Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Have You Seen?


Yes, it’s a stupid title, but it gets to the point. At SoundStage! we know that sensible people—especially the sort of people who are serious about headphones—appreciate it when you get to the point. Here it is: Focal brought two new pairs of wired headphones to Munich, the closed-back Azurys and open-back Hadenys. They’re quite good, and they’re affordable—€549 for the Azurys, €699 for the Hadenys. On the left side of the pond, the prices are the same in US dollars.

Article over, right? Not exactly, because it’s not like the world is hurting for a new pair of headphones in the €500–€700 range, much less two. But these are Focal ’phones. There is, therefore, an attendant expectation of quality and performance. Though unfortunately my time with these new over-ear headphones was short due to the time constraints of reporting on the show, it was obvious to me that their quality was consistent with the French brand’s reputation.


Although the Azurys are less expensive than their open-back sibling, they are just as serious. The gorgeous periwinkle finish of the earcups is complemented by a sort of golf-ball-dimpled metal shroud, which lends visual panache as much as it does structure. A matching blue leather headband and plush ear cushions round out the visual design of the appropriately named Azurys. These headphones have an impedance of 26 ohms, an easy load for nearly any amplifier. Since the closed-back design offers more isolation than an open-back one, Focal has included an in-line mike on the removable cable, so the Azurys are appropriate for on-the-go use.

The Hadenys have a similar overall look, but with a much warmer, earthy-brown color palette. The metallic mesh on the outer side of the earcups has a honeycomb pattern. Like the Azurys, the Hadenys have a characteristic impedance of 26 ohms, but the sensitivity rating is 5dB higher. Evidently, there is something different between the drivers of the two models, besides the obvious difference in their implementation. Since Focal knows the Hadenys are more likely to be used indoors (or in a quiet outdoor area), there is no inline mike, and the cable jack is straight instead of being angled at 45 degrees like the cord for the Azurys.


Both headphones astonished me with their comfort. Admittedly, a few minutes isn’t long enough to get a full impression of how a pair of ’phones will feel after two or three or 12 hours. But both pairs were surprisingly lightweight, despite all the metal components, and they fit over my ears easily without creating any weird pressure points. Very seldom do headphones fit so nicely on the first listen.

Listening to the Hadenys ’phones through the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition, I was impressed by their ability to create the open-but-enveloping sound one expects from a pair of open-backs, which they did with an even-handed refinement up and down the frequency range. The bass on a pounding EDM track wasn’t too light, but some listeners may want more. The Azurys headphones delivered more bass and tighter bass, but were far from bloated or overbearing. They’re not a pair of Sonys, but they offered much more bass solidity than the Hadenys, with more clarity and tonal realism than most mass-market headphones. The Hadenys, by comparison, had a more organic bass quality, with greater openness and naturalness.


In short, both new Focal headphones felt and sounded great, at prices that didn’t make me shake my head and leave the room. Next up, I’ll be going to High End 2024’s World of Headphones, so if you’re into head-fi gear, stick around.

Matt Bonaccio
Contributor, SoundStage!