Focal has earned a reputation in the audiophile community for creating headphones that match sound quality with luxury – a high-end aesthetic and build that goes along with sonic performance. Bathys is Focal’s first high-end wireless headphone, hoping to deliver on Focal’s pedigree. But while we have no doubt Focal can create a beautiful, comfortable wireless headphone – can it have the same level of sound quality as its previous closed back headphones like Celestee and Radiance?
Build, Design, and Features
Right out of the box, Bathys clearly delivers an excellent build with a style that looks like a slightly more compact version of the Celestee or Stellia. The construction and general look is largely the same, but Bathys is more compact, with a smaller frame. Bathys also has more flexibility in the joints, with a few extra degrees of swivel.
The package includes a travel case and two cables – 3.5mm and USB-C – along with the manual. The 3.5mm cable can be used for an analog, wired connection, while the USB-C works both for charging and for digital audio input with Bathys’ DAC mode. Bathys being Bluetooth means you get the standard array of buttons and connections on the headphones themselves to control power, volume, ANC/transparency, and pairing.
Bathys provides a solid active noise canceling implementation that worked well in our office. The transparency mode filtered out the right sounds, while letting things like up close voices through. Along with that, you get great call quality, and support for Alexa and Google Assistant, meaning that you have pretty solid feature parity with a lot of the big names in headphones.
Bathys supports all the standard Bluetooth codecs, but aptX and Adaptive aptX provided the best listening experience. AAC with my iPhone was good, but lacked the resolution of aptX and had some feeling of veil in the highs and a slightly flabby feeling low end that was much tighter with aptX.
Bathys has a classic, highly accessible tuning with a fun sound and tight, punchy bass. The detail and overall performance is on par for a well regarded audiophile headphone in the $600-$800 range, but what sets Bathys apart is that you’re getting this sort of performance from a wireless headphone.
There’s a slight emphasis in the bass, with impact and slam in the midbass and a rolloff into the subbass. The midrange is largely neutral, with some recession through the mids, but overall good detail and layering. There’s excellent clarity through the upper mids and some light into the treble, but the treble ends up being more smooth, with strong definition, but not much air in the top end.
The soundstage is fairly average for a closed back headphone, but noticeably upper tier for Bluetooth headphones, with particularly good width to the sound. Likewise the stereo image is well constructed, with good positioning, but not quite holographic feeling imaging. Using AAC Bluetooth I noted that the imaging was somewhat diminished, and using aptX improved it.
The opening piano lines of “Let it Be” are natural and clear, and the vocals come in with an intimate feeling. As more instruments and voices enter, there’s a natural feeling of separation and positioning. On the second verse, the hi-hats are crisp with a natural attack and decay on the echo, and there’s a soft roundness to the bass that tightens up when the bass drum comes in on the chorus. There’s great energy on the guitar solo and a strong dynamic sense of musicality through the whole song.
To see how deep the bass can really go, I loaded up Grimes “So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth” to be greeted by a deep pulsing synth bass on either side of me, and a heavy kick hitting hard right in the middle. The soundstage and feeling of width in the positioning of synths was surprising, and Bathys provided a really strong sense of separation in spite of the heavy bass. Grimes' vocals pierced the layers of synth with an airy, ethereal feeling, without piercing your ears or creating sibilance.
On “Stanton Hits the Bottle,” drummer and bandleader Stanton Moore provides an intricate polyrhythm that bends your brain with his groove. The titular bottle provides a surprising spacial sensation, almost as if the entire room is inside the bottle, and each hit lands in a slightly different location in the space around you. The rest of the band is, I suppose, in the bottle with you, but sounds well spaced out around the stereo image, and when the main groove hits, you’re behind the drumset with a visceral, physical feeling to each hit.
The Bottom Line
If it were just a regular wired headphone, Bathys would be a solid entry for Focal, coming in under Celestee in price, with a more compact design, and a more accessible, fun sound. When you add in the fact that you’re getting this kind of sound from a wireless headphone, it becomes clear that Bathys is something special. If you’re in the market for an audiophile upgrade from a more mainstream set of wireless headphones, and aren’t ready to add wires to your setup, Bathys gives you the best of both worlds in a headphone that doesn’t compromise on sound quality or wireless performance.