Focal Bathys Bluetooth ANC headphones first impressions: Déjà new

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The Focal Bathys is a primary and yet one more. It’s one thing recent and acquainted. It’s extra linked and fewer tethered. It’s a French luxurious audio producer’s entry into wi-fi noise-cancellation headphones and it carries with it well-established design language and beforehand unseen options. The Focal Bathys is $799 and a (relative) worth if you happen to’re purchasing for a sonic journey companion that places constancy first.

The construct

The Bathys just isn’t Focal’s first Bluetooth headphones—that might be the 2017’s Hear, by far probably the most informal headphone the corporate has produced. It’s, nonetheless, Focal’s first lively noise-canceling headphones, and its first premier wi-fi product sharing DNA with the corporate’s high-end headphones.

Focal has cultivated its polished aesthetic, and the Bathys appears of its lineage. Open up the triangular hardshell case—the form of onigiri-shaped accent more and more widespread for lay-flat however not folding headphones just like the Bathys—and also you’re greeted by a black-silver end with magnesium yokes and lambskin headband accents, that are typical Focal touches. Concentric circles dotting the outer grilles are unmistakably Focal for anybody that has auditioned award-winning, opulent fashions such because the Stellia, and there are zero contact controls, as you may count on from a textured floor. As a substitute, bodily buttons/toggles ringing the earcups deal with ON/DAC/OFF modes, Bluetooth pairing, quantity, pause/play/skip, ANC/Transparency, and taking calls/voice assistant activation. Nearer examination reveals that geometric array, and the hampers beneath plus the scarf connected, function plastic, not simply steel and leather-based just like the Stellia. However you’ll be able to’t realistically count on a suspension system constructed like a $2,999 flagship and the Bathys is loads sturdy, plus any saved heft—the headphones weigh in at 350g or so, comfy however nonetheless above the competitors—is well worth the sacrifice in a conveyable. One other distinction: the flame branding discovered on all Focal headphones glows white when the Bathys is lively (although this may be dimmed or toggled off within the newly up to date Focal & Naim app).

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Inside this spherical protect is a 40mm aluminum-magnesium “M”-shaped dome driver originating from the identical Saint-Étienne, France, facility because the Bathy’s closed-back cousin the Celestee ($999), amongst different fashions as much as and together with the limited-edition Bentley co-branded Radiance (initially $1,299) and the Utopia ($4,999 and our greatest general headphone). Earcups on the Bathys are round 20% smaller than these of its wired at-home use brethren, nonetheless, which required Focal to develop a brand new magnet/motor system. The Bathys isn’t low-profile, by any means—there’s greater than sufficient room for my ears, which rapidly get scorching spots beneath tight circumstances—but it surely’s as compact and demure as Focals get. Fortunately, effectivity doesn’t come on the expense of expression.

Focal Bathys with Focal Stellia in the background
The Focal Bathys bears a household resemblance to different high-end fashions, just like the Stellia (proven), however brings its personal character to the lineup. Tony Ware

The sound

Dynamic however disciplined. Reactive however refined. Extra kick with no lack of management. Transients have glorious pacing with out being piercing and there’s decay with no delay. With the implementation of a driver derived from the Celestee and Radiance, the Bathys has a confirmed platform and it executes it with aplomb, tweaking issues barely to compensate for commuting, and so forth. Bass balances density and definition, maybe with low-end exceeding “audiophile” limits however doing so articulately in a manner that’s by no means obtrusive. Using that punchy band is a midrange with loads of power and timbral accuracy. Higher midrange is likely to be barely dipped into elevated lower-mid treble, but it surely comes throughout as presence with a function somewhat than a seek for synthetic airiness. And there aren’t any fatiguing top-end flare-ups, which is nice if you happen to want a little bit further quantity in loud environments. The soundstage leans towards intimacy, however not congestion—imaging is exact, and there’s only a contact extra depth than width.

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With a broadcast frequency response of 15Hz-22kHz, the Bathys offers you all the pieces in proportion, prioritizing musicality. Need kind of slam or sparkle? The Focal & Naim app features a 5-band EQ that allows you to tweak 62Hz/250Hz/1kHz/4kHz/16kHz in .5 dB increments to +/- 6 dB, and customized settings are saved to the headphone. The EQ, nonetheless, solely works through Bluetooth—however all these impressions are wi-fi and with ANC, which is all the time on to some extent, which makes the persistently impactful but by no means exaggerated sound signature particularly spectacular. That includes Bluetooth 5.1 (with the SBC, AAC, aptX/aptX HD/Adaptive codecs plus multipoint help), the Bathys maintains its rhythm when it’s essential to bounce.

Trying to maximize decision? Transferring from AAC to aptX HD/Adaptive noticed a slight uptick intimately, however the true differentiator is the built-in 24-bit/192 kHz DAC, which works with computer systems and cell gadgets through USB-C. Sure, you’re utilizing a wire with wi-fi headphones, however there are occasions if you actually need to make the most of the total potential of lossless streaming/recordsdata and the distinction is audible. There’s even the choice to plug in through analog 3.5mm, however the responsiveness of the Bathys’ driver to a “easy” Bluetooth sign actually diminishes a lot of the worth of lugging round any kind of amp. And all of this efficiency is on the market for 30 hours on Bluetooth, as much as 42 hours on USB (with fast-charging permitting 5 hours of playback after simply quarter-hour).

Focal Bathys buttons and app shown on iPhone
Bodily buttons, with customization obtainable within the up to date Focal & Naim app, supply a tactile management expertise to match the sonic textures. Tony Ware

The conclusion

It takes technical prowess to realize what the Focal Bathys excels at: making me neglect concerning the means as I benefit from the music. The ANC isn’t on par with a sector chief just like the Sony WH-1000XM5, and the person expertise isn’t as seamless as, say, an iPhone 14 with the AirPods Max. However there actually hasn’t been a second the place I felt compelled to lament Bluetooth’s limitations, which isn’t how I’ve all the time felt about wi-fi headphones. The Bathy’s pads are comfy and isolating, whereas the noise cancellation is woven intuitively, assuredly into the dexterous driver’s innately wealthy frequency response. With the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 now launched, there are achieved rivals within the rarefied air round this worth level (verify again for hands-on impressions of that mannequin quickly). However whether or not as entry level or accompaniment to Focal’s formidable lineup, the Bathys is price sinking your time (and cash) into if you happen to love a fluid listening expertise.

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