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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. noplsestar
    QueueCumber and teknorob23 like this.
  2. Harphy
    Had Stellia for over a week, quite impressed for a closed back so far. The only comparison is with HD800, Stellia has much better details and clarity as well as tonal balance. I couldn’t believe I have been missing so much with HD800 for years. It still has much smaller sound stage than HD800, which should be expected given sound stage is what HD800 is known for. I am happy with the purchase and it should complement HD800 very well.
    bidn likes this.
  3. QueueCumber
    The differences in detail he mentions in the comparison are very noticeable to me. I decided to return the Stellias. To my ears the music doesn’t sound as authentic on them in comparison. Not to say the 820 is stellar compared to some open backs I own, but if I’m going to reach for a closed back set (out of necessity so my GF doesn’t complain), I’m inclined to pick up the 820 because it just sounds more real to my ears.

    I’m also annoyed that the Stella comes with a short cable on the terminal type I use most frequently in bed. They should have included two long cables instead of only a long balanced cable.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
  4. noplsestar
    I also tested them side by side. For me it´s no contest, the Stellia wins hands down. HD820 might have an airier feeling, that helps with a bigger stage, but IMO its treble is too forward, the mids are strangely messed up and there is too less bass. To me it doesn't sound natural at all. And I am coming from a neutral tuned IEM (Prophile 8) Of course my negative impressions might have been because of the poor isolation (why do they build a closed back when they cannot manage to get a proper seal?) I mean, I really tried hard, and I am not the only one having problems with the seal. Besides that they are really comfy. But so is the Stellia.
    Automata likes this.
  5. zolkis
    It probably also depends on the amp, player, media and source material, plus preferences.
    I do think the HD820 competes with the Stellia in more areas than the price difference would suggest, yet I'd say the Stellia is slightly better overall, but YMMV.
    Sound stage might be the most important aspect for some (as long as the rest is bearable), for others it's the bass impact of the music they love, for others it's the midrange richness with no hint of hardness, no treble spike or glare, and so on. All of these people would clearly consider one of the headphones is better and would defend the choice.
    noplsestar likes this.
  6. teknorob23
    I have to say having given the HD820s a lengthy demo when i bought my elegia, i'm surprised to even see them in the same conversation as the Stellia because i agree 100% the HD820, just dont sound right. Ignoring preferences for their signature, i also found mids and treble didnt coherently link up. They dont sound like a finished product which is very surprising for Sennheiser. Anyway i had to pick a cable up from my local shop yesterday, so having read so much positive stuff about the HD820s, i was questioning whether i'd given them a proper go and demo'd them for 90 mins with exactly the same set up as have at home. The Feliks Euforia tube amp makes the best of every headphone i've plugged into it and i had previously just tested the HD820 straight out of my Hugo2. Anyway with H2 and Euforia power them they did sound better than last time, but that mid-top section still sound wrong. The upper treble is extended but the lower treble isnt and the upper mids sound recessed.. this doesnt make sense to read and makes even less sense to hear. I didnt have my stellia's with me so i AB'd with Ether Flow Cs which i know quite well in comparison to the stellia. Yes Senn's have more detail but the C's are just right with a nice neutral, but coherent and musical sound. For my ears the HD820's sound like a un-finished product in development, which i can only assume are only being given the time of day because of who they're made by both in terms of consumer brand loyalty and reviewers valuing the ad-revenue.

    I'm sorry id if sound so aggro about this and i really dont mean to offend Hd820 owners, but its not often a piece of hi-fi genuinely annoys me, but i feel like Sennheiser are gaslighting me and other consumers, by combining a their reputation with a high price tag and just telling me i have a tin ear for not appreciating them... i real first world problem, i know and i probably shouldnt let this bug me so much, but thank you its been cathartic to let it out.

    On a more positive note, i soothed my ears afterward for an hour with the Empyreans, which are the best headphone that i have heard of any type, just draw-dropping and a shame i'm not in the market for an open back.

    I'll get back in my box now :wink:
    Automata and bidn like this.
  7. QueueCumber
    Only major issue I’ve had with the 820 is a bit of a disconnect between lower bass and mid bass in localization, which shows up most prominently on the lowest notes of the guitar especially during chord arpeggios with open notes on the low strings. This dip in the FR actually shows up on the FR chart they sent me with the headset. But the detail/clarity/presence/soundstage are next level for me compared to the Stellia. I haven’t had the ear seal issues fortunately.

    I really wanted the Stellia to be an alternative to the 820s for me. I’m just not hearing what other folks seem to be hearing with my Stellias. Utopia OTOH does sound great to me, albeit lacking in soundstage. I was hoping for that level of clarity/presence/detail on the Stellia. For me, when I’m not listening in an overly analytical left-brain way, the Utopia presents a realistic three-dimensional image front to back, like the Susvara and SR-009S, but is compressed right-to-left due to the compressed soundstage. The instruments sound real, albeit they’re located too close together. On the Stellia they don’t sound real to me compared to the Utopia and the 820. The suspension of disbelief falls apart moreso than with the 820 and Utopia to my ears. Of course, Susvara and 009S take that experience of real-ness up several notches compared to the 820. What can you do... :frowning2:
    zolkis and teknorob23 like this.
  8. JohnnyCakes
    (test music: R+R=NOW - "Collagically Speaking" via Tidal Masters)

    the Utopia, to me, sounds noticeably better than the Stellia. and perhaps should for its price premium. on the Utopia, everything seems more relaxed and it is easier to play louder. you know how on some headphones, you want the music to be louder, so you turn it up, but for some reason the itch isn't scratched? that happens a lot with me and the Stellia. i'm always searching for a better volume level. perhaps because the vocals are so recessed. the dynamics are great but the balance is not so much.

    whereas turning the Utopia volume up always satisfies. such a balanced presentation. when you turn the volume up, the instruments and vocals equally get louder. in contrast, when i turn up the Stellia, it seems the noise increases but not necessarily the music.

    hard to explain. i'll stop now.:grin:

    edit: this is not to say i don't love the Stellia very much. i do and i'm happy to own both. the warmer sound signature and deeper bass make it a great compliment to the Utopia. overall tho, gun to head, i'm taking Utopia. but since there is no gun to my head, i look forward to many years of owning both of these. :beyersmile:
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
    guitardave, bidn and noplsestar like this.
  9. Automata
    I actually prefer the Stellia over the Utopia. The bass just so much better on the Stellia instead of Utopia. As an Utopia owner I got annoyed by the treble of the Utopia (too bright to my ear.) That said, the warmth and the well placed vocal of the Stellia really caught my ear. Not saying the Utopia is not as good as the Stellia, just to myself preference to the Stellia over the Utopia.

    Also another reason is Stellia is way easier to drive compared to Utopia. On my WM1Z the Stellia sounds more open compared to the Utopia at same volume. The Stellia have higher sensitivity and lower impedance compared to the Utopia which make it more sensitive to background noise as well. That’s why it require an amp with better control and low noise floor compare to the Utopia.

    Just my 2 cents. I love them both in different way of their sound performance. The Stellia is more convenience for travel and daily use purpose due to its isolation.

    PS: My Utopia and Stellia both changed their stock cable to Kimber Axios CU. The microphonic of the Stellia stock cable really annoys me...
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
    bidn likes this.
  10. JohnnyCakes
    ^^^ all that makes perfect sense.
  11. noplsestar
    Do you have Axios with single end? If so, what differences in sound did you detect when compared to the stock SE cable of the Stellia? And what about microphonics? Are they better than stock in that regard?
    At least they have a color match :wink:
  12. Automata
    The Utopia I use single end connect to my Dave. But with the Stellia I had terminated to 4.4 balanced to my Sony players. I would say after swapping the cable the bass sounds a bit better and vocal and treble are smoother but overall not a huge different. The stock cable is good enough if you don’t mind the microphonic effect on it. As the main improvement after I swap to axios is removing the microphonic effect.
    noplsestar likes this.
  13. Beagle
    Probably depends also on whether or not you can get a proper fit. I couldn't.
  14. moemoney
    I feel the same way about my Sony Z1Rs & my HEK v2. The HEKs I struggle to get the volume just right it seems like No matter how loud I turn them up I can’t find the right volume, whereas, the Sony’s you can just set it and forget.
  15. JohnnyCakes
    pls don’t take my reply as disrespect...... but the Sony Z1R is one of the most disappointing headphones i’ve ever listened to. a tad worse than the Audeze EL-8. both companies i respect but i felt really fell short with those offerings.
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