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Focal Bathys Review – Moving the Goal Posts

Pros –

Appealing design, Comfortable fit, Unobtrusive ANC, Highly clean and balanced tuning, Great soundstage performance, Scales well with a wired connection

Cons –

Doesn’t fold for storage, Hiss in ambient mode, No passive mode, No LDAC support

Verdict –

The Bathys offers excellent balance and great listenability on the foundation of a tight note presentation and extended, nuanced top-end. These qualities scale further with a wired connection and the tonality is just as charming whether ANC is on or off.


Introduction –

For too long have we been promised the quality of a wired headphone in wireless form only to be disappointed by the result. There are few names that hold genuine credibility when it comes to such claims and it would be difficult to find one with fewer accolades than Focal. The French brand is renowned in all fields of audio whether that be outdoor speakers, car audio or personal. Their headphones are considered some of the best on the market and carry some intriguing technologies that permit such performance. With introductions out of the way, you can imagine the excitement behind the launch of the Bathys; a wireless headphone from Focal boasting the company’s signature M-shaped aluminium-magnesium dome dynamic driver, active noise cancelling and smart integration. The Bathys is posited to represent the true union between audiophile quality and consumer convenience.

The Bathys is available for $1199 AUD. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a unit on Addicted to Audio!

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Rachel from Busisoft very much for her quick communication and for reaching out to organise a review of the Bathys. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Driver: 40mm Aluminium-Magnesium M-shaped Dome Dynamic Driver
  • Frequency response: 15 Hz – 22 kHz
  • Battery life: 30hrs BT + ANC, 35hrs Jack Mode, 42hrs USB DAC Mode
  • Bluetooth: 5.1 Multipoint, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Adaptive
  • Weight: 350g

Behind the Design –

M-Shaped Dome Driver

Similar to their wired models, the Bathys uses a 40mm magnesium/aluminium M-shaped dome dynamic driver. ­That may sound like a mouthful but in essence, the company is describing both the shape and geometry of the driver. Aluminium and magnesium both enhance the mechanical properties of the diaphragm permitting a lighter, more rigid driver that is more responsive and detailed. The M-shaped cone also reinforces this quality, further enhancing rigidity for the most linear frequency response and minimal distortion. This tech has been seen on their speakers and headphones, many of which I’ve had the pleasure of owning and the results speak for themselves.

Lightened Chassis

The Bathys very much resembles other wired models from Focal in terms of overall design and dimensions. However, despite housing no shortage of trick circuity, manages to be a whole 100g lighter than even the Focal Clear. This was achieved through the use of lightweight magnesium, aluminium, real leathers and sensible use of plastics where appropriate.  

Active Noise Cancelling

In addition to supporting to the latest AptX codec and BT5.1 standard, the Bathys is equipped with a two-mode ANC system. This permits users to toggle between a comfort-focused soft mode and a silent mode. In addition, the headphones offer an ambient listening/pass-through mode which provides greater spatial awareness and a more open feel despite the closed-back form factor. All of these are enabled by the introduction of modern technology into a focused, audiophile form factor.

Unboxing –

The Bathys has a sensible and minimalist unboxing with a white hard box with basic print, it gives off a clean aesthetic. Opening the box reveals a similar experience to other high-end noise cancellers with the headphones safely contained within the included zippered hard-shell carrying case that also has an integrated accessories holder. The case has a soft fabric interior and exterior but a hard skeleton making it quite protective. It’s surprisingly slim given the size of the headphones and smaller than most other enthusiast headphone cases despite the lack of folding – the headphones only swivel flat. Inside, a divider occupies the centre of the case, separating the two earcups and preventing them from scratching each other. The divider doubles as a nook that holds the 2 supplied cables; a 1.2m 3.5mm cable and a 1.2m USB-C to USB-C cable. The cables have a basic rubber construction and come with an integrated Velcro winder but I would have liked to see better units included for the asking price. Additional storage is to be found in the form of a large elastic pouch on the upper lid of the carrying case.

Design –

Holding the Bathys reinforces the impression of a premium product as you’d expect from a company of Focal’s heritage. The base design is very reminiscent of their wired headphones which makes them relatively large for a portable headphone, but also spacious and comfortable with materials that have been adjusted to suit their portable nature. Also, don’t let the faceplate design fool you as the Bathys is a fully closed design providing greater passive noise isolation than the company’s other models even before ANC is activated. Much of this impression can be derived from a smart choice of materials. And while some competitors such as Master & Dynamic’s new MW75 employ an entirely metal chassis, I wouldn’t say the two are far apart in terms of daily look and feel – though it is impressive that M&D has achieved this at a similar weight. This is because key structural components such as the earcup hangers alongside most exterior surfaces that the user may interact with such as the headband and faceplate caps are entirely metal lending a cool and rigid feel.

Broad surfaces such as the rims of the earcup and the faux-vented faceplates that are less commonly felt are made from plastic, responsible for the notable weight shedding. Despite this, the headphones retain a good sense of solidity with no areas of hollowness. I would attribute this to a sensible choice of harder plastics that experienced no notable wear across my month of testing in addition to the selection of soft-touch finishes on most surfaces that creates a more pleasing feel in the hand. Tight tolerances with evenly tensioned adjustment on either side and minimal seams between mating surfaces form an altogether solid-feeling headphone – one that has a few small wobbles but no squeaks or areas of obvious flex and weakness. It feels well-equipped to deal with the rigours of daily life as intended.

In terms of actually using the headphones, the experience is quite straightforward. The headband has a very well-defined adjustment mechanism though it isn’t stepless as seen on many competitors. The earcups swivel and pivot very smoothly with enough tension to maintain a solid and reliable seal for hours of wear. The controls can be found at the rears of each earcup though are quite biased to the right earcup which may make usage awkward for left-handed owners. The left side houses only the power button that doubles as an ANC mode toggle while the right side has playback controls, a dedicated assistant button, type-C and 3.5mm inputs in addition to a sliding inputs switch. Though the addition of the input switch does convolute usage slightly, I’ve found it refreshing to have physical control over wireless and DAC mode as this is not always so seamless with gestures on many competing headphones.

Fit & Comfort –

I’ve never had an especially positive experience with portable headphones as many err too far on the side of portable. Their small dimensions often meant I would quickly experience some sort of hotspot and I found this was also to the detriment of sound quality too. In recent years, however, the market has evolved and wearing larger headphones in public has been normalised to some degree as ANC headphones have become popularised. This has helped with these issues tremendously and the Bathys is a good example. Though it isn’t as comfortable as a full-sized wired headphone due to its thinner headband design, the large earcups and plush pads fully encompass my ears and give them a bit more room to breathe than most. I found the slightly more acute angle of the headband to conform well to my head shape, creating a larger contact patch that distributes the weight well.

The headband offered a good range of adjustment and medium clamp force that gave me no issues during testing. I have similarly positive things to say about fit stability which is better than most. This can be attributed to the use of grippy Alcantara on the underside of the headband alongside its slender and low-profile design. As a result, the centre of gravity sits close to the ears which makes the headphones less inclined to tip off your head during active use. Still, with leather pads, a bulkier frame and lack of IP rating, these were never intended to be workout headphones. They are still an excellent companion during daily commute in addition to longer travel. If I do have one complaint it’s that the headband has been made rather thin to achieve these qualities. Despite meticulous balancing and material choice, they did give me some soreness at the top of my head after a few hours of listening. It wasn’t unbearable but noticeable and something to consider. Given the wide range of adjustment, you can wrap the headband to help alleviate this if comfort is a main concern.

On the contrary, I have zero complaints with the earpads that offer spacious internal dimensions and a compliant memory foam stuffing that conforms to the head with grace. The angled drivers further enhance accommodation for larger or wider ears which should make these a true over-ear design for the majority of listeners. The leather isn’t breathable that said, something to consider for those in hotter climates. Still, this is an issue that would affect all competitors too. The use of real leather also bodes well for their long-term wear-resistance and I’ve found well-kept leather to hold up substantially better than faux. In the event that they become worn or ripped, they are also easily replaceable due to the use of a simple clip system similar to their wired models meaning aftermarket pad options are abundant and easily swapped. This also means you could opt for a more breathable fabric pad or fenestrated leather should you so choose albeit, affecting the sound and noise-cancelling performance.

Next Page: ANC Performance & Usability

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