Focal Bathys (Bluetooth, noise cancelling, closed back)

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I have been looking for a pair of Bluetooth headphones that would sound respectable for music and provide flexibility when I'm listening to Zoom meetings or Youtube videos and need to leave the computer. I also wanted something suitable for longer plane flights, and earbuds inevitably hurt after a while.

The Focal Bathys finished 100 hours of break-in on DAC mode today, and after a few hours of listening, I'm very impressed.

At first, I was slightly let down, but then I switched them to match the Harmon curve. The default frequency response set by Focal via the headphone's DSP has a dip at 1000 Hz, and when listening to orchestral music, I was missing instrument separation and the reverb from the performance hall that provides a sense of the performing space. I went into the app and switched the sound profile to "Dynamic" and everything fell into place. According to Focal, "Dynamic" matches the Harmon curve, so I suppose it is only "Dynamic" in comparison to their suppressed midrange default.

The bass is very nicely handled. I'm used to enjoying the open-baffle bass from my M3 Sapphires, but in bass-rich songs that I am familiar with, the Bathys are giving me new textures and better timbre in some cases than I hear through the speakers. The Bathys produce real, musical bass. They are nothing at all like the generally thumpy and muddy bass that I've heard in Beats and Sony wireless headphones that I've tried.

Texture, timbre, detail, and separation are very good in the highs and midrange as well. These never sound harsh or fatiguing. They sound balanced and correct across the frequency range. I think an advantage of Bluetooth, despite the compression, is that there is no cable to carry electrical noise.

I'm just listening on a Mac via Roon. The Mac uses the AAC Bluetooth codec. It sounds excellent, even though it is a more compressed codec than AptX or Sony's LDAC.

I used DAC mode to break them in, but I have not tried it out for critical listening yet. The ability to bypass Bluetooth and send a digital signal to the internal 192/24 PCM DAC in the headphones could allow these to replace a moderately priced wired headphone as well.


Re: Focal Bathys (Bluetooth, noise cancelling, closed back)
« Reply #1 on: 15 Aug 2023, 04:07 am »
Glad to hear these are worthwhile. How is the noise cancelling? I have the Sony XM5 closed backs and they’re really excellent  in that category and more or less good for music and movies, though I rarely use them for music.


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Re: Focal Bathys (Bluetooth, noise cancelling, closed back)
« Reply #2 on: 15 Aug 2023, 02:06 pm »
Thanks for the review; I really enjoy reading the real-world experience & opinions of a Circle member who has taken the time to share their experiences, warts (if any) and all. I have been seriously thinking of getting head cans - like these - for some time and can now proceed with much more confidence. Due to consideration for the needs of family members, I can only listen to my speakers the way I want for a few hours each week. The earphones should give me many more hours of listening time w/o interfering with the others need for silence. BTW, I had Koss ESP 9's way back in the day (BD present from my girlfriend, now wife), but they were so heavy, and the cord so restrictive that they got used very little.


Re: Focal Bathys (Bluetooth, noise cancelling, closed back)
« Reply #3 on: 15 Aug 2023, 05:04 pm »
I think if you can enjoy in-ear monitors for long periods and don't mind a cord, the Etymotic ER4s are excellent and likely better than the Bathys. I have Etymotics, but getting them in and out is inconvenient compared to over-the-ear headphones.

If you don't need noise canceling or wireless use, you can get a bit better sound from an open-back headphone that's less expensive than the Bathys, but then you need a DAC and amp. When you look at the total cost to better the sound of the Bathys it gets less clear. If you found something efficient enough to run on an Apple dongle, then perhaps so.

The noise canceling on the Bathys is a bit better than my Sony WH-H900N Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones. I haven't tried the newer Sony XM4s or XM5s, so I don't know how the Bathys compares. Reviewers say the XM5s are the most silent, but with music playing, I don't know how much difference it makes. If the headphone is being used without music in a loud working environment, then a Bose or Sony XM5 might be better. But looking at measurements that folks have made, there are also differences in the frequencies where the noise canceling is most effective, so depending on the ambient noise one model might fare better than another. With the AC on at home, the Bathys do a very good job.

IEM with noise canceling are the most effective because they can get 30 dB isolation just from plugging up your ears. Memory foam tips on my Airpods Pro are the most effective setup I've tried for pure noise cancellation.

However, the Bathys sound much better than the Airpods Pro, are easier to use and remove, and give me the convenience of Bluetooth and wireless use. There are no solutions, just tradeoffs.