Are Focal Bathys Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones Worth Their $800 Price Tag?
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The Bathys wireless headphones are a milestone Focal product offering for two major reasons: their onboard noise cancellation and their price tag. The former is available for the first time in a set of Focal headphones, bringing the French maker of high-end audio gear into a whole new product category.
On the other hand, while undeniably hefty for wireless headphones, the $799 sticker of the Bathys makes them the most reasonably priced Focal offering. For comparison, wired headphones by Focal start at $999, while the range-topping Utopia rocks a stratospheric $4,999 tag.
I began testing the Focal Bathys with sky-high expectations because of their price — $800 can buy you a pair of noise-canceling headphones in addition to earbuds such as the Sony WF-1000XM5 and the Bose QuietComfort II, to name a couple of deservedly popular options, and still leave (at least) a Benjamin in your pocket. After weeks as my go-to headphones, the Bathys made a compelling case for spending big on a pair, ticking all the boxes in sound quality, design, and comfort. Here’s a breakdown:
Battery Performance: 8/10
Overall Score: 9/10
FOCAL BATHYS AT A GLANCE
Distinctive-looking and comfy
Elegant storage case
Up to 40 hours of battery life
The Focal Bathys’ sound is heavenly, and given the product’s price, I anticipated nothing less. Meticulously crafted in France alongside the units that power the pricier Focal wired headphones, the aluminum-magnesium audio drivers of the wireless cans produce a lush, true-to-life, utterly captivating sonic experience that will appeal to even the pickiest audiophiles.
While I tested the Bathys, I couldn’t help but marvel at how precisely the bass, the treble, the midrange, and the vocals — the pillars of quality sound — were reproduced. Every track I played — from “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi to bass-heavy Massive Attack trip-hop anthems — was free of the acoustic embellishments I have occasionally encountered in lower price tiers.
The Bathys presented more intricate detail from familiar songs I have spent a decade listening to while testing audio gear. Regardless of the genre you play, the product will treat you to a listening experience just as the artists and the sound engineers intended.
Switching to the Focal Bathys from a cheaper pair of headphones is an eye-opening experience that, metaphorically speaking, compares to swapping a luxurious family SUV for a Ferrari or Porsche, to name a couple of iconic brands. The two-seat supercar will help you connect with roads you know in a whole new way. The headphones will present your go-to music in a new, inevitably better way.
The cans’ wired audio capabilities are another reason to spend big on a set. Unlike any rival, the Bathys has an onboard USB DAC (digital-to-analog converter), allowing it to process high-resolution and lossless audio formats locally without needing additional hardware. Setting up the mode is easy — all you need to do is connect the cans to a USB-C-equipped computer, phone, or tablet, then enable DAC mode via a button on the right ear cup.
Listening to music in USB DAC mode with the Bathys delivers a feel and sonic experience identical to a high-end wired headset paired with a headphone amp. I spent entire days using the functionality, revisiting favorite albums to hear them in more detail. Another handy bit I liked about the feature is that it allowed me to control the playback and volume via the cans’ onboard buttons.
A high-quality DAC can cost a pretty penny, making the Focal headphones a surprisingly value-packed option for audio enthusiasts. If you have spent big to own such a gadget, fret not — the Bathys also has a standard audio jack for proper old-school listening.
Focal’s companion app offers a selection of sound customization tools worthy of the headphones’ price category. You can choose between presets created by audio gurus or create your own via a graphical equalizer.
The noise cancellation of the Bathys is stellar, if not the product category’s best. The headphones reduced the roadwork underneath my living room window to a more bearable distant clatter before I began playing music.
Still, the Bathys headphones couldn’t drape in complete silence like the more affordable Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose QuietComfort 45, and AirPods Max. However, noise cancellation isn’t why you should consider the Focal cans — it’s the incredible sonic experience I described above.
There are two noise cancellation settings you can toggle between by long-pressing a button (single presses activate transparency mode) on the left earcup — silent and soft. The former is stronger, while the soft one is more suitable for staying focused without losing complete track of your surroundings.
The Bathys performed well during telephone, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom calls on a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 14 Pro Max, and a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Thanks to Bluetooth 5.1, the headphones linked simultaneously to a laptop and a phone while I put them through their paces.
When it comes to comfort and ergonomics, the Bathys headphones are excellent, courtesy of swiveling earcups with super soft genuine-leather cushions and a padded headband with a microfiber cover. Their tactile button controls are conveniently located and easy to access.
The product’s weight is also reasonable, considering the materials used in its making. The Bathys is a tad heavier than the all-plastic Sony WH-1000XM5 but lighter than the AirPods Max. Combined with the well-appointed earcups and headband — the primary contact points with my head — the weight of the headphones allowed me to spend hours without feeling discomfort and fatigue.
Wear sensors that automatically pause the playback upon removing the headphones are notably missing on the Focal Bathys. Considering the hi-fi hardware bits the headphones pack, this is a tradeoff I’d make in a heartbeat.
Similarly to the company’s wired headphones, the earcup covers of the Focal Bathys have a dotted hole pattern, giving the wireless cans a distinct look that makes mainstream rivals appear generic. So does the backlit Focal logo embedded into each earcup. (You can disable the light via the app for a more low-key look.)
The build quality of the Bathys is unsurprisingly excellent. The headphones’ construction includes premium materials such as aluminum, magnesium, leather, and fabric. The dotted earcup covers are made from high-quality plastic, probably to ensure strong wireless connectivity.
Design- and quality-wise, the storage case of the headphones is one of the best in the business. The bundled accessory has an eye-catching fabric finish, a high-quality zipper closure, and a carrying strap. Its interior has two compartments for storing cables alongside the Bathys.
BATTERY PERFORMANCE: 8/10
You can expect up to 30 hours of battery life in wireless mode with noise cancellation from the Bathys — a solid achievement given the headphones’ hardware and acoustic prowess. Opting for wired listening with the standard audio cable or USB DAC mode will get you 35 and 42 hours of listening between charges, respectively. Overall, such endurance is on par with other high-end wireless headphones.
The USB-C connector of the headphones is capable of fast charging speeds. You can get 5 hours’ worth of playback after 15 minutes, while a full charge takes around an hour and a half. I found the features handy because you need to switch the headphones off to replenish their battery.
The Focal Bathys is a rare offering that will be equally excellent as your go-to wireless and wired headphones. The product’s uncompromising performance in both modes is why audio aficionados should spend big to get their hands on a set if their budget allows it.
High-quality audio gear is expensive, and so are Focal’s headphones. Even though it’s not easy to make a rational case for dropping so much on a set of wireless headphones, I am confident those who can will love the Bathys. Their next-level audio fidelity is worth the investment.
Consider the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 if you want great wireless sound and noise cancellation for less. The Master & Dynamic MW75 and the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 are slightly cheaper Focal Bathys alternatives with luxurious design, craftsmanship, and sound, as are the over-ear AirPods Max headphones. That said, none of the competitors have a built-in DAC for audiophile-grade wired listening, leaving the Bathys in a league of its own.
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