Alright, after a couple more hours of use, I wrote up a bit more:
The Focal Elegia sounds…bizarre. It sounds metallic throughout the frequency range, but it doesn’t sound overly harsh or bright. It just has this kind of metallic, harsh timbre that I don’t find super pleasant to listen to. It sounds like odd-order distortion but I didn’t measure any when I tested that theory.
The bass is quite solid. It’s slightly elevated but it’s tasteful with good impact and relatively clean. It’s cleaner than I remember the Sony Z1R’s bass being, but not as clean as the Fostex TH900’s. It’s no bass cannon, but I’m more than content with the amount of bass the Elegia has. I could actually use a bit less than what it has relative to the upper midrange.
The midrange is less positive. It’s not overly thick in the low midrange which is welcome, and doesn’t show much drama up to 2kHz, but after that, it’s downhill, literally and figuratively. The dip doesn’t sound as severe as the Elear because I can actually hear upper midrange presence, but it’s definitely lacking a bit in that area. It doesn’t quite sound veiled, but there’s a distinct lack of energy. It seems to partially be compensated by the metallic timbre that gives everything a harsher attack, but it just sounds…weird. This is one of the hardest headphones I’ve ever had to describe the midrange of because it’s so unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. It’s hollow sounding, but not in the low midrange like headphones such as the Fostex TH900 in which the lack of body causes them to sound hollow. The hollowness seems to come from the upper midrange recession combined with the metallic timbre. Decay seems to almost echo.
The treble is pretty uneven with a peak somewhere around 9kHz, but it isn’t overbearing relative to the rest of the sound like a lot of Beyerdynamic headphones or the Sony Z1R and Fostex TH900 can be. They don’t sound particularly closed in because they have more air than many other closed headphones.
Overall, meh. They’re not the worst thing I’ve ever heard but I wouldn’t buy one for myself. Relative to the higher end closed market, they’re somewhere in the middle. I’d easily take these over the Beyerdynamic T5p I just sold and I’d take these over the Mr.Speakers Ether C and Aeon, Audio Technica W5000, the early revision Audeze LCD-XC I heard, the Denon D7200, the HD820 from my demos with it, and possibly the TH900 because the low midrange dip on those bugs me so much, but I wouldn’t take it over the ZMF Eikon, Sony Z1R, Stax 4070, or Denon D7000. I guess relative to the cost of the other closed headphones I like more the Elegia at $900 isn’t a too bad of a value if you can work with their weird sound, but I feel like these have too many compromises sound-wise for the price. Closed headphones are really difficult to get right though, so I’m not incredibly surprised that I’m not particularly satisfied with them, but considering I loved the Elex for the cost, knowing these cost $200 more and sound like they’re a couple steps down is disappointing. I can see the rationale in justifying these are closed vs the open Elex, but the vent leaks enough that I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable using them in a library or next to someone sleeping.
I’ll give it the rest of the week to form more concrete impressions before sending them off to be measured by a 4128C HATS, but my impressions shouldn’t change too much.
Here’s a FR measurement comparison with the Elear, Elear with Clear pads, and Elegia:
As you can see, the presence region past 5kHz is closer to the Elear with Clear pads (which measures identically to the Elex) than the stock Elear, but it does seem to have a bigger upper midrange dip which I honestly don’t think is as severe on the Elegia as the Elear, but I could be wrong.