Focal takes aim at travel noise with premium wireless ANC headphones
French high-end audio brand Focal has unveiled its first pair of wireless ANC headphones in the shape of the oddly-named Bathys. The eye-catching cans come with proprietary drivers, boast two optimized ANC modes, support aptX Adaptive and promise long battery life.
So what's with the rather strange name? Focal says that its roots are in the bathyscaphe, a deep-diving sub, and is meant to represent "the embodiment of calm, depth and absolute silence."
The company has gained many supporters among audiophiles and industry pundits over the years for top quality sound reproduction, and the Bathys headphones feature Focal's own patented 40-mm speaker drivers rocking an aluminum/magnesium M-dome design for a "detailed, precise and dynamic sound" over a fairly wide frequency response of 15 Hz to 22 kHz, with a total harmonic distortion of less than 0.2%.
For wireless operation, Bluetooth 5.1 technology has been selected with support for AAC, aptX and aptX Adaptive audio codecs – the latter opening up CD-quality streaming potential. Android device users benefit from cooked-in Fast Pair, and the headphones can connect to two source devices simultaneously, for easy track switching between them.
Two optimized active noise cancellation modes have been included. A Silent mode provides the highest level of noise isolation and is tuned for journeys on such things as airplanes and trains, while Soft mode still reduces low-frequency noise, but isn't so strict with higher frequency ambient sounds, with Focal saying that it's designed for moderately noisy environments such as the home or office.
In common with most modern ANC headphones, there's also a Transparency mode that allows the outside in when needed, such as conversing with friends without having to remove the headphones or listening for travel announcements at the transport hub.
Focal says that users can expect more than 30 hours of per-charge wireless listening with ANC powered on, and fast-charging can provide five hours of listening time for just 15 minutes on charge.
The headphones come with eight microphones onboard, and employ Qualcomm's Clear Voice Capture noise suppression technology for clarity during voice calls via a paired smartphone. A dedicated mobile app caters for five-band EQ tweaking, custom settings and access to Alexa and Google Assistant.
The Bathys circumaurals come supplied with two cables for connection to a music source via a 3.5-mm audio jack or USB, and feature a built-in 24-bit/192-kHz digital-to-analog converter (DAC). The battery life in non-wireless operation is also extended to 35 hours in audio-jack mode and 42 hours over USB.
Of course, the headphones are quite the eyeball pleasers too, with a classic black/silver color theme and distinctive earcup grilles sporting the company's flame logo at the center that can be backlit or not.
The Bathys headphones go on sale this month for US$799, and come supplied with a rigid travel case. Cheaper options from other manufacturers include Sony's excellent WH-1000XM5 headphones, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless head candy, the QC 45 model from Bose, and of course Apple's AirPod Max.
Product page: Bathys