Home Closed Back Headphone Reviews Focal Elegia Review: A Sonic Disaster Unleashed

Focal Elegia Review: A Sonic Disaster Unleashed

by Stuart Charles Black
Published: Updated:
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions so…

Fair warning, this review may offend some, so if you’re a fan of the Elegia, you may want to hit that little back button on your browser. XD

Also, keep in mind that these are my honest opinions. Yours may vary.

Focal Elegia

Price: Check Amazon | Check B&H

In The Box

Focal Elegia Circumaural Closed-Back Audiophile Headphones

Asymmetric Cable (3.9′)

3.5mm to 1/4″ Adapter

Rigid Carry Case

Limited 1-Year Manufacturer Warranty

Specifications

  1. Type: Closed-back, over-ear headphones
  2. Transducer Type: Dynamic
  3. Driver Size: 40mm
  4. Impedance: 35 Ohms
  5. Sensitivity: 105 dB SPL / 1 mW @ 1 kHz
  6. Frequency Response: 5Hz – 23kHz
  7. THD: <0.1% @ 1 kHz / 100 dB SPL
  8. Cable: Detachable, 1.2m (3.9 ft) OFC cable with 3.5mm stereo mini-jack and 6.35mm stereo jack adapter
  9. Weight: 430g (0.95 lbs)
  10. Connectors: 3.5mm stereo mini-jack, 6.35mm stereo jack

When it comes to disappointments in the world of high-end headphones, the Focal Elegia stands as a prime example of how a company can utterly fail in delivering a quality audio experience.

The flaws in this headphone are not subtle; they are glaring, persistent, and unforgivable.

It’s almost baffling how Focal managed to put their name on this trainwreck of a product.

First, let’s dive into what is decent to okay.

For clarification, I used a Hugo 2 and NAIM DAC V-1 for this demo running FLAC/Masters, etc. in Tidal.

Bass

Focal Elegia Review

The bass, while not completely without merit and likely the best aspect of these headphones, can be somewhat unrefined, detracting from the overall sonic experience, and making it difficult to appreciate the finer nuances of the music.

On a frequency response graph, the bass range of the Elegia seems to present a nearly flat line, which might initially seem like a positive characteristic for audiophiles seeking a balanced sound.

However, the reality of this bass representation becomes apparent when you actually listen to music through these headphones and put down the rose-colored glasses.

While the flat line might suggest a well-controlled and even bass reproduction, the practical experience is far from it.

It simply lacks in detail and refinement; oftentimes sounding slightly fuzzy/hazy, and lacking the cleanliness of the Clear MG’s low end.

So the impact is there, but instead of hitting with authority, it comes off very sloppy and unprofessional.

It doesn’t dominate the landscape per se, but it certainly does distract from the overall experience; unnecessarily drawing attention in a bad way.

This issue makes it difficult to discern the finer nuances of the music.

Furthermore, the flatness in the bass response doesn’t translate to accuracy or depth.

Instead, it results in a somewhat one-note bass that fails to deliver the texture and impact that discerning listeners and audio professionals seek.

The lack of dynamic range in the bass region also hampers the overall audio experience, leaving the music feeling lackluster and less engaging.

Now for the bad to downright abysmal.

Upper Mid-Range

Mid-range? What mid-range? Lol.

The mid-range is essentially non-existent.

No, seriously.

Everything from about 2kHz onward is basically scooped out worse than when you get a hankering for some ice cream and end up eating the entire tub.

Yeah, that’s it. Eat your feelings. 

It’s as if Focal decided that the heart of the music was optional for this particular headphone model.

Vocals and instruments are drowned in a sea of bass and terrible treble, leaving listeners with an utterly imbalanced and distorted Soundstage.

Everything just sounds like shit as if you’re listening to music through an AM radio.

This wonky and fuzzy character of the Elegia is perhaps its most distinguishing feature.

You’ll struggle to identify any semblance of clarity or precision in the audio reproduction, and the overall resolution is very sub-par.

It’s as if you’re listening through a thick fog, with details lost in the abyss.

Every genre of music you play becomes an indistinct mishmash of noise, making you question whether your ears are betraying you.

And no, they aren’t. This headphone is unbelievably bad.

In fact,

I distinctly remember the experience at Audio Advice’s Music Matters show.

The rep handed me the Elegia with a huge grin on his face; undoubtedly super excited for me to try it out.

After listening to a few tracks, instead of saying something like “This is the most God-awful piece of trash on the planet”, I kind of just did one of those awkward “Yeah, it was okay” numbers.

I felt bad. He was a super friendly guy.

And I’m pretty sure he knew I wasn’t impressed given the the disappointment plastered all over my face, but I digress.

This was basically me (and yes, I’m super pretty):

Lower Mid-Range

Another critical aspect that contributes to the disappointing sound of the Focal Elegia lies in the lower mid-range frequencies, particularly around 300Hz and onwards.

This is an area that can have a significant impact on the overall tonal balance and the perception of audio quality.

Unfortunately, the Elegia seems to struggle in this region, leading to a wonky and nasally character.

For those with a background in audio production, beatmaking, or mixing engineering (such as myself), this flaw becomes all too apparent.

Professionals in these fields are trained to discern nuances in frequency response, and the Elegia’s boost in the lower mid-range exacerbates its problems.

In other words, there’s a reason we don’t boost the lower mids as you’ll typically find it literally f**ks everything up.

This boost present in the Elegia not only adds to the overpowering bass but also contributes to a muddiness and lack of clarity in the overall sound signature.

The consequence of this issue is a sound profile that lacks the accuracy and transparency necessary for critical listening tasks.

When a headphone can’t accurately reproduce essential mid-range frequencies, the results can be disastrous for anyone seeking to make informed decisions about audio content.

In essence, the shortcomings in the Elegia’s lower mid-range further compound its already problematic audio performance.

The boosted, nasally quality in this frequency range undermines the clarity and balance that discerning listeners, producers, and engineers require for accurate and enjoyable audio experiences.

Focal Elegia ReviewFocal Elegia Review

Overall,

It’s truly a wonder how Focal had the audacity to release such a subpar product.

The Elegia should be an embarrassment to their legacy as an audio company.

Any consumer who falls for the allure of the Focal brand and purchases this headphone is in for a rude awakening.

Honest to God, I seriously think this was a weird experiment done by Focal.

As in, they sat around the table and said something to the effect of “Let’s make an atrociously tuned headphone and see how many people lap it up like stale dog water.”

Before this gets out of hand, let’s talk about the positives – and believe me, they are few and far between.

Build & Comfort

The build quality of the Elegia is quite good, which is pretty standard for their headphone lineup.

The materials feel sturdy, and the headphones have a premium aesthetic.

That said, these definitely don’t feel as premium as the Stellia or Utopia, but overall there isn’t too much to complain about.

Comfort is also very good, allowing you to endure the sonic nightmare for longer periods – if you dare.

This is standard issue Focal; great clamping force, plenty of ear cup real-estate for even the largest of ears, it doesn’t dig into the top of your head, etc. etc.

The Smoking Gun: Price

Focal Elegia Review

The Focal Elegia’s price trajectory over the years has raised a few eyebrows and prompted some reflection on its initial value proposition.

While price fluctuations in the consumer electronics market are not uncommon, the significant reduction in the Elegia’s price does invite speculation about its original worthiness.

In many cases, when a product’s price drops substantially after its initial release, it can be indicative of initial overpricing or misjudgment of the product’s true value.

Premium products often retain their value or even appreciate over time due to their exceptional performance and build quality.

However, for products like the Elegia, the depreciation in price can suggest a disconnect between the initial marketing pitch and the actual user experience.

This phenomenon is particularly concerning in the world of high-end audio equipment.

True audio enthusiasts and professionals are generally willing to invest in quality products that stand the test of time, regardless of initial cost.

The steep price drop of the Elegia may suggest that its initial price was inflated beyond what the market was willing to accept for its actual audio performance.

As such, potential buyers should be cautious when considering products that have experienced significant price drops, as it could signal that the product’s original price was not aligned with its actual capabilities.

While not a definitive rule, observing price trends can be a helpful factor to consider when evaluating the potential value of a product.

To put it in simpler terms, this headphone retailed at $899 (!!!) and has dropped by a whopping $500 to roughly $399.

And in my opinion, it’s not even worth that much. I would argue this mistake is worth no more than $200 – and that’s being pretty generous considering there are countless headphones in the $200-500 range that completely blow the Elegia out of the water.

Closing Thoughts

Focal Elegia Review

For an exceptional audio experience that won’t break the bank, consider Focal’s Clear MG.

It offers a remarkable representation of the distinctive Focal sound at a more budget-friendly price than the Utopia.

If the Clear MG is still a bit out of your budget, the original Clear is a viable alternative.

While it may not reach the same heights as the MG, it certainly outshines the Elegia by a long shot.

When it comes to the ultimate in audio quality, look no further than the Focal Utopia.

This headphone lives up to its name, delivering a pristine and well-balanced representation of music across the entire frequency spectrum.

The bass is impactful, the mid-range is lush, and the treble is crystal clear.

The Utopia offers an unparalleled listening experience with an expansive soundstage that allows you to pinpoint every instrument and vocalist with remarkable precision.

The Utopia doesn’t just excel in sound quality; its build quality is top-tier, featuring premium materials and craftsmanship that justify its higher price point.

In contrast, the Elegia was a letdown in Focal’s headphone lineup, and it’s best to steer clear of it.

If you’re in search of the best of the best in audio, the Focal Utopia is the pinnacle.

It demonstrates Focal’s expertise at its finest, providing a listening experience that the Elegia can only dream of achieving.

Don’t settle for less; invest in the Focal Utopia for an audio masterpiece that truly stands out.

Learn More:

 

Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Focal Elegia Review and didn’t get too offended by my frankness. If you did, oh well. xD

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Is the Elegia a bad headphone? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

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45 comments

Mr Derek Clark August 31, 2023 - 12:00 pm

If you stopped plugging them in to you kids Wendy home entertainment system, you might find that there very good if a little bass shy here and there like most professional reviewers did.

I run mine with aftermarket cables, the originals are to short (another point made by professionals) but other than that they sound better detailed than my AE320.
Your system is a complete mismatch for those headphones so start looking at the path you have taken with your components as nobody makes those ridiculous statements other than you.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black August 31, 2023 - 12:27 pm

Haha. Your first sentence doesn’t even make any sense. I ran them out of equipment costing thousands of dollars inside Audio Advice and they sounded like complete dog shit. But nice try. Focal should be embarrassed in releasing such a God-awful product.

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Tom August 31, 2023 - 7:05 pm

Hi mate!

I must say I was a bit surprised reading your review.
From what I experienced (not a professional though) and read all around the net (professional reviews, not forum), the elegia is a weird tuned, detailed headphone with a small lack of bass, a timbre slightly metalic and a little resonance … but nothing that can’t be fix with EQ.

There are DMS and Resolve positive reviews on youtube about these cans and a friendly rep that believe in it.

Why so much hate?

Also, how comparing them with the utopia makes any sense? They are usualy compared with headphone in the same league and seems to be able to stand for themeselves.

Thanks for your work.

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 2:29 pm

Thanks for the comment. To your question, why so much hate? Because they sounded so unbelievably bad to me, that’s all. I don’t trash every headphone I listen to. I give my honest opinion and always have.

When I put a Focal headphone on my head, I expect it to be near flawless. Why? Because their prices are _astronomically_ high. The Elegia if I recall was a whopping $900 when it first came out. And I demoed it… when it first came out. My reaction? LOL. TERRIBLE. I would never EVER pay $900 for that trash. It’s literally setting money on fire.

Why do you think they’re now going for $399? It’s because they were overpriced to begin with and have a shitty sonic profile. Scooped mids, grainy/thin sound, everything was blurred together and sounded awful. So Focal actually tried to put them in a similar league/price point as the others but failed miserably.

In my opinion, they’re getting by on name alone now. The only headphone out of this premium lineup that’s any good is the Utopia. Every headphone that’s come out after has been either a disaster or just way overpriced. That’s why I compare them. They are all technically part of the same line. Clear is okay but not worth $1000, Elear is a bit worse than Clear and overpriced, Stellia is awful, and Elegia is awful.

I haven’t heard much about the Radiance or Celestee, (going to demo them soon) but I think this topic actually deserves a video as I feel people are falling hook line and sinker for the Focal Smoke and Mirrors show. Again, it’s just my view.

I’d much rather people just buy an Ananda or XS (or even a 400se) and get much better value headphones with light years better tuning. Why would I pay $400 for garbage when I can get a 400se for $100 and have a much better headphone?

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Adalberto September 3, 2023 - 1:25 pm

Focal will always be overpriced. But the Focal Elegia are fine, especially at the current price.

I am a musician, but one needs not be a “professional” to know the “truth” of audio. It comes off extremely arrogant. It may be that the signature of this product didn’t jive with you. That *is* fine.

Yes they were very expensive. That is why I will also never have the Utopia. I have plenty of GREAT headphones and earphones that are affordable, so do not feel the itch to spend that much. But that doesn’t mean the Elegia are d*g*h*t. They do have a different than usual signature, but are also closed backs.

There is no “overpowering” bass in these ones. Hopefully you were being honest with your audience, and not just bashing the product for its own sake.

Mean no hate, I have no reason to. You do not have to agree with these famous reviewers I also do not care about or give too much weight to. But there are sonic issues you stated that do not match the product I have. Not a matter of taste, unless your headphones were defective, or the way you define certain frequency regions differ from the usual.

No offense, I won’t be able to convince you regardless, especially if the product you heard is totally different than mine (which does not have any overpowering bass, among other things.) Have peace, and listen to music with what you really like.

Stuart Charles Black September 3, 2023 - 6:02 pm

Hey man, thanks for the comment. I may suggest you read the other comments and replies to get a better sense of where I’m coming from. And no, I didn’t write this thinking it was going to garner *any* traffic, just to be clear. I actually wasn’t expecting many hits given how old these are now + the fact that there are likely a ton of other reviews on them. It was an article that I had put on the back burner and all thoughts conveyed are genuinely how I felt about it. Anyone who has followed me for some length of time can attest to this. I put disclaimers in as well.

So yeah, it’s just my personal opinion. These are max $200 headphones and nothing more. They have obvious sonic flaws and the mid-range was atrocious. As far as the bass, I should point out that my problem was less with the actual FR and more to do with the fact that it just lacked definition and sounded fuzzy and weird. I edited the bass section to reflect that.

That being said, there may have been some QC issues with the Elegia but other people have agreed with my assessment so it’s still hard to say one way or another. I went to Audio Advice yesterday but they didn’t have a demo pair on the wall. I did try out the Celestee and Clear MG so definitely stay tuned for those reviews as well.

And no offense taken! I had a ton of fun writing the article so it’s not really a big deal.

Cheers,

-Stu

Angus November 18, 2023 - 12:05 am

Interesting experience you’ve had. Each to there own. However, I’ve read quite a few reviews that literally say the opposite thing in regards to frequencies.
Most have said it’s mid forward. You said “what mids?” That in itself in odd. Anyway, enjoy the gear you love!

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The guy ain't wrong September 1, 2023 - 12:24 am

I’m going to have to agree with Derek these headphones are far from God awful if anything I would say they are unremarkable and after listening to them for an extended period of time I really didn’t feel any which way about him but definitely not a bad pair especially with the price drop

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 2:38 pm

They’re pretty damn bad, especially when you consider they were originally $900. A $500 price drop tells me all I need to know. Now that they’re $400 they’re all of a sudden an acceptable purchase? – or even “Good”? Helll No. The Edition XS is perfectly valued at $500 and doesn’t have a wonky/grainy, scooped-out sound. Anyone who buys this trash is getting swindled plain and simple.

So you’re going to pay $400 for what you call “unremarkable” headphones? Sounds a lot like lighting money on fire when you could just get something better. Heck, a 400se at a 100 freaking dollars is way better than these and it’s not close.

In my opinion, folks need to stop lining these companies’ pockets because, at this point, they know they can release damn near anything and people are going to buy it based on the “expert reviews” of some shill who’s getting loads of free stuff.

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Jim September 1, 2023 - 12:07 am

I find it interesting that you’ve waited so long since its introduction to post this review. Did you need to write up some reviews to make some extra cash? Paid by the word are you? I also understand the need to publish some negative reviews to maintain some level of ‘I’m an expert’, but again such a long delay in reviewing them? Your review is so out of date as to be useless. Thanks for nothing.

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 2:30 pm

Cope harder

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Jay September 1, 2023 - 12:56 am

Just your opinion and nothing else. Like they say, “Opinion’s are like assholes, everyone has one.”

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 1:59 pm

Wow. You come up with that response all by yourself?

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Jamie September 15, 2023 - 5:53 pm

Not a fan of Focal Headphones until now the $800 Bathys on up. Everything below that is baseless.

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Stuart Charles Black September 15, 2023 - 6:44 pm

Need to try the Bathys too! What are your thoughts on the Celestee and Clear MG? Got a chance to demo them recently and going to write reviews soon. May demo again but I have a pretty good idea of my overall thoughts.

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Grant September 1, 2023 - 1:04 am

I found similar until I flung that ghastly cable away and connected them up with a 4.4 lead I bought. Not these are great

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 2:01 pm

May be worth a try. Thank you for the tip. I’m gonna try and go to Audio Advice tomorrow and see what they’ve got nowadays. I haven’t been in there in a while.

I just think the tuning of this headphone was so off I’m not sure if a cable could help it.

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Joe R. September 1, 2023 - 1:07 am

Based on personal experience, on the majority of owner and professional reviews that I’ve read, and on forum feedback, a typical Elegía doesn’t sound much like what you described hearing. I’m in no way saying that you weren’t honest in describing what you heard, so I suspect that the pair you reviewed had some sort of manufacturing defect.

I bought them myself at a steep discount just to have a decent pair of closed back headphones. My main complaint was the one that over 90% of other reviews that I read expressed…that the Elegía is bass shy… especially between 100 and 200 Hz.

I didn’t like them at all until I swapped out the stock pads for Dekoni Stellia pads. That swap fixed the bass, but made them sound a bit more closed in to me. Still far from one of my favorites, but I think they’re a good value now that it’s discontinued and discounted to below $500.

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 2:54 pm

Hey man thanks for the comment and understanding.

Check out Aiden’s comment and blog post.

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Aiden September 1, 2023 - 3:49 am

I have these and agree they sounded terrible. I also own the OG Clears which made matters worse. After some experimentation I found that the driver is actually … fine… and removing some of the driver face screws and using some different pads made a weirdly big difference.

I think the enclosure is the problem and the face plate can be torqued too much which can smother the driver.

Their issue I think was production and QC in assembly more than the driver. I did a blog post on it:

https://aidenbell.me/discovering-a-simple-focal-elegia-mod/

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 2:53 pm

Interesting! That actually makes a lot of sense. I may try and demo these again but the price drop over the years tells me all I need to know. I’m never actually going to buy one so I wouldn’t be able to “fix” them lol.

Reading your review now. “Mids sounded swampy and recessed.” Yup. Horrible.

“To me, the Elegia always sounded “off”. “The imaging was all over the place, the bass always felt too dark, thick and washy.”

Exactly. The imaging especially. It’s like everything just blurred together.

So perhaps it’s just a QC thing and the headphones either weren’t properly constructed or the methodology was haphazard and not thought through. Now I’m thinking that maybe not all units were put together the same? This would explain some disparity in what I heard vs. others.

Anyway, glad you commented to shed some more light on this.

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John Wayne Anderson September 1, 2023 - 7:14 am

grrr….yes I am butt hurt by your review. Beginning audiophile here. I got the Elegia because of its deep discount due to it being discontinued and replaced by the Celeste. I figure, its my one chance to own a $1000 pair of headphones and a steep upgrade over my Sennheiser 280 pros. So yes, my glasses may be rose colored but they certainly sound better than the 280’s and anything else I have heard. I will say, what drives the Elegia matters. Using a headphone amp (fiio q5) really brings out the sound quality of the Elegia. Playing them barebacked on my modest Yamaha Rx V4a (dont judge me), the Elegia sounds exactly how you described them in your article. When I plug in the Q5, wow, it is musical bliss. No idea why my Yamaha cannot drive them w/ out ampflication. Now im curious to try the Elegias on other systems to see if they sound as muddy. It could be (despite the low ohm claim) they need a little extra oomph to drive them.

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 2:44 pm

Interesting. I was using super high-grade equipment when I demoed them. Hugo 2, Bryston BHA-1, NAIM DAC V-1. And they were awful sounding. I may go and try them out again but man they were bad. I’d rather people just get an Edition XS for an actual well-tuned headphone that’s valued correctly.

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Angus November 18, 2023 - 12:16 am

It’s interesting you say that. I actually had a similar experience with Sennheiser hd600. I had a listen if a friend’s setup with good gear. Dac, amp and so on connected to his PC. I had a listen and I don’t think Id heard anything as unimpressive since I was listening to my discman.

I was baffled as the hd600 although not high-end, are well respected headphones. All I could say was “ahhh I’m not 100% sure but there is something wrong here”.

My hifiman400 into my chord mojo sounds a million miles ahead of what I heard out of his “system”.

Maybe something went wrong along the chain of your setup? I’d be curious to see if you could just plug them into a good DAC and into a laptop and see if it’s any different.

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Stuart Charles Black November 18, 2023 - 12:15 pm

Angus,

Thank you for stopping by! Yes, the example you bring up with the HD600 is precisely the point of all this. Most people love the HD600, and there’s a segment of them who typically try and start fights with people who don’t – which is patently absurd. So no, there was nothing “wrong.” You just didn’t like them and that’s fine and completely normal.

There are those that, like you, absolutely do not love the headphones, and to be honest, I can understand the criticism even though I think they are good for the most part. I enjoy them, I have had a pair since 2016, and I really don’t care all that much if people think that they are bad. I personally do not feel that way, but you’re not wrong for not liking them. That’s silly. Fresh pads with those are super important in my opinion as well. Over time, they simply start to sound duller and even more veiled than they do fresh out of the box.

Now just apply that to the Elegia. I don’t care that a bunch of people like them. I really don’t. For context, I published 60 some articles in August. This was exactly ONE of those. In other words, just another day at the office lol. It was one I had been putting off for quite awhile, but if you can believe it, someone actually accused me of receiving payment to write bad things about it/trying to stir up controversy xD. That’s just.. asinine and shows the lack of emotional maturity + common sense of some people. So.. who exactly is going to pay me? You can clearly see how stupid this hobby can be.

There are people who agree with me about the Elegia, and those that don’t. It doesn’t invalidate my opinion or theirs. It simply means I have my own viewpoint and experience with these which happens to be fairly negative.

And there was nothing wrong with the setup, but thank you bringing that up. I normally outline what I used for demos, but I forgot to for the Elegia. I will have to go back and add that in. I used both a Hugo 2 and NAIM DAC V-1 with Tidal/Masters/FLAC.

In any event, the headphones just didn’t sound good to me at all, and were initially way overpriced at $900 (a real problem with Focal and how they price their stuff imo). There’s a reason they’ve come down by $500 and still aren’t even worth $399. They’re glorified $200 headphones. That’s just my opinion and I may try them again if I can get a hold of them, but it’s not a top priority.

As for the HIFIMAN, the reason you thought that is because they typically do have better overall resolution and timbre than an HD600 and really, most dynamic headphones in the mid-fi category. While not 100% objectively accurate a statement, it’s about as close as it gets when you consider that planar technology is superior in most facets.

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Evan sgarlata September 1, 2023 - 7:41 am

I think you have been using such high grade audio equipment maybe your standards are to high. I can’t afford the 3.5k utopia as a college student but the 350$ elegia is good enough with better sound quality than other 3-400 dollar headphones. If I am incorrect what headphones on that range could put compete the elegia.

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 2:41 pm

Dude. I get what you’re saying. But don’t buy these, please for the love of God lol. Just buy a 400se at $100 or get an Edition XS if you want an actual good headphone that’s valued right.

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Gareth September 1, 2023 - 5:15 pm

Thanks for the review. I own both the Elegia (which I did get on discount so I already don’t think of them in the context of a $900 set of cans) and the Hifiman Edition XS. I bought the Elegia to have a set of closed backs so I don’t annoy the family quite so much. I personally have not experienced the car wreck you seem to have with them. My experience on my set is that the bass is tame and possibly slightly recessed (that doesn’t worry me though – I am not a basshead by any means). The mids are great and i find both male and female vocals to be very prominent in their presentation. I find the imaging and separation to be very good for closed back HPs (the edition xs smashes them out of the water largely because of the gargantuan soundstage I think, and the fact that the xs are just a fantastically tuned set of headphones) All in all I am pretty happy with the Elegia, and perhaps agree with other comments that it may be a QC issue and that the pair you reviewed may be a bit wonky (I mostly surmise this largely due to the almost opposite feedback on the bass and mids to my own experience). Having said that i will also say that they are in no way reference headphones and so wouldn’t recommend them personally for critical listening. I’ve played around with eq for them and have found them very responsive to eq. I am considering trying out the Dekoni Stella pads on them as I’ve heard people report some solid results from doing that. I’m in no way a professional. Just an avid audiophile giving my thoughts based on my experience.

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Stuart Charles Black September 1, 2023 - 6:15 pm

I appreciate your comment! Glad you’re enjoying them. I will see if I can demo them again. I’m planning on going to Audio Advice tomorrow so we’ll see what happens. 🙂 I will keep you posted.

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Gareth September 2, 2023 - 5:48 am

I’d be interested to hear if you do get to demo another set. Ps I forgot to mention in my previous post that I use a 4.4mm cable for all my listening. I haven’t even tried the 3.5 that came with the phones. Have a great one!

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Stuart Charles Black September 2, 2023 - 10:19 am

Thanks Gareth! Yeah, I will def keep you posted on that. I may try and demo some stuff today. We’ll see if they have the Elegia. I too listen with 4.4 if balanced. Also 2.5 sometimes.

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Vlad September 1, 2023 - 7:42 pm

Elegia does sound somewhat wonky in terms of frequency response, but in terms of technical performance, I find them to be some of the best headphones I’ve heard thus far. I’ve been in the hobby for many years and have heard and owned hundreds of headphones. This shows how differently we hear and why I am less and less interested in other people’s opinions on audio gear. The only way to form a solid opinion on a headphone is to listen to it yourself with a wide variety of music, out of different amps and dacs and over a long period of time… You also need to do at least some direct AB’ing against other headphones, to avoid pitfalls of biases and our terrible audio memory. I read somewhere that we only really remember sound for about 3 seconds after hearing it. Seems about right to me. Lol

I’ve had the Elegia since 2019. I’ve had a pretty love and hate relationship with it. Hated it due to wonky frequency response and how it can sound wrong with some music and loved it for its technicalities that keep on impressing me to this day and the way it can make a lot of well recorded music come to life in a way most cans I heard can’t. In some recordings I even found Elegia a bit clearer and less grainy than my Utopia, believe it or not. I don’t use it much these days, as I have over 50 other headphones, including Utopia and He1000 Stealth that I need to rotate through. Haha Elegia is one of my favorites though in direct AB comparisons for critical listening though due to its amazing technical performance for the price (again, in MY opinion). When listening to it, I am constantly thinking “Man, yes a bit wonky (but really not that bad with well made recordings), but sooo detailed, clear, spacious, dynamic and fast in transient response.” Bass is really tight and detailed and treble has no hint of grain at all. It’s so clean for a closed back with way less resonances than most closed backs. And soundstage rivals many open headphones, the depth in particular,as well as excellent positioning/imaging.

Just my two cents. I admit that I was taken aback by such a negative review, but given how darn subjective this hobby is, I understand how it can happen. Peace bro, wish you all the best and keep the reviews comin’! Negative or positive, whatever. Audiofools rejoice! Jk 😀

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Stuart Charles Black September 2, 2023 - 10:03 am

Vlad,

I really appreciate your kind response to my over-the-top review! LOL. And I promise you I didn’t write it for the reasons that some may think. Whatever I wrote is genuinely how I felt about it and yeah I was having some fun. I guess that’s not a crime – yet. xD If you read my other reviews it’s very rare for me to go off on something.

I just remember listening to it and being like “What the f is this sh**?” LOL like Patrick Stewart. In any event, I also appreciate that you can acknowledge you heard what I did – at least to an extent. I just felt like the mids were scooped and everything sounded kind of blurred together and not very cohesive. I didn’t have too much of a problem with the bass as I think most people have unrealistic expectations about the low end. To me, a flat line or some slight roll-off is preferred. Companies tend to screw up bass shelving more often than not (see Stellia), so I’m completely fine when they keep it neutral or close to it.

From personal experience, I find that my first impressions of a headphone are often the best ones. This has to do with the concept of “Burn In” to an extent, but I believe burn-in is actually just our brains becoming acclimated to a new stimulus and thus accepting it over the long term as we listen more and more. This is why a lot of folks end up justifying their expensive purchase – in effect convincing themselves the sound is good when perhaps it’s actually not. They simply just got used to how it sounded. Contrary to what some may say, I don’t personally believe it takes that long to determine whether or not a headphone is tuned well. The frequency response simply is what it is. I also have a lot of experience in mixing and EQ so that obviously helps as well.

One of the reasons I’m so hard on these is because I know what Focal is capable of and therefore listening to it left me with a huge empty feeling – as if I had been let down or tricked. I guess it’s not entirely fair to compare all their headphones to the Utopia, but they set the bar so high with those that I feel everything else is simply going to pale in comparison. For instance, if the Clear was maybe $400-500, that to me is valued correctly. At $1000, it’s simply not worth that much given its own issues (grain, etc.)

It’s people like you that I appreciate though because you can look at someone else’s opinion and not get upset about it like some others have. At the end of the day, I’m just one guy with a viewpoint. If you read Aiden’s comment, there may be some QC issues going on as well which would explain some of the discrepancy between what I heard vs. others. That said, I still believe the tuning of these was very strange/bad and I’m glad that you acknowledged it.

I hope to chat with you again!

Cheers,

-Stu

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VLAD September 2, 2023 - 7:09 pm

Hey Stu. I appreciate your response as well. Admittedly, I don’t have musically trained ears, as I am not a musician or sound engineer, so it is quite likely that my ability to hear tonal issues isn’t very good and that I simply don’t care as much for tonal issues as you do. I do still hear Elegia as wonky and I think most people can agree that it sounds at least somewhat off. I think it also depends on the music, as with some tracks I find it’s tonal issues less audible than with others. Of course, EQ can probably fix the tonality to a large degree, but I personally don’t like EQing. I just don’t. Lol

It is also definitely possible than your unit was defective somehow. Add to that the usual unit to unit variations that inevitably occur with pretty much all headphones and the Elegia you heard may really have sounded quite different from my pair. All I know is that I have been comparing my Elegia with a lot of other cans over the years, including the Utopia and Edition XS that you also mentioned in your review, and my conclusion on their strong technicalities still stands. No, its not quite on Utopia level, but it’s not supposed to be obviously… Yet I still find Elegia to be a significant technical improvement over something like HD600 series or lower end Hifiman planars. Comparing it to Edition XS, I actually feel Elegia better sounding in a number of ways. It’s dynamics are noticeably better – it punches harder in the lows and provides a better sense of volume gradations overall. Even though Edition XS is a very fast headphone, I actually think Elegia is even faster, especially in the higher frequencies. You said the bass is Elegia’s strongest quality, but I feel it’s actually the treble above 5 kHz or so. It does not sound off to me tonally (unlike Elear, which I did find uneven in the treble) and extends really well, is super clean and grain free and has remarkable transients. Yes, I think it’s faster than Edition XS and more effortless sounding. Even tonally, neither is perfect. Elegia has a dip at 4-5 kHz, while Edition XS has one at 2kHz… Neither one is ideal for vocals IMO, but in terms of texture, micro detail and definition, I think Elegia actually is better in the mids. Just to give an example – listening to nice female vocals on the two and comparing to my HE1000 Stealth, Edition XS is not even close – really ordinary sounding in comparison. Elegia though… I was really surprised at the realism I heard in the vocals. It’s still not HE1000 level, but definitely closer and still wowed me, whereas Edition XS did not. But then again, for that track, I also preferred HE1000 over the Utopia as well. I honestly think that for a lot of music, the Utopia and Elegia are really not far off in neither SQ, nor tonality. Could be my shitty ears. Lol OR it could also be that my sources are simply not good enough to get the most out of Utopia. My best amps are the Topping L30 and Thx789 and my DACs are Schiit Modi Multibit and Khadas ToneBoard… So yeah, could also be amp/dac limitation.

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Stuart Charles Black September 3, 2023 - 6:10 pm

Lol, I don’t like EQ’ing either. I will only do it in rare cases (For instance the DEVA’s treble absolutely needed EQ).

And yeah, I definitely agree that there may have been a QC issue (Aiden’s comment). I still stand by my main point that these weren’t tuned very well, but again, it’s worth another listen if I can get my hands on them again.

I went to Audio Advice yesterday and they didn’t have them on the shelf. I did get to demo the Celestee and Clear MG and I have mostly good things to say about those so stay tuned!! There are some issues with the Celestee but they aren’t even close to being as bad as the problems with the Stellia and Elegia (again, IMO lol)

In any event, thank you for the dialogue and I hope to continue chatting! At the moment, I can’t really rebut your comment since I’d have to have them side by side (Elegia/XS/Ananda). I do have the Arya here and really love it for mixing my beats.

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Jake September 2, 2023 - 10:04 am

I recently bought the Elegias for when I go into the office – I wanted a closed headphone that was approximately similar to my Clear Og at home. The Elegia was on clearance for $329 AUD (~$200 USD) and it seemed like an absolute steal, so I bought them online without an audition.

Honestly, they are worth what I paid for them so I’m happy – but not worth a whole lot more. I think you were a little harsh on them but I broadly agree with your observations – the mids are unusually poor compared to the Clear, I described them as compressed sounding. Your comparison to radio is apt. Focal originally claimed these were “a closed back Clear” but they’re not even close to what the Clear can deliver, and their original RRP is an absolute joke.

I do disagree with you about your comments on the Clear being okay but overpriced though – I AB tested the Clear Og against the Utopia 2022 and was very surprised I preferred the Clear, in truth. They were close, the Utopia had better detail but sounded more clinical, while the Clear had a more substantial low end and slightly more open staging that I felt made it more relaxing and enjoyable to listen to. Especially considering the Clear cost me $799 AUD (~$500 USD) while the Utopia was more than 4x that at $3499 (~$2250 USD)

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Stuart Charles Black September 2, 2023 - 1:04 pm

Yeah man, I definitely need to revisit the Clear again. At $500, yes, that’s a good deal. But I don’t think it’s worth $1000.

Appreciate your level-headed response. And yeah, $200 is actually what I would personally value the Elegia at, so that was a good purchase for you in my opinion even without an audition.

So glad you can recognize that they aren’t worth more than that because they simply aren’t. And you probably read my other replies in the comment section. $900 for these at launch was a joke and I firmly believe the reason they came down so much is because, in addition to the obvious being that they weren’t worth that much, they just aren’t tuned that well (IMO) – not well enough for even a $400 price tag in my mind.

Your thoughts on the Clear vs. Utopia are interesting. I will have to go back and revisit those as well. It’s funny you mention clinical with regard to Utopia. I always feel like that should be the case, but whenever I demo them I never get that sense. In fact, the Utopia is still the only headphone I’ve ever tried that sounds better each time I listen to it. Go figure. I think it strikes the perfect balance between enjoyable and revealing. The resolution is just on another level for me.

And yeah, that’s one thing that still kind of bothers me about the Utopia. I’ve always said in my articles, “Is it truly worth $4000?” Mehhh. Probably not, but $2k seems about right, no? It is hard to justify 4x the price because while I do have issues with the Clear (grain, etc.) it’s defintiely not 4x worse than the Utopia. To me though, it’s still a $500 headphone and nothing more than that. So I guess if we’re valuing them correctly, it’s still 4x more for the Utopia at $2k. Does that seem fair?

Idk, this is a pretty tough thing to dissect. I also want to discuss this pricing issue in a video because I also feel like Focal drastically overprices their headphones.

For instance, the Stellia at $3000? That’s completely asinine lol. The Stellia was another disappointment, but I’m not going to get into it much here.

In any event, hope to chat with you again! I will definitely keep you posted on further impressions. I’m fixing to do a big Focal shootout as well. And thanks again for the discourse-inspired response. Much appreciated!

Cheers,

-Stu

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Hbee September 5, 2023 - 9:21 am

Your review came out at an interesting juncture for me, a day after i bought them and days before I received them. You made me nervous. With that said and done, I’m no audiophile and i haven’t any long history of gear, great equipment or benchmarks with which to compare them. They had RRP of > $1300Aud and sell now for just over $300. I figured I’d take the $1k discount and see what a purportedly > $1k headphone sounds like for kicks. They arrived today and I’ve only a phone + hidiz s3 pro driving it. For the money I paid i think they are pretty great. They wipe the floor of anything i have had in the past. I bought Meze 99 Neo and hated them from day one. If you want to talk about bloated Bass… Back to the elegia. I’d not want to pay more than I did so i guess that is damning in faint praise. I’m keen to run them in, maybe build up my input gear and see what i get out of them. But even with what i have, there is a sense of space and detail I’ve not heard before. We are off to a good start.

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Stuart Charles Black September 5, 2023 - 5:56 pm

Hey man, thanks for the comment. The $1000 discount should tell you all you need to know. Here in the States, they sold for around $900 at launch. Not even close to being worth that much. They’re $200 max headphones, so the price you paid wasn’t too terrible. But yeah, the Neo was completely awful and definitely worse. But guess what, Meze didn’t try and sell it for a thousand dam dollars.

The problem I have with the Elegia is the mid-range is wonky and bad, and the tuning overall was terrible for a headphone that sold for as much as it did. A lot of people are getting upset over it, but the truth is that these were extremely overpriced to begin with and now that they’ve come down, all of a sudden they’re good? Yeah no. The Edition XS is an actual good headphone and a good value.

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Matty C September 5, 2023 - 3:48 pm

Pretty hilarious review, full of cussing and “lol’s”. Very quality stuff here that should be taken seriously.

Just type “Focal Elegiac reviews” into Google and see how many people agree with this review. This was good for a laugh, that’s about it.

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Stuart Charles Black September 5, 2023 - 5:47 pm

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Gabriel October 18, 2023 - 7:01 pm

Hehe, they are wonky. I’ve been thinking about selling mine, but after a few months I finally landed on an EQ profile the gives them some real personality and makes for a lovely listen with modern genres such as rap, indie, electronic, pop, etc. I’m also running them through a cheap tube amp (Little Dot MK2). Even when EQed, the tuning is still somewhat wonky. I think it may just be the driver combined with the closed back design that leads to this plasticky timbre. I wouldn’t recommend them as all rounders, but EQed, they can be a nice addition to a collection, as they have have the capacity to produce some great slam/dynamics and are surprisingly competent technically given the discounted price.

Here’s the EQ profile I’m using (a highly customized version of Crinacle’s EQ profile for the Elegia):

Preamp: -7 dB
Filter 1: ON LSC Fc 200 Hz Gain 6 dB Q 0.7
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 172 Hz Gain 0.5 dB Q 2.02
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 238 Hz Gain -1 dB Q 1
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1742 Hz Gain -2 dB Q 5.63
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 2055 Hz Gain 2.3 dB Q 6
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 2901 Hz Gain -2.7 dB Q 5.6
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 3788 Hz Gain 2 dB Q 6
Filter 9: ON PK Fc 4803 Hz Gain 6 dB Q 0.82
Filter 10: ON HSC Fc 8000 Hz Gain -3 dB Q 0.7

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Stuart Charles Black October 22, 2023 - 10:24 am

Gabriel,

Great to hear from you again.

I don’t mean to be THAT guy, but what if, instead of trying to painstakingly EQ bad headphones, you were to just get an Ananda or Edition XS and have a markedly better sound across the board?

Yeah, I mean, they are in no way worth what they went for at launch, so I suppose the discounted price is a step in the right direction. But in my opinion they aren’t even worth $400. This is more like a $200 product in my opinion.

BUT.. I’m glad you’re somehow finding a way to enjoy them! I definitely would still explore other options though. And “plasticky timbre” is a fantastic way to describe it.

Please keep me posted on everything. I would love to hear about any and all updates.

-Stu

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Alex November 17, 2023 - 1:37 pm

I’ve using them for more than 5 years. I mostly listen to Tidal through Mojo DAC. I really love the sound and how comfortable they are. But, the quality is unacceptable! I bought them brand new. The cord broke in the first week. I was able to replace it by warranty but the second one failed in couple of months with the same problem. I was very gentle with them but nevertheless the headband snapped. The replacement headband is 250 + shipping (the new Elegia goes for 400 now). When I disassembled them to replace the headband I was not happy with the design. It is not made to last. In short, the sound is great the comfort is great, but with that level of quality they should cost 200. My next headphones will not be Focal most likely.

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Stuart Charles Black November 18, 2023 - 12:15 pm

Alex,

Really sorry to hear about the build issues but glad you at least enjoyed them. Are you currently looking for a headphone?

-Stu

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