The closed-back Focal Elegia headphones include a premium braided cable and protective case.
Focal's premier closed-back headphones
Sometimes I just have to pause and reflect on the high-end headphone magic that's come from Focal's French headquarters these past few years. Since Focal went all-in with their game-changing Utopias, they've been releasing world-class headphones at an amazing clip. They just announced the Elegia — their first premium closed-back model — at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with a finished product before the official launch.
These headphones share many of the attributes that made me such a big fan of the Utopia and Clear headphones. Like those two instant classics, the Elegia delivers a deluxe personal audio experience with pristine, über-detailed sound. But the closed-back design offers better noise isolation for wearing in public, while also adding just a bit of low-end oomph.
Fashionable and functional design
They arrived in a form-fitting case that's both attractive and practical for carrying around. The design is everything I've come to expect from Focal's flagship headphones — as easy on the eyes as they are pleasant to hold. You'll find sturdy, industrial-styled black earcups, punctuated with a splash of silver, and held together by smooth-sliding aluminum headphone yokes.
Focal lined the headband with leather, and covered the earcups in soft, breathable micro-fiber. And they filled each ear pad with over an inch of memory foam. The headphones are large and heavy for sure, but the weight is distributed nicely. I had no problem wearing them for long listening sessions during work.
Focal uses their signature "M-shaped" domes and a rigid, all-copper voice coil for better high-frequency extension.
As handsome as they look on the outside, the Elegia headphones are even more impressive under the hood. I think my buddy Archer — a Crutchfield Advisor who geeks out over headphones as much as I do — really drove home what makes Focal's high-end drivers so special. "What I dig most about Focal drivers is their quickness," he told me. "That fast attack makes them incredibly accurate, especially in the highs."
The key is their patent-pending “M”-shaped diaphragm domes, originally developed for the Utopias. This special design gives the drivers a more fluid movement, which greatly reduces distortion and phase problems. It's why they sound so dynamic and yet controlled, across a wide frequency range.
The domes are made from a sturdy, lightweight blend of aluminum and magnesium. These are the same materials found in Focal's stellar Clear headphones, but the Elegia drivers are constructed in a completely new way. Rather than building each part of the driver separately and piecing them together, Focal uses robotics so they can sculpt the driver as one unit.
Focal told me that this construction method allowed the drivers to fit and perform better within the closed housings. Focal also added some shrewdly placed vents to allow air to flow smoothly through the closed-back chamber. This keeps the powerful bass response tight and linear rather than bloated or muddy.
More from my hands-on experience
These headphones have a first-class feel from the moment you take them out of the case. Like Focal's other top-flight choices, the Elegia headphones sound strikingly lifelike. Perhaps not quite as revealing in the highs as the Utopia and Clear, but still very articulate.
Unlike Focal's flagship open-backs which allowed sound to escape freely, these closed-back 'phones keep the listening experience intimate if not entirely private. (I would have to crank the volume to dangerous levels before disturbing office neighbors, but I'm sure they could identify what music I was listening to even at reasonable volume.)
You may assume, based on the sheer size of the earcups, that the Elegia produces a large, wide soundstage. But what you get here is a focused, tight-quarters feel — I've heard Focal refer to their headphone drivers as "extremely near-field monitors." And within, there is a great deal of detail and several layers of depth.
And man, that bass. It's pronounced and mildly emphasized, but never seems to distort or distract. From the complimentary stand-up bass punch in Twisted Pine's bluegrass/folk cover of Blondie's "Heart of Glass," to the physical, ever-present thump throughout Lil Wayne's Carter V album, the low-end presence is satisfying and completely dialed in.