Focal Elex/Elegia vs Brainwavz Microsuede Oval Pads
As a fun experiment, I decided to buy the Brainwavz Microsuede pads this week when a redditor posted a sale on them. Thanks! I was hoping for something similar to the Audeze microsuede pads (aka vegan pads), and these aren't quite as cushy and comfy, but they still are very comfortable and plush.
I ordered both the large round ones and the oval ones. The large round ones unfortunately will have to go back because they are too large for my Hifiman HE560. They really are sized for AKG and Audeze headphones, not Hifiman. I gave my AKG K7XX to my parents and am going to get rid of my other AKG headphones so this needs to go back. :(
The oval shaped pads, however, do fit the Focal headphones. I have 3D Printed adapters but they didn't work very well with them, so I decided to use double-sided tape to adhere the pads to the focal headphones.
Focal Elex -- The pads created a much warmer, laid back sound than the stock Elex pads do. The bass is deeper and slightly more elevated, though not boomy. Actually brings the bass up to the level I expect in most of the planar magnetic headphones I've owned or listened to, which is a good thing.
The pads dramatically change the upper mids and treble. Essentially, the Elex with stock pads is a neutral-leaning-bright headphone because of some peakiness in the upper mids and the Microsuede pads bring these down to a signature that is more reminiscent of the Sennheiser HD650/6XX or 58X, but with the speed and dynamics of the Focal driver.
Focal Elegia --
The Elegia is a unique closed back in that it's very clean and lean and very reminiscent of the Elex/Clear. It does not have the stereotypical boomy bass that many popular closed backs have. In measurements, the Elegia actually has a drop off in the bass response, more so than the other Focals. The closed back nature, helps reflect some of that sound back to create the an overall clean linear bass response. Now that said, many people think its a little bass-light, which could be due to comparisons to other closed-backs or people who don't particularly like the linear-cleaner-bass sound.
The Microsuede pad helps elevate the lower bass response up, and makes the sound slightly more boomier and closer to other closed back headphones, but does it rather tastefully, so midbass bloat and muddiness isn't a big issue. The rest of the sound is closer to the same, as the Elegia is already smooth to begin with, when compared to the Elex, which is mostly due to a more gradual transition from the mids to upper-mids and less of a peak there. The pads also seem to reduce the width of the soundstage as well, so it'll provide a more intimate sound.
The following are Frequency Response compensated charts for the Elex, and the Elegia, respectively. You can click on the photos to see it larger.
The Elex stock pads are plotted in black and the microsuede pads are in red. As you can see, there is a drastic drop-off in the mids and treble region. It really changes the sound signature from a neutral-bright to a warmer lush headphone.
The Elegia chart doesn't have as drastic of a change as the Elex going from stock (dark blue) to brainwavz pads (light blue). The most notable is the lower bass response and generally more even upper mids, though this isn't as audible.
I also decided to plot decay using Waterfall CSD. I don't have as much confidence in this type of graph yet as I am still learning how to use it properly with MiniDSP EARS and Room EQ Wizard.
The Elex data has stock (top) and Microsuede (below). It looks like the decay is faster on the microsuede, surprisingly, despite it being a thicker pad and without the perforations. That said, perhaps the perforations cause different deflection of the sound.
The Elegia is next. But there's not a lot to write about here as they look pretty similar to me on first glance, with some minor differences in the mids.
So that's pretty much it. What do I personally like?
For the Elegia, the stock pads are better for me. The elevated bass is actually not too overbearing with the microsuede pads, but I fear it'll bleed a little bit into the mids which I do not like at all. The more intimate nature isn't my thing either, as I like a wider soundstage typically.
For the Elex, I can go either way, and it depnds on what I am listening to and my mood, as the pad changes the sound dramatically. My personal preference is using the stock pads with a warm tube amp, as it softens the peaks and gives a little more impact in the low end but without modifying the general sound signature.
As with most Elegia pad swap attempts, it's hard. These Focals are quite sensitive to seal and pad material. The Elegia, especially. So far, most pads me and others have tried completely lose the bass, including the Utopia and Elex pads as sheepskin leather non-perforated pads. These microsuede ones are the first to not kill the bass, but actually increase it. So that may be what many are looking for.
Hope you find this interesting and thanks for reading!
Forgot to add:
Here is the Elex with the pads vs the Sennheiser HD58X
I trimmed the fabric screen off the pad that covers the driver and measured it and it brings back some of the treble.