Focal Bathys vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 Comparison Review

Most audiophiles are gear obsessed to say the least. I think if we all could, we’d have somebody follow us around with a flight case that had multiple high-end headphones and a big amp to drive them. The unfortunate reality is that most of us can’t actually carry around that much gear and fragile equipment usually has a home in the studio. Everyday, audiophiles with huge collections still use a workhorse headphone. Something that works in the gym, office, while commuting, and at home. 2 of the best bluetooth options in this field are the Focal Bathys and the Sony WH-1000XM5. Let’s compare both in the Focal Bathys vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 comparison review.

What’s in the Box – Focal Bathys vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 Comparison Review

  • Focal Bathys Headphones
  • Shell carrying case
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable
  • USB Type-C to Type-C cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable
  • USB-C charging cable
  • Manuals
  • Carrying case


Look and Feel

My most notable takeaway from the Focal Bathys is how durable they feel. I’m not trying to backhandedly call these heavy. The materials feel durable and luxurious. At 350g, the Bathys is comfortable, light, and luxurious. Priced at $699, the feel is top of the line in the wireless over-ear field. After hours of testing, I didn’t have any issues with comfort and didn’t experience any fatigue from listening to them. I hate to bring up such a subjective reason but I absolutely hate how the headphones look. The open-back grill design looks like some sort of dermatological disease rather than a headphone chassis. Something happens in my head when I see these that just makes me itch. In total, these are excellent feeling headphone with a comfortable design.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 has impressively simple aesthetics which blow the looks of the Bathys out of the water. I personally own the previous Sony model (WH-1000XM4) that had problems with the headband durability. Sony has addressed these issues with their newly designed soft-fit leather, bendable headband, and stepless sliders. Sony has a different approach in comfort. Instead of utilizing plushy expensive materials, they have reduced the weight to only 250g. I was impressed with how light and comfortable these headphones are. The materials don’t feel as high-end as the Bathys. Keep in mind that at $398, you’ll able to purchase 2 pairs of Sony’s for a little more than 1 pair of the Bathys.

In terms of look and feel, I undoubtedly have to chose the Sony WH-1000XM5. Although the materials don’t feel as good as the Bathys, what sways me in that direction is the heinous look of Focal headphones. I’d say that the WH-1000XM5 isn’t as comfortable at first try. Yet after hours of use, the reduced weight makes them ultra-easy to wear.

Bluetooth and Battery

The Sonys supports bluetooth 5.2. There are standard SBC codecs and LDAC for lossless streaming. I had no trouble with dropouts while testing them in multiple locations and they were easily able to pair. At 30 hours of battery life and 3 hours of charge in only 3 minutes of charging with an additional USB-PD compatible AC adapter, these have a great battery life.

Focal’s Bathys have a similar battery life at 30 hours with ANC on, 35 with the cable attached, and 42 in DAC mode. 15 minutes of charging will allow you to get 5 hours of playtime. They support bluetooth 5.1 and have SBC, AAC, aptX™ Adaptive, and aptX™ codecs. I didn’t experience any dropouts while using the Bathys, and they paired within 2 seconds of turning them on.

With stats so similar in the bluetooth and battery field, it’s hard to pick a winner between the two. Marginal differences between both make picking one over the other feel disingenuous. For this reason, they are tied when it comes to bluetooth and battery.


Both the Bathys and XM5 have industry leading ANC which is highlighted in different scenarios. Sony utilizes the QN1 processor for it’s noise cancellation. 8 separate microphones for noise cancelation means that this iteration of the 1000X series blocks out more highs and mids than any other model before. While listening, I can confidently say that Sony is the best in the field at blocking noise out from the listening environment. A quick walk through the NYC diamond district (one of the busiest areas in Manhattan) left me with a lasting impression. I was only able to hear sirens and horns while listening to music. That being said, I could notice a drop in fidelity with ANC on. They don’t have the loud characteristic “whoosh” sound like some cheaper models have. There is a lot of boxiness I get in the mids when compared to having the ANC off.

Focal takes a more transparent approach in their ANC when compared to the XM5. It’s “whoosh” is slightly more noticeable, but this has less of an effect when interacting with the drivers. There’s virtually no drop in audio quality with the Bathys’ ANC on. With this in mind, there is a little less noise cancellation when compared to the Sony QN1 processor.

I can’t tell you that the Bathys is far behind Sony in noise cancellation, and the reality is that the XM5 is 1A while the Bathys is 1B. Ultimately choosing ANC will come down to preferences and the user’s needs. If you’re constantly listening in noisy public environments, you’re better off with the WH-1000XM5. If you’re after transparent ANC which maintains audio quality, the Bathys makes more sense. As a discerning audiophile, I have to go with the Focal. If I needed to block out as much noise as possible, I’d go with the Sony WH-1000XM5.

Soundstage – Focal Bathys vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 Comparison Review

Sony’s soundstage isn’t as straight forward as being wide OR holographic. Although these things are true, the information that’s being processed will have a huge impact on the final listening experience. Sony’s “360 Reality Sound” and “Dolby Atmos” compatibility allows Tidal users to get the full experience from the Sony soundstage. Listening to “Virgo” by Meshell Ndegeocello demonstrates the verticality of the soundstage, as well as the width and trailing dynamics Sony has designed. The harp sound is able to rise vertically as if it were flying away from you. Sounds can feel like their traveling above or behind my head with tracks optimized for Dolby Atmos. With the popularity of high-fidelity streaming, the list tracks is growing everyday.

Simultaneously, the width feels a bit artificial at times, supplementing reverb to adjust for the closed back design. As wide as Dolby Atmos can be, tracks without this optimization still feel ‘in my head’. The stereo image is localized and fits each part in the separate drivers accurately. It takes the edge over the Bathys in terms of verticality, but not much else.

The Focal Bathys has a truly wide soundstage. Bluetooth headphones with naturally wide soundstages are like bigfoot sightings. For each claim that somebody has spotted one, there are numerous dissenters who argue it’s impossible to find. In my opinion, the Bathys has the widest soundstage of any wireless headphone I’ve heard. Reverb trails run away from your ear with musicality while remaining precise enough to not feel muddy. There is a natural feeling width which doesn’t add supplemental reverb. Each part is placed accurately, and there’s very little to be offended by. The Bathys clears the WH1000XM5 in soundstage.

Listening Impressions – Focal Bathys vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 Comparison Review


With each of the brand’s companion apps, users will be able to customize each headphone’s EQs. For this reason I have to preface that I’m judging these right out of the box with the wired connection, ANC off, and without the app EQ.

Sony and Focal both emphasize low end when tuning the sound signatures. The WH-1000XM5 has a round and cracking character with their lows that are able to pound through their drivers. The bass on the Sonys are undoubtedly boosted further than the Bathys. Techno music like “Control My Body” by Barbara Lagos thumps harder than many more expensive headphones. Simultaneously, quieter music can have a little too much warmth in this range. If I was using the app, a drop in the 400-600Hz range would have cleaned the bass response up dramatically. Loud 808s and kicks have a dynamic wholeness that makes me feel like I’m in a dark club with an inundating sound system. If you’re a “basshead”, this sound signature will leave you impressed.

The Focal Bathys isn’t as ‘bass-boosted’ as the WH-1000XM5. They have a flatter bass response which subtly shelves up between 100-200Hz. With that in mind, they don’t have the same warmth that extends through the low-mids. My ears find them more versatile in the bass response because of this. At the same time, they don’t “thud” in the same way as the Sony headphones. Although techno, EDM, and hip hop don’t sound as palpable, acoustic music doesn’t have the muddiness I found in the WH-1000XM5. I’d personally take the Bathys due to it’s versatility. If my taste was focused on big bass, I’d chose the WH-1000XM5.


I’m a pretty picky listener when it comes to mids in a headphone. Low mids create mud and grit which are nice in certain quantities. High mids create sharpness and edge to my ears.

The Focal Bathys has a wonderfully flat mid response that has a slight boost in it’s upper midrange. Vocals, guitars, and synths all pop with clarity while maintaining the body of the sound. “A Tempting Pain” by Portrayal of Guilt feels sludgy in the best way. The guitars and snare sound heavy and oppressive, while the vocals sit as menacingly as a gargoyle above a cathedral. Vocals in almost all music (aside from very low or high pitched vocals) have a beautiful shimmer which is undoubtedly enhanced by the sound signatures focus on upper-mids.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 aren’t as flat in their mid-range, but they’re relatively close. There’s that bump in the low-mids I mentioned previously which adds a little too much grit to my ears. To reiterate one more time, these headphones would benefit greatly from a 2db duck between 400-600Hz in the app. Right out of the box, the XM5 has a mid quality that can be boxy at times, especially when listening to poorly mixed tracks. There’s the same high-mid boost that the Bathys has, but it’s balanced with low-mids unlike the Focal. Simultaneously, clean mid-focused sounds can be warm and musical when they’re in the sonic forefront. When comparing both of these headphone’s mids, my preference is for the Focal.


While both of these headphones lean closer towards warmness than brightness, there’s a nice presentation of the highs that adds enough clarity to the sound signature. Sony’s WH-1000XM5 are bright enough to bring out cymbal sounds. Crash cymbals sing through the mix with clear balance. Because of the booming lows and shimmery highs, I really enjoy drum sounds (electronic and acoustic). There’s a great bump to the presence in the XM5 that’s expertly tuned. Brilliance above 5kHz which can add unwanted sibilance isn’t too overstated. I’m getting all of the high end information I want, without all the uncomfortable sharpness I hear from bright headphones.

There isn’t as much brightness in the Focal Bathys, but I wouldn’t call these dull sounding. There’s enough definition to give sounds shape and character, but there isn’t enough to put treble sounds in the front of the mix. There’s a great faintness to cymbals and high synths that albeit can leave me wanting more on certain tracks. At the same time, this treble ducking leaves a lot of room for bass and high-mid information. I don’t feel like the vocals are fighting for as much space on these headphones. With that said, I have to choose the Sony WH-1000XM5 for their treble response.


It’s very difficult choosing a winner in the Focal Bathys vs. Sony WH-1000XM5 comparison review. Although I like the highs, lows, soundstage, and ANC of the Bathys, the treble, looks, and value for money that the XM5 makes them an exciting pair of headphones. I feel like a broken record by restating this, but the Sony’s would benefit immensely from a slight duck in the low-mids. For that reason, I’d choose the Sony WH-1000XM5. Aside from soundstage, the XM5 comes very close to the Bathys in a lot of areas, while being a much better value for money.

Get the Focal Bathys and Sony WH-1000XM5 at Audio46

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