, and the Elegia sound signature hits my biases quite well (good mids, relaxed highs, and good enough bass that isn’t overwhelming). For a Closed Headphone it gets it mostly right (including almost can't hear anything from outside the headphone, yay!). There’s always trade offs when going from Open to Closed on a Headphone. It does a great job turning out external noise, and it doesn’t leak sound. If I have to say the biggest negative of the Elegia for me, IT’S THE HEADBAND. I don’t mind the weaker subbass or the at times weird Mids, the headband sucks donkey nuts. Focal really need to resign their headband if I want to really use them seriously again. At the end of this Summary I took off the Elegia, and my head was hurting a bit. Focal should look up the HD600 for their headband design. If I actually go ahead with the separate setup plan that I was thinking about doing, I wouldn’t go with the Elegia due to well the headband issues (and not the sound). Maybe I should just stick to the HD600 and maybe get the HD650 for a different over-ear flavor, and use the Andros and Solaris for IEM on my separate setup. Bifrost 2/THX AAA 789 sounds like a match for a lot of things me thinks…….
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2019
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  3. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

    Staff Member Friend
    Dec 6, 2018
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    La Mirada, CA
    You could say I had to curb my expectations coming into the Elegia. The other closed-back can I've had significant time with was the Verite Closed, and the Verite Closed impressed with ridiculous, TOTL technicalities while giving up virtually nothing sonically compared to its open sibling. However, that's really unfair to the Elegia; the Elegia isn't meant to be a TOTL-level headphone.

    To my ears, the Elegia sounds a lot like a more damped, but richer-sounding version of the Clear. Definitely the most full-bodied sound of all the Focals I have heard (I haven't put ears on the Stellia yet). Elegia is slightly tilted warm like the Clear. The treble spikes definitely exist, but in a similar vein to Verite, I didn't find the spikes elevated over the mids/bass in a way where they stuck out that much. Also, the spikes on Elegia seemed song-dependent. Overall, the tonality is probably more agreeable to most compared to the other Focals.

    Looking at the measurements, I'm not sure I can hear the 3k ringing. Either that, or that region is recessed enough to the point where I just didn't really notice.

    The damped nature of its sound is most audible in its bass transients. In comparison to the open Focals, it sounds slower and less-defined; not the lightning precision its open siblings have. Happily, the bass is the only area where I believe this was apparent; the Elegia otherwise demonstrated plenty of zip and speed in other registers.

    In terms of resolve, I think the Elegia is behind the Clear. While you could accuse the Clear of shoving details in your face, I'm hearing more resolve from the Clear over Elegia (weirdly, the Utopia feels more effortless, while also being the most resolving).

    The Elegia also feels the most relaxed of all Focals I've heard in dynamics. The Utopia is explosive and fast, the Clear just a bit laid-back in comparison, and the Elegia even more so. The Utopia and Clear have times where their dynamics are startling (especially Utopia); I didn't have that experience with Elegia.

    Cup resonance is very controlled. Didn't hear a lick of it. Not sure if being closed affected the stage size from the other Focals, but it definitely feels closed.

    In terms of amp pairings, the Elegia might be a little phat-sounding from amps that have a few ohms out. It was borderline phat out of Starlett (not in a displeasing way). 3F and Asgard 3 were just about right tonally, although 3F seems like tremendous overkill; the Elegia did not seem to scale up very much.

    Overall, I actually like the Elegia. I found it to be a moderately isolating (not great in this regard), comfortable, and good-sounding headphone. The other open Focals can lean towards sounding a bit lean, and the Elegia doesn't exhibit this as much. However, it's just not as resolving as its open siblings, so if your use case allows the use of open headphones, the open ones are just better in most ways, and most deficiencies can be fixed via synergy.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
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