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Focal Azurys review

"Entry level high end" seems like an oxymoron, but the Azurys walk the line perfectly.
By

Published onJune 10, 2024

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7.4
Focal Azurys
The bottom line
The Focal Azurys are a competent, durable, and attractive set of headphones meant to meet the needs of keyboard warriors with deep pockets looking for a more "mature" set of headphones. They're pricy, but hardly a poor investment.
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Focal Azurys

The Focal Azurys are a competent, durable, and attractive set of headphones meant to meet the needs of keyboard warriors with deep pockets looking for a more "mature" set of headphones. They're pricy, but hardly a poor investment.
Product release date
2024
Price
$549
Dimensions
Cable length: 1.25m
Weight
306g
Model Number
Waterproof
What we like
Sound quality
Build quality
Replaceable parts
Durability
Aesthetics
What we don't like
Poor isolation
Price
Heavy
7.4
SoundGuys Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Isolation / Attenuation
6.1
-
0.0
Durability / Build Quality
6.9
-
0.0
Value
7.0
-
0.0
Design
9.3
-
0.0
Connectivity
6.5
-
0.0
Portability
7.0
-
0.0
Feature
6.0
-
0.0
Comfort
9.2
-
0.0
MDAQS rating
Learn more
Timbre
4.8
Distortion
3
Immersiveness
3.7
Overall
4.6

Those making the jump to higher-end products often have to jump into unfamiliar territory in order to find what they want, but French audio mainstay Focal is looking to take some of the guesswork out of this. The Focal Azurys are a set of high-end wired headphones that have a lot to offer someone looking for a set of dependable cans that won’t go out of style. But are they any good? We took a week to find out.

Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

About this Focal Azurys review: We tested the Focal Azurys over a period of 1 week. The company provided the unit for this review.

The Focal Azurys is for audiophiles and those looking for higher-end headphones than their current pair.

What’s it like to use the Focal Azurys?

The Focal Azurys are one of the latest audiophile headphones meant for general use, and a great option for someone who isn’t looking for a studio sound or looking to enter the hobby in earnest. Essentially, this is one of those headphones you get to last you years at a time without replacement worry. Not only is the skeleton of the headphones robust and durable metal, but the cable is detachable — and replaceable. So, too, are the earpads, which can easily be removed. The Focal Azurys has exactly what you’d want a set of several-hundred-dollar headphones to have design-wise.

A photo of the contents of the Focal Azurys' packaging.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The headphones come with a travel case, cable.

The Focal Azurys are meant for the at-home computer warriors, remote workers, and nighttime hi-fi enjoyers of the world, as the closed-back design prevents noise leakage. Though they have a cable with a microphone, the world has moved on from phones having a headphone jack, leaving the natural companion to these headphones’ full capabilities a laptop or desktop computer with a headphone jack. That’s not to say that you can’t use these with your phone, but you will need a dongle of sorts for iPhones and most Android phones.

A close-up photo of the Focal Azurys' band.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
Getting the right fit can be tricky with this band.

Because these headphones were designed for at-home use first, you’ll notice that a lot of attention was focused on comfort. Instead of the typical leather or leatherette contact material, Focal gave the Azurys cloth coverings for all of its padding. The advantages here are twofold: not only will these pads be able to leak heat better (keeping your head and ears cool), but they’ll also be more forgiving to those who wear glasses — like me. Getting a good seal with headphones is difficult enough, but designing around these difficulties is a breath of fresh air.

However, there is one hair in the soup here, and that’s the mass of the headphones. At 306g, you may find it difficult to get a fit that distributes the weight well. However, after a bit of trial and error you should be good to go. I had no issues wearing these headphones for over four hours at a time, and the only thing stopping me from doing so longer was most often my lunch break.

A photo of the Focal Azurys' female 3.5mm port.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
A standard 3.5mm port means you can use just about any standard male-to-male 3.5mm cable should something happen to yours.

In addition to the headphones, the Focal Azurys comes with a cable and a carrying case. The case is made of hard plastic with a fabric coating and an inlay where you can drop the headphones. There’s also a fabric divider that allows you to hide the cable in the case, along with a mesh pocket that allows you to carry extras, such as swapping pads or cleaning materials.

How does the Focal Azurys connect?

A photo of the Focal Azurys' TRRS plug.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
A standard TRRS plug will allow you to use any computer as your source.

The Focal Azurys connects to its source devices via a 1.1-meter TRS cable, with one end carrying an extra contact for the microphone. The cable plugs into the left earcup of the headphones and is completely removable and replaceable. Considering that this is almost always the first component of wired headphones that breaks, this feature is essential for long-term use of a product like this.

Just be aware that if you need a 6.3mm adapter, not every adapter is a good fit for the cable. A handful of the ones I had lying about wouldn’t make a perfect connection unless I backed the plug out slightly. Not a huge deal, just something to be aware of if you plug into a source with one of these connections and can’t figure out why your headphones sound off.

I know that some online bemoan the lack of a balanced connection, but it’s one of those things that aren’t going to appeal to an uninitiated buyer. Going with the single unbalanced connection was the right call for this particular model, as the Focal Azurys represent what counts as Focal’s “entry level.” So asking for more niche features is a bit unfair here.

Because the Focal Azurys has an impedance of 26Ω and a sensitivity of 100dB/mW, you’ll find that you should be able to get a usable level from just about any source. I had no issues with a low-power portable, Apple dongle, and a USB interface — so you shouldn’t need to buy an amp for these headphones.

How well do the Focal Azurys block out noise?

A close-up photo of the Focal Azurys' closed backs.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
Though the headphones have closed backs, the Focal Azurys don’t isolate noise particularly well.

Though the Focal Azurys is a set of closed-back headphones, it does not isolate noise in a way that’s conducive to commuting. And that’s fine, really. The upshot here is that the headphones don’t leak sound all that much, even if they don’t block out a ton of outside noise.

Loading chart ...

Under 2kHz, you won’t be free of noise, but the headphones do quiet everything above 300Hz by at least half. That’s not bad, but it’s much better suited for an at-home environment than elsewhere. High-pitched noise should be all-but erased, as everything above 5kHz sees between 25 and 40dB of physical noise isolation.

How do the Focal Azurys sound?

Our experience and a simulated panel of listeners agree: these are some pretty solid headphones.

Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Scores (MDAQS)

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Focal Azurys in Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.8, The Distortion score is 3, the Immersiveness score is 3.7, and the Overall Score is 4.6).
The chart shows how the sound of the Focal Azurys was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

Our simulated panel of listeners returned a rather high mean opinion score for the Focal Azurys, which means that most people will quite like the sound. The Focal Azurys earns a respectably high overall score with a well-received timbre, middling distortion, and okay immersiveness.

Timbre (MOS-T) represents how faithfully the headphones reproduce the frequency spectrum and temporal resolution (timing information).

Distortion (MOS-D) represents non-linearities and added noise: higher scores mean cleaner reproduction.

Immersiveness (MOS-I) represents perceived source width and positioning: how well virtual sound sources are defined in three-dimensional space.

See here for an explanation of MDAQS, how it works, and how it was developed.

Reviewer’s notes

Editor’s note: this review uses a hover-enabled glossary to describe sound quality based on a consensus vocabulary. You can read about it here.

I will say that the headphones were able to handle a wide array of songs, from the loud (The Mooney Suzuki’s “Alive and Amplified,” and “Baby Drummer” by Bad Nerves, for example) to the quiet, like Rêve’s “Dreams of you” and Joji’s “Slow Dancing in the Dark” without much to gripe about.

Despite what the product page says, I have yet to encounter a set of headphones — made by Focal or anyone else — that measurably increased its performance by giving it a running-in (or “burning in“) period. My hunch is that there’s a belief that using a stiffer driver material might result in some benefit to prolonged use at high levels, but you really don’t need to do this. The instructions to accomplish this are sufficiently vague that I’m not convinced I could find evidence to support its usefulness either.

Just listen to your headphones. It’s possible your brain will attune itself to the new sound over a period of a couple of days, or maybe the foam ear pads start to form a better seal around your head after more use. In any case, not breaking in your headphones won’t cause you harm or discomfort — even if Focal recommends running in your headphones.

Objective Measurements

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After taking the Focal Azurys through our lab, it’s clear that these headphones measure pretty well when compared to our preference curve. Bass, mids, and most of the highs are right where they should be, and there’s no glaring flaws or shortcomings to talk about — this is exactly what you should expect out of headphones in this price bracket.

If we’re forced to call attention to anything, some older listeners might want a little more in the highest highs, but beyond that there’s not much to talk about. Some may want to bring down the peak near 3.5kHz a little bit, but that kind of overemphasis is really easy to ignore.

Can you use the Focal Azurys for phone calls?

Provided you are on a computer or compatible phone: you can absolutely use the Focal Azurys for voice or video calls. Just be aware that your results may differ from ours depending on which client you’re using, as they tend to apply their own noise reduction on your audio by default.

Focal Azurys microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

15 votes

Focal Azurys microphone demo (Office conditions):

Focal Azurys microphone demo (Street conditions):

Focal Azurys microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Focal Azurys microphone demo (Reverberant space):

As you can probably hear from the samples above, minimal processing is applied to remove noise. So you should probably avoid taking calls while you’re in a windy area or noisy environment.

Should you buy the Focal Azurys?

A photo of the Focal Azurys in their case.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The Focal Azurys are built for travel.

Despite the high price of the Focal Azurys, for the headphone buyer looking for their “endgame” headphones: these aren’t a bad place to start. Not only do they sound pretty darn good, but Focal made sure that these cans addressed most of the main design issues high-priced headphones sometimes eschew in the name of chasing that perfect audio dragon. Focal puts a lot of effort into maintaining the luxury appeal for its products, and headphones like the Azurys deliver on that promise. Sure, I would never suggest that someone on a budget buy these cans — but someone without a budget looking for something that will last should pay attention.

The materials used fit the price tag, and the choice to use fabric to meet your noggin means that even glasses-wearers should get a good fit. These are rock-solid headphones.

Focal AzurysFocal Azurys
Focal Azurys
Sound quality • Build quality • Replaceable parts
MSRP: $549.00
"Entry level high end" seems like an oxymoron, but the Azurys walk the line perfectly.
The Focal Azurys are a competent, durable, and attractive set of headphones meant to meet the needs of keyboard warriors with deep pockets looking for a more "mature" set of headphones. They're pricy, but hardly a poor investment.

As high-priced headphones, it’s worth noting that you’ll probably want to keep looking if you need ANC headphones for any reason, workout headphones, or wireless cans. The Focal Azurys is for wired users only.

What should you get instead of the Focal Azurys?

Given the type of user the Focal Azurys targets, if you have the money and time to make a more considered decision, a few other headphones might be worth your attention. For example, we like the sound of the HiFiMan Sundara ($299 at Amazon) more, even if the headphones’ build quality doesn’t match that of the Focal Azurys by a country mile.

A photo of the Focal Bathys sitting in its case, with ear cup backs facing the reader.
If you like the Azurys but want freedom from wires, the Bathys is a good alternative.

Alternatively, you could go the other direction, and look at options that will fit more of your devices, like the Focal Bathys ($699 at Amazon) is a more portable option with a slew of connection options (including an onboard DAC), and ANC. This would allow you to take your headphones on the go without worrying about figuring out a headphone jack.

Frequently asked questions

As they’re wired, the Focal Azurys have near-zero latency, a must for gaming.

Yes.

The Focal Azurys use standard 3.5mm male-to-male cable.

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