Elex and Eclair discussion thread

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Vtory, Apr 27, 2018.

  1. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Roll some warmer tubes in the LP if you haven’t yet. The stock ones won’t do the Focals any favors (then again, I find them all bright or shouty as is).
     
  2. lm4der

    lm4der A very good sport - Friend

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    I'm thinking you meant for my valhalla2 (not the LP)? I have a tube roll that is wetter than stock in my valhalla2, but not warm really. So that may be a way to go. Honestly I think the elex may be too bright/peaky or something for my ears. Which is sad for me. I wanted to love this hp.
     
  3. Babbage78

    Babbage78 Rando

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    Sorry to bring up an older comment, but I just recently received a Metrum Amethyst and found that the headphone amp seemed to be a bit more dynamic and had a noticeably larger sound stage than my Arcam rHead. I see that you mentioned that the HP out isn't spectacular so I was wondering what you would consider a noticeable jump up from the Amethyst's HP out?
     
  4. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    I think Hands was replying to @Soups . Anyway, @purr1n said he was going to make an Elex appreciation thread with some modding guide to tame the treble, so you can always wait for that and see, but damping won't completely get rid of the "all out" nature of the Focals and you might just not be into that presentation.
    But yes, I've developed a fear for amps labelled "versatile" from FOTM syndrome like Jot, Lyr and even my Liquid Platinum I wouldn't say is completely versatile with the SE out being way worse than balanced out and the somewhat dry sound. Synergy, at least with amps and headphones in my experience, is very much a real thing but also subjective with the commission, omission stuff and people preferring different mixes of both. The Focals will show a lot more of their qualities (bad and good) than the Senns will at the same level of amp, so what you want might be to find something that omits enough or is warm enough for them to be pleasurable, like a THX 789 or Lyr 3.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
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  5. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    If the Elex is anything like the Utopia, it is really designed for lower volume listeners. Anything above the high 70s average dB on my iPhone app and I don’t like the Utopia. So one must decide if they want (1) superior resolution, more unnatural timbre and to protect their hearing or (2) worse resolution, more natural timbre and to rock out a bit. The lower volume isn’t as noticeable as with other headphones like Sennheisers because the Focals sound so immediate and there’s less between ear and driver. The other theoretical benefit of lower volume listening is less stress on the drivers, which may be more prone to failure than other reputable brands and with a company that is worse to deal with for warranty issues than most others.
     
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  6. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    I can't completely agree with that, since if they are designed for lower volume, wouldn't they be a little more V-shaped to compensate for the Fletcher-Munson curve? I personally find that when I got the bass dialed in on Focals at a good level where it sounds neutral to me (my usual 80-85), they definitely sounded more "stressed" than the Senns.
     
  7. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I was responding to the previous poster about the LP Elex pairing.

    The Valhalla 2 may be a bit too dry and lean for the Focals in general. The LP is more full and wetter sounding, even with stock tubes.

    Did you see my Elear mods regarding using tiny pieces of adhesive velcro and placing a foam disk cutout over the driver to tame the treble? This really went a long way on the Clear.
     
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  8. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Damn, that rHead must have been awful...no offense.

    There are certain headphones that strangely work well from the Amethyst HP out, but I’d be inclined to take the inexpensive Magni 3 or Vali 2 over that. Generally better sound, works better with a wider variety of headphones.

    The Focals are tricky because of their impedance and impedance curve. They respond somewhat noticeably to higher output impedances. The Amethyst may be boosting the bass on the Elex.

    In that regard, you may enjoy the ZDT Jr. with the lower OI jack.
     
  9. Superexchanger

    Superexchanger Friend

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    Going to take a swing at describing what I hear with the Focal Elex as a first attempt to more rigorously define aspects of a piece of equipment I own. As I do more of this (probably necro-ing a few threads along the way - I change gear slowly and rarely get the latest things) I may refine the tone or approach or structure, but either way this is an interesting exercise I’ve been looking forward to trying out. Apologies in advance if some terminology is used in an unclear or contradictory way; this should improve with time as I’m exposed to more impressions.

    Equipment used in evaluation, with preferences/biases included in spoiler section below:

    Equipment used in the evaluation:
    • All PC-based transport
      • Roon (Redbook sources, WASAPI hardware control ensuring RAAT lossless transport except where noted)
      • Spotify
      • Amazon Music HD
    • DDC
      • Singxer SU-1 (pre DAC for Holo Cyan)
    • DAC or DAC/Amp
      • Schiit Fulla 2 (5V USB power, data from USB)
      • Chord Mojo (Battery powered, data from USB)
      • Holo Audio Cyan PCM (data from SU-1 I2S out)
      • Denon AVR-X3300W (1/4’’ headout, Roon airplay streaming + Spotify Connect as sources)

    Sound Preferences/biases:


    Music character: Primarily aggressive/fast or highly layered music, with low to moderate dynamic range. Often guitar driven (highly distorted), or busy electronic music is used (90%). Occasional audiophile-grade Classical/Jazz recordings (10%)

    Tonality: General preference for sound tilts away from bright/lean and towards “euphonic” or “warm”, though this is not always firm. Using EQ, I’ve identified that increased relative amplitudes in the 1-3 kHz region create a personally unpleasant effect; transducers that mitigate this are easier for me to appreciate. Measured/observed overcorrection or “recessed mids” can subjectively register as acceptable-to-pleasing to my ear.

    Listening Behavior: Most levels kept around 75-85 dB. Excursions into the 90’s are possible when I’m really feeling something. Regarding EQ: interesting to experiment with, prefer not to worry about it.

    Touchstones: Current “gold standard” listening device is a Campfire Audio Solaris, typically with a Chord Mojo. I’ve found this IEM to be relatively source independent.

    Preamble

    Of the full-size headphones I’ve had the opportunity to own, this one presented the most significant initial challenge to fully appreciate. I’d read conflicting and varied accounts of the Elex’s character, with descriptions ranging from a grating metallic timbre, an in-your-face ASMR-inducing experience even at low volume, and an easy to enjoy and detailed listen. Often these descriptions were bereft of upstream equipment details, but I noted that tube amps tended to produce the most liked pairings when those details were available. Not having a tube amp my purchase was inexplicable except for a specific curiosity about the Utopia (and Focal offerings in general), and several aligning impressions that Elex was reasonably close in technicality for less than a quarter of the price. Jumping on a used deal, I’ve now lived with it for many months.

    Phase I: Small Solid-State Devices

    Initial listening was done with the Fulla 2, and straight away the tonal characteristics were unpleasant. Lack of body presented issues with electronica, where the presentation felt thin and unsatisfying. With guitar-emphasized recordings (punk, hardcore, etc.), the perceptive lack of bass in combination with a strong mids to upper-mids emphasis created a “shouty” character that didn’t flatter the material. Guitars on familiar recordings were forward with a good amount of crunch and a significant amount of “pop” or liveliness but timbre didn’t seem correct or matching expectations with material heard on a wider range of devices. This is hard to explain; I did not perceive the “metallic” sound other’s had noted, but something like a “heat” in the upper registers that was actually most noticeable with brass instruments like a trumpet; these would occasionally cut through the mix to near physical discomfort at moderate listening levels. Despite the tonal issues, temporal rendering of material seemed excellent. The drivers produced a very tactile, articulate presentation that seemed capable of sorting out layers in aggressive/noisy/congested recordings. This kind of nimbleness clarity was refreshing, but the images rendered were harshly tinted. All of these issues persisted when moving to a Chord Mojo; I did not perceive a significant change in sound when alternating between two low Z-out solid state devices. Bizarrely, I decided to try the Elex straight out of the variable pre-out on the rear of the Fulla 2, and here I noticed a more agreeable tonal balance, bringing in what seemed like a few dB in the midbass region. This went a long way towards alleviating some of the above issues and seemed like a stable solution for long term use, but later I noticed this output introduced a difficult to characterize “haze” not noticed with the standard output jack. Initial hypothesis was that higher Z-out devices synergized well given my target tonal response.

    Phase II: AVR Experimentation

    Around this time, I had discovered comments by @westermac about impedance/damping and thought I would try the Elex with the headout on a Denon AVR. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt the unit has a discreet headphone amplifier and more likely has a resistor-gated output from speaker amplifier stage. The expectation was that this output (if configured as assumed) would have very large Z-out and possibly tilt the headphone in a warmer direction. Assumptions aside, the output on the AVR produced a shockingly bassy presentation. The baseline FR seemed to have been tilted up by +6 dB from midbass sloping into the lower mids. Using the same suite of tracks used previously, the presentation became much more like the Solaris, minus the razor-sharp imaging of that IEM. Though the FR balanced into what I now could live with, the separation of instruments within the mix and general clarity was compromised. This is again difficult to explain, but with aid from an analogy to image processing this came across like a Gaussian blur or something similar applied to the sound. I shelved the headphone not being able to get it into the Goldilocks zone with anything I owned.

    Phase III: Desktop Solutions and Permanent Home

    I recently purchased a Holo Audio Cyan from a friend here, as I wanted to try an AIO upgrade to what I had owned, to explore NOS DAC sound, and have a unit that provided some Z-out flexibility with BAL or SE outputs that fits on my office desk. This unit provided a nice substrate to try the Elex again, and with this I have (finally) come to a set of conditions where the Elex really shines. NOS set, balanced output, with high Z-out. NOS (vs. OS on this Cyan) removes a significant portion of the “heat” on the upper registers, high Z-out emphasizes the midbass up to the mids without loss of clarity, while the balanced output effect (while very minor) seems to have a positive effect on the liveliness, and music seems to hit harder (plucked strings, snares, quick start/stop electronica have a percussive attack).

    The presentation still feels mid-focused with echoes of the shout that dominated the early experience. In a headphone that seemed to present nothing but unacceptable tradeoffs, this is a minor one to grant given the clarity and articulation of complex music this setup provides. There’s probably more headroom to improve here given a nice tube amp, and that might be in store later on, but for this setup I’ve found a daily driver that serves as well for pleasurable and analytical listening.
    Worth the effort.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2019
  10. dematted

    dematted Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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    Hello. I'm new to the audiophile world, and I'm also not using the best equipment, so please take my impressions here with a grain of salt. But I've been listening to the Focal Elex for around two weeks now, and I wanted to share my thoughts. For reference, I am using a Modi 2 dac which isn't in the best shape, and have tried these with the JDS Atom, Liquid Spark, and Magni 3. I'm using Tidal hi-fi tracks along with a MacBook 2017. I'm going to focus on their presentation with the Magni 3, since I feel like these were the best amp with these of the three I've listed. The other headphones I've listened to are the Focal Clears, the Hifiman 4xx's, the Sennheiser HD 600's, and the Beyerdynamic DT 880's.

    Good Things

    1. Many people talk about the dynamics on this headphone. I would say these have very good -macro- dynamics. They are excellent at conveying big changes in a given track. They also have a lot of "slam". I find myself consistently 'head banging' with these headphones more than on any other headphone I've listened to. This makes them very good for listening to aggressive pop and rock music.

    2. I really like the way this headphone presents bass. It's not overwhelming, but it has a very nice punchiness to it, and it feels textured and detailed. It also strikes me as very well-controlled, and I don't find it bleeding into the mid-range. At times, I do wish I had a little extra quantity and extension, but for the most part, I'm very satisfied with the bass here.

    2. Detail. Besides the Focal Clears, these are the most detailed headphones I have listened to. And I don't think that they lose out by that much to the Clears.

    4. Imaging and Soundstage. Though these don't have the largest soundstage, I feel like the soundstage it has is very well-defined. They have an open sound to them, especially when paired with amps besides the Magni 3.

    5. Impressive Sonic Presentation. Of all the headphones I've listened to, the overall presentation of the sound on these headphones really "wowed" me the most. The sound is very quick, especially transients, and it has a real 'authority' and punchiness to it. This makes for a lively and engaging listen. What I especially enjoy about them is that they manage to be fairly neutral without sounding clinical, analytical, or lean.

    6. The build. Although these aren't the prettiest headphone, I think the build is really excellent and solid feeling.

    Bad Things

    1. The timbre. I don't think the timbre on these are -bad-, per say. I don't often hear the "metallic" sheen that other people complain of, but that could possibly be because I haven't listened to enough headphones. However, I do feel like the timbre on these are outclassed by other headphones that are at a much lower price point. The HD 600's have superior timbre and are much less expensive. For those who place a premium on the most "natural" presentation of the music, I don't think these headphones are a good value proposition.

    2. The ear pads. It's worth knowing that the ear pads for these headphones are very expensive to replace, especially if Massdrop isn't currently selling them.

    Things I'm not certain about

    1. Overall sonic presentation. I listed this as a strength, but I'm also uncertain about it. While the fast, punchy sound of the Elex makes for a sound that really "grips" you, it also can feel like the Elex is just trying to do -too much- with certain kinds of music. For slow-moving singer-songwriter music, it can be as if the Elex is trying to force the music to do things it's not supposed to. As a result, the sound can be somewhat unnatural.

    2. Treble. Some have complained that this headphone is too bright. I don't agree with this, though I also don't feel like the treble always has the most natural sound. At the same time, I don't find it excessively grainy. I'd say this is neither a strength or weakness.

    3. Recording picky. I find that these headphones are very picky with what recordings I use. On some bad recordings, vocals in particular can sound either muffled or shouty.

    4. Vocals. I find that vocals on this headphone are generally enjoyable to listen to, but at the same time, they don't stand out like those on the HD 600. The vocals wowed me much less than the overall dynamics. Even so, I don't think that vocals are presented poorly here, especially on better recordings. If you turn the volume up too much, they can sound a tad "shouty", but this isn't a quality that bothers me too much.

    5. Comfort. These are not the most comfortable headphones for me. It may be because I have large ears, but I find that the pads compress my ears in a somewhat annoying way after long listening sessions. At the same time, I've heard people (presumably with smaller ears) not have this issue, so I'll consider this one a toss-up.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2019
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  11. PacoTaco

    PacoTaco Friend

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    I wanted to see how you guys have had the Elex hold up for you as far as it still working. I was looking into the bass clipping issue, and found a lot of people were having their drivers die to the fragile wiring in the voice coil. Utopia and Elear share this issue, while the Clear and the two closed units don't at all (meaning they don't just spontaneously die or clip at all.)

    Has anyone had that issue or have things been smooth sailing? I'm considering an Elegia or a Aeon 2 Closed for the office and an Elex at home, but I don't want to hunt down an Elex if the issues are still going on with them.
     
  12. FlySweep

    FlySweep Friend

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    I've had an Elex for a month and a half (ordered it direct from Drop). I use it everyday and haven't had a single issue with it. Admittedly, I baby it (never dropped, mishandled, etc. and it's stored in a drawer when not used). I'm not a high dB/volume listener but I do listen to a lot of bass heavy music (hop hop, DnB, electronica). I did get the drivers to clip by cranking the volume to a volume level I typically do not listen at. I was also able to get it to clip with some tracks that had really forward bass.. but again, it was turned up quite loud (for me). Aside from those (known) issues, it's been a rock solid headphone.
     
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  13. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    Utopia and Elear/Elex are the only ones with the lighter CCAW voice coils in the family. Also, the closed-backs excurse less to produce bass since they're sealed (or at least more sealed). If a used Clear gives you better peace of mind, then maybe consider that one.
     
  14. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    Somewhat related anecdote, but I literally tripped over my Clear wire last night and it crashed to the floor hard from about a meter up. One of the detachable cables pulled out and it almost unplugged from the 3F; super worried a driver would fail or there would be a dent somewhere. But totally fine and no issues whatsoever, super impressed with the build quality! I've had my clears for over a year FWIW. Also tried raising the volume to "portable speaker levels" (about 11PM on the 3F dial) and no clipping with dubstep, but admittedly it scared me doing that.
     
  15. Whatup69

    Whatup69 Acquaintance

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    I've had my elex since 2018 and no issues. Never had bass clipping and the pads have held up extremely well. Still like new.
     
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  16. will_f

    will_f Friend

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    I think the Elex is a headphone that benefits from careful equipment selection. It’s got some huge positives though and the negatives I find pretty manageable. Below is what I decided after a year and a half or so.

    Positives include great macro and microdybamics, pinpoint imaging, clear, detailed sound, and very well controlled and distortion free bass. It’s definitely a fairly intense set of headphones and remarkably close to the Clear for quite a bit less.

    Negatives include sounding metallic with some amps. This is true for the Clear too and I found it annoyingly so plugged into my Magni3. It can sometimes be too dynamic and become fatiguing. Finally, it can be a little lacking in timbre, sounding hollowed out in the upper mids.

    Compared to the HD6XX, the Elex is less warm and less euphonic, but much clearer with much better bass and more treble extension.

    All that being said, it’s a pretty fantastic headphone when connected to slightly wet, slightly warm upstream gear and it scales with quality.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2020

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