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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. subguy812
    I received the Arctic Cables UPOCC High-End Cable 8-wire terminated in 2.5mm. I almost went with the 4-wire because I was concerned about the ergonmics, which is why I wanted to replace the stock cable. For an 8-wire I am impressed with the ergonomics, flexible and without a mind of it's own like the stock cable. The cable is well built and appears to be high quality. Thus far, happy with the purchase.

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    adcustom likes this.
  2. walakalulu
    I’ve just picked up my Stellias. Looking for a combined dac/amp and wondered if they sound better via balanced output than single ended? which reduces the choice a bit.
    Misson07 likes this.
  3. adcustom
    What range are you looking? The don’t have to go nuts to get the Stellia sounding superb, a Mojo can certainly do the trick well. As far as SE vs Balanced goes, like anything, it depends on the DAC/amp. Personally, I don’t feel as though balanced is needed for Stellia, but if you were getting something like an Arche, you “might as well” use the included XLR cable.
  4. teknorob23
    What’s your budget? The stellia will give you a good return on every extra penny you spend. In my experience Hugo2 is an awesome pairing. The mojo is very good and the dragon fly cobalt is adequate. If you really want to hurt your credit card a chord dac with Feliks euphoria tube amp or similar in front of it still has the hairs on my neck standing up after 6 months....a slippery slope :wink:
    adcustom likes this.
  5. walakalulu
    I was thinking of the Arche and it sounded fine at the recent Canjam but no reviews of it so far.....
  6. adcustom
    I did a little “impressions” video of it. Happy to answer any questions.
    teknorob23 likes this.
  7. walakalulu
    My main rig is Stax 009S with a KGGG amp but I bought the Stellias at the Canjam mainly for dipping into Tidal now and again so another tubed amp isn’t on the cards for occasional listening. Chord has always seemed a bit bleached sound wise to me but I could be persuaded if the Hugo 2 is a synergistic combo. Then there’s the Sennheiser too as well as the Arche. I’m using the Dragonfly Cobalt as a temporary solution until I make up my mind. There’s also a matter of a streamer too.....
  8. walakalulu
    Yes I saw that thanks and you do seem generally happy whilst commenting that the ‘options’ seemed a waste of time with voltage being the best setting. Whilst it doesn’t have the best dac I can live with that if it brings out the best in the headphones. Musicality is more important than chasing numbers. Hope to hear one next month.
  9. adcustom
    Yep, voltage definitely sounds best for every headphone I’ve tried.
  10. GreenBow
    I don't know what you mean by Chord Electronics sounding bleached. I bought a Mojo, and while it took me the best part of two weeks to adjust to. It blew my mind eventually. I was still learning to listen to it for weeks, but then I got there. Que I bought a Hugo 2, then TT2, and then a Qutest. I would not be without any of them. I find Chord DACs to be rich to the right amount.

    I think people just don't give Chord long enough. Or like I was initially, I was longing to go back to my thick warm Meridian Explorer. However now I can't really cope with that DAC. If I don't have a Chord, something in the universe seems out of place.

    I do however have a theory as why Chord seem thinner to newcomers. Chord are bang on neutral, (although some say there is a roll off in the Mojo). On top of being neutral, Chord generally don't run intense power supplies. Think Naim power supplies, or quality LPSs. …. The only DAC Chord make that compensates totally for power supply, is the TT2. It has super-caps which hold charge. Then when louder passages of music demand, or peaks occur, charge is used from the supercaps. It means that the output voltage of the analogue signal is filled out in amplitude. (Without supercaps, you're going to just miss the top of some peaks I think. Any other brand DAC would have this too though.) While the Qutest, Mojo, and Hugo 2 don't have supercaps, they still do brilliantly. (Hugo 2 can draw drops of power from its battery if it's playing from power supply. To fill in peaks.) It does leave the TT2 sounding more dynamic though. ……. What is means in the end is, the signature you hear with Chord DACs, is really down to headphones alone.

    However what other DACs tend to do, is be reasonably accurate with off the shelf DAC chips. Then massage the sound. .... Meaning the output from an FPGA Chord is DAC is more accurate. (Or any other FPGA DAC like Nagra HD DAC.) There's no massaging of sound on a Chord DAC. You get the output from the DAC parts.

    It means that those extra micro details in Chord DACs make the soundstage way more holographic. That gives the impression of thinness, because there is real blank space sometimes between sounds. Chord DACs can also sound cold, initially until you get used to them. My Mojo initially did: I was like, "what"? Also, when bass notes have much more detail, they sound lighter or brighter on Chord. Eventually you realise that Chord DACs have just the right warmth, among other qualities. The bass is all there, and better, but like all of Chord's signatures, it takes time to adjust to. A lot more detail, always does. Chord get more detail, because they use many more taps to acquire a more accurate analogue sound wave.

    I know my Meridian Explorer and Mojo, are not on a par with some of the DACs folk here use. (I also have a Sony ZX300 DAP, and a Denon DAB tuner.) However it means I really can't be sure I am right, and hence why I say I have a theory. However using the Meridian Explorer vs Mojo, there really is no competition. The ME is a good DAC. Next to the Mojo though, and the ME falls apart. Yes it sounds thick, and full and warm, but it's not right that way. There are times when that fact proves itself. Like when you have some music you sort of like, but it sounds warm, cramped, and messy on the ME. Then you play it on Chord and, 'voila'.

    The main differences between ME and Mojo were: (sound stage observations mostly made using amplifier and speakers)
    ME soundstage was like a shallow height triangle with sides which were long and gradually sloping downwards. Most of the data was in the middle. From front to back it was shallow.

    With Mojo. Sounds are right to the side of the soundstage, were just as vivid as those in the centre. Soundstage was deep. Soundstage was also evenly wide, and sounds right across it, and into the upper corners too. Much more detail.

    I would sacrifice that thicker lushness of off the shelf chips DACs, any day. (To me they sound a bit bloomy.) Meaning I don't feel I am hearing the instruments in the right way. The Hugo 2/Qutest, virtually the same DAC, are head and shoulders over the Mojo. The Hugo 2 and Qutest, and Mojo, play like 'tornados and fire'. They makes sounds and detail at an astonishing rate. While being also capable of incredible emotive sound too. Although they don't quite have that dynamic shift of the TT2, which is another big step up. Plus you get more taps too with TT2, and that makes a big difference. (Hence the price.)

    I know someone will want to pick apart what I say. Plus I have never heard e.g. a Schitt. How can I really know then? … What I think is, if someone has given a Chord DAC, a good long listen, like weeks, and still want their other DAC, then fair enough. They do take time to adjust to though. Initially they sound metallic, awfully digital, and sort of bits of noise/splinters of sound, everywhere. …. You have to get used to where sounds are in the soundstage. Plus hear sounds as a whole, with acoustics. Then Chord DACs are full, colourful, rich, dynamic, and practically faultless. You know what you are getting is practically the best you can for the price, or technology. Since everyone around the world agrees that, (with a few minor exceptions), they can't all be wrong. Chord Electronics lead all DAC classes they enter.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2019
    Admiral Kolchak and jooonnn like this.
  11. adcustom
    Awesome info, GreenBow! Thanks for sharing all that.
  12. walakalulu
    Agreed. Must give Chord an extended listen.
  13. Admiral Kolchak
    Excellent explanation, many thanks for taking the time.
    Very happy owner of Hugo2 and Mojo here. Obviously H2 is way better, but Mojo is amazing for price/size. Did not like their looks but have to admit they've grown on me.
    Tonight I'm getting my Stellia, looking forward to hearing them on both!
    teknorob23 likes this.
  14. noplsestar
    I read an Arche review in a German Hifi magazine and they wrote that it‘s an absolute match with the Stellia. But alas I can’t find an online link.
  15. teknorob23
    I agree the h2 can sound a little dry, but the dac stage is near impossible to beat for the money and it’s amp actually suits/ off sets the slight warmth of the stellia pretty well. I use it as my daytime listen preferring it to my rme idac2, then at home i use it purely as a dac between my network player and FA euphoria. This wets the sound just a little but adds a whole lot of depth and texture with out losing any of the h2’s detail or focus. I didnt know this until after I bought the both the euforia and stellia, but from speaking to focal apparently they use the euforia at the factory. I can’t add much more to @GreenBow’s excellent summary of the chord DACs and if i has the cash the tt2 would be my choice although i do love the versatility of the h2 and it doesn’t leave me wanting for much in any of the ways i use it.

    My experience with the arche is limited to the Bristol show, a shop demo and then I had another listen at can jam too. It’s a beautifully made thing and I have or had a lot if time for micromega on the hifi front. I haven’t heard any of their new stuff apart from the arche since they were bought. I just found the arche very clean and linear, but ultimately nothing made me want to rush back and listen to again, or even begin to consider it as an alternative to the h2. Obvs as I’ve said my listening/demos were less than ideal.

    As for streamers, that’s whole another subject, I spent best part of a year auditioning, trying different set ups before being introduced to a Korean brand SOtM. never heard of but which simply blew me away and for a fraction of what I was about spend on an antipodes player. I run roon from their network renderer, sms200 ultra with is accompanying sps500 psu all served from a dedicated Roon roc NUC. It works seamlessly but more importantly sounds fantastic. But I’ll stop their before I drag us any further off topic :wink:
    Admiral Kolchak likes this.
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