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

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stellia arrives tomorrow. I guess I should try out the denon
 
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teknorob23

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Out of what is your
stellia arrives tomorrow. I guess I should try out the denon
I spent a week with the denon 9200s demo’ing them vs the elegia. I preferred the more natural sound and dynamics of the focal. There’s no doubt the denon are accomplished pair of HPs and it would be interesting to AB with my stellias.
 
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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.
while i understand that some folks would want to pair the utopia with the "best" ancillary gear that they can buy, i don't think that it demands it. the utopia sounds great out of an iphone to my ears. its versatility in that regard is a strength imo. the stellia's 35 ohms impedance, closed-back design, shorter cable option and carry case makes it the obvious choice for portable use.
 
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while i understand that some folks would want to pair the utopia with the "best" ancillary gear that they can buy, i don't think that it demands it. the utopia sounds great out of an iphone to my ears. its versatility in that regard is a strength imo. the stellia's 35 ohms impedance, closed-back design, shorter cable option and carry case makes it the obvious choice for portable use.
I think the Utopia is far from great out of an iphone or any phone for that matter (even the LG’s with the Quad HiFi DAC, which I have). It is great in relative terms, sure, but why spend 4k on a pair of flagship headphones and drive them with a phone?

The Utopia needs very good gear to be able to give its maximum. Even the cable makes a big difference, not to mention the DAC and amplifier.
 
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I think the Utopia is far from great out of an iphone or any phone for that matter (even the LG’s with the Quad HiFi DAC, which I have). It is great in relative terms, sure, but why spend 4k on a pair of flagship headphones and drive them with a phone?

The Utopia needs very good gear to be able to give its maximum. Even the cable makes a big difference, not to mention the DAC and amplifier.
well i think that it does sound great out of an iphone, but i'm not advocating that people should pair their expensive utopia's with an iphone and nothing else. all i'm saying is that the utopia does not require to be paired with expensive ancillary gear in order to sound excellent ime. the only caveat i'd add is that i would avoid pairing it with amplifiers that have a high output impedance as they may alter its tonal balance.

if you believe that the utopia needs premium cables, dacs and amps in order to perform optimally, then that is your prerogative.
 
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wje

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well i think that it does sound great out of an iphone, but i'm not advocating that people should pair their expensive utopia's with an iphone and nothing else. all i'm saying is that the utopia does not require to be paired with expensive ancillary gear in order to sound excellent ime. the only caveat i'd add is that i would avoid pairing it with amplifiers that have a high output impedance as they may alter its tonal balance.

if you believe that the utopia needs premium cables, dacs and amps in order to perform optimally, then that is your prerogative.
After having the Focal Elear, Elex, Elegia and Utopias, I can appreciate how easy the Focal headphones are to drive. After not using the Hifiman HE-560 for a month, I plugged them in today for a listen. I couldn't believe how much further I had to turn up my Massdrop LCX to sufficiently drive them. There was still room on the dial, but still a bit above the 9 O'clock position where I'm able to capably drive the Focal headphones. Just 5 years ago, most headphones demanded quite a bit of juice and many of us had to spend $600+ for an amp sufficient to drive most headphones. Now, thanks to many vendors, the offerings have gotten more powerful and the prices lower. Even the gem of the $99 Monoprice Liquid Spark (Alex Cavalli designed) is capable of putting a smile on your face for a good listening session.

Enjoy the music!
 
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while i understand that some folks would want to pair the utopia with the "best" ancillary gear that they can buy, i don't think that it demands it. the utopia sounds great out of an iphone to my ears.
Which is why I used these words: "requires careful and expensive setup to sound its best, whereas the Stellia is more universal" in the sense that it might provide its best out of more systems than the Utopia.
FWIW I don't perceive the Utopia sound good from any portable player (DAP or phone), but it's good/lucky if someone finds it great out of a phone (nevertheless, obviously not from the last few generations of iPhones which don't actually have a headphone out :wink: ).
 
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zolkis

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Out of what is your


I spent a week with the denon 9200s demo’ing them vs the elegia. I preferred the more natural sound and dynamics of the focal. There’s no doubt the denon are accomplished pair of HPs and it would be interesting to AB with my stellias.
Then I need to give another chance to the Elegia... what was upstream (amp, source, genre)?
 
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Which is why I used these words: "requires careful and expensive setup to sound its best, whereas the Stellia is more universal" in the sense that it might provide its best out of more systems than the Utopia.
FWIW I don't perceive the Utopia sound good from any portable player (DAP or phone), but it's good/lucky if someone finds it great out of a phone (nevertheless, obviously not from the last few generations of iPhones which don't actually have a headphone out :wink: ).
but couldn't that also be said of the stellia? for example, the stellia sounds great out of the [insert portable dap of your choice here] but it really scales when you connect it to the [insert your choice of high-end dac, turntable, cd and amp here].

i have an iphone 5, which does have a headphone jack and i was surprised by just how good the utopia sounded with it. i appreciate that the utopia can impress even when it's plugged into my iphone, but i'm not suggesting for a moment that i couldn't do better. however, i'm not as certain as you appear to be that it requires careful matching with expensive ancillary gear in order for "it to sound its best".

thanks anyway for posting your impressions of the stellia, which were quite positive.
 
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but couldn't that also be said of the stellia? for example, the stellia sounds great out of the [insert portable dap of your choice here] but it really scales when you connect it to [insert your choice of high-end dac, turntable, cd and amp here].

i have an iphone 5, which does have a headphone jack and i was pleasantly surprised by how good the utopia sounded with it to my ears, but i'm not suggesting for a moment that you couldn't do better. that said, i'm not as certain as you appear to be that it requires careful matching with expensive ancillary gear in order for it to sound its "best".

thanks anyway for posting your impressions of the stellia, which were quite positive.
My initial listening with both Stellia and Elegia, was listening directly to the Hugo2 as bassline setup attached by USB to an Auralic Aries Dual Femto Streamer, as its been a constant in both my 2 channel and headfi listening for getting on for 2 years. I appreciate thats a fairly scaled up position to start from, but most of my headfi listening is done at home which is also my office.

The Stellia, which for the record are on about 110hrs burn in, sounds great on the H2, but i have recently had my head turned by Feliks Audio Euforia tube amp which when placed the front of the chain, deals with my only criticism of the the Hugo2 which is the slighly overly dryness of its headphone amp stage. The Euforia, adds body, texture, with a bit more width (but still realistic) and holographic depth to the H2. Apart from that it lets all the good stuff, of which there is an abundance, through from the H2.... All of which, to get back on topic, the Stellia are more than capable of taking advantage of.

I have however spent the last 2 hours while i've been working this morning with the Stellia hooked up via Dragon fly red to my iphoneX and even directly (for a few tunes) via the apple supplied dac/dongle. And i've got to say they scales down quite well :wink:

Seriously though, yes the Apple dac will drive them no probs, but the level detail, weight, seperation and pretty much every other area of performance is significantly and expectedly worse. With the addtion of the DF red in front of the iphone however, the performance is pretty good. Yes theres not the detail, texture or liquidity of the H2, but DF red has a really nice analogue sound and dynamism thats completely infectious. This combo for me really suits the Stellia and i wouldnt be worried about having it as set up while i'm away, but given that i have the H2/ Feliks combo to hand by my work computer, which really allow the stellias to stretch their legs thats how i'll do most of my listening.

None of these observation come as any sort of surprise, other than to remind what good musical dac the dragon fiy red is :)
 
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i've avoided "upgrading" my iphones since apple did away with the built-in headphone jack :wink:
 
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i've avoided "upgrading" my iphones since apple did away with the built-in headphone jack :wink:
good idea the new iphone set up is an audio obscenity :wink:
 
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My initial listening with both Stellia and Elegia, was listening directly to the Hugo2 as bassline setup attached by USB to an Auralic Aries Dual Femto Streamer, as its been a constant in both my 2 channel and headfi listening for getting on for 2 years. I appreciate thats a fairly scaled up position to start from, but most of my headfi listening is done at home which is also my office.

The Stellia, which for the record are on about 110hrs burn in, sounds great on the H2, but i have recently had my head turned by Feliks Audio Euforia tube amp which when placed the front of the chain, deals with my only criticism of the the Hugo2 which is the slighly overly dryness of its headphone amp stage. The Euforia, adds body, texture, with a bit more width (but still realistic) and holographic depth to the H2. Apart from that it lets all the good stuff, of which there is an abundance, through from the H2.... All of which, to get back on topic, the Stellia are more than capable of taking advantage of.

I have however spent the last 2 hours while i've been working this morning with the Stellia hooked up via Dragon fly red to my iphoneX and even directly (for a few tunes) via the apple supplied dac/dongle. And i've got to say they scales down quite well :wink:

Seriously though, yes the Apple dac will drive them no probs, but the level detail, weight, seperation and pretty much every other area of performance is significantly and expectedly worse. With the addtion of the DF red in front of the iphone however, the performance is pretty good. Yes theres not the detail, texture or liquidity of the H2, but DF red has a really nice analogue sound and dynamism thats completely infectious. This combo for me really suits the Stellia and i wouldnt be worried about having it as set up while i'm away, but given that i have the H2/ Feliks combo to hand by my work computer, which really allow the stellias to stretch their legs thats how i'll do most of my listening.

None of these observation come as any sort of surprise, other than to remind what good musical dac the dragon fiy red is :)
The best sound out of Stellia so far I got was out of a tube amp with an incisive (dry, as you would put it) DAC fed to it. When I feed this DAC in, the tube amp gets more precise (in terms of clarity and detailing) sounding. I was getting more low-level details with it, and the mids was less warm, not as unclear. The imaging and separation has improved a bit as well, but still not to the level of an open-back (which I really don't expect, you're not getting that dynamic peak as you would with an open-back).

So, it's a pretty good performing for a closed-back if you get a setup that pushes out more detailing not as warm sounding that reduces mids clarity. I have doubts that a portable setup would get the best out of this headphone. For those that need closed-backs, this maybe an option, but it's also quite pricey (and for performance I find quite pricey as the sound isn't that impressive), but I will stick to open-backs for my usage, as there is obvious technical advantage you hear if you compare closed and open.
 
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