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DALI IO-12 vs Focal Bathys: Which should you get?

For some, a pair of headphones is something to get you through the day and commute. Perhaps you’ll spend £100, or maybe as much as £300. The following headphones from Dali and Focal have different ideas.

These are headphones positioned towards the premium and luxury end of the headphone market, and they’re not really intended to get you through the day (but you could use them that way, of course); but almost as a fashion statement, a piece of luxury headwear to go with your Louboutin or Burberry bags.

They exist in a different realm of the market, and if that sounds like something you’re interested in, which of the Dali IO-12 and Focal Bathys should you get?


Neither pair of headphones are what you’d call affordable. The Focal Bathys first launched in 2022 and haven’t come down in price by much since. £699 / $799 / €799 is what they’re currently going for.

The Dali IO-12 are even more expensive at £999 / $1299 / €999. However you look at them, you’ll have to fork out a sizeable chunk of change to afford both.


Of the two, the Bathys are smaller (at least they look more compact), and slightly lighter by about 20g. Neither pair trouble the likes of Bose and Sony in terms of weight, but you do feel the weight of the Dali more than the Focal, especially with its square-shaped earcups.

Focal Bathys with background
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The clamping force is an area we found looser on the Dali than the Focal. Does this make them more comfortable? If a tighter clamping force is an issue then it may be, but we often found that the size of the IO-12 had more of an effect in terms of comfort than clamping force. Both are comfortable but the Dali feels the heavier of the two.

The Focal primarily uses buttons for operation, while the Dali also uses physical controls but positions them around and on the earcup itself. The Dali feels responsive and reliable, while the Focal’s buttons don’t feel quite as nice to use, especially for the asking price, and the playback button didn’t always work.

Dali IO-12 lying flat
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The general build quality of both headphones is of a high quality, and the aesthetics are quite lovely in both instances and very different from each other. Vegans may not appreciate the use of real leather with the Focal though. We do like the dark chocolate finish of the Dali, but the Focal’s Dune finish is also very appealing too.


If you’re expecting a barreload of features from both headphones then expect to be disappointed. The Dali IO-12 doesn’t even have a control app.

Bluetooth support is practically the same as both headphones can stream in aptX Adaptive Bluetooth, and with both headphones the wireless performance is assured one with only minor breaks in the signal even in busy areas.

Dali IO-12 onboard buttons
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Both headphone also supports active noise cancellation, and the Focal is the better performer of the two in our opinion. It suppresses more noise than the Dali does, and while neither is necessarily the most impressive ANC pair for the price, the Focal would be our option if you wanted better noise-cancellation, and it offers the ability to tweak how much sound gets let in. With the Dali, ANC is either on or off.

Battery life is claimed to be 30 hours with the Focal and 35 hours with the Dali. In our tests we found they could both last for a long time, the Dali to about 30 hours, while the Focal seems to last for longer. How long we haven’t yet figured out as after an eight hour drain they were still at 100%.

Focal Bathys earcup close up
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On both headphones you can adjust the EQ, though the Bathys gives more room to play around by having a custom EQ option in its app. With the Dali you can only swap between its normal mode and a Bass Boost mode (which we don’t think is as good). The Focal & Naim app also has Mimi Sound Personalisation, which adapts the headphones sound to match your hearing ability. Neither pair offers the amount of customisation that you might expect even from less expensive heapdhones, but there’s more room to adjust and customise with the Bathys than there is on the Dali.

Sound Quality

Both headphones sound very good, we will not dispute that, but unless you’ve got deep enough pockets for both, you’ll need to choose between them. Our pick would be the Focal Bathys.

The Dali IO-12 are the warmer-sounding headphone of the two, and they reproduce vocals with a great sense of smoothness and detail. The soundstage has a little more depth to it than the Focal seems able to deliver, which helps us position and localise instruments and singers’ voices a bit better.

Focal Bathys from the side
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The Focal, however, is clearer and more detailed with its crisper tone, and this is especially evident with how it handles the midrange. We like how both headphones deal with this area of the frequency range, but we find the Focal presents more insight than the richer-sounding Dalis do.

With regards to bass, the Dali is richer in its performance while the Focal is punchier. Both convey low frequencies with plenty of energy, but we end up preferring the Focal’s tighter and clearer performance. And with the highs, the Focal’s crispness brings out detail a little more than the Dali, which is no slouch either, but again the Focal edges it with more clarity.

Dali IO-12 from the side on
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Both can used through a wired connection (USB-C is best), with the Bathys featuring a USB DAC to place the headphones in. In either case, they both sound excellent, though the Focal Bathys would get our nod overall; the Dali IO-12 is a terrifically musical listen too.


In Focal’s favour is a better noise-cancelling experience, a clear, detailed and inisghtful audio performance and a greater degree of customisation (if you want it). They’re arguaby a little more comfortable to wear, though that might depend more on personal preference.

The Dali’s a great listen too, and their approach to sound is warm, musical one which they succeed with aplomb. Their ANC could be better, especially for how much they cost, but they’re a very impressive pair of headphones in other areas. We don’t think you could go wrong with either pair, but the Focals have a wider appeal. And they’re considerably less expensive too.

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