Hands on: Focal Hadenys review

Focal's suave open-backs are packed full of promise

What is a hands on review?
Focal Hadenys with Focal Azurys
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

Early Verdict

Pros

  • +

    Detailed, clean and spacious sound

  • +

    Beautifully made and very handsome

  • +

    Comfortable during our short test time

Cons

  • -

    Could be a little chunky for some

  • -

    Focal's aesthetics won't suit all tastes

  • -

    Need comparing with rivals for a comprehensive assessment

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If you're a fan of luxurious over-ear headphones, the arrival of a new pair of Focal cans always feels like a bit of a moment. Focal has a strong history in the world of high-end speakers, but the brand's recent form on the wearables side (see 2022's five-star Utopia (2022) open-backs and the sublime wireless Bathys) is what has us rubbing our hands in anticipation of something special.

That something special could come via the new open-backed Hadenys headphones. Unveiled officially at this year's High End Munich show, the new wired over-ears arrive alongside the slightly cheaper, but no less handsome, closed-back Azurys as Focal looks to bring its high-end offering a little closer to some semblance of affordability, but still very much on the premium side.

Given their pedigree, we jumped at the chance to get some hands-on time with the new Focal Hadenys headphones, and while our listening time was limited, we certainly left the show with some rather firm impressions stamped on our minds.  

Price 

Focal Hadenys

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Focal Hadenys cost £599 / €699 / $699, while their closed-back Azurys counterparts (also unveiled at Munich) are a tad cheaper at £499 / €549 / $549. For reference, the five-star Focal Bathys wireless headphones that these new headphones take design and technology inspiration from retail at £699 / $799, but this is still premium territory in which the new wired cans are operating. 

At this price, the Focal Hadenys has some strong audiophile-level competition from the likes of Beyerdynamic and Grado. The Hadenys are flanked at either end of the price scale by Beyerdynamic's Amiron wired cans (now available for around £400/$429) and the excellent Grado RS1x headphones at £719 / $750.

Build and design 

Focal Hadenys

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

If Focal's particular aesthetic ethos floats your proverbial boat, you'll likely be delighted with the new Hadenys as a pair of headphones to wear, touch and simply enjoy being around. Brown doesn't necessarily conjure images of glamour and excess in the same way that many showier shades may, yet the open-backed Hadenys might have you rethinking your attitude towards the most neglected crayon in the carton. Classy and refined with a bit of flashy edge, this is French style in the palm of your hand (or clamped over your head).

Focal's classic honeycomb grille naturally returns, and while that, plus the headphones' large size, gives them something of an industrial aesthetic, our experience of actually wearing the Hadenys wasn't one marred by discomfort or a sense that they would wear us down over time. Headphones for wearing on the tube? Possibly not. Headphones for enjoying your best tunes in the comfort of your home? Quite possibly. 

The Hadenys feature the same 40mm aluminium and magnesium drivers as found in the Bathys wireless over-ears, with a specially designed ‘M’-shaped dome which Focal has promised will delight wearers with a "detailed, warm and dynamic sound". The new cans come with a carry case, although we didn't catch a glimpse of that at Munich, as well as a 1.8m mini-jack cable and a 6.3mm jack adapter.

A leather and woven fabric headband complements those signature exterior grilles alongside genuinely pleasing memory foam earpads, the latter of which offered a smooth yet firm consistency with just the right amount of tactile resistance. Again, we require more time to find out what the Hadenys would be like to live with daily, so take these impressions with a pinch of salt at this stage. 20 minutes of comfort doesn't necessarily feel the same after two hours, say.

Sound 

Focal Hadenys on a stand

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We'll qualify everything we say at this point by making a few major caveats about our demo with the Focal's Hadenys over-ears. Not only was our time with the new cans limited at the show floor, we'll also confess that the background noise of keen punters and some rather overzealous speakers flexing their sonic muscles occasionally intruded upon our listening pleasure. The open-back nature means you won't always benefit from a noiseless cocoon in which to enjoy these headphones in blissful solitude, but these weren't exactly optimal testing conditions. That's hi-fi shows for you. 

If anything, though, that makes our current, if tentative, positive impressions of the Hadenys even more encouraging. Even amid the background clamour we were struck by just how clear, clean and spacious these open-backs were capable of sounding. Nuanced instrumental textures immediately stood out thanks to a great dose of precision and clarity, be it the sharp clang of a metal cymbal or the raspy, almost smokey texture of a bluesy trumpet. The wired cans illuminated instruments with intense clarity, allowing textures to shine within what felt like a refined and uncluttered soundscape. 

Well-organised EDM and dance tracks fared particularly well. If you're familiar with the work of famed house DJ deadmau5, you'll know that his music relies less on punchy emotional dynamics and more on a necessity for organising layered rhymic patterns with a feeling of propulsion, spaciousness and organisational precision. As we played through a selection of deadmau5's mid-period bangers, the Focal headphones showcased their clear abilities by incorporating the aforementioned elements slickly, cleanly and without a hint of strain during our demo. 

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition amp into which the Hadenys demo pair were plugged settled on The Prodigy's Firestarter as their next sonic sampler, a recording which can sound just a little harsh at the top end when combined with an overly enthusiastic pair of headphones. The Focals delivered those electronic screeches with adequate ferocity, and while we wouldn't say they highlighted or accented the sharpness of such textures, they certainly never shied away from them either. Neither, in fact, did they neglect those all-important lower registers, providing plenty of bass oomph to give the iconic rave track plenty of depth and dimensionality at both ends.

What we're interested to hear is just how dynamically adept these stylish headphones are, as while it felt easy to pick out detail within a spacious soundscape, we'll need to put the Focals against its similarly priced rivals to assess their dynamic capabilities. The Hadenys hooked onto the various textures of Chet Baker's Alone Together, but we need more time and better testing conditions to make a more definitive assessment in this department, especially in terms of how the Focals deal with those musical swells, peaks and decays that make blues such a tricky genre to get right.

Early verdict 

Focal Hadenys headphones close up of grille

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

A pair of headphones that looks the part and comes from a company enjoying a pretty impressive hot streak with headphones can tend to write their own script before a single note has been played, but the new Focal Hadenys, on paper, do seem to have a lot going for them.

What we've heard thus far has, though, been encouraging. Even during our restricted listening window on the show floor, we found the Hadenys headphones to be crisp and clean sounding, with plenty of detail and a snappy sense of rhythmic drive. Assessing those extra elements that add to any product's sense of je ne sais quoi will require more dedicated testing time, not to mention finding out if they truly live up to the premium price tag, but many of the key ingredients do seem to be there on first inspection.

MORE:

Read our original Focal Bathys review

Why open-back headphones might be the best option for you

Check out our list of the best audiophile headphones 

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.