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Focal Stellia Review, Measurements, Interview - Head-Fi TV

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by jude, Feb 12, 2019.
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  1. xxx1313
    I wrote my first impressions on the Focal Stellia in German. Here is a rough translation, I hope it is not too bad. Please keep in mind that these impressions are with a Stellia fresh out of the box, without burn-in.

    Many thanks to @Nomax, who offered me to test the Focal Stellia with my home setup, and so I can already call the Stellia my own. I may also say that Nomax has characterized the Stellia very, very well already.

    I had no great expectations of the Stellia, although I had no doubt that it would take the lead in the group of the closed headphones. I did/do not need a high-end closed headphone and therefore I approached with the required curiosity to the cause, but not remotely with buying interest.

    But one after another. The packaging of the Stellia is heavy and of high quality, which should be the norm in the high end segment (no toiletry bag here luckily...). The color of the headphones is not as daring as some photos may suggest. The color in reality is darker, less shiny, quite noble. In my opinion, Focal did not go wrong here. The parts resting on the head (bottom side of the headband and the earpads) are in black colour, which is good. It seems that Focal has drawn the right conclusions from the less than optimal light grey of the Focal Clear.

    The comfort is outstanding, even better than the Utopia, although I never had any problems with the comfort of the Utopia. The leather of the earpads is super soft, feels like a dream. The slightly lower weight compared to the Utopia can also become positively noticeable, especially for really long listening sessions.

    The Stellia comes with two cables. A cable with 3.5mm jack (and screw-on 6.3mm adapter) with 1.2m length, and a 4-pin XLR cable with 3m length. So it lacks its own cable with 6.3mm connector in adequate length, because the 1.2m is probably be too short for many users. Unfortunately too short for me too. Unlike with the Clear, Focal seems to have saved in the wrong place here with the Stellia. A cable with standard 6.3mm jack connection should ALWAYS be included in sufficient length, this means definitely more than 1.2 meters.

    In terms of tonality, I was initially slightly skeptical after seeing the frequency curve measured by @jude:
    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/foc...rview-head-fi-tv.899912/page-18#post-14798060

    This upper bass bump at 80-150 Hz should be clearly audible and probably disturbing. Likewise, I personally hate headphones with V-shaped tuning (Ultrasone and Fostex send greetings) and the drop slightly below the Harman Target Curve from 250 Hz to 1 kHz looked to me slightly suspicious, in this regard. In reality, both things are absolutely no problem for me. @Nomax and also @bidn have already advised me on this in advance, and they are right again. The tonality oft the Stellia is excellent, the bass range only slightly thickened, which is good for a closed headphone in my opinion (the Elegia is a bit too lean for me tonally with the Brainwavz pads and a bit too forward with the standard pads).

    The Stellia immediately reveals much more tonal abundance than the Utopia. While the Utopia may sound a bit lean and analytical in one or the other chain and with some recordings, there is no trace of this in the Stellia. Tonally the Stellia is much closer to the Empyrean (at least with the velours pads) than to the Utopia. Therefore, I listen to the Stellia without crossfeed on Chord Dave, as the Empyreans too. For comparison: I listen to the Utopia with Crossfeed 1, and to achieve a similar tonality to the Stellia, Crossfeed 2 or even 3 would be necessary with the Utopia. The Stellia is clearly not on the bright side, but on the other hand not unreasonably bassy or too dark sounding.

    The bass section of the Stellia is outstanding. It is only slightly emphasized and at the same time characterized by speed and physicality. The upper bass hump is noticeable in almost no recording and creates a seamless transition to the midrange, without bass "bleeding" into the mids. The mids appear very balanced, not recessed (I am quite sensitive to that), but with some recordings with a slight hardness in the presence area. I do not mean that the Stellia is too foward, too much in the face. No, it is not. The Stellia is neither too forward (such as an Elear or Elegia with standard pads), nor too laid-back (which cannot be expected with the typical Focal sound signature anyway). The mentioned slight harshness is probably due to completely lacking burn-in of my Stellia. According to Nomax, the sound of Stellia becomes a bit softer, more „tasteful" with burn-in. But also fresh out of the box, there is nothing really to complain about. The treble section is also well-balanced, without disturbing peaks, absolutely without sibilance. Nevertheless, nothing is missing in the treble. However, lovers of over-emphasized treble may not be completely satisfied. The Stellia does not quite have the resolution of the Utopia and its scalpel-like brilliance, but it also does not need to trick with partial frequency overemphasis in order to simulate high resolution. So the Stellia is less analytical than the Utopia and without its astonishing fine dynamics, but the Stellia is also no slouch. In return, the Stellia offers a physicality that some miss with the Utopia.

    The spatial representation of the Stellia is harder to describe. There is actually some kind of reverb effect, as also described by Nomax, but it is subtle enough, imo. It seems that especially voices are surrounded by a certain aura. Nevertheless, this effect is not comparable to the 3D effect of the ifi-DAC/headamps, which, brings closed headphones and IEMs to life by opening them up spatially, but which imo comes at the expense of less clear localization/positioning. The positioning and separation of the voices and instruments of the Stellia is at the same level as the Utopia, and it is well known that I greatly appreciate the Utopia in this regard. One must not forget, I am talking here of a closed-back headphone! I do not want to argue about whether the Utopia or Stellia offer a larger soundstage, this feeling will differ individually. However, it is a fact for me that the Stellia never sounds like a closed headphone, and this is quite astonishing!

    Contrary to my previous expectations, I bought the Stellia because there are several recordings which I like even better with the Stellia than with the Empyrean and the Utopia. This is remarkable anyway, but nothing less than sensational in view of its closed design! On the other hand, anyone expecting to get a closed Utopia could still be disappointed. The Stellia has its own character. Although the Stellia shares a large part of its DNA with the Utopia (speed, dynamics, clean spatial illustration), ít differs in tonality and has that slight reverb effect (unfortunately I can not find a better term).

    I can also confirm @Nomax's statement that the difference in sound quality between Stellia and Elegia is much greater than that between Utopia and Clear. Although the Elegia is a fine headphone, especially with the Brainwavz pads, the Stellia plays in a completely different league. It is the only closed headphone that can actually touch the open-back flagships. That really surprised me positively.

    As for the question, for which music genres the Stellia is well suited, I can also confirm the Nomax’s opinion: it is great for everything except metal with higher volume (> 85db). Here, at higher volume, the mid-range becomes slightly harsh, stressful and diffuse due to the slight reverb effect. Of course, headbangers listening at low volume levels such as @bidn have no problem with that. Incidentally, the Stellia seems to me to be ideally suited for low volume listening.

    My conclusion: If you are looking for the best closed-back headphone, here it is! What Focal has delivered here, will be unmatched for years. If you are not looking for a closed headphone, you should nevertheless dedicate yourself to the Stellia on occasion. The closed-back Stellia is absolutely at the same level with its high-end open-back counterparts, both out of the Chord Dave and with the SP1000. It also offers a really pleasing tonal balance with mass appeal. Kudos to Focal!!!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2019
    sathyam, johandesp, Misson07 and 16 others like this.
  2. Acemcl
    Does anyone have any experience dealing with headphone.com? A friend of mine ordered the Stellia from them but cannot get a delivery estimate. They have no phone listed on the site and apparently have not responded to any emails. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I am also interested because this is an ideal opportunity to demo these cans. As someone who owns the utopias, I love the focal signature and a focal closed back would complete my headphone quest
     
  3. atahanuz
    RIP $3K
     
  4. John Blackshear
    I’d go with Sweetwater (where I’m getting mine from) or Moon Audio. Plus, they have live people to speak with.
     
    Acemcl likes this.
  5. Acemcl
    Appreciate the helpful advice
     
  6. Acemcl
    Thanks. I told my friend to just cancel the order and go with amazon
     
  7. moemoney
    Moon audio is very reliable and they ship real fast I always deal with them
     
    raelamb and Acemcl like this.
  8. ufospls2
    www.headphone.com is a very reputable website, and I have met one of the owners personally, and he is very helpful!!! Let me send him a message and alert him to this post. I am sure they will take care of you :)
     
    Deftone likes this.
  9. Acemcl
    Thank you
     
    wje likes this.
  10. Acemcl
    All sorted, thanks for the help guys!
     
  11. Wooglish
    Just ordered today from Moon. I have bought cables & a DAP from them in the past and they were great. They also have free 2 day shipping.

    I think/ hope the Stellia is supposed to launch this Friday in the US?
     
    wje likes this.
  12. wje
    I've purchased from them and had great service. It appears the Stellia is in stock there - some sites I've visited indicated early March. Have you tried E-mail address: info@headphones.com ?
     
  13. wje
    I buy a lot of items from Amazon. Unfortuantely, the tax can be an issue where buying from other E-tailers will allow you to escape the tax consequences.
     
  14. atahanuz
    Try to contact them. If they never respond you or ship the item ( seems like this is going to be the case) your only chance is court. With proofs, you'll get your money back but it will take long.
     
  15. musicman59
    +1 on Moon Audio. Drew is a great guy to deal with.
     
    raelamb likes this.
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