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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. up late
    i wouldn't describe the stellia as sounding more balanced than the utopia and having "better bass". it had a touch more bass quantity but gave up a little in definition to the utopia to my ears. i did hear it as warmer, however. i found the stellia's sound signature inviting and can understand how it would appeal to folks who are looking for a more relaxed take on the utopia in a closed-back model.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2019
    xxx1313 likes this.
  2. John Blackshear
    Focal Stellia arrived today and the packaging is amazing. Look is very nice and not gaudy at all (that goodness). Been listening for the past few hours and can say that selling my Elegia, which I really liked, was a good choice. These are the perfect compliment to my HD800s. *Qobuz playing through Ifi Black Label.
  3. wje
    I think it comes down to whether you'd drop $3,000 for a pair of headphones and consider it your "end game" - something that you'd hold onto for a while and be content with your purchase. I know for myself, I'm a headphone enthusiast and don't want to settle for my "end game" just quite yet. It's fun to try out the different headphones and get used to what each offers. Finally, then it comes down to what one can capably hear. When I joined this forum, I was 39 years old. Now, I'm 55 and have hearing degradation. Yes, I can still tell the difference between the sound that a Beryllium driver is capable of and one that is magnesium and aluminum in construction. Yet, I'm very doubtful that I'll be able to hear all that the top end pair of headphones has to offer - and find myself just enjoying the process of being an "enthusiast".
    RobertSM, Deftone, xxx1313 and 2 others like this.
  4. teknorob23
    The kids are off to their grandparents and the wife is working the tubes are warming nicely..


    ...and for the next 3-4 hours I’ll be mainly listening to these before the elegia are packed up and head off to their new home :frowning2: :). #somesaturdaysarebetterthanothers

    RobertSM, jbrownson, wje and 2 others like this.
  5. myusernameislove
    Absolutely excellent headphon. I could audition Stellia in Prague with my Mojo+Vorzamp Pure2+ combo and it is the best headphone I have ever heard. I auditioned also Utopia and Empyrean, but this Stellia has such fierceness in it, the guitars are so sharp and it hits so hard. Dynamics, speed - perfect. Even such old recordings as Master of Puppets gained from it, it sounded as enhanced as I never heard it before. So fast and so dynamic. Bravo. Best headphone ever. Very detailed, very pleasant to listen to. Perfect with portable amps - and it loves Vorzuge. I guess its synergy will be best with any kind of fast paced music. For slow and acoustic music we have open headphones, but such energy it can project onto fast music is on a scale hitherto undreamt of.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2019
    xxx1313 and bidn like this.
  6. SilverEars
    No, it's not more balanced (it's warm so not really balanced, particularly compared to Clear), and cannot be being closed. It's not even more resolving than the Clear. Clear still performs better, but Clear is open and Stellia is closed.

    Just because it uses the same Beryllium material as the Utopia, don't expect the same resolve. I'd say the detailing is similar level as the Elex, and sig is closer to it with that lower-mids hump warming up the sound (a bit warmer than I prefer, but it is what is expected from being closed). The warmth masks mids articulation. I think that hump is result of being closed, the reverberations from the closed design (you will hear the warmth reverb inside the closed cups, so don't expect closed miracle). Treble is smoother, and definitely much better than Elegia, but the price is too high at this performance as I thought with the Elegia. I'd rather just go with Clear open-back for fraction of the cost.

    Being closed, don't expect open-back sound stage, there will be that limited stage of close-back response.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2019
    QueueCumber likes this.
  7. QueueCumber
    You hit the nail on the head. I only listened briefly last night, but so far not overly impressed (In fact, I’m a bit disappointed with the performance to price). Switching back and forth with the HD820, I feel the HD820 has its flaws, but it manages to sound more authentic to me in terms of timbre, spacing, clarity/presence, and staging. HD820 has that annoying split for me between low bass and mid-bass (it impacts precise localization of instruments that run across thise ranges), but what can you do...
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2019
    robo24 likes this.
  8. mixman
    No, I have to disagree. The Stellia has more resolve than the Clear. It is closer to the Utopia than Clear as far as clarity and detail. The Elex does not have accurate resolve, it is an Elear for all practical purposes. The Clear is a great HP, but it is not a Stellia or Utopia and not meant to be.
  9. bidn
    Hi mixman and SilverEars,

    maybe both of you are right, as this may depend on the different kinds of music being listened to :) , see below.

    BTW my Stellia has now 250 hours of burn-in (and I usually listen at low levels).
    Like for the Elegia, burn-in has a stronger effect and is more important for the Stellia than for their open siblings,
    due to the higher stiffness of the suspension of the driver for these closed-back models.
    I mean, it is even more important to make sure that they have enough burn-in, as they do improve a lot with burn-in.

    For me the Stellia, like the Utopia, is faster than the Clear,
    and then for superfast and complex metal (melodeath, power, black, etc.) the pure beryllium driver of Stellia will keep better (vs the Clear) pace with the extreme speed, complexity and aggressive dynamics of the instruments and voices, outresolving the Clear with such metal subgenres. This would rejoin mixman.
    When achieving to represent all of this complexity, it misses however something compared to the open Utopia, some "air" (I don't know how to explain this). I mean while it can depict everything happening, at the same times this may betray that there is some space missing, which I don't feel with less demanding musical genres (I am surprised to find the soundstage feeling instead quite fine for genres like dark ambient, for which I find soundstage to be very important).

    For other (less intense) musical genres than these extreme metal subgenres ,things may be different, and then the open design of the Clear may give the edge in resolution to its lesser aluminium-magnesium driver.This would rejoin SilverEars and Jude.

    In any case the Stellia does not resolve as much as the Utopia, and does not feel as having so much "ease".
    I prefer the general tonality and also the bass of the Stellia to that of the Utopia.
    So going from the Utopia you may loose some things but you gain others...
    Despite these differences the Stellia feel akin to the Utopia.
    They are both different excellent headphones for me, if I had to keep a single headphone, it may still be the Utopia, but it would be very difficult for me to prefer one over the other, I like them almost as much.
    However I don't feel hesitant in preferring the Stellia to the Clear.

    BTW, according to Focal the Elegia as a closed-back version of the Clear (thus not of the Elear),
    (see https://blog.son-video.com/en/2018/...charge-de-projet-et-developpement-chez-focal/)
    but I think with more compromises compared to the Stellia (like when the compromises re. the Elear, compared to the Utopia).
    I agree with those who see the "distance" between the Elegia and the Stellia as much larger than the distance between the Clear and the Utopia.

    A few more thoughts:
    - I think the Stellia should appeal to those who didn't like the Utopia because of its tonality, because of its resolution (which was too much for some), because they felt it was too "demanding", too intense.
    - the change of connectors (on the headphone and on the cable) has the advantage of lowering the price
    (the Utopia's Lemo's connectors being very expensive)
    - Focal has developed a robotized production starting with the Elegia (https://blog.son-video.com/en/2018/...charge-de-projet-et-developpement-chez-focal/ ), I assume they would have done the same for the Stellia, this would help in lowering the cost compared to the open-back siblings (the more so considering the luxury packaging for the Stellia and its cables!).
    - it seems to me that with the Stellia, Focal has done in the world of closed-back headphones at least at much a breakthrough as they did in the world of open-back headphones with the Utopia.

    Have anice weekend,
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
    XERO1, noplsestar, zolkis and 9 others like this.
  10. xxx1313

    Sorry to quote only two of your additional thoughts, but I believe this is the essence what to say about the Stellia and so I wanted to highlight these two of your thoughts. You found the best words, this is exactly what I feel too.
    bidn and teknorob23 like this.
  11. teknorob23
    100% agree :)
    bidn and xxx1313 like this.
  12. DarginMahkum
    The reason Utopia felt too aggressive/close up for me was the too forward mids/upper mids. The forward mids are also with Stellia there, but the sharpness is not. My experience with Utopia is from 1 year ago, so it might be that my preferences and/or hearing changed by hitting the age of 40.
    wje and xxx1313 like this.
  13. up late
    the stellia's treble sounded attenuated compared to the utopia to my ears. i can understand some folks welcoming that change in tuning.
  14. SilverEars
    It is definitely smoothed a bit. I hear the smoothed out metallic sounds on the instruments. Also, the imaging isn't as good due to being closed with sounds not being as separated, and lacking depth in the sound being closed-back.

    It sounded a bit warmer with an earlier setup I've tried, but I decided to try out a different amp I know doesn't bring out the warmth with headphones, and does improve the sound of the Stellia. With this amp, the bass is tight and hits hard, but I wouldn't say it's a resolving bass. I still notice a bit of reduced mids articulation. Overall, it still has the reduced clarity of being closed-back, you hear it in the mids.

    So, all in all, it's technically a lower level than the Focal Clear. I will have to disagree with @bidn

    Odd thing with these is brain burn-in isn't work all that well, the sound gets less clear sounding as I listen at more extended time.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2019
  15. zolkis
    The very first impression about the Stellia was pretty good, which makes it the first Focal headphone at this, including the Utopia.
    I will have a more proper listening session, but here are some first impressions:
    - the build quality, pads quality, design is among the best at any price point;
    - the sound is quite much better IMHO than the Elegia I listened to just before it;
    - sounds acceptable from portable player;
    - the Utopia is technically better (somewhat higher resolution, even more clean & clear in the whole spectrum, but it's more technical and requires careful and expensive setup to sound its best, whereas the Stellia is more universal);
    - the sound is warmer than other Focals, dynamic, clear, with good and relatively large sound stage
    - I heard a dry metallic character in the sound that I want to investigate more, akin to what I heard with the Sony Z1R, Utopia, Clear etc, but it's perhaps not so bad, the warmer sound definitely helps the brain deal with it (but might bother me with time);
    - otherwise no major complaints: no overblown bass, no missing mids, no honkiness, no resonances that I can tell right away, no piercing highs;
    - when paired with warm & soft & smooth sounding gear it could be quite musical,
    - but I guess the sound will still fit certain genres better than others.
    This headphone might divide people, but probably not as much as the HD820, I think it's a more universal headphone.
    It is definitely a contender for the best closed headphone title, but at this price it better should be.

    As for me, I see no major threat to the Denon D9200 (or to the modded D7200) - which are my current references for musical sounding closed heaphones -, but the Stellia might appeal to more people, and probably I would pick it over the HD820. I hope to be able to improve or correct these impressions in a short while.
    Very nice headphones.
    XERO1 and noplsestar like this.
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