Massdrop x Focal Elex Review & Measurements
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gLer

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If I turn the volume very high, I get driver excursion rattle, but I listened to just before the rattle for a few minutes and my ears rang when I took off the headphones.
This is the most common sense reply I’ve read on this issue so far. If you’re hitting the limit of the drivers at volume levels that are unsafe for even short term listening, you should be thanking Focal, not cursing them. Take it from a guy who spent his youth listening to ‘beautifully loud’ music on his Walkman, and now has to strain to listen human voices at normal volume.
 
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This is the most common sense reply I’ve read on this issue so far. If you’re hitting the limit of the drivers at volume levels that are unsafe for even short term listening, you should be thanking Focal, not cursing them. Take it from a guy who spent his youth listening to ‘beautifully loud’ music on his Walkman, and now has to strain to listen human voices at normal volume.
Hear, hear!! :)
 
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Raphael DeLaGhetto

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I'm not cursing anyone; I just wish they had that information readily available beforehand. If I had known I had to keep the volume lower I wouldn't have bought them to begin with. They sound fantastic on most songs at lower volume...until I get clipping which is wildly inconsistent. If I'm not hitting the driver limit then it's distorting for some other reason. On Ticking Bomb it happens whether I listen to the song from 24bit FLAC, through Spotify, through Youtube, or through my phone. Knowing that I can't listen to that song and potentially others I'd rather not waste Massdrop's time shipping me a third pair & I'll just look elsewhere. If low volume listeners are their niche more power to them. But again, had I known I wasn't the target audience I could've avoided this whole thing entirely.
 
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I got a few cases in after buying them. The Slappa case fits this best. There is a little bit of pushing the cups together, but I don't think it will cause any problems over time. I just wish the Slappa case had a handle. Other than that it fits it great.
 
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IkSak

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I think both have your points, Focal should be clear about this with their costumers.
This is the most common sense reply I’ve read on this issue so far. If you’re hitting the limit of the drivers at volume levels that are unsafe for even short term listening, you should be thanking Focal, not cursing them. Take it from a guy who spent his youth listening to ‘beautifully loud’ music on his Walkman, and now has to strain to listen human voices at normal volum
Agree on this, it may even be a good thing, but transparency is important when selling headphones that cost the same of an old car.
@disastermouse, which SPL is that one? would you be so kind to measure it with a phone app while we wait for Focal to answer
 
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I'm not cursing anyone; I just wish they had that information readily available beforehand. If I had known I had to keep the volume lower I wouldn't have bought them to begin with. They sound fantastic on most songs at lower volume...until I get clipping which is wildly inconsistent. If I'm not hitting the driver limit then it's distorting for some other reason. On Ticking Bomb it happens whether I listen to the song from 24bit FLAC, through Spotify, through Youtube, or through my phone. Knowing that I can't listen to that song and potentially others I'd rather not waste Massdrop's time shipping me a third pair & I'll just look elsewhere. If low volume listeners are their niche more power to them. But again, had I known I wasn't the target audience I could've avoided this whole thing entirely.
Well with that review I read earlier and what others have stated, I tried to see if I could get my drivers to clip. Turns out I can! I put on Bass Outlaws (because I know they have some loud low tracks) and if I put my magni 2 uber in high gain and hit about 75% there is a random clip on occasion. The music mostly drowns it out and I have to actually try to hear it. Still, this volume is so freaking loud it kills my ears. I would never listen to songs that loud for more than a moment. Even at half that volume I wouldn't listen to. It's louder than my gun at an indoor gun range. At my normal listening volumes I can't hear any popping. When I get it so loud I can here it here from several feet away off my head, the popping is like a vibrator.

I'm not calling people out here. There probably are more than a few of these made which start popping at lesser volumes than mine does.

Still, if you are wanting basshead cans, I wouldn't use these for that. While they have good bass, you can't set the bass to ridiculous levels it seems like. Due to how the drivers are designed. That's why I have my Fostex :)

Another note is that the pads have a fair amount of micrphonics if you move them around or compress them on your head. They make a cracking/crinkle noise, although it sounds more like quietly crunching paper.


Also, I just listened to Ticking Bomb as well with these. Again I can put the magni uber 2 in high gain and it is really loud at 50% volume with no clipping. When I start edging past 75% and I have to take them off my head does the clipping start. I have never put a single headphone that high before to listen at. At 50% is the loudest I can tolerate and even that makes me wince. I drop it down to 25-30% and am comfortable hearing everything in high gain.
 
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Raphael DeLaGhetto

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Well with that review I read earlier and what others have stated, I tried to see if I could get my drivers to clip. Turns out I can! I put on Bass Outlaws (because I know they have some loud low tracks) and if I put my magni 2 uber in high gain and hit about 75% there is a random clip on occasion. The music mostly drowns it out and I have to actually try to hear it. Still, this volume is so freaking loud it kills my ears. I would never listen to songs that loud for more than a moment. Even at half that volume I wouldn't listen to. It's louder than my gun at an indoor gun range. At my normal listening volumes I can't hear any popping. When I get it so loud I can here it here from several feet away off my head, the popping is like a vibrator.

I'm not calling people out here. There probably are more than a few of these made which start popping at lesser volumes than mine does.

Still, if you are wanting basshead cans, I wouldn't use these for that. While they have good bass, you can't set the bass to ridiculous levels it seems like due to how the drivers are designed. That's why I have my Fostex :)

Another note is that the pads have a fair amount of micrphonics if you move them around or compress them on your head. They make a cracking/crinkle noise, although it sounds more like quietly crunching paper.


Also, I just listened to Ticking Bomb as well with these. Again I can put the magni uber 2 in high gain and it is really loud at 50% volume with no clipping. When I start edging past 75% and I have to take them off my head does the clipping start. I have never put a single headphone that high before to listen at. At 50% is the loudest I can tolerate and even that makes me wince. I drop it down to 25-30% and am comfortable hearing everything in high gain.
Neither pair of mine get that loud before the clipping starts. On my Magni 3 on low gain is the most tolerable that's why I was considering keeping them. But again I'll have to play with the volume each song or just normalize all my volume throughout my songs which is going to take three forevers. I didn't buy them with the intention of bass cannons. At AXPONA I heard the Elear with Clear pads to simulate most of the Elex's sound so I had a good idea of what I was getting into. My collection will still be void of a truly dynamic pair but that's fine for now. I didn't "need" these now anyway I just wanted them.
 
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Melkor

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I have not heard the clipping sound on my pair, and I have tested it with some very bass heavy tracks, including bass test tones, all the way down to 20hz. I've played my volume as loud as I could uncomfortably go. I even tried Ticking Bomb by Aloe Blacc as Raphael DeLaGhetto (sweet name, btw) suggested and I still didn't hear mine clip. If I listen any louder I'm afraid I'd damage my hearing. I think the loudest I can comfortably go is probably around 90db, maybe a little more. Maybe closer to 85db for normal listening.
 
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Hey guys,

I was trying to justify purchasing a Focal Clear until the Elex interested me. (The Clears are also super hard to find right now for reason...) In any event, I've been reading through this thread, and perhaps I didn't go far enough, but... do we have any consensus as to weather the Elex with Clear pads is identical to the Clear's sound? I'm aware the drivers and voice coils are slightly different, but if the Elex sounds like...95% as good as the Clear, I may buy an Elex off Ebay.

The Elear doesn't interest me as I'm not a basshead and obviously it's the bass'ey little brother of the range, but the Clear has gotten pretty great reviews like Tyll's.
 
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My final 2c on the clipping issue...

Knowing its a design intent gives me some peace of mind. At least it's not a fault as such, as i wasnt looking forward to the RMA process, esp being out of the US.

I can possibly live with it as when I set my volume to a 'louder than normal' level (for me), it doesn't seem to clip. I am still amazed this 'feature' isn't more widely mentioned, outside of certain enthusiast forums. Further more, seems it's a feature present throughout the whole Focal range - Utopia and Clear which are arguably the best headphones in the world.

Personally, I think it clips at a level too close to what some people might listen to, esp when coupled with heavy bass. May be better if it clips at an even higher level, say 120-130dB or something?

My concern and question for any Focal reps out there - does this clipping cause any long term fatigue to the drivers? making them more prone to failure later on?

I guess everyone just needs to decide for themselves if they can live with this feature or not.

/2c
 
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FocalOfficial

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Dear all,

As already mentionned several times on Head-Fi, the issue described is actually not a quality issue.
Indeed, we have made a clear design choice on Elear (and by consequence Elex) and Utopia. Our headphones have been designed to favor the respect of the dynamic contained within the audio signal versus dynamic compression that would offer a higher SPL capability but less respect of the original audio signal. To cut a long story short, the choice was audio quality oriented rather than SPL oriented. This allows our products to work with full performances until the mechanical clipping is activated. This means that you jump directly from a very low distortion to a sound which could be heard as rattling / cracking noise. On very special tracks with only very low frequencies at very high level, you can thus hear some noises - as you will do on classic loudspeakers.
If we change your pair of headphones, the new one will be designed similarly and it will also have a kind of cracking sound when you will be listening to music with high volume and a fair amount of bass.
The only solution we can recommend you is therefore to listen to your headphones at a lower volume.

Thank you for your understanding,
Best regards,
Marine, Community Manager Focal
 
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Dear all,

As already mentionned several times on Head-Fi, the issue described is actually not a quality issue.
Indeed, we have made a clear design choice on Elear (and by consequence Elex) and Utopia. Our headphones have been designed to favor the respect of the dynamic contained within the audio signal versus dynamic compression that would offer a higher SPL capability but less respect of the original audio signal. To cut a long story short, the choice was audio quality oriented rather than SPL oriented. This allows our products to work with full performances until the mechanical clipping is activated. This means that you jump directly from a very low distortion to a sound which could be heard as rattling / cracking noise. On very special tracks with only very low frequencies at very high level, you can thus hear some noises - as you will do on classic loudspeakers.
If we change your pair of headphones, the new one will be designed similarly and it will also have a kind of cracking sound when you will be listening to music with high volume and a fair amount of bass.
The only solution we can recommend you is therefore to listen to your headphones at a lower volume.

Thank you for your understanding,
Best regards,
Marine, Community Manager Focal
I think the problem is that the mechanical clipping is activating for some people at loudness levels of less than 90db. Which is loud and over time can cause problems to people, but short listening sessions it wouldn't be a problem.

My Elex doesn't start clipping until the loudness is certainly above 90db. I would venture to say it is over 140db when the clipping starts. I'm fine with that because I wouldn't wear headphones to listen to while being that loud.
 
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Dear all,

As already mentionned several times on Head-Fi, the issue described is actually not a quality issue.
Indeed, we have made a clear design choice on Elear (and by consequence Elex) and Utopia. Our headphones have been designed to favor the respect of the dynamic contained within the audio signal versus dynamic compression that would offer a higher SPL capability but less respect of the original audio signal. To cut a long story short, the choice was audio quality oriented rather than SPL oriented. This allows our products to work with full performances until the mechanical clipping is activated. This means that you jump directly from a very low distortion to a sound which could be heard as rattling / cracking noise. On very special tracks with only very low frequencies at very high level, you can thus hear some noises - as you will do on classic loudspeakers.
If we change your pair of headphones, the new one will be designed similarly and it will also have a kind of cracking sound when you will be listening to music with high volume and a fair amount of bass.
The only solution we can recommend you is therefore to listen to your headphones at a lower volume.

Thank you for your understanding,
Best regards,
Marine, Community Manager Focal
Thanks for your response @FocalOfficial. It is good to know that you're committed to your costumers' satisfaction. I think most people understand that there're design choices to be made during the conception of a headphone and that is absolutely fine.

My inquiry for you as a potential customer for my interest on the Elex is: what is the SPL where the mechanical clipping starts? As a structural designer, I'd assume that in this decision you had a target that took into account the listening SPL of a high percent of users; while and as a costumer I'd like to know if I belong to that target.
 
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Melkor

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In the other thread that I linked to earlier people seemed to be in agreement that the Elear wouldn't exhibit this behaviour until well past 90db (possibly greater than 100db). If that's the case, then it shouldn't be an issue unless someone has hearing damage and needs to listen louder to compensate. But it would be nice for Focal to comment.
 
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IkSak

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That sounds reasonable since those SPL are not healthy in the long term. I insist that for the sake of transparency and respect for their customers, @FocalOfficial should officially state this in the headphones specs.
 

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