Before today, I have written that great over-ear headphones can be plain and still wow me. I've even conceded that certain headphones could be painted slime green with a bug eye on each earpiece and I'd continue to wear them – provided that their detailed, agile, class-leading sound persisted.
But perhaps all of that just changed. What if I no longer have to compromise? What if now, I can have it all: aesthetic beauty, portability and wireless musical talent?
I'm willing to wager Focal has just brought precisely that to the table. Meet the Focal Bathys, quite possibly the ultimate portable hi-fi over-ear wireless headphones – definitely some of the most beautiful.
Not only do they offer active noise cancellation (in both ‘silent’ and ‘soft’ modes, plus a Transparency profile) which you can adjust to your taste via the in-app EQ settings, they also include a 24-bit USB DAC, so no more USB DAC dongles required to get better sound from your laptop or phone.
They’re also packed to their beautiful gills with tech. The 30 hour battery life can be boosted fast (just 15 minutes of charge nets you 5 hours of life), plus you're getting Focal's patented driver tech and support for voice control assistants and Clear Voice Capture, which should mean superb sound on video meetings and phone calls.
Their Bluetooth 5.1 codec support includes both aptX and aptX Adaptive for the best Bluetooth wireless resolution currently available – oh, and in case you were wondering, the name Bathys comes from the word ‘bathyscaphe’, the first submarine exploration vehicle. The embodiment of calm, depth and absolute silence then, which is as good a moniker for a set of ANC over-ears as I can think of.
Opinion: Focal's incomparable looks plus wireless smarts equals a winning combination
For me, Focal’s typically exquisite build quality is key here – just look at them! Magnesium and aluminium combine for both lightness and strength, and that real leather headband looks for all the world as if it'll promote a supremely comfortable, luxe listen.
Having helped test the Focal Stellia, I know that the St. Etienne-based audio specialist's cutaway ear cup accents will sparkle and shimmer under the light, too. How's that for a compelling range of high-end features within a beautifully styled design?
And although the build-quality suggests high-ticket jewellery, they're far from crown-like in terms of portability. Bathys' foldable design means these cans fit neatly into the included carry case, thank you very much.
How much is all of this going to cost? $799 / £699 / €799, which is around AU$1,210 – and most intriguingly, it's just a tad more expensive than the new Bowers & Wilkins PX8.
Both are beautiful, (I adore the Focal but there's a timeless, intrinsic beauty to the B&W proposition) but which will edge it for sound-quality, comfort and feature-set?
Won't that be an intriguing comparison? Check back with us very soon…
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.