Aural Bliss

Focal Elegia.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Focal’s high-end headphone offerings have so far been impressive. The Utopia and Clear, especially, have received high praise for their neutrality and dynamism. However, these are openback headphones that make them unsuitable for office use or listening in noisy environments. That changes with the Elegia, Focal’s first closed-back headphones.

Made in France in the same factories that build Focal’s high-end loud speakers, the Elegia is well built and certainly justifies its high price. Because of the use of materials such as aluminum, the Elegia is fairly heavy at 430g. Fortunately, wearing comfort is good thanks to its nicely padded microfiber leather headband and cushy memory foam ear pads. Clamping force is a smidge too over enthusiastic for my liking but I didn’t feel any discomfort even after wearing it for hours.

Focal designed the Elegia to sound like its open-back siblings, and the process of doing so required some clever engineering and damping to the ear cups. As you may know, closedback headphones present significant challenges, primarily in the way the ear cups react with the drivers to create unwanted resonances and back waves. To achieve their goal, the Elegia’s cups have a vent cleverly hidden in the logo to allow dissipation of low frequencies. Additionally, the cups have a specific geometry that was designed to reduce compression and turbulence. Finally, damping materials are added within the cups behind the driver to break up standing drives and reduce resonance.

The driver within is the same M-shaped aluminum magnesium alloy dome driver used in the Clear headphone. However, despite the best efforts of Focal’s engineers, the Elegia still doesn’t sound as smooth and resolving as the Clear or its other open-back siblings. It was noticeably hazier and more uneven. But I’m nitpicking. As far as closed-back headphones go, the Elegia is actually very impressive. Its tonality is quite similar to the openback Clear and that itself is a commendable achievement. Overall, it sounds balanced and coherent without any of the nasty bloated bass that plagues most closed back headphones. Bass is clean and tight, though it could do with more punch and dynamism; mid-range is rich and full-bodied, while the treble is liquid and not too peaky.

To end, though the Elegia might not be as technically proficient as its open-back siblings, I find it to be one of the most neutral and balanced closed-back headphones you can buy today regardless of price. If you love Focal’s Clear and always wanted a closed-back version that you can take with you and listen just about anywhere, the Elegia is practically godsend.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room

"The internals of the ear cup has been specially designed to reduce standing waves and resonances."

My Reading Room
Impressively neutral and balanced for a closed-back headphone.
My Reading Room