Focal Stellia Review, Measurements, Interview - Head-Fi TV
Aug 24, 2021 at 2:45 PM Post #3,586 of 3,981

NCUS

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On a similar note, I had a bass clipping issue with my Focal Elears. Focal replaced the drivers under warranty (the service through my local dealer was great), and no issues have arisen since.

The Radiance I previously owned and the Stellia I currently own have exhibited NO issues with clipping on bass-heavy content.

That said, everything I’ve read from Focal owners seems to indicate that either 1) initial driver design of the Elear/Elex/Clear was more bass-sensitive/extreme excursion-sensitive over time, but it has been fixed since and most issues have been handled under warranty OR 2) this is an ongoing issue affecting parts of their product line.

While this is the first time I’ve seen someone note clipping issues with Utopia, I am a recent Stellia owner and have not been frequenting Stellia/Utopia forum threads until now.

Overall, though, I’d be cautious about using bass-heavy (especially if boosted further via EQ or similar) at high volumes with Elegia/Elear/Elex/Clear/Radiance (all Mg-Al drivers)- and perhaps Stellia/Utopia (Be drivers) as well.

Mind you, we are talking A LOT of bass at HIGH volumes, so I see these as edge cases personally and am not really concerned.

Last but not least I am in no way associated with Focal and the above is anecdotal knowledge… feel free to disagree.
Is "clipping" the same thing as woofers bottoming out in loudspeakers? If so, that much excursion so close to your ears can't be good for anyone trying to maintain healthy hearing.
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 3:01 PM Post #3,587 of 3,981

ufospls2

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On a similar note, I had a bass clipping issue with my Focal Elears. Focal replaced the drivers under warranty (the service through my local dealer was great), and no issues have arisen since.

The Radiance I previously owned and the Stellia I currently own have exhibited NO issues with clipping on bass-heavy content.

That said, everything I’ve read from Focal owners seems to indicate that either 1) initial driver design of the Elear/Elex/Clear was more bass-sensitive/extreme excursion-sensitive over time, but it has been fixed since and most issues have been handled under warranty OR 2) this is an ongoing issue affecting parts of their product line.

While this is the first time I’ve seen someone note clipping issues with Utopia, I am a recent Stellia owner and have not been frequenting Stellia/Utopia forum threads until now.

Overall, though, I’d be cautious about using bass-heavy (especially if boosted further via EQ or similar) at high volumes with Elegia/Elear/Elex/Clear/Radiance (all Mg-Al drivers)- and perhaps Stellia/Utopia (Be drivers) as well.

Mind you, we are talking A LOT of bass at HIGH volumes, so I see these as edge cases personally and am not really concerned.

Last but not least I am in no way associated with Focal and the above is anecdotal knowledge… feel free to disagree.
Great perspective, thanks for sharing your experience mate :)

I agree entirely, and I haven't personally tried a 2020 or perhaps 2021 model, and they may be entirely different. I just worry that I will purchase, and then experience similar issues, as it was said to be a feature by Focal. Its that leap of faith that has held me back from owning another Focal headphone, and I seriously considered the Celestee.

The thing is, the Utopia is a great headphone and its strengths are strong, though as with most, if not all headphones, it has weaknesses too.
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 3:03 PM Post #3,588 of 3,981

ufospls2

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Is "clipping" the same thing as woofers bottoming out in loudspeakers? If so, that much excursion so close to your ears can't be good for anyone trying to maintain healthy hearing.

No, it happens before X-Max, and was said to be a feature to protect the drivers. It sounds different from bottoming out, which usually manifests as a mix of clipping and distortion, vs the CRACK of the focal drivers. I've never experienced anything similar with other Dynamic driver headphones, such as ZMF etc...
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 3:54 PM Post #3,589 of 3,981

AudioDuck

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No, it happens before X-Max, and was said to be a feature to protect the drivers. It sounds different from bottoming out, which usually manifests as a mix of clipping and distortion, vs the CRACK of the focal drivers. I've never experienced anything similar with other Dynamic driver headphones, such as ZMF etc...
Correct, and my experience with the Focal Al-Mg driver failure/clipping issue was that very low bass notes (even at moderate/healthy volumes) would distort heavily and sound like static/a crunching sound for those lower frequencies. This happened only in one driver/side, but Focal replaced both to ensure matching.

I could also have sworn the overall SQ improved when I got them back. Another Focal owner noted the same on a Head-Fi forum thread, and we both wondered if the new drivers were Clear drivers rather than Elear drivers, as Elear had been discontinued in the meantime.

Anyway, I’ve also not run into a similar problem with any other brand’s headphones. But then again, I am quite confident that it won’t arise again with my refreshed Elear or Stellia.
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 5:43 PM Post #3,590 of 3,981

deafenears

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The Radiance I previously owned and the Stellia I currently own have exhibited NO issues with clipping on bass-heavy content.
It's because, as been said before here and probably in other threads, the Focal closed-backs can take advantage of a bass reflex configuration/system with the little vent/port like with some speakers to reduce driver excursion. With that, they use a shorter coil so less likely to run into the clipping issues as seen with Focal's open-backs.
 
Aug 25, 2021 at 11:48 PM Post #3,591 of 3,981

AudioDuck

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It's because, as been said before here and probably in other threads, the Focal closed-backs can take advantage of a bass reflex configuration/system with the little vent/port like with some speakers to reduce driver excursion. With that, they use a shorter coil so less likely to run into the clipping issues as seen with Focal's open-backs.
Thank you, and apologies for missing those prior references. This makes perfect sense, and matches what I’ve seen online (here, mostly) that Clears and Elears have had driver issues, while closed-back headphones have not.

That makes me MUCH more comfortable with the future of my Stellia- thanks again!
 
Aug 30, 2021 at 5:32 AM Post #3,593 of 3,981

walakalulu

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Been fiddling with the Manley settings and the Stellias. Find they sound better when driven balanced push pull-or single ended with jack plug. Pleased I have the option as it does make a difference.
 
Aug 30, 2021 at 6:36 AM Post #3,594 of 3,981

Dodgerowl

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I purchased my Stellias about a month ago and read this entire thread recently. I've been using the Focal Elears and Elegia for quite a while and hadn't kept up much with some of the newer products available. The Stellias are a game changer. I can't wait to get time in the evenings to listen to them after work. I think I use my headphones the opposite of most people. I actually use Clear OGs at work, as I listen at pretty low volumes and I like to be able to hear someone when they come into my office. I still generally remove my headphones for conversations, but sometimes someone is just telling me they are off to lunch, so it's nice not have to remove them for 2 second conversation.

The Stellias get time on my home system when I can have more focused listening time. I already had a great DAC in the Gumby MB, but with the ability to hear so much more detail, I've also added an RME ADI-2 DAC fs and Chord Qutest. My primary amp is a Violectric V281. As I went through the thread I noticed a number of other people use the same amp, it has a fantastic synergy with the Stellia. I also picked up a Monolith THX AAA 887 Balanced to see what all the fuss is about, and while it's a very "clear" sounding amp it doesn't hold a candle to the V281. The Stellia are very revealing of your upstream equipment.

A few takeaways from reading the entire thread (hopefully I cover the highlights pretty well if you want to save yourself 236 pages of reading):

1) Focal headphones need break-in / burn-in time. I also recently purchased the Clear and Radiance as well and they all definitely need some time to sound their best. It's quite noticeable out of the box. I believe it's mentioned in the manual as well. This goes away pretty quickly with some burn in / listening time.

2) Seal is very important. I wear glasses and notice just by the sound signature if I have forgotten to pull the arms of my glasses up. I place them on top of the cups as some others have mentioned doing in the thread. It's not ideal, so I've ordered some new glasses that I think will work better and hopefully not interfere with the seal. If they work as I expect them to I'll report back to the thread with the specifics. I think we will see varying opions on this topic because of various headshape and glasses and how much they break the seal.

3) I'm a new owner and opinions seem divided on treating the leather or not. I elected to treat mine. I used the Collonil 1909 Supreme Leather Cream (multi-color) mentioned earlier in the thread. Color change was minimal to none. It did seem to "fill in" a bit some areas where the leather seemed to have been a little rougher. I guess I'll know in a year or so how they hold up. I plan to continue to treat them regularly. I had a Corbin leather seat on my Harley, and those left untreated will absolutely dry out and crack over time if not properly cleaned and treated. I also regularly clean and protect my other leather goods, so put me in the camp who thinks properly caring for leather is the way to go. I seriously doubt I will ever sell these headphones though, so resale isn't a big concern for me. If I were buying used I would look for ones that had been treated reguarly with something other than sweat, but I totally respect anyone's opinion to go with "natural" seasoning if they choose to do so.

4) Cables - my factory cables are still in the box. I am currently using a Meze with 4.4 mm termination going to an adapter to XLR balanced. I have an Arctic Signum cable on order with a balanced XLR termination that will be my primary cable. I can't wait to hear it. My Elears sounded awful with the factory cable. I changed it almost immediately to the basic Arctic Cable they used to sell on Ebay, and noticed a huge improvement, so I can't wait to see what the Signum does for the Stellias.

5) The Stellias are very revealing of your upstream equipment. When I read the thread and saw complaints about the sound, the following questions immediately popped into my mind, #1 (burn-in) and #2 (seal) above, and wondering what equipment is being used, primarily the DAC, and Amp (and sometimes cables). If your DAC or Amp aren't up to par you are going to hear it with the Stellias. More forgiving headphones may not have highlighted equipment issues. It could also be a lack of synergy with the particular equipment. I would look at trying different source equipment before writing off the Stellias as the problem if you aren't loving them (most of us are!). It's easy for me to hear the differences between my 3 DACs and while the Stellias still sound great with my other amps, they are best with my Violectric V281. I have a Lyr 3 on the way so I'll look forward to hearing it soon. I have a Lyr 2 now and I didn't realize how bad it was until I got the Stellias. The Lyr 2 sounds pretty good with my HD800, but the Stellias really show the lack of detail retrieval as compared to my solid state amps. Down the road I may look at a higher end tube amp, but being really happy with the V281 I don't feel the need to spend a ton of money tube rolling. With the Lyr 3 tube rolling will consist of only changing a single tube, but I can't speak to the synergy yet since it's in the mail on it's way to me.

6) Opinions of the Dekoni Limited Edition pads on the Stellias are generally not favorable. I purchased them and agree with this assessment, I plan to try them on some of my other Focals though, and might find they work well with something else.

These headphones have me exploring all kinds of new music that I hadn't listed to before, some of which I've picked up from reading this or other threads.

My goto test track for years for any headphones is Steven Wilson's "Luminol" from The Raven That Refused to Sing. There is so much going on in this track and it transitions through a number of variations and instruments. I can get a read on any piece of audio equipment pretty quickly listening to just this track, with the exception of female vocals.

Some others I recommend:

Rebecca Pidgeon's "The Raven" (I guess I have a "Raven" theme going here)
Dave Brubek's - Time Out
Metrik - Ex Machina
Mezzanine - Massive Attack
Sierra Eagleson - "In The Air Tonight" cover as well as some other tracks
Diana Krall - Turn Up The Quiet
Infected Mushroom - I just started listening to this band, so I don't have specific album or track recommendations yet.
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light (show's off the "speed" of the Stellias)
Dave Brubeck / The Dave Brubeck Quartet - "Unsquare Dance"
Nils Lofgren - Bass and Drum Intro
Yosi Horikawa - "Bubbles" on the album Wandering - Do yourself a favor and listen to these on the Stellias if you haven't.

I could go on forever because I really haven't found anything that doesn't sound great on the Stellias with the exception of poorly recorded albums, but some of the above were some nice "discoveries" that I've really enjoyed on these headphones.

Thanks to all the contributors on this thread, it's been really helpful as I start my journey with the Stellias!




Wow.....that Yosi Horikawa track. The experience with the Stellias is fantastic. Thanks
 
Sep 3, 2021 at 9:05 AM Post #3,595 of 3,981

BowWazoo

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Does anyone know, if you can get the drivers as spare parts, and how expensive they are?
 
Sep 3, 2021 at 9:17 AM Post #3,596 of 3,981

fiascogarcia

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Does anyone know, if you can get the drivers as spare parts, and how expensive they are?
Doubtful. With the toxicity of handling beryllium, you can probably only have drivers replaced by Focal. They don't want users dismantling the driver assembly due to the risk.
 
Sep 3, 2021 at 9:55 AM Post #3,597 of 3,981

BowWazoo

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Could someone inquire at US sales? I still have no answer from German Focal sales
 
Sep 3, 2021 at 10:46 AM Post #3,598 of 3,981

BowWazoo

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...
 
Sep 5, 2021 at 4:53 AM Post #3,599 of 3,981

BowWazoo

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Do you have any idea why Oratory did not correct this dip?

Screenshot_20210905-070445_Gallery.jpg
 
Sep 6, 2021 at 3:01 AM Post #3,600 of 3,981

BowWazoo

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Does anyone have a photo of the Stellia's driver?
I would be interested if I can install it directly into the elegia
 

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