Focal Bathys review: Luxury audio at an attainable price

The Focal Bathys wireless headphones bring audiophile sound in relatively affordable package

Focal Bathy's head aloft outside against a blue sky
Editor's Choice
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Tom's Guide Verdict

At $799, the Focal Bathys are a bargain for audio purists desiring top-tier audio performance from a versatile ANC headphone that can be used with or without wires.

Pros

  • +

    Spacious, high-quality sound

  • +

    Built-in 24-bit/192kHz-capable DAC

  • +

    Long battery life

  • +

    Gorgeous design and easily portable

Cons

  • -

    One of the pricier ANC headphones out there

  • -

    Mediocre noise cancellation

  • -

    Buggy software and digital assistance support

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Focal Bathys: Specifications

Price: $799 / $999 CAD / £699 / AU$1,199 

Colors: Black/silver

Battery life (rated): 30 hours; 35 hours (audio jack mode); 42 hours (DAC mode)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1 (codec support: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX Adaptive) 

Size: 9.4 x 8.25 x 2.75 inches

Weight: 12.3 ounces

Focal has released some of the top luxury hi-fi headphones money can buy. Ranging above the $1,000 mark, their lineup consists of offerings geared towards at-home audio purists. With the all-new Bathys, the French audio specialist not only makes the leap into the wireless audio space, but also active noise cancellation (ANC), and are their most ambitious headphone release to date.

The Bathys wireless design share many of the same qualities as Focal’s wired siblings, including the well-received Celestee and Clear headphones we've seen go though our review process during the last couple of years. We’re talking everything from elegant craftsmanship to audiophile-grade sound using proprietary ‘M’-shape aluminum/magnesium drivers, but these latest headphones also come equipped with adjustable EQ, aptX Adaptive codec support over Bluetooth, and elite sound features that includes a built-on DAC/amp.

Do the Focal Bathys earn a place among the industry’s best headphones? Read our full review to find out.

Focal Bathys with packaging and suppled carry case

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Focal Bathys review: Price and availability

  • Affordable hi-fi headphone
  • Available in black/silver only

You can purchase the Bathys for $799 / $999 CAD / £699 / AU$1,199 at major online retailers, including Amazon (opens in new tab) and Sweetwater (opens in new tab). These are some of Focal’s most affordable headphones to date. By comparison, they fall below the $999 (£999 / AU$1,599) Mark Levinson No. 5909 wireless over-ear headphones, but cost at least twice as much as noise-cancelling market leaders such as the $399 Sony WH-1000XM5 and $379 Bose 700, and are even more expensive than the AirPods Max.

They're available in one color: black/silver. Inside the box are a carrying case, USB-C cable, 3.5mm jack cable, and a quick start guide.

Be sure to bookmark our headphone deals page for the latest sales.

Focal Bathys wireless headphones on a wooden surface

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Focal Bathys review: Design and comfort

  • Similar premium design architecture as Focal's flagship models
  • Luxury carrying case
  • High weight and clamping force

The requirement when crafting the Bathys was simple: ensure they use Focal's signature 40mm aluminum-magnesium driver with M-shaped dome, while applying the same construction as their oval-driver models, to blend right in with the company’s other high-end offerings.

Size and weight have been trimmed from Focal's even more upmarket designs to make the Bathys more portable friendly. They're 25% smaller than Focal’s flagship headphones, plus the yokes and magnesium are more lightweight.

Focal Bathys worn by reviewer

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Some effort was also put into designing the rigid carrying case. The mesh pocket on the inside provides enough storage for all bundled cables and a few other accessories, while the molded setup stores and displays the headphones handsomely. Having the same colorway as the headphones is a nice touch as well.

Focal Bathys as worn by reviewer to show off comfort

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At 12.3 ounces, these are not lightweight wireless headphones. They weigh around 4 ounces more than the Sony WH-1000XM5, and are heavier than the Bowers & Wilkins Px8. You must account for the materials and hardware installed into these bad boys. I was fine wearing them for 3-hour stretches throughout the day. Anything longer than that resulted in sweaty ears due to the leather earcups overheating.

Clamp force was noticeably tight. I recommend fiddling with the extenders to achieve a secure fit, then place them two settings higher to give your skull some breathing room.

Focal Bathys showing controls on earcups

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Focal Bathys review: Controls and digital assistant

  • Responsive physical controls
  • No wear detection
  • Poor digital assistance support

A full suite of media controls is accessed via physical buttons and voice activation. The left earcup has a button assigned for cycling through the different ANC modes, while the right earcup has a multifunctional button (playback, call management) flanked between volume rockers, along with a power switch and action button for digital assistance. 

All these buttons produce great tactility and execute commands as intended. The power switch has useful tactile feedback with a nice click action when switching between on, off, and DAC mode.

Wear detection for auto-pause/play is supposedly available, but for reasons best known to itself, Focal has decided to keep this feature deactivated until further notice. 

Siri and Google Assistant are compatible and can be manually enabled when pressing the dedicated button (set the feature to Local in the app), though they perform terribly. There is serious lag whenever enabling Google Assistant, making you wait several seconds before the mics can register inquiries. Siri was even worse, especially on macOS devices where the function would turn on, but not register any words.

According to the app and press materials, Google Assistant and Alexa voice activation are available, so you can enable either AI bot by saying their respective wake word phrase. I would love to tell you how each performed, but the buggy app prevented me from using either. The firmware update for Google Assistant would freeze and never complete, and the Alexa app didn’t recognize the Bathys on its massive list of supported devices.

Focal Baths with playback device illustrating sound quality

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Focal Bathys review: Sound quality

  • Accurate, expressive, and wide sound
  • aptX Adaptive/HD support
  • Three connection options

The combination of Focal’s M-dome speaker drivers and support for Hi-Res Audio ensures the Bathys sound spectacular. I spent a few days testing several master tracks using Tidal's lossless streaming service via my Google Pixel 6 Pro phone, and what came out of the headphones was sonically rich and well controlled.

Orchestral recordings were deeply layered, giving instruments plenty of room to breathe, which was well demonstrated on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High.” The double bass and tinny cymbals blended beautifully with the striking horns. The real treat came when less-emphasized instruments (e.g., snare drums) were given more shine. Competitors like the Mark Levinson No. 5909 and Bowers & Wilkins PX8 capture these elements in a similar manner, though the Focal Bathys have more snap.

Focal Bathys music playback

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The acoustic guitar opening on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” sounded pristine and the harmonized oohs had a nice haunting presence that complemented the record’s emotive, near-screaming vocals. Mick Jagger’s voice came through clean and crisp. That same performance carried over to Jay-Z’s “Caught Their Eyes.” The Nina Simone samples were more transparent, and the treble received a generous boost that brought more realism to the string arrangements. 

Focal gives you a 5-band EQ to tweak sound manually, as well as two pre-engineered presets: Home and Loudness. Loudness increases bass and Home makes music more intimate by honing the midrange. I felt most satisfied with the default flat preset since it was the truest representation of Focal’s sound profile.

Focal Bathys app showing EQ controls

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ANC mode doesn’t compromise sound quality much. Soft mode scales down the bass a bit, but Silent raises it to give music a punchier delivery. 

The Bathys will default to the best available codec, depending on your audio source. I got to enjoy wireless audio via aptX Adaptive. Music and videos sounded terrific and there was no latency during streaming sessions. SBC and AAC codecs are supported, though the latter didn’t perform up to par on my MacBook Pro; YouTube clips suffered from serious lag.

Traditionalists that want an all-analog setup can use the accompanying 3.5mm cable. Sound was neutral, giving a nice frequency balance, though certain elements like bass and percussion lacked the oomph present in wireless and DAC modes. Speaking of which…

Focal Bathys DAC mode

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Focal Bathys review: DAC mode

  • DAC built into the headphones
  • Supports 24-bit/192kHz playback
  • Must be tethered to a compatible device

The onboard DAC is awesome for uncompromised 24-bit sound. Fidelity is increased and there’s a greater degree of tightness in the delivery. My listening experience with previously tested tracks was more engaging. The marching bass drum on “Caught Their Eyes” had even better reverberation; every boom effect merged into a smooth decay. Horns sounded brighter on “Groovin’ High” and the vocal trilling on “Gimme Shelter” had more prominence.

The headphones must be connected to a compatible device via USB-C-to-USB-C cable and you'll need access to a lossless streaming service, such as Apple Music or Tidal to appreciate to true uncompressed audio playback. 

reviewer wearing Focal Bathys assessing ANC performance

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Focal Bathys review: Active noise cancellation

  • ANC performance is satisfactory for a first timer
  • Transparency mode is hit or miss

Focal admits their ANC isn’t the best. Rather than compete with heavyweights like Bose and Sony, they spent three years working on the technology to ensure the right balance of noise cancellation and sound, claiming it measures close to the Bose QuietComfort 35. We have no way of measuring either model, but my testing delivered mixed results.

Two modes are selectable: Soft and Silent. The former seems like a waste since it barely blocks out any noise. I could hear everything from people talking in their cars to splashing water to music being played in bars when walking past.

Focal Bathys ANC controls in Naim app

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Most of my time was spent using Silent Mode, which acts as the Bathys’ high ANC mode and blocks out a decent amount of external sound (close to 70%). These cans performed best against low- and mid-frequency noises, although several still entered the soundscape. The humming noises from my centralized AC were suppressed, but the technology couldn’t neutralize the multiple units running in the garage. It was a bit jarring to hear elevator bell sounds and my neighbor’s door slamming from across the hall. High frequencies like my toddler’s cries and whistles were also unavoidable. 

I’m torn by the Transparency mode. I loved being able to hear my wife from across the living room and eavesdrop on her FaceTime conversations. At the same time, all noises are incredibly amplified, to the point where you can hear some echo. Loud voices in a wide-open environment sounded louder than necessary.

Focal Bathys controlled by Naim app

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Focal Bathys review: Special features and app

  • App also works with Naim products
  • Very few features

You’ll need to download the Focal & Naim app for extended functionality. The Bathys are the only headphones that works with it. However, you can use the product as a remote to control Naim’s audio components and integrated music systems, if you own any. Major features are limited to what was previously discussed: EQ, Noise Cancellation, and voice activation.

All that remains are a battery level indicator, firmware updates, LED settings to adjust lighting on the outside of the earcups, and an Auto Standby toggle.

I can name several features that Focal must consider adding over time, including adjustable ANC, control customization, more presets, soundscapes, and a Find My Headphones function.

Focal Bathys showing battery life

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Focal Bathys review: Battery life

  • Standard ANC playtime
  • Great battery life in DAC mode
  • Moderate quick charging

ANC playtime is standard at 30 hours. If you’re curious about battery life with ANC off, don’t bother because Focal confirmed that there is no option for disabling the feature. You can extend playtime up to 35 hours when in audio jack mode and up to 42 hours in DAC mode. All three ratings were accurate during testing, resulting in a week and a half of moderate use (3 hours daily).

Something else to consider is disabling the earcup illumination since it affects battery life, along with high volume.

A 15-minute fast charge can generate 5 hours of playtime. Other models such as the Sennheiser Momentum 4 (5 mins = 4 hours) and Sony WH-1000XM5 (3 mins = 3 hours via USB-PD compatible AC adapter) offer much faster quick charging.

Focal Bathys worn by reviewer assessing call quality

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Focal Bathys review: Call quality and connectivity

  • Excellent call quality
  • Strong connectivity

I didn’t expect the Bathys to be a superb calling headset. Several people shared positive feedback, complimenting the clarity and loudness of my voice when chatting on my balcony. They couldn’t hear the wind or landscaping work that occurred near the pool area. Indoors was even more satisfying, with FaceTime and Zoom calls sounding clear during the daytime.

Focal Bathys worn by reviewer assessing audio quality on calls

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The Bathys uses Bluetooth 5.1 for wireless connectivity. Range was lengthy, extending up to 50 feet in open spaces. Pairing was quick with iOS devices and instantaneous on Android devices via one-tap Google Fast Pair. Lastly, multipoint technology let me pair the headphones to two devices simultaneously.

Focal Bathys review: Verdict

The Focal Bathys offer ingenious versatility: they're a superb, high-performance headphone perfectly suited to critical audiophile listening at home, while also practical and conveniently wireless to enable owners to enjoy them on the go. The price may initially seem high, but when you weigh up flagship features like Focal’s dynamic drivers, integrated DAC with full hi-res audio support, and top-tier audio performance, $799 is something of a bargain.

ANC does fall short of expectations. Focal also needs to iron out the app and digital assistant kinks. Regardless of these minor flaws, there’s no denying the Focal Bathys are among the best audiophile headphones around.

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.