RMAF 2018: Focal Elegia headphone hits CANJAM with emotional impact

Lager or pilsner? Single malt or blended whisky? Is one better than the other? Depends on my mood, what I’ve eaten and a myriad of other factors that all coalesce into a maelstrom of synaptic firings that determine what I end up choosing. Such is the complexity of the mind.

Realistically, it comes down in the end to a matter of personal taste.

Closed back or open back headphones?

Same deal. Sometimes I fall head-over-heels over an open back like the Audeze LCD-4z, other times I’m smitten with the MrSpeakers AEON Flow Closed. Both offer something to me that I love, but in a very different manner.

This is why we have choices and one of the choices I really wanted to experience at CANJAM in the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest this year was the brand new Focal Elegia circum-aural closed-back headphone ($900 USD) which according to Focal features a patent-pending full-range drive unit with an “M”-shaped aluminum and magnesium dome. This is a price point with a lot of competition and a lot of choices for the headphone audiophile.

Impedance for the Elegia is a smart-phone/portable-audio player friendly 35 Ohms with 105dB sensitivity thrown in for good measure and a stated weight of 430 grams. Frequency response is rated at 5Hz–23kHz with THD of 0.1 per cent, add in a hard case and 1.2 meters of asymmetric cable with a 3.5mm TRS jack and 1/4-inch adaptor and you got yourself a stew (Arrested Development reference).

Build quality was outstanding and they looked gorgeous hanging off their stand as I grabbed them for a listen. Hooked up to a Questyle CAS192D DAC and CMA800R Current-Mode headphone amplifier being fed Tidal via Roon I immediately spooled-up some 16/44 Kruder & Dorfmeister DJ Kicks.

Hearing “A Mother” by The Herbaliser was like bisecting my head into quadrants of vertical and horizontal planes with a deep cut at the intersecting point right behind my eyes where the richly hued, resolution-abundant presence region played out with air, space and spectral decay off high notes and deep, multi-note bass which wasn’t exaggerated and sounded more like I was in on a recording session and not standing on some dodgy carpet inside a ballroom jacked into a digital file.

Response across the frequency spectrum was very linear with vocals (chesty reproduction here, less throat – which translates to real believability for me) and all instruments presenting as close to sharp in their clarity and separation as I’d like to get without straying into analytical. The Elegia presents laid-back and relaxed with real emotional engagement thanks to excellent tonal and timbral reproduction.

This was a setup that was all about balance in its approach of reproduction to the recorded event and I’m looking forward immensely to receiving my review pair of Elegias.

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