Focal Bathys Review – Moving the Goal Posts

ANC Performance –

Overall, the ANC system on the Bathys performs at a high level in the most potent silence mode; as they should considering the asking price. They are in the upper echelons though, like the MW75 to be reviewed soon, fall just short of market leaders from Bose and Sony. The MW75 as well is slightly more potent, cancelling a slightly wider range of frequencies with the Bathys letting in a bit more midrange and, therefore, human voice. That said, the low-frequency attenuation of the Bathys is excellent and roughly on par with both the MW75 and Bose QC35. Midrange and high-end attenuation are slightly less than both competing models but the noise cancelling system is still effective within these ranges. Soft mode is slightly less potent, dialling down the intensity across the board. I didn’t experience any headache or sensation of pressure in either mode too which makes the ANC implementation feel especially unobtrusive.

The Bathys also impressed me with its low noise floor, generating minimal hiss with ANC on. By contrast, the MW75 and many other enthusiast options were quite audible. This lends it a more refined feel delivering a more similar experience to the Bose headphones that don’t have any hiss at all. In quiet environments, this is a much-appreciated quality and contributes to the sensation of silence. The opposite is to be observed with regard to its ambient listening mode. The Bathys is clear and offers excellent volume meaning voices are very easily heard and understood. However, clipping is notable alongside a prominent hiss due to the high mic gain. It is a trade-off, though it would be nice to make the intensity adjustable within the companion app similar to Sony’s headphones, as some users may want to listen with ambient mode on for extended periods of time. The factory setup can get quite grating due to these quirks.

Usability –

Connectivity

Built atop a BT5.1 chipset, the Bathys supports the latest array of audiophile-directed codecs. This includes Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive which is a sort of hybrid between classic aptX, aptX HD and aptX low latency being able to employ qualities of each as able. This means you get a bitrate between 279 and 420 kbps meaning it has a higher ceiling than classic aptX but remains lower than aptX HD. That said, the company claims advances in efficiency of the compression algorithm result in a similar level of detail whilst supporting low latency technology on top. In my experience, these aptX solutions provide a good jump over classic SBC and AAC modes in addition to lower latency with Adaptive boasting especially low latency. I haven’t had the opportunity to compare HD and Adaptive side by side. I do find LDAC to be slightly cleaner sounding with more detail but also less wireless range. LDAC scales between a wider range of bitrates meaning it has higher peak throughput but isn’t as stable as aptX.

My personal experiences with the Bathys support this. I did find that bass was a touch muddier over wireless, but the sound signature was consistent and the top-end lacking excessive crunch or roll-off as was apparent on earlier wireless implementations. Latency was especially impressive with minimal lip sync delay making these a great choice for multimedia consumption and light gaming alongside music. Similarly, range was excellent stretching throughout my entire house with no cut-offs where many competitors become patchy around 2 rooms away from the source. In crowded areas, I experienced no artefacts when listening to the Bathys nor intermittency despite the increased wireless traffic. The Bathys also supports multi-point and I was able to connect to my PC and phone simultaneously and seamlessly switch between the two depending which device was playing media.

USB-DAC

Should you want the lowest latency and a slight but noticeable bump in sound quality, the Bathys supports USB-DAC and 3.5mm wired inputs. In addition, as opposed to using the Bluetooth chipset, the Bathys has a discrete DAC/AMP circuit built-in, providing greater quality sound – explaining the distinct drop in battery life over wireless due to the two separate circuits running in parallel. Unfortunately, you cannot bypass the internal circuitry and use the headphones passively meaning if they run out of battery, they are unable to be used. This is likely as Focal is relying on DSP correction to provide their intended sound and correct the frequency response due to space constraints limiting physical tuning of the driver. Though coming at the cost of convenience, it does provide a more consistent listening experience. Of course, this will be something for the buyer to consider. This does mean that ANC is available in all modes and the controls function over both wired modes as well so long as the source device and music player support them. During testing, DAC functionality was plug & play with both my PC and Android smartphone. I will comment further on the differences in sound during the sound breakdown further in this review.

Focal & Naim App

The companion app is simple but functional and offers similar adjustments to other enthusiast options. All of the usual options are present including an ANC toggle between silent, soft and awareness and a 5-band equaliser with 6dB of adjustment in either direction. The Bathys also has light-up faceplates that can be adjusted or turned off completely. It’s a fairly loud design feature but also a good way to tell if the headphones are on or off. Unfortunately, the lights are always active when used in wired mode which would be a good setting to address in future updates. Deeper within the settings, users can adjust their preferred voice assistant and auto standby, the app also provides general stats with remaining battery and the Bluetooth codec being employed. Firmware updates are also available though there is no manual way to check, you will be greeted with the option automatically if it is available. As of testing, my unit was on version 1.4.2, hardware version 1.1 and app version 6.0.3 so all of this may be subject to change.

Next Page: Sound Breakdown

SHARE.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Ryan Soo

Ryan Soo

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

RELATED POSTS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent posts

Sponsors

Categories