Focal Elex, Harmonicdyne Zeus, Hifiman Edition XS (Which one?)

Hey Guys,

I’m helping my friend shop for his first pair of decent midfi headphones. After some looking it seems like these were the final results for headphones he came to. His preferences in music are hip hop, r&b, rap, lofi, pop. So I’d say mainly mainstream music. He also wants to be able to use them for gaming (Apex, Valorant, Warzone, other solo games like Elden ring and God of War). He says he’s looking for something that has decently wide sound stage and great imaging since he mainly plays fps 90% of the time.

I was looking to see if anyone had any experience with all 3 of these headphones. I personally own a Focal Elex that I love but feel like his needs would be better suited with the other two headphones? Not really sure as I’ve never heard the other two. But I feel like Focal is pretty narrow and intimate personally but maybe one of you guys can give better insight on these 3 headphones. Thanks!

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Does he have an amp and dac for this? The budget here is rather high for a gamer imo. Elex is indeed a bit more narrow the other two you mention are much larger in stage.

Yeah he does. I actually gave him my atom amp and dac since I’m upgrading my own set up. Which I believe should be enough for any of these 3 headphones based off what I’ve read. I at least know for Focal Elex it was. So he really only needs to buy the headphones.

He got to try my Elex when he came over and said he likes them a lot, but it felt a bit shouty. Maybe because of how intimate they are? I don’t feel that way but maybe its because I got used to the sound. Honestly it seems like at this point he just wants to choose the Zeus or the Edition XS.

I honestly felt the same actually…

Any reason as to why these in particular? The hifiman are heftier and float alot so im not a big fan of gaming with them comfort wise but sound they work great

After talking with him and going through the list of headphones I knew and researched, it seemed like these two fit his tastes best. Headphones with great comfort, open back, wide sound stage, good imaging, and some decent bass. At least that’s what my take away was after watching some reviewers and reading through forums.

but if there are better options out there I might of missed, I’m definitely open to hear other suggestions and look over them with him.

My pick would be the Elex, but I like them best with the Dekoni Fenestrated pads. That fixes the shouty problem.

Although both the Zeus and the XS would be wider, but I don’t think either of them compete with the Elex in dynamics and imaging. I actually think I preferred the Edition XX over the XS (from memory), and I wasn’t a big fan of the Zeus.

Throwing my 2 cents in.

Imaging is actually pretty good on the Zeus imo, but then I have not heard the Elex. I did own the Clear MG though which I know is a step above the Elex and yes the dynamics/detail was better for sure then the Zeus.

The thing I would also be cautious of the Zeus is it can be heavy if you aren’t used to that kind of weight on a headphone. Now, it didn’t bother me other then the band does catch my hair every now and then and is just annoying. Still, the Zeus hits decent enough but does not do much in the sub-bass region. I still consider the Zeus a very good gaming headphone for immersion wise for sure.

Not that I have the experience from them - but has he looked into any Sennheiser offerings? In that price range I know there are decent sets out there though I know the bass could be lacking. Also as Falenkor mentioned - amp will matter to power higher end depending on what he gets/wants.

zeus is comfy af and chill af but not my pick for a gaming headphone if he plans on playing more competitively (super wide soundstage but lose detail because of it)

Yeah I believe the 6XX and the 560s were originally on the list. But the main reason why a lot of the Sennheiser offerings were inevitably off the list was because the bass isn’t that great. From what I’ve read and my experience from owning the 6XX and 598 in the past, the bass was always lacking in those headphones. I listen to a lot of hip hop and rap too, and I thought they weren’t that great. for those genres. Gaming was good but not that great imo. So I felt like it didn’t fit for him personally.

Hmm good to hear the soundstage is wide. Thanks for the insight. Maybe we should look more into considering the Edition XS over the Zeus at this point then.

Do you maybe have any headphone suggestions for what he’s looking for? I thought we were on the right track with these two headphones, but maybe not anymore haha.

I loved the XS sound wise but comfort was a no go for me (some people have issues and some don’t) also if they don’t clamp enough you lose the bass maybe look at trying them and if not I found the HE400se to be a bit better comfort wise and even better after I modded mine with a ripoff third party headband (hifimans hybrid headband has been out of stock for eons otherwise would’ve used that with the XS rip)
AKG 702/712/7xx should be good as well and you can do the sub bass mod on them if you want a bit more punch (pricing for them is all over the place I got my 702 for like $130 from thomann but amazon sells them for over $200)
maybe DT 880 but probably doesn’t have the bass punch you’re looking for
TYGR 300R is solid if you can find it outside of the bundle

oh interesting never considered the AKG headphones before. I haven’t read enough into the TYGR 300R yet, so I’ll definitely read more into them. I’ll add those to our list to check out. Thanks!


Zeus is a bit mixed bag as its a more fun headphone… its not a heavy detail oriented sound and is V shaped… it works but its more a preference or casual pick

Xs is huge and hefty… for comfort id pass for technicalities… its a bit too bassy

Elex is bubble like and very heavily in the mids with tons of detail however its a bit shouty and is hella aggressive

My vote if this is primarily gaming and i HAD to choose one of these would be zeus. Xs is just too heavy and floaty, elex is too in the face and shouty

If you want a comfortable planar pick for a gamer look into dan clark aeon… there an all rounder. Hifiman is better in detail and bright tonality but they also break easy… if you really want a hifiman get 400se with a pad swap or the sundara… they are cheaper and for gaming offer similar performance

Personally id say grab the 880 or 560s but he wants a big soundstage… theres always the one i use the t1 2nd gen which fits pretty much exactly what hes looking for…

I would second this actually if going with elex as i had similar result

I love them yet hate them. Post mod they are great but they have imaging inaccuracies that tend to piss me off mid play

The bass is usually right at neutral and bassy is a hindrance in FPS…

Note: the other hifiman are more bass recessive. If this is an issue you can still just get the xs… it works its just questionable over long periods

Wow thanks for the super detailed advice that you gave. Really appreciate your advice! :slight_smile:

Ooo I’ve heard a lot of good things about the aeon open x. I’m not familiar with the dan clark headphones at all. So maybe I’ll put this on the list as well and maybe read more into it. I remember DMS mentioned how it was a planar version of the HD 6XX haha.

I’m surprised anyone still considers the elex with the constant failing drivers.

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Warranties help with that. To focals credit ive had zero issues with them and numerous issues towards drop. Elex is still a very good headphone.

Open x is the more neutral one while RT is slightly more V curved. RT can sometimes be bought cheaper too depends on whats going on as the two flip which is cheaper. Whatever you do, dont buy the original flows… they were pretty bad

I can see that comparison granted the aeons definitely have more stage


Yeah I’ve heard that a lot as well. Me personally I’m approaching year 2 with these headphones as daily drivers and I’ve had no issues with them yet. I think they’ve been wonderful for me personally.

The Dan Clarks need a LOT of power to drive. You’re not going to drive them well without an amp.