Massdrop x Focal Elex Headphones
Massdrop x Focal Elex Headphones
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Product Description
Made with Focal’s brilliant engineering and extraordinary attention to detail, the Elex headphones take a fundamentally different approach to dynamic drivers—and deliver a better measured performance across the board than headphones several times their price. A refinement of the $1,000 Elear with elements of the $1,500 Clear, they boast several improvements to the sound, build, and aesthetic, too Read More
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All of our reviews are from verified customers.
4.7
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204
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92%
would recommend to a friend
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raulett
10
Jan 20, 2020
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right headphone does not work
for a 600$ headphone this was ridiculous. they arrived damaged and the right headphone does not work. Drop needs more quality control especially on their higher price items.
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Would not recommend to a friend.
Jan 20, 2020
marts_sum
247
Jan 20, 2020
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You sure it's just not the cable? Try swapping sides.
Jan 20, 2020
raulett
10
Jan 21, 2020
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I tried to swap sides and nothing changed. I guess that is the right headphone connection. I contacted Drop and they are sending me a new one. Let's see if this new one functions correctly.
Jan 21, 2020
MedMan2193
6
Jan 19, 2020
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Easily becomes your favorite headphone!
I spent nearly a year on the fence about buying the Focal Elex because I enjoyed my HD6XX so much that I questioned how much better sound could get. I finally became bored enough with the Sennheisers and purchased the Focals with absolutely no regret. Comfort Personally, I think the HD6XX is a more comfortable headphone. It's much lighter and fits better around the crown of the head. The Elex is a close second in comfort. The additional weight is well distributed throughout the headband and the ear pads. The clamp force is more than I thought it would be considering how "open" they look on many pictures but they don't stretch easily, which is a consideration if you have a bigger head size. Build These feel like they're worth their price. Everything from the unboxing experience to the feel and materials of the headphone screams premium. I'm very happy in this department. No creaking while wearing them and I feel like they could survive accidental drops. Sound I can hear why they're advertised as "super HD650s". The sound signature is similar, with better treble sparkle. I was worried that they were going to be sibilant because I am particularly sensitive but I have yet to hear any! Instead, the treble is perfectly extended, adds a lot of detail to instruments and voices, and brings a whole new light to my music. The treble is my favorite and most surprising part of the headphone. Huge improvement over HD6XX. The mids are similar sounding to the HD6XX but imagine that the singer moved back 6 inches from the microphone. I found that in some songs the HD6XX could be shouty but this is corrected in the Elex and makes the Elex sound like a smoother headphone to me. Overall, mids are detailed and accurate, definitely an improvement over HD6XX but I can see how some may prefer Sennheiser's presentation. Bass is accurate, fast, detailed, but can be underwhelming depending on the genre of music. I was initially disappointed because I've read how it's well extended and flat. I think that the treble and mid presence is so forward that the bass takes a back seat. It's present, and when comparing directly to the HD6XX, the bass is stronger on the Elex but it doesn't "feel" that way initially. After a week of daily listening to the Elex, my brain has adapted and I appreciate it now but I wish the mid-bass was boosted by 2-3db. This headphone does frequency separation incredibly well. In part due to the distance that the drivers sit from the ear and due to the openness of the design. In comparison, the HD6XX begins to sound claustrophobic and congested. The HD6XX remains a well-detailed headphone but when you listen to the Elex, it's a big step in the right direction. The Elex makes music far more engaging and fun to listen to. The dynamics are INCREDIBLE. Also, one of my favorite parts of this headphone in addition to the treble. If you listen to jazz or classical where dynamics are an important part of the piece, this headphone will bring you to a new level of euphoria. If you're listening to poorly mastered new music, in particular pop or rock, the dynamics make no difference. The dynamics add a new level of detail to well-mastered music that I haven't experienced before. The soundstage is better than the HD6XX but only marginally. It's marginally wider with better 3-dimensional representation but I expected more of an improvement. On the other hand, imaging is significantly improved and again, adds a new layer of detail to music. The sound is very natural and a pleasure to do critical listening but also lends itself well to laid back enjoyment. Comparisons As you can probably tell by now, I think the Elex does most things better than the HD6XX. In fact, the Elex reminds me a bit of an open-back version of the Audio-Technica MSR7. The Elex has better soundstage, imaging, frequency separation, but the overall technicality is similar to the MSR7, in my opinion. The MSR7s have sibilance and metallic treble, which is why I didn't like them but the Elex fixes those issues. Value Are the Elex 3+ times better than the HD6XX? Absolutely not. Am I happy paying $600-700 for them? Without a doubt. If you have the budget and the interest in upgrading, these are without question a good value and a contender for end-game sound quality. Setup: Tidal HIFI/Masters -> iFi iDSD Nano BL -> Elex TLDR Good comfort, better sound, end-game contender. Better than HD6XX in most aspects. Pleasant in critical listening situations but also a pleasure to relax with. Can be your one and only headphone.
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Would recommend to a friend.
Jan 19, 2020
c_dubb
4
Jan 17, 2020
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“Super HD650” is an understatement, but needs a little work & pairing to get there
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This is my longish journey of finding an all-around headphone with the vocals of the Sennheiser 500/600 series & the bass of the Fostex TH-610/900 - my unicorn headphones. I think my journey is over (I’m still curious about LCD-X, my other finalist) I did not want a slightly better version of the 580/600 series – it needed to be significantly better for the cost. Not wanting to go over a certain budget, amp pairing was also tricky to figure out. Research & reviews helped, but I wasn't sure if that was the right sound for me. (DISCLAIMER) I’m picky with sound, but my criteria is to FEEL the music over everything else. In a previous life, I was a festival kid, and certain things REALLY made you FEEL the music. My preferred sound signature is generally neutral but with a slight warmth and having the option to EQ the bass when needed. Genres of music I listen to: EDM (most sub-genres, but generally with vocals/anthems), Hip Hop, Folk, Oldies, Pop. Heavy emphasis on vocals. I occasionally listen to orchestral, Opera & Rock. Music sources = Flac files & Spotify. Sennheiser’s I’ve owned in order: HD555, HD558, HD600, HD650, HD58x (Felt modded) I’ve always thought the way they did bass was lacking & unnatural when EQ’d, but I love how they do vocals. Another negative is that the sound can get crowded when there is a lot going on. Bass heavy headphones I’ve owned in order: JVC HA-SZ2000, Fostex TH-900, Fostex TH-610. TH-900 murdered my ears & the TH-610 I enjoyed for 2 years but fatigued my ears (couldn't do long sessions), although the bass was phenomenal. Initial Thoughts:
  • It did not sound like a “Super HD650” (in my case 58x)
  • Elex sounded superior except for the vocals. I happen to love the Sennheiser grain/veil & there was a sparkle to the vocals that the ELEX did not have, until the foam mod & significantly improved with the Marantz DAC1.
  • Sounded a little analytical, cold, & distant. I was not feet tapping, swaying, nor head bobbing much compared to HD58x.
  • A tad bit aggressive
  • Certain vocals make it sound a little metallic, but is super clear. Foam mod eliminates the slight metallic sound in vocals.
  •  Bass isn’t quite Fostex level, but the quality is outstanding and is punchier, faster, & a much greater impact than the 580/600 series. Sub bass is nice & present but won’t give you a deep massage like the Fostex or JVC. Analogy is the Elex Bass = hard hitting, quality bass in a big room, where the Fostex = hard hitting, quality bass in a car.

Amp/DAC pairing:
  • Aune T1 MK2 with Amperex 6922 tube as DAC/AMP: added warmth, but everything sounded a bit thin. Needs more body to the sound.
  • Magni 3 as AMP + Aune T1 MK2 as DAC: Did not like at all. Felt clinical/cold & a bit thin.
  • Magni 3 as AMP+ Scarlett Solo as DAC = Sounded good and was my setup prior to acquiring the Marantz DAC1. Surprisingly this combo had warmth and body compared to above. Vocals were too forward compared to the Marantz DAC1, but for $200 combo with the ability to plug in a condenser mic, I liked it a lot.
  • Ampex 440 recording, separate channel amps: Sounded great on reel to reel, but the bass was emphasized a bit too much. Bass needs to be EQ’d down, otherwise quite neutral. (Tried at my Dad’s house)
  • Marantz DAC1 as Amp & DAC: Immediately noticed soundstage and imaging gains, non-main vocals no longer sounded distant but now just behind the vocals. Adds warmth and body. Overall, makes the sound very smooth & enjoyable at the cost of aggressiveness and a slightly softer bass presentation. This pairing made previously poorly recorded/mastered songs listenable and can be enjoyable.
  • Marantz DAC1 + Loki EQ + Scarlet Solo DAC: I like this setup and can EQ the bass if needed(haven’t needed to much). EQ’n the bass adds very little slam/impact/etc. – rather it adds more body to the bass, it’s more of the subtle variety and can see why some have said it doesn’t respond to EQ well.

Easy Mod: I did an easy mod to make the vocal tonality & timbre sound more like my 58x. I had extra foam inserts from felt modding the 58x. I used those and cut them out to shape to cover the Focal bare drivers.
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This mod will add warmth & a small amount of grain/veil to the vocals, soundstage (vocals) will be a little closer and intimate, bass impact/slam will be a little less. Slight metallic sound from vocals is eliminated. Some will not like these changes, but for me, this is where it becomes a “Super 58x” and pairing it with the Marantz DAC1 took it a couple levels higher. I haven’t got these to clip so far except for 1 song. Awolnation’s Sail when EQ’d almost to the max on the Loki. At ½ turn, this song absolutely slams on the ELEX.  Man this review turned out long, sorry. TLDR: With a little bit of work & correct pairing, the ELEX is a substantial step up from my felt modded 58x. Adding foam cutouts to the bare drivers will give it a tiny bit of grain/veil & warmth in line with the 580/600 series. The Marantz DAC1 pairs amazingly with the FOCAL ELEX. If the 580/600 series is someone singing in your ears, the ELEX is somewhere between that and monitors. Overall this setup has far superior bass, soundstage, imaging, body, tonality, & timbre over my 58x. Amazing, addictive, & I've been FEELING the music listening to them hours on end. I might have found my unicorn. 
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Would recommend to a friend.
Jan 17, 2020
angstroms
31
Jan 15, 2020
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These cans that will bring you back into the magical journey of your back catalog.
They are beautiful sounding headphone which hold their own against Hifiman Ananda and Dan Clark Aeon X. They very easy to drive, but they sound even better on an external amp/DAC. They are very efficient compared to the Dan Clarks Aeon X so you get good sound off IPAD and IPHONE as well. Great with Blues, Rock, and Jazz and many other genres.
Jan 15, 2020
sojourn558
2
Jan 15, 2020
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Wow!
I paid full price ($700), which chaps my AZZ a little, but they are well worth the price at $700. I primarily stream from TIDAL's MASTER playlists and the sound quality is amazing. At $600 it would be stupid not to get a pair.
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Would recommend to a friend.
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Jan 15, 2020
adeadcrab
142
Jan 16, 2020
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They used to be $800 IIRC :)
Jan 16, 2020
mleghorn
8
Jan 13, 2020
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Superb Value
I got my new Focal headphones a week or so ago. For comparison, I own a pair of HD 800's. I'm using the Naim Audio DAC-V1 for my DAC/Amp. iTunes on my PC is my music source, fed to my DAC-V1 via USB. I listen to mostly classical. My first impression with the Focals was that the soundstage shrunk when the music got loud and busy. I also noticed a kind of "paper" sound to the cello section in The Rite of Spring. Both issues seemed to stem from a peak in the upper midrange. I confirmed this with piano recordings. A few notes in the upper range stuck out unnaturally, resulting in harshness that made me want to turn the volume down. The emphasis in this range blotted out details causing loud orchestral passages to convey impact while losing necessary balance to preserve the soundstage.  Going back to the 800's, my ears welcomed the extra detail and balance in the midrange. Going up and down the scale, each note played right with the other notes, and all the subtle nuances in coloration were sorted out analytically. After several days and several iterations going between the Focals and the 800's, I became more and more aware of qualities in the Focals that were lacking in the 800's. Bass was much clearer in the Focals. I heard details in all the "good" ranges (i.e. not upper midrange) that I never heard with the 800's. Low notes on the piano, cello and base pizzicato were conveyed in stunning detail, leaving me startled. I was hearing qualities that my ears had not been trained to hear all these years listening to the 800's. Also, I became aware that the Focals handled dynamics much better than the 800's, conveying loud orchestral music with much more impact, and quiet passages with more detail.  After days of going back and forth between the two, I became increasingly disappointed by the 800s. Compared to the Focals, the sound was analytical and lacked excitement. I found myself not paying as much attention to the music. Going from the 800s to the Focals, I was relieved to hear much that was missing from the 800s, especially detail in the base, dynamics, and some flesh on the bones in the midrange. So what to do about headphones that sound better than the HD 800's but have an unpleasant peak in the upper midrange? Enter equalization! Fortunately, iTunes has an equalizer. After much tweaking while listening to music that brings out the flaws in Focals, I settled on equalization to tame the midrange, with stunning results. Now my Focals sound better than my 800's in every way. I've put my Sennheiser's away for good now. Here's the setting I'm using:
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Jan 13, 2020
mleghorn
8
Jan 19, 2020
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my USB connection isn’t fast enough.
Jan 19, 2020
rastus
855
Jan 20, 2020
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 A USB 2.0 port has a maximum transfer rate of 480Mbit/s. “Standard DSD uses a one bit data stream, generated from an 64x oversampled signal (compared with the base frequency of 44.1KHz), resulting in an overall bit rate of 2.8224Mbps per audio channel. This is often referred to as DSD64. Increasing demand for higher resolution audio has seen the introduction of DSD128 and now DSD256 which increase the oversample ratio and bit rate to 128x, 5.6448Mbps and 256x, 11.2896Mbps respectively.” https://www.xmos.com/download/AN00103:-Enabling-DSD256-in-the-USB-Audio-2.0-Device-Reference-Design-Software(1.0.2rc1).pdf The real issue is a clean signal, as USB is a one-way street for music transfer. I have found that using a Corning optical USB and an LPS for powering the USB node, is the best solution, until we get something new...
Jan 20, 2020
radekpw
13
Jan 7, 2020
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Wonderful
I've paired these with the RME ADI-2 DAC, what more can be said that the other reviewers haven't said. These headphones are heavenly, I find myself getting lost in my music.
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Would recommend to a friend.
Jan 7, 2020
Jcd1
7
Jan 6, 2020
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good sound
the sound is awesome... the frequency range is one of the better ones I heard. i got many headphones to compare from.. like the audeze lcd 2, beyerdynamic, sennheiser hd660 and hifiman .. this are the best of the bunch, very light and they look good too. also very easy to drive. my only complaint is the wire.. very stiff but other than that they are excellent . p.s. the only thing that I was upset about was that the box was left in the front porch. I don't think is a good idea to leave a almost $700 headphones like that, not even making sure someone is home to pick it up
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Would recommend to a friend.
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Jan 6, 2020
CaseyOD
130
Jan 4, 2020
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Tip of the hat to the folks at Drop, they know how to tune a headphone.  Truly top notch build quality. I appreciate that it came with both balanced and unbalance cables. The cables are a bit stiff and their flat profile can potentially lead to kinks but it hasn't been a problem so far. I would've preferred 9ft vs. 6ft cables but that's just a preference. The cables themselves are very good quality if a little stiff so I'd rather not have to buy longer ones. Maybe I'll just buy an extension. I purchased the HD6xx, HD58x, and the HE400i in that order, looking for pretty much this sound. I did an A/B comparison and, for me, the reviews I've read are spot on. These are very similar in sound signature to the HD6xx. A little more bass extension. A little more detail in the highs. To my ear though, I think the HD6xx has more detail and intimacy in the mids, just not enough to prefer them over these. But, for me, here's the rub, are these worth 3 times the price of the HD6xx? Definitely not. This headphone exemplifies the law of diminishing returns. If all you have is $200 bucks get the HD6xx and enjoy. The HE400i is a bit of an improvement to the HD6xx, and was my daily driver for some time. Now it will be the Focals. I have not experienced the clipping issue that others have mentioned. I don't tend to listen to a lot of bass heavy music but a track I use to test bass response is "Mars" from The Martian score. The opening rumble will find your speaker's max x and, at a reasonable volume, I didn't have any break up. Bela Fleck's "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" sounds very good with lots of texture, punch, and immediacy in the bass guitar. Yosi Horikawa's "Bump" and "Letters" sound excellent and really showcase some wonderful soundstage and imaging. Some say it's not the widest and that may be but it's definitely decent and an improvement over the HD6xx. Basically, I think this is endgame for me. I recently did a little self assessment with a tone generator app and determined my high end hearing drops off pretty rapidly beyond 15khz so any additional detail that you might get in higher end flagship headphones would be lost on me. To be fair, I understand that there's additional detail to be had in that portion of the audio spectrum I can hear but I'm skeptical. Because these so clearly exemplify the rule of diminishing returns, I find it difficult to justify paying say $3k or $4k for something like the Utopias with only an incremental gain in performance to be had for the expenditure. The big rub for me is that all I was looking for was the same kind of enjoyment I get from listening to my Elac UniFi UB5's through a PS Audio Sprout 100. It's upsetting to think how much more money I've dropped on headphones compared to a traditional 2 channel set up that is very satisfying to listen to. Even the RB42's and a Topping PA3 I have on my desk which will run you what? $300 bucks is a wonderful listening experience. Ah well, if you have the funds get these Focals, a THX AAA 789 or similar, a decent DAC (plenty of capable units out there) and be done. Update 1/4/20 This is probably in the hundreds of reviews and comments but I thought I'd update. Out of curiosity I tried the cables for my HE400i's and despite using 3 pole 1/8" tips they are apparently wired using the same 2 poles as Focal. So if you have cables with stereo ends but are marked L & R as Hifiman and Focal cables are they'll work fine. So I can use the longer cables I already have. Good news. I tried the Dekoni Fenestrated Lambskin pads on my pair and I don't think they are an improvement. You lose some of the airiness and openness right off the bat. Stock pads, you put the headphones on and it's like you're not wearing headphones, outside noise isolation is minimal to non-existent. With the fenestrated lambskin pads, they immediately dampen outside noise dramatically (they are very comfortable though). The lows seem more voluminous but at the expense of speed and accuracy. It's not a bad sound, but the stock pads sound better to me. Examining the stock pads closer, they have a fairly porous looking nylon or polyester fabric running halfway up the interior circle and then the fenestrated microfiber, the foam appears to be a low density foam but not memory foam. Whatever it is it really does seem to bring out the best in these headphones. I may buy more pads just to play around with the sound signature of these headphones. Oh, the Loxjie P20 really likes this headphone. I'm running mine with a pair of matched 1968 Russian 6N3P tubes (nothing special or expensive) and it really sounds quite nice. Adds just a little bit of warmth that the THX lacks.
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(Edited)
Jan 4, 2020
adeadcrab
142
Jan 9, 2020
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https://forum.headphones.com/t/focal-pad-rolling-experiments-measurements/2822/23?u=torq Looks like utopia pads on elex makes the elex a little bit brighter. I'd buy up spare elex pads when they drop here from time to time.
Jan 9, 2020
Paperdragons
17
Jan 15, 2020
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Elex have wider soundstage and better connectors (3.5mm) while Utopia's are pretty.
Jan 15, 2020
kuuhaku
39
Jan 4, 2020
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Worth it
I have previously used (and still use) Senheisser's 660s and being the fairly neutral and mid-forward headphones that they are, I was looking for something that was more dynamic and more exciting to listen to. After reading reviews, I decided to make the purchase of the Focal Elex and I must say, it is worth every penny. The sound stage is quite a size larger than my HD 660s and more dynamic, now that is not to say 660s are worse in comparison (I still prefer the warmer mids on the 660s), but the Focal Elex certainly gave me everything I wanted (a larger sound stage, more excitement).
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Would recommend to a friend.
Jan 4, 2020
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