The most interesting hi-fi (and head-fi) news stories for Week 40, 2022.
Focal joins the luxury end of the Bluetooth headphone market with the £699/€799 Bathys. According to the French company, listening to music should be like a bathysphere: immersive. (We can’t fault the marketing department for trying). Made from aluminium and magnesium with a real leather headband, Bathys looks unmistakably like a Focal headphone. It even carries over Focal’s signature M-shaped driver profile with a 4cm variant. Bathys features two modes of active noise cancellation (‘silent’ and ‘soft’), a 30-hour battery life (with 15 mins of charge netting 5 hours of playback) and eight microphones, which work in tandem with something called ‘Clear Voice Capture’ for improved phone call quality and presumably a clearer transparency mode. As well as Bluetooth 5.1 – which comes with multipoint support plus aptX Adaptive, aptX and AAC codecs – a hard-wired lossless digital connection to a laptop or smartphone is also possible.
KEF also joins the Bluetooth headphone race this week with the Mu7. That sculpted design comes from Ross Lovegrove (he of Muon loudspeaker ‘fame’) and houses a 4cm dynamic driver, “Sophisticated Smart Active Noise Cancellation”, “Clear Voice Capture” for better phone call clarity, Bluetooth 5.1 (with aptX HD and AAC), a capacitive touch control panel on the right earcup, leatherette memory-foam-cushioned earpads plus 40 hours of playback from a single charge. A 15-minute quick charge reportedly nets 8 hours of runtime. At £349/pair, pricing on the Mu7 is closer to Sony and Bose than Focal or Apple. Your choice of Silver Grey or Charcoal grey.
Silver discs — with the introduction of a MK2 version of its Grand Class SL-G700, it’s clear that Technics isn’t ready to give up on ’em just yet. This second-generation hybrid machine will play CDs, SACDs and MQA discs – with a ‘Pure Disc Playback’ mode shutting off all that isn’t necessary for disc reading and decoding – and it will handle audio streams arriving via Google Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, UPnP or Bluetooth. The all-aluminium chassis houses four walled-off sections: the (switch-mode) power supply, digital data handling, disc drive mechanism and analogue output. The dual mono DAC circuit is built around a pair of ESS ES9026PRO DAC chips for MQA/DSD256/PCM384kHz support and rear-panel balanced XLR output (as well as single-ended RCA). Post-D/A-conversion filtering is reportedly handled via discrete components and not an op-amp and that DAC is accessible externally via USB, coaxial and TOSLINK; as is common with many disc spinners, the SL-G700M2 can hand off a digital signal to an external DAC via coaxial or TOSLINK output. Retail pricing will land at £2899/US$3500 when the SL-G700M2 goes on sale (in Europe) at the end of November. North Americans can expect to see theirs in January 2023.