Ageless
100
Apr 27, 2018
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Update: Got the Focal Clears as well. The Clears give better detail while not being harsh in treble as the Utopia. I found music just a little more enjoyable on the Clears because details I couldn't distinguish on the Elex made more sense on the Clears. I am currently using the Elex pads and wires with the Clears with no issue. Here are my full impressions that I couldn't post on reddit: TLDR: The Elex are neutral with good dynamism and air. Musical. They’re not bass cannons and they don’t sound clinical. Neutral bass that doesn’t sound tinny. Detailed mids. The treble is clear and doesn’t sound bright. There is a treble sparkle at 5kHz which brings out some delightful brass and violin. High treble like the 14kHz sounds in The Beatles’ A Day In The Life are very detailed but still minute. The imaging is realistic. The transients are superb. Chimes sound like real chimes. Han Zimmer's No Time for Caution sound like I'm in an IMAX movie theatre. The soundstage feels very close and at times directly centered in my head. They're not very good for gaming. PUBG and Overwatch are kinda unplayable. After further listening, the upper mids are a bit recessed but still sound neutral overall. The bass is quick and accurate, without a heavy punch. Thumps and rumbles can be felt but aren't mind numbing. There's no bass bleed into the vocals. I play the clarinet and piano and so I can confirm that the timbre is accurate with these. Han Zimmer's First Step at 1:10 sound like Organs and Frank Sinatra sounds very human. The isolation is almost non-existent. If I clap, I'm guessing they're around 3-5dB quieter than not wearing headphones. Do not bring them to a public area. Photo Album: https://imgur.com/a/qkyQ2NY

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(I would appreciate some recommendations for a headphone stand. It's about time I get one.) To preface, I really wanted a pair of LCD-2Cs (at the time they were $600 USD on sale) but that just wasn't possible with Riskified constantly blocking me. I decided to join the Elex drop instead even though it was considerably more expensive ($800 USD initially + Canadian customs/COD). Build Quality: The metal yoke is fairly rigid and sexy. There are no sharp edges except for the Focal logo. The length adjustments click and operate smoothly. The earpads are very well made, memory foam and perforated microfiber. Squishy. Clamping pressure is a bit loose but forms a good seal. My head is about 7 inches in diameter. The headband uses a similar material as the earpads but has leather on the top side. I wouldn’t try bending them past their threshold. The headphone itself weighs 440g while the 1/4' cable weighs 66g and the balanced cable weighs 87g. Overall, I would give them a 9/10. To establish some context, a stock HD6XX deserves a 4.5, HD6XX with HM5 Velour Pads deserve a 5.5, HD598 (Burly Wood) deserves a 6.5, a stock HE4XX deserves a 6, HE4XX with HM5 Hybrid Pads deserve a 7.5 and with HM5 Angled Lamb Skin Pads it deserves a 7. I'm giving high praise for the metal construction and pads. Comfort: I've been listening to them for nine hours straight and I don't find them fatiguing anymore. I don't really notice them on my head as I'm listening to music. The compression is quite light like my other headphones. I'm wearing glasses and I don't hear any difference in the seal. The angled drivers make positioning easy. I don't feel the need to push my ears against the back walls of the earpad like I do with the 6XX. Impressions: For my impressions, I will be comparing them to what I have using the Earstudio and O2 + OL DAC, using only 16/44.1 FLAC files. (O2 at 1x Gain and the volume nob is set to the red light.) Foobar and computer settings are at full blast with Replay Gain set to track, prevent clip and +0.0dB. I realized that prevent clip was causing some harsh treble in Ave Maria so I turned it off. I am volume matching my headphones using the Tacklife MLM02. I’m trying to detail my playlist like what Ultimate Ears does.
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Kashiwa Daisuke - April.#02 | atmospheric music, immersive This was the first song I played after unboxing the Elex and what a phenomenal experience. Clear and almost surreal is how I’ll put it. Most of the track was sonically interesting and engaging. I’ve gone on this psychedelic journey with the Andromeda plenty of times but not nearly as vivid and immersive as with the Elex. Compared to the 6XX, the Elex has a similar mid range while the bass is smooth and the treble is bright. The Elex will quickly go from soft to loud following the nature of the song. Frank Sinatra - Fly Me To The Moon [Remastered 2008] | intimate and deep male vocal, vocal inflection test I’m quite frankly blown away. Frank does not sound like a robot at all, in fact he’s very human. I can hear more detail in his inflections, especially when he ends a line. “Let me play among the stars,” and “hold my hand,” are noticeably more articulated than the andros and 6XX. They sound musical and airy. The overwhelming transition at 1:10 is pronounced. The instruments have great dynamism, the saxophone is pleasantly overwhelming. Tom Odell - Another Love (Zwette Edit) | bass, hi-hats Well they’re not bass cannons. The Andromedas are more punchy. The 6XX is less punchy. Low end vocals on the Elex are airy and smooth. The Andromedas present them loudly and with enough punch to match the bass. I prefer the Andromedas for this remix. Pink Floyd - Interstellar Overdrive | chaos, imaging, psychedelic rock, experimental sounds, timbre test This song absolutely exposes the 6XX as the inferior headphone. With the Elex it’s much easier to tell what instruments are being played and the chaos isn’t muffled together. With the 6XX, I can barely tell that it’s a guitar that’s meowing starting from 2:20. The Andromedas and the Elex are very clear, the distortion doesn’t muffle things together. The Andromedas has better separation but the Elex has a more realistic guitar. The staging from 8:39 just sound weird on the Elex. The rest of the song is fine. Caravan Palace - Rock It For Me | chaos Both the Andromeda and Elex struggle to image this song (not including the part at 1:00 to 1:20 which is a freebie) or this song is just not meant to be imaged. I just can’t give any more praise about the resolution at this point. Very resolving. I’m more in favour of the Andromedas reproduction though. The main vocals sound better without the air. deadmau5 - The Veldt [8 Minute Edit] | sub-bass, consonant music (I think) Not an EDM pair of cans. There’s good sub-bass but I do like a punchy bass for this song. Is it safe to call them neutral? There's not a lot of punchy bass unless you raise the volume to uncomfortable levels. Noticeable airiness with the words “here.” It’s a matter of preference. The song sounds good just different from what I’m used to. Blue Scholars - Anna Karina | hard bass hits Final comment about the bass: They’re not bass cannons but they get the job done. Sub-bass certified delicious. Vocals are oddly close and clearer than the Andromeda. This is the best reproduction of this song that I’ve heard so far. I really like how the mid range vocals are presented here. Neutral and clear. Pink Floyd - Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun | binaural, soundstage test, male vocal goes from left to right I’m listening mainly for the lines, “the heart of the sun,” which start at 2:13. The male vocals goes from left to right and right to left like the Doppler effect. The Elex oddly doesn’t image very well in the middle within my headspace. Vocals sound very airy like real whispers that hiss (think Voldemort). The vocals are supposed to be quiet but sometimes I feel like they're too quiet. Cynthia Harrell - Snake Eater (Album Ver.) | sibilance test Fantastic song with a lot of “Ssssss” sounds. Fortunately, the Elex is not sibilant. Maybe just a little when it peaks at 1:25. Saxophones and vocals have very good range. It’s how I imagine watching a James Bond film as the intro begins. The Zurich Boys’ Choir - Schubert: Ave Maria | beautiful boy soprano Beautiful. The airiness is appreciated. Neutral Mids. This song peaks a lot, I must lower the volume or else it gets harsh. This is the loudest song in my playlist at (+3.71dB). I’m guessing ReplayGain is at fault here. Radiohead - Daydreaming | psychedelic, immersion test Male vocal images in the center. Very psychedelic. The quiet ticking in the background images well. Wails feel ghastly. They’re very close and they start to approach you from both sides. The Elex might be pretty good for horror games. Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra - Lacrimosa, for soprano, choir and orchestra | beautiful choir The Elex does some spectacular work with this song. It feels like I’m sitting right in front of choir. Clarity is on-point with a small amount of vividness that completely enraptures me. Secret Garden - Song From A Secret Garden | beautiful violin Final thought about the treble: There’s a sparkle at 5kHz that makes instruments delightful to listen to. Volume should be kept low to protect you ears. (This is less of an issue with prevent clip now off.) A classical song that does get loud but not uncomfortably loud. With the 6XX you lose a lot of clarity but not as loud. The violin images in the center like I’m playing it. Quite beautiful really. The Andromedas don’t image this very well with it just being loud on both sides. The 6XX images more distant while some instruments are too far in the background. The Beatles - A Day In The Life | psychedelic vocals Sounds amazing. The chaos at 4:00 is not as loud as I was expecting. The 14kHz sounds right afterwards are more defined compared to the 6XX. Imaging is great but the soundstage is inferior to the 6XX. The voices at the end are very close and don’t jump very far from left to right like they’re supposed to. I have no issues with the soundstage during the first two minutes. AC/DC - Back In Black | distorted guitar Vocals are very lifelike. Inflections feel spot on. High fidelity and immersion especially with how the guitars sound so close and realistic at 2:49. The guitars with the Andromeda and the 6XX feel more distant. Michael Jackson - Billie Jean | I love this song It’s very easy to get into this song. The Elex presents the hi-hats and shakers up close and not off into the background like the 6XX. The electric guitar sounds the same on both. Noticeably better balance between the instruments with the Elex which I prefer. Adele - Lovesong | imaging, separation test Separation between the guitars and Adele’s vocals are much better with the Andromedas. The guitar plucks at the beginning are less pronounced on the Elex. On the Andromedas and 6XX, the tambourine and shaker seem to be mixed in with each other and seem much quieter. In terms of separation, the 6XX falls short while the Elex is behind the Andromedas. In terms of volume, the Elex has better balance between the instruments. I definitely prefer the Elex here. Hans Zimmer - No Time for Caution | immersion test Immersed. I’m getting those IMAX feels. The orchestral distortion of Hans Zimmer’s piece sound harsher on the Andromedas. Delivery on the sub-bass is much better than the 6XX. The build-up starting at 3:40 is fantastic. Incredible resolution and its not harsh like the 6XX. I very much prefer the Elex’s rendition. Johann Pachelbel - Pachelbel: Canon and Gigue in D Major for 3 Violins and Continuo, P. 37: 1. Canon (Orchestral Version) | violins and chello Andromedas sounded better with the violins but absolutely drowned the cello. The first violins starting at 1:25 were very pronounced. I had to mentally think about them on the Elex to find them. The Elex has better balance overall. Not sure which headphone I favour more for this song. Yosi Horikawa - Bubbles | soundstage test The 6XX has got the superior soundstage. There’s no doubt. The Elex has a very cramped/narrow soundstage. The Beatles - Hey Jude | fidelity/resolution test Vocals image in the center. The vocals on the Andromeda image in front. The inflections in the voice at 2:15 are more pronounced on the Elex, otherwise they sound very similar. The tambourine and shaker have a similar kick to it. Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah | immersive/vivid male vocals I’m very divisive with how the Elex presents this song. The Elex has got some resolving clarity in the vocals but it also gets louder than everything else. The echoy quality in Jeff Buckley’s vocals are lost and more airy. They don’t mix well into the guitar. The vocals are more realistic than I’m used to. I like it more on my Andromedas. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Downtown (feat. Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee & Grandmaster Caz) | Eric Nally, incredible vocal range (This song is just for fun but my god, Eric Nally sounds just like Michael Jackson at 2:20.) I'm listening mainly for 1:42. I'm hearing better articulation or timbre to sound fancy. 1:53 is incredibly mesmerizing. Eric Nally's range sounds better, even Macklemore sounds better. Elex > Andromeda > 6XX here. (I volume matched at 2:07.)
(Edited)
rastus
1320
Apr 27, 2018
I would love to hear your wonderful write-up, redone, giving you some DSD (native) and a tube amp with some nice NOS's.
Jay_P
40
Apr 27, 2018
Great review! I am very glad that everyone seems to love Elex.
alvarg
233
Apr 27, 2018
great review, only two more weeks till mine ship may 7th couldn't come sooner. i may hyperventilate when they arrive.
Ageless
100
Apr 27, 2018
Thanks guys! I'm very pleased with them. My heart skipped a beat when they arrived at my door. I was incredibly surprised since I was given a DHL tracking number but the delivery was actually made by UPS. Oh man, my heart was racing afterwards.
I've formatted my review with some changes to the wording but now it's final.
skitz0r
11
Apr 28, 2018
Can you expand on the bad for gaming part, particularly as compared to the HD598?
Ageless
100
Apr 28, 2018
The Elex brings out brackground sounds and puts them in the foreground. They seem good for soundwhoring but I can't hear the direction. In terms of soundstage, the HD598 is superior to everything I own.
baiyy1986
73
Apr 28, 2018
Nice review! like your headphone stand! I need one of those!
rastus
1320
Apr 28, 2018
Had HD598’s, have HD700’s... read someone commenting how good the 700 was for gaming,, first thought was what $$ over-kill,, then corrected myself... ‘how perfect’... I think it is that stainless mesh, semi-there, back wall reflections pin-pointing. Still keeping them, but the Elex is more organic; detail without a hard, sometimes, biting edge. Do want to hear HD660’s though, the non-star trek 700... something you could wear in public;)
jaydunndiddit
3255
Apr 28, 2018
I haven't used mine for shooters, but for action games I've found them more than competent. Most notably, their depth and positioning. Playing the new God of War, they do a great job of pinpointing where Atreus is as well as enemies behind you. Which for this game, is all the time since enemies materialize all around you from any position. I haven't tried them with a shooter yet so maybe that's why my experience differs from yours. I'm also using an AV receiver vs a PC setup so maybe there's some variance with that as well. Either way, glad you're enjoying yours as much as I am enjoying mine.
Ageless
100
Apr 28, 2018
I feel like I can only hear left and right. Distance, forward and backward are hard for me to pick up.
jaydunndiddit
3255
Apr 28, 2018
Are you running yours through a receiver by chance? I know mine has DSP and other settings just for gaming modes when I'm not running things in a pure direct or straight mode compared to 2ch stereo. Also, my sampling rate is 48khz PCM, if that makes any difference I don't know. But, I can for certain say things do sound '3D' for me and dynamic. Much more so than the 6XX and 4XX I was using prior. Although I will say, the 6XX does a better job of conveying height and possibly has a larger soundstage (for gaming) but that could still be my ears adjusting to the Elex.
Ageless
100
Apr 28, 2018
Unfortunately not, what's your setup? It sounds amazing for gaming.
jaydunndiddit
3255
Apr 28, 2018
In my gaming room I use a Yamaha RX-V681. It supports 4k, Dolby Atmos/DTS:X, HDR/BT.2020, DSD files, etc. Nowadays, they can be easily had for under $350 which is an absolute bargain. For most people and rooms, it would be more than what you need and honestly would still work rather well in a larger living room. It's overkill for my game room/office but delivers a great experience for gaming and movies especially when something is using Atmos or DTS:X. This receiver is only a 5.1.2 so it doesn't deliver the full Atmos effect but it mostly gets you there. Slowly building my living room setup for 11.2 since going 9.2.4 is still so stupidly expensive these days.
raif
2
Apr 28, 2018
Are you really getting an 88 db reading on the headphones with the volume set to around 9 o’clock on the dial of your O2? That seems extraordinarily loud. Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t misreading anything.
Ageless
100
Apr 28, 2018
No, I'm not actually listening at that volume. 88dB was the MAX reading I got from placing it in between the earpads. (The MAX setting is on but it's covered by my finger.) I like my mids at 50-70dB but some songs can push it to 82dB.
Ageless
100
Apr 28, 2018
I don't feel like I gave you an adequate answer so I ran it again with Ave Maria which is the loudest song in my playlist. MAX was 86.9dB at 2:24. MIN before 2:24 was 49.6dB. The MIN after 2:24 goes down to 44.3dB because the vocals go silent. I removed the windscreen on the MLM02 for these measurments. There's no AVG on the MLM02 which sucks.
The MLM02 gave me a MAX reading of 82.1dB and MIN of 44.3dB from 2:00 for Back in Black. It's quite sensitive. It gets silent after 4:00 so I'm leaving it out (My room ambience is 33.2db.) I hope this gives you an idea of the volume.
Using the MLM02: Ave Maria starting from 1:00 to 2:24: MIN 49.6dB, MAX 86.9dB Back In Black starting from 2:00 to 4:00: MIN 44.3dB, MAX 82.1dB
Using the Sound Meter app on my S7: Ave Maria starting from 1:00: MIN 49dB, AVG 58dB, MAX 78dB Back In Black starting from 2:00 to 4:00: MIN 51dB, AVG 61dB, MAX 69dB
Edit: Formatting. I messed up the MLM02 MIN for Ave Maria but it's definitely 49.6dB.
raif
2
Apr 28, 2018
Wow, super thorough answer. Thanks!
one more question, for these db readings, is your volume pot always around 9 o’clock?
Ageless
100
Apr 29, 2018
Yes. I rarely touch it now because I'm only using the Elex.
raif
2
Apr 29, 2018
Awesome. Thanks for the info.
I was just curious because of the reports of the xmax being somewhere in the 90db range for the lowest octaves. Wanted to get an idea of how that translated to real world listening.
alvarg
233
Apr 29, 2018
From what i read the people who experienced this xmax issue were listening to songs with a unusually high mount of low frequencies below 30hz.
Darthpool
58
May 1, 2018
https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/8g5iuw/focal_elex_with_comparison_to_another_posts/
My response to his original post. I might have to add in the other songs...but ANGTFT (Aint nobody got time for that). =)
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