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  • Cheryl Tan

Focal Bathys Review: These Or B&W Px8?!

We have the Focal Bathys with us today, and I had the pleasure of taking them overseas with me so I can speak to my experience using them on a plane.


So, let’s talk design. These look quite alike to other Focal headphones, but most notably to the Focal Stellia I think, with that holey design on the earcup as well as the logo in the centre medallion style. That logo does light up white, and the intensity of the light can be customised in the Focal & Naim app, although I did get scolded by my partner on the plane because the logo suddenly lit up at full brightness midway through when we were sleeping even after I had turned it off in the app and I had to go back into the app to toggle the LEDs on and off.

Moving on, the earpads are very plush and comfy and the padding on the headband is covered with a microfibre material with the top covered in leather. No pinching at the crown of my head but I did feel that the clamping force of the Bathys is quite high right out of the box. Thankfully, the very padded earpads do help here, but there is a breaking-in period needed for these headphones in my opinion, although this could very well be because of my spectacles.

Build quality is quite stellar as well, with magnesium and aluminium used for the yokes and headband, although the cups themselves as well as the buttons are made of plastic and it does feel a little plasticky. That being said, the headphones are weighty at around 350 grams, so not the lightest for sure.

These are closed-back headphones, so I did find my ears getting a touch warm when using them in Singapore, especially when paired with the leather earpads. Unfortunately, the headphones aren’t able to collapse in on themselves, which results in the same triangular bulky case we see with plenty of other headphones these days. That being said, the hard-sided case is nice in the hand, and you get two cables inside, one USB-C to C cable for charging as well as for use with the headphones’ USB DAC mode, along with a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable for wired use. Just FYI, both the USB DAC mode and wired use requires power.

Inside, there are the 40mm aluminium/magnesium M dome drivers that are made in France, and they’re angled towards the ear like with many audiophile headphones, so that’s nice.


Coming to the controls, most of it is on the right earcup. From the top down, there is the volume up button, then the multi-function button for play/pause and track skipping, then the volume down button, the power slider that also serves to turn on USB DAC mode, a button for toggling the voice assistant, then the USB-C port. On the left side, there’s a single button for changing the noise cancelling mode.

You will want to download the Focal & Naim app that I mentioned earlier, of course, because while it’s very, very sparse, you will be able to turn off the LED light on the earcups or make them dimmer, change the level of ANC intensity and get access to an EQ. There are just two presets, one called Home and the other called Loudness. Loudness looks like a pretty standard V shape, while the Home preset lowers the bass and upper mids a touch. I’m guessing it’s assuming you’re in a quiet environment at home so you won’t need the boost there or something. Regardless, I did all my testing without any EQ settings. Additionally, I have no idea why the app labels all the EQ points as 62Hz, but yeah, it’s a bug, clearly.

Connectivity & Codec Support

Connectivity-wise, these are running on Bluetooth 5.1, which is a bit old, but there’s multipoint connectivity as well as support for SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive. No LDAC here, unfortunately.

Battery Life

Battery life is decent at 30 hours, which is pretty much what you would expect from most headphones nowadays, and there’s also quick charge, with a 15-minute charge giving you five hours of playback time. No on-head detection here though, so if you take your headphones off and leave the music playing, you might come back later to realise you’ve lost a bit of battery.

The microphone quality is alright, I did feel that my voice came across a bit soft from time to time, but overall, no muffling or cut-off words.

ANC Performance

As for ANC, there’s something I have to note here, and that is that there’s no way to turn ANC off on these headphones. It’s either on soft, which is the lower ANC setting, silent, which is the stronger ANC setting or it’s on transparency mode. This is a bit of a bummer, but it is what it is. Regardless, ANC here is pretty decent. It cancels out low-pitched noises quite effectively, but it does still let in higher-pitched frequencies as well as a bit of the sound in the upper mid-range. This means voices and the like are a bit more audible here, making the ANC performance here not as comparable to the Bowers & Wilkins Px8 for example, and definitely a distance away from the Sony WH-1000XM5. On the plane, it removed most of the engine rumble, but I did get the occasional snippet of conversation slipping in from time to time. I won’t say the world will turn silent with these, but it’s certainly effective enough for commutes and I’m perfectly happy with the performance on a plane.

Sound quality

But something that the Bathys has going for it is that the ANC doesn’t really affect the sound quality. Because these sound quite incredible. You get a good amount of impact and depth in the bass, while the headphones keep things tight and accurate. The midrange is also pleasantly warm, with a tinge of darkness that works very nicely with the vocals, which are slightly more forward and right up my alley with a weighty, more emotional presentation. The treble does feel a touch laidback and smooth, but this is mostly also because I personally prefer a more energetic and sparkly treble.

Soundstage though, wow, the imaging is very accurate and while it’s not spacious and airy like a pair of open-back headphones, there’s a good amount of depth and I’m not sure what it is, but I really like the way vocals are presented with these headphones. Tracks with plenty of vocal layering were an absolute pleasure to listen to with these. If you demo these, give Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy a try. It’s one of my go-to songs for testing how headphones handle vocal layering, as well as the separation between the claps and effects, and the Bathys handled it effortlessly.

Focal Bathys VS B&W Px8 VS Mark Levinson No.5909

So, you’re wondering, Bathys, Px8 or Mark Levinson 5909? Well, they all have their own advantages, right? Immediately, if you’re talking ANC or comfort, I think the Px8 wins out amongst these three. But when it comes to sound quality, the Mark Levinson is the one to go for if you want the most detail. The treble on the Bathys isn’t as energetic as the Mark Levinson 5909 or the Px8 either. As for the low end, I think the Px8 has the edge there with a bit more texture. But when it comes to the mids, and especially the vocals, I think the Bathys win by a mile over the other two.

Soundstage-wise, I think the 5909 wins in terms of spaciousness, while the Bathys win in terms of accuracy and layering. We’re going to do a short audio test, but unfortunately, because I reviewed the 5909 quite a while back, we don’t have the audio test for that one, so it’s only going to be the Px8 and the Bathys here.


So there you have it. At S$1,199 or US$799, the Bathys sit in the middle between the Px8 and the 5909. It’s not cheap, but it’s an excellent showing from Focal, balancing the strength of the ANC versus the sound quality and I have to say, if you place a lot of emphasis on the vocals in your music, it’s really gorgeous here.

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