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Impressive. Well worth $700.00
I have the Topping A 90 & D 90 MQA (a beautiful amp & DAC setup). I use balanced headphone cables from Hart Audio Cables (highly recommend https://hartaudiocables.com/collections/headphone-cables ). I own 3 main sets of headphones: Massdrop Sennheiser HD 6 XX with fenestrated sheepskin earpads, Shure SE 846 IEM (never-look-back if you buy these), and now the Focal Elex. The Elex replaced -- and significantly upgraded -- a set of Massdrop Hifiman HE 4XX.
1st, regarding fit and comfort, I love the Massdrop Sennheiser HD 6XX. I can wear the Sennheisers for several hours with ease. Expanding my collection, I added the Hifiman HE 4XX but they were a bit too small for my ears (granted, my ears are big, just ask my wife) and I had to constantly adjust the Hifiman's every few minutes. To be clear, I'm not saying Hifiman's are not good cans, and it may be an unfair comparison. Yet if headphones don't fit, it is unlikely that you will enjoy them.
Since these were replacing the Hifiman's, happily I can report that they fit over my ears. I refer to the Sennheiser HD 6XX like a completely loaded Honda: everything works, affordable, reliable, easy to "work on", a great choice for almost anyone, and will last for years. Absolutely love them.
With that analogy in mind, the Focal Elex are like a Bentley (or maybe I should say a Bugatti since they are made in France?). From first time you hold them, you notice the quality components and excellent, dare I say exquisite build. Much of the headphone is metal, the detail and machining are noticeably high quality down to the torx screws that hold the focal driver ring. While looks do not equal performance, they are beautiful, and it reflects Focal's commitment to build quality.
The Elex weigh almost 1 lb. (15.9 ounces), nearly twice the weight of the HD 6XX (9.2 ounces) yet the displacement makes them very comfortable to wear.
To be fair, Hifiman's cost ($160 v. $700 for Elex) makes it inequitable comparison but I am simply noting my choice and my experience. Hifiman's are made in China (all plastic, surface imperfections abound) and I suspect manufactured in larger quantities vs. the French production of Focal headphones which we'd imagine produce fewer headphones targeted to a higher end consumer.
The 6XX are perhaps the most "open" and easy to wear for a long time and they serve me as a kind of "reference" for my listening. The Elex are much more immersive. They are not as bright as the 6XX but they are clear, provide a more accurate bass (subjective, I admit). While open back cans are never isolating, the Elex create such a full layer and depth, you almost think you are wearing isolating or noise suppression until some ambient noise ruins your experience. It's hard to describe. I find both 6XX and Elex to be void of listening fatigue and both handle MQA very well.
As an aside, the MQA debate may never end, but in my "A B" playlists tests, I experience a significant blossoming of information. We know the human ear can only perceive a limited (20-20,000 Hz) amount of information. Yet on some MQA tracks and "A B" tests with different sample rates, the difference is significant. When I have others listen and "A B" the same song in CD v. MQA, they notice the difference. Maybe not the best illustration, but I compare it to listening to a song via a very good AM station and then comparing it to a system an FM station in a Lincoln Navigator with 20+ speakers. The amount of information (not volume) is discernable, the sound stage opens up noticeably.
Forgive the MQA side-bar but that said, the Elex perform so well, you do in fact feel as if you are on the stage, hearing the drumkit on your right knee, the piano behind your head, and the right-left separation disappear at times and you seem to be "on the stage listening to the performance.
I have a substantial home stereo system and while there is no substitute for that experience, the Elex are comfortable to wear, fantastic at reproducing an uncolored, full sound stage, along with a wide palate of highs and bass (midrange is rarely a problem). Finally, for HiRes, Lossless, and MQA users, the Elex reproduce these music files extremely well. I'm glad I purchased them and have no regrets.
Would recommend to a friend.
hd6xx is really amazing headphone, but man that mid-bass hump is really bugs me! Can’t stand it, if they have no bass I will be fine with it but the bass just ruins the sound completely IMO. I think the Elex will suits me better! Thank you for sharing you opinion and I wish you enjoy it.
One thing I've learned in my headphone journey is the idea / concept / theory(? ) of what audiophiles refer to as "reference" or what I call "flat" reproduction. Some purists (?) WANT to hear the music (files) as recorded/engineered, without any added EQ.
Most if not all DAC/ Amp units do not have any way to adjust EQ (there are some apps and some music services that provide an EQ). I went through a number of DAC / Amp configurations before I made the jump to Topping's above noted units.
Listening on my home system is an entirely different experience and one that even the best headphones, amp & DAC systems cannot quite reproduce. But that's the lesson here: I cannot reproduce the home stereo quality so, what is the best headphone experience I can achieve?
That said, the fenestrated (i.e., kind of perforated) sheepskin earpads did improve the comfort and sound on the Sennheiser HD 6XX. I purchased them from Drop. Right now, they're available from Drop for $60.00 https://drop.com/buy/drop-earpads-for-hd6xx-and-hd58x which is a lot less than jumping to $700.00 for the Focal Elex if you want to try before you upgrade. :-) That said, I've no regrets having upgraded to the Focals. But it may be a significant cost for some.
One other thought. If it is bass you want, consider closed back headphones. They have a more substantial bass response. My 2 cents observation, open backs have some wonderful advantages (easier on the ear, no "compression" or booming sound that can damage your hearing, and I can hear the doorbell, my wife... so you are more aware of your surroundings).
Be well. Listen often.
Unluckily I sold my hd6xx, so I can't try the sheepskin pads :(. Also, I have large ears and the 6xx doesn't have enough (for my ears) space inside so my ears always touch the drivers which kind of annoying. Anyway, I found myself don't care about the sound-stage that much as long as the headphone produces a natural sound. And I think your sound sys is superior especially for the price, I have magni hersey and I will pair it with Modi 3 in the future which I think is a great bargain!. Lastly, I actually prefer iems more than any closed-back It just feels more enjoyable to me (and that's the reason we have dived into this hobby in the first place, right? :), and let's face it they look cooler lol.