Focal Elegia

General Information

FIRST HIGH-END CLOSED-BACK HEADPHONES BY FOCAL

To enjoy an incredible listening experience in total privacy, without worrying about a noisy environment disturbing this moment of pleasure: this is the promise made and kept by Elegia. In these high-end circum-aural closed-back headphones, we have combined the best of our skilfully created technologies, developed and assembled in our workshops in France. Elegia incorporates a new generation of exclusive full-range speaker drivers capable of operating in a small inner environment whilst ensuring exceptional dynamics and the most precise sound reproduction. Whether it’s the motor, the frameless copper voice coil, the dedicated 110 micron surround or the “M”-shape inverted dome, Elegia's speaker drivers are a mass of innovation dedicated to sound purity. And when connected to portable audio players, these headphones are incredibly high-performing. Zero resonance, excellent soundproofing: the naturalness and realism of the sound is striking from the first few seconds of listening.

Latest reviews

sigi

New Head-Fier
4th time I am disappointed with Focal
Pros: Can be driven easily, portable. Can sound good when EQd slightly. Nice looks (sadly I don't care about that at all). Good comfort
Cons: poor build quality, stock cable is like a seismometer and even if it were not microphonic - it brakes within a couple of hours of use. The sound of these headphone is worth about half the price. Funky reverberation within the enclosed space. Sounds very plasticky.
I intended it to be a tool in the studio but only after a couple of hours of use I need to send them back...
The cable is not replaceable under warranty, the whole package needs to be sent back to the regional Focal service facility (I've been told that for central Europe it is somewhere in Poland)

Heapdhones that you paid for but are not spending their time with you are like headphones you don't own at all.

This is a product for the consumer market- made to spend most of its time on a headphone collectors shelf among other headphones that get very little playing time.

Another thing to add... there is a strange micro reverb in these cans - I have not heard this in other closed headphones. Granted I don't have much experience with closed headphones. This subtle reverb matches the material of the cans - sounds plasticky.
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: jj69 and Cat Music
cpurdy
cpurdy
Wow! Even worse than my experience!

How did the cable break? Mine is so stiff that I can't imagine it breaking! 🤣
S
sigi
the cable didn't break to pieces :) ... In my case it developed some contact issues somewhere near the left connection jack, it cuts the sound when not held in the right angle :)
OhMyGodPancakes
OhMyGodPancakes
Wow you nailed it! Just got my pair and the reverb is insane, I thought I was upgrading from my TR-X00s and while I did not have the cables issues was also disappointed.

descloud

100+ Head-Fier
Focal Elegia - Clearly not a closed-back Clear
Pros: - bass and treble extensions are good
- bass texture and impact are reminiscent of the Clear
- head stage width is great for a closed-back
- technicalities are also great
- EQ can be easily applied without noticeable audible problems
- packaging and included case gives a premium feel of the product
- build quality feel and aesthetics are top notch
- less creaking than the Clear I owned
- comfort is overall great despite having more clamp force than the Clear
Cons: - stock tonality is terrible (mid-forward with lack of upper midrange to treble balance) and needs EQ to sound remotely correct sounding
- requires EQ to have at least a close to correct sounding timbre
- cable is still awful, similar to the Clear cables
- choice of material colour on the headband opens up to easily staining
- lack of replaceable parts other than earpads questions longevity
Preface

By now, Focal is not new to anyone and is already an established name in the headphone community, with the success of some of their open-backs, namely the Utopia, Clear and Elear + Elex (ignoring the QC issues). I’ll admit, the first time I heard about Focal was with the Spirit One series (if anyone else remembers them). I recall Tyll giving a good review on their Focal Spirit Classic and Professional models, to which I’ve heard neither. What I have to say is that the Spirit One sounded ‘meh’ overall, with an uncomfortable fit because it’s mostly an on-ear sized cups and high-clamp force. That gave me a bit of a sour impression with Focal.

Since the debut of the Elear and Utopia, with Tyll posting reviews for both, it gave me enough incentive to notice Focal again. I started out late with Focal, but I got the Clear last year and found them overall great sounding. The tuning and technicalities are among the most balanced I’ve heard to date, but the price is something that’s hard for me to accept given its performance relative to the ones I owned at the time. That aside, it does not mean I cannot recommend the Clear, but rather I can recommend them if they can be had for under the $1k retail price. Now there are rumours (and teasers) of a new open-back that Focal is releasing this year, which might be the direct replacement to the Clear and could either be priced the same, or cheaper. I digress, take the last sentence for what it is, a rumour.

I’ll stop with blabbering about the Clear at this point. I just wanted to highlight the fact that Focal is not new to me, so I already have an expectation going into reviewing and owning the Elegia - which is technically their first closed-back since the Elear/Utopia era started. Looking at different forums, the Elegia seems to be among those headphones that split opinions, and there is this notion that the Elegia is supposed to be a closed-back Clear. So, I went into reviewing these with that mindset - is the Focal Elegia a closed-back Clear or not?

Do note that the Elegia have been discontinued since last year as far as I am aware, however, they come up pretty often on the used market. The limited edition Radiance and now released Celestee appear to be the direct replacement for them. Just something to note. Yeah yeah, I know I'm late to the review party for these.

IMG_20210207_095524.jpg



Accessories and Packaging

Focal has generally been packaging their products well. The Clear and Elegia are similar in packaging, and you tend to feel that you’re opening a premium product with how they’re packaged and the accessories that came with them The Elegia and Clear both come with their signature case, and unfortunately, the same terrible zebra striped Ikea lamp cable (a meme at this point). The Clear comes with two spare cables on top of the one inside the case, while the Elegia only comes with one.

Aesthetics, Build and Comfort
Aesthetics are signature Focal. I don’t think anyone in the community would be hard up in determining a Focal headphone at this point. Most of their models since the Elear are using the similar headband size and shape, as well as ear cup overall size and shape.

Build is unsurprisingly premium feeling, durability is a different question. Headband and earcup material seem very similar to the Clear in material used, whereas the Elegia is more black all around. One thing I noticed is that there’s less creaking sound when playing around with the Elegia, whereas the Clear I had tends to make creaking noises when you’re rotating the two cup handles. There is no creaking once you have it on your head though.

Comfort I would also rate as very good. Clamp force may be slightly higher than my preference, but the pads have good enough cushion that I can wear them for a few hours without feeling the pressure. I can’t say about an 8 hour work day though. My ears and head shape are average size I would say. I don’t feel any hotspots on my head either, so comfort is great for these, similar to the Clear.




Sound

I’ll start off by saying these don’t really need a dedicated amplifier. Their sensitivity rating is really high as they appear to be meant for portable use. That said, these should be fine with any source that doesn’t cap off its output power (i.e. Pixel 4A from what I’ve read around).

Listening volume is ~60dB - 75 dB for reference. Measurement reference as to how I hear it, but also using Crinacle’s graph for reference. Link to the graph can be seen here (https://crinacle.com/graphs/headphones-legacy/focal-elegia/)


Overall Signature

If I can sum up the stock tonality of these… is that they’re terrible. Yeah, terrible, you got that right. I think it’s just awful. I thought the Oppo PM-3 was already badly tuned overall given it’s blunted treble region mixed with slightly forward midrange area. These take it a level higher, and that it takes away the upper-midrange and lower treble, then cranks up the 1kHz midrange area. If the Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro cranks up the 8kHz peak by 10dB, the Elegia is exhibiting a similar type peak, but in the 1kHz - 2kHz area.
I’ve seen comments around some forums who loathe this, and I can finally understand why. If I break it down to each region:

  • Bass - decent linearity and impact. Not much to complain, but it’s not near in the Clear’s bass presentation, which is well balanced and engaging
  • Midrange - try cranking up the 1kHz region with a low Q value by 5 dB, and you get the midrange presentation of the Elegia. Upper-mids are severely lacking, making any instrument and vocals in this region muffled sounding and to borrow Crin’s words - blunted. Timbre is severely affected and everything sounds like they’re coming from a poor sounding speaker you can buy off of Walmart.
  • Treble - lower treble to mid-treble region sounds like it has a shelf, but beyond 10khz seems to be just ok. The treble beyond 10kHz appears to have enough energy levels that prevents it from sounding ‘dark’.

One last note, these remind me somewhat of the stock tuning of the Shure SE535 LTD, which is strange. The only difference is that the Shure IEM still has a somewhat mellow midrange quality that gives them a decent bit of character, whereas the Elegia is just plain bad.

Overall, I would describe the stock tonality as a poorly done mid-forward neutral. I can understand why people like oratory simply hate these. No natural played instrument sounds correct on these, and that is a huge point against them. I find them almost unlistenable, not because they trigger my sensitivities, but because of how badly it’s tuned. I can see why Crin ranks them as a ‘D+’ in Tone grade. Feel free to disagree, but if someone tells me these sound ‘accurate’ or ‘correct’, I will politely disagree.

With that out of the way, I think these need EQ to sound good. With proper EQ (not exactly Harman, but modified to your HRTF), they can sound more correct. So for the rest of the review section about the technicalities, it will be after my EQ profile using AutoEQ points and tailored to my hearing.


Detail Retrieval (Resolution) and Dynamics

Great detail retrieval, probably slightly behind the Clear, but great nonetheless. It seems to do it slightly better than my Audeze Sine, but only slightly. There’s enough texture in the midrange that I can distinguish the pieces that are played. The drivers have enough speed to make out of the ‘micro-details’ in busy passages.

Dynamics is still something I can safely say Focal nails quite well. Overall dynamics is still excellent, close to the Focal Clear’s levels, but just slightly behind again. Do note I’m going by my memory of how the Clear sounds during the time I had them, so take it as you will. Low to high volume dynamics and transition are great. Bass impact and dynamics are reminiscent of the Clear.

One difference I find is that the Clear’s dynamics seems to be really good that when low volume pieces decay, they decay fast. This leaves (to my ears) holes in the presentation of songs at times, which I find odd as I don’t hear that with any other headphones I’ve heard. The Elegia doesn’t seem to exhibit this quality. Further, I don’t think a lot of people notice this particular trait, so you can simply ignore it if it doesn’t apply to you.


Head stage and imaging

Head stage is surprisingly wide for a closed-back, wider than how I remember the Focal Clear at least, and wider than the Audeze Sine. It’s not as wide as say the HE-500 or Beyerdynamic DT1990, but I find it slightly better than the Sennheiser HD6XX series. It has about average stage width overall.

Imaging is not something I take note off too much, but I don’t hear any noticeable flaws with instrument placing and such. Nothing also noticeable that would make it stand out in a way like the HD800, so imaging for me is ‘good’.


Timbre

In stock tuning, the overall timbre of vocals and instruments (i.e. guitars, drums) sounds wrong. There’s this muffled tone to it that makes the texture of the midrange awful. So, I can understand why this headphone’s stock tuning is very controversial.

With EQ applied, it fixes timbre for the most part, but not completely. Vocals and instruments sound more correct, but there is this slight echo quality that I can hear on vocals that can be annoying when I notice it. I can’t seem to remove it without severely affecting the pitch of some pieces in the midrange, not sure why, maybe it’s the limitation of how much EQ can be applied along with how Focal addresses the resonances and such.

However, with EQ applied, timbre is a pass for me. It’s correct enough sounding based on how I hear instruments in real life, though not exactly life-like in presentation like a few other headphones I’ve heard.



Comparisons

The only comparisons I’ll be making with these would be only two from what I’ve heard - namely the older brother (Clear) and my other closed-back competitor for it (Audeze Sine). I’m not sure if it makes sense to compare it to other open-back headphones given its nature of closed-back, whereas there have been multiple people asking for comparisons between the Clear and the Elegia (and if it’s worth the upgrade etc.).


Focal Clear

After going through the sound section above, do I find the Elegia a near enough sounding closed-back Clear? Sadly, no; not in stock tonality at least. The stock tonality does not represent the Clear’s tonality, and this probably shows the biggest obstacles of making a good sounding closed-back. The Clear is great sounding overall, and to have a similar presentation while closing off the back cups can be challenging.

I could be spoiled because I heard the Clear prior to the Elegia. I don’t know if my opinions would have been different if I started off with the Elegia then went to the Clear. In any case, you can make the Elegia sound similar to the Clear, but you need to properly EQ it to get there. If you were going for the Clear sound, you might want to look at the cheaper alternative - namely the Elex or Elear + Elex pads (QC issues notwithstanding). I haven’t heard either, but many I’ve seen claim that they’re similar to the Clear’s tonality.


Audeze Sine

I’ve been running the Audeze through different pads that makes them more comfortable and at the same time, doesn’t sound terrible in stock tonality. For now, I have the Skullcandy Aviator installed on them and they sound somewhat V-shaped. Listenable in stock tonality, but can be a bit better with EQ of course.

In terms of technicalities, they’re pretty close. The Elegia slightly edging it out in head stage width, bass impact, detail retrieval, and overall dynamics. Do note, it’s only slightly to my ears. In terms of tonality, the Sine is my preferred choice 10/10. It’s better balanced, has a more correct timbre, and more enjoyable to listen to. With EQ, it’s a bit neck-and-neck. If I were to compare, the Elegia is the more fun sounding, whereas the Sine is the better balanced sounding one. One last note, the Sine has the cipher cable option - so if you listen to iOS devices, then the Sine has that distinct advantage of applying EQ easily.

The Elegia is also more comfortable to booth. However, the Sine is easier to carry around given its smaller footprint, so is the more ‘portable’ option in that sense. On the other hand, the Elegia has a higher sensitivity rating, meaning they are easier to drive than the Sine - a counterpoint to the difference in physical size.




Final Remarks

In conclusion, I can see why they’re controversial and why notable people in the community simply do not mention this in their recommended list. And unfortunately, I will be on the criticism side. I cannot see this default tuning worth its original MSRP of $900 USD. With the wave of Adorama sales of $400 USD, I still can’t find this stock tuning as recommendable. The Audeze Sine is way better tuned than this (comfort notwithstanding). Heck, even the Oppo PM-3 is something I’d take in stock tonality over these, and the PM-3 also feels similarly premium and I feel is more portable than the Elegia.

It has a lot of potential though, which can be unlocked via EQ. With EQ, you can get a similar tuning of the Clear, with overall technicalities that may be just slightly behind the Clear. Timbre is passable upon EQ, but it also makes them overall ‘fun’ sounding because of the dynamics and bass characteristics mimicking the Clear.

Is the overall packaging and presentation worth $900? Maybe. Is the packaging and accessories worth $400? I would say yes. Focal seems to nail the “unboxing” and product presentation excellently. Build quality and premium feel of the materials used is also top notch. Durability and choice of materials that will have longevity, I have my doubts.

But the above points might be already moot. They have been discontinued for a while and have been replaced by the limited edition Radiance and recently announced Celestee. Those two should be the ones checked out if you plan to buy new.

Regardless, I’ll be grading them based on my metrics.

  • Stock tonality - 5.0 / 10
  • EQ’d tonality - 7.8 / 10
  • Comfort - 8 / 10
  • Technical Abilities - 8.3 / 10

The stock tonality is really the biggest gripe for me here. If it were tuned somewhat similar to the Clear, it would have been an easy recommendation from me. But the midrange characteristic makes everything just sound wrong and sounds like it's coming out of a crappy bluetooth speaker. When EQ’d, it’s a lot more listenable and an easy recommendation for me. So this is one of those headphones on my list that requires EQ to be something recommendable.

With EQ being a necessity for these IMO, it would get a 3 / 5 rating overall.

I’m keeping them in the meantime because they’re fun sounding when EQ’d, but I will eventually get the Celestee and see how much improvement it has in tonality over the discontinued Elegia.
  • Like
Reactions: Cat Music

cpurdy

Head-Fier
Good .. but not "Focal" good!
Pros: * Comfort (a very subjective thing)
* Reasonably light
* Closed back
* Great bass as the volume is dialed up
* Clear and clean SQ, particularly at higher volumes
* Great case and decent cable (although I use an after-market balanced cable for these)
Cons: * Not sound-tight (a fair bit of leakage for a closed back)
* Poor SQ at low volume
* Didn't magically regrow the hair on my bald spot
I do like these headphones. I use closed back headphones at work (my coworkers don't like the noise), and at home in bed (my wife likes to sleep). However, these do not have the high degree of sound seal that I expect from a closed back headphone, so if that's why you're considering them, then keep looking.

I also tend to listen to music at very low volumes. Sure, I'll boost the volume on a track for the fun of it, but generally, I like my volume really, really low. But I still want to hear all of the detail, and all of the color. I would say that these headphones provide the detail at low volumes, but totally lose the color.

Crank them up a bit, though, and they're amazing. (And of course, they'll leak noise.)

Frankly, these are overpriced for what you are actually getting. At $150, they'd be a no-brainer. At $250, it's debatable. At whatever-they-are-actually-going-for, the value for money just isn't there. (Of course, that can be said for a great many headphones.)

They're nice, though. They're just not great. (At least not for the things that I value.)
NotTheMomma
NotTheMomma
$250? Am I missing something?
cpurdy
cpurdy
I'm just saying, if I had only paid $250, I would be like "ok, not bad". But at $900? No, it's not a good price.
NotTheMomma
NotTheMomma
Gotcha. Yeah I agree. I’ve got em too and I’m disappointed.
  • Like
Reactions: cpurdy

Comments

peterinvan

100+ Head-Fier
I have had my Elegias for three weeks, and feel they are nicely broken in.
I had comfort issues as well. With the clamping force and the perforated velour pads, my ear hit the top of the inner cup.

My solution was to purchase the Dekoni Audio Elite Fenestrated Sheepskin Earpads: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B07BYYJRL8/

With a bit of gentle stretching on the headband the clamping force is now comfortable. Careful... this is a plastic headband.The pads from Dekoni are MUCH more comfortable. My ear does not touch any more.

Now very happy with these headphones. I rate them as a slightly brighter sound than my LCD-2F. I really like the closed head-space, and do not find any problems with the bass at all. It is tight and meaty when challenged (e.g. Toy tracks). Whereas the LCD-2F have bass more punch, the Focal bass is faster and more distinctive.
 
Top