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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. PaganDL

    Hi @Admiral Kolchak,

    Apologies for being late to the conversation but here are some general tips for looking after leather :

    Preferably before using anything with leather, said leather should be coated in in a protective wax, the more beeswax said protective wax contains the better as beeswax is among the best nautral sealants one can apply to leather as this protects said leather from sweat, water, dirt, oil, grime, etc, even dust to some degree, or at least makes dust easier to wipe off with a protective wax coat.
    Before or after having a protective coat applied to leather, using a damp, lint free cloth or paper towel to wipe down the leather makes sure the surface leather is clean so you don't seal in any contaminants.
    Dettol or Kirkland baby wipes also work well for keeping leather clean before & after being sealed by protective wax though it is important to note to not to apply too much pressure when using said wipes as even the light alcohol base in those wipes can potentially damage the leather.
    The same goes for any soap, liquid soap especially though as long as it has low or no alkaline, the better it will work for cleaning...
    Applying gentle heat (low heat from a hairdryer or heat gun 10 cm from leather surface) does help seal in protective wax & generally makes it last longer.

    Leather usually blackens due to being unprotected &/or untreated by said protective wax though it is important to note, applying protective wax to leather will darken it slightly as it gets soaked in but leather will usually return to or close to its original colour.
    It is possible to 'restore' the Stellia's original colour to some degree though it may already be too late given it wasn't protected prior but doesn't hurt to try, by using a 'natural' based leather conditioner, as long as it doesn't have any petrol based chemicals.
    As stated above, low or no alkaline soap also helps clean the leather, especially before using any leather conditioner though I would caution against using anything classed as leather cleaner as that generally strips away the surface leather.

    Hope this all makes sense & works for you, feel free to ask me more if you need.

    Hope you have a great day !
    Admiral Kolchak and teknorob23 like this.
  2. Admiral Kolchak
    Pagan, it is very kind of you to share so much information. I think it is going to leave quite a few Stellia owners feeling better about the long-term state of their HPs...

    I browsed alternatives at Amazon and got to this one:
    Apparently it is beeswax-based. It will darken the leather but that's inevitable. Sounds about right?
    Thanks again! :ok_hand::muscle:
  3. flarex3
    Does stellia worth + 2100 over Elegia. Because they look very similar, what about the sound?
  4. Beagle
    Some prefer the Elegia over the Stellia. Matter of taste and signature preference.
  5. subguy812
    My Stellias are certainly improving with age. They are a wonderful piece of equipment. Like many others, my initial reaction was, "Is this what 3K sounds like"? I wasn't impressed. It becomes about your expectations and your tolerances. What I mean is, if the Elegia sounds good to you compared to the Stellias, save the money. If I heard the Stellias first and then Elegia second I would have to decide, if I only wanted one, if the extra money is worth it. It is the audio rabbit hole. I went straight for the TOTL to save me the problem. If I could find something with the same signature for half of the price, of course I would save the money, but no one has introduced me to that.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2019
    GreenBow and kid vic like this.
  6. PaganDL

    No problem, @Admiral Kolchak, happy to help.

    Otter has a good rep as far as I am aware, it is on my list to try though it's not easy to get where I am so can't say for sure but I believe should be more than fine & as stated, nothing wrong with leather being darkened a little by a good protector as personally I rather it do so with wax rather than anything else.

    One thing I forgot to mention in general about leather wax is don't be afraid to put a slightly thicker coat till the leather surface feels tacky to touch, that feeling should last a while as it slowly gets absorbed by the leather over time.
    It's also a good way to tell when you need to reapply said wax.
    A good coating should last an average six to eight months conservatively, depending on usage, of course, definitely longer if you don't use a protected leather item everyday.

    Hope the otter wax works out well for you.

    Hope you have a great day !
    Admiral Kolchak likes this.
  7. teknorob23
    i had the elegia first and swapping back an fourth with stellias I initially preferred the fuller more natural tone of the elegia, but the extra detail and dynamism of the stellias was instantly noticeable and addictive. Cut a long story, the swapping back and fourth pretty quickly stopped and with 200hrs+ run in the stellias bested every aspect of the elegia including tonal balance, although this last point is highly subjective as it’s probably more a case of I got used to the different tone as part of the stellias better overall package rather than it being “better”. Value for money is also highly subjective, but for me even though the stellias are, to use an arbitrary measurement % , but, say 10-15% , for me that is worth the extra cost, because my partnering equipment can make the most of the additional performance. If I was planning to use the headphones as portable solution only then I would stick with the elegia. In reality I’m lucky enough to be able to do just that, use the elegia for travel and stellia for home. Having slightly more disposable income or at least credit is one of the very few benefits of getting old :wink:

    As usual there’s no definitive answer on vfm but looking af them in pure performance terms the stellia are imo better in every area.
    Admiral Kolchak likes this.
  8. up late
    i've posted this in the elegia thread but it's rare for me to put on a headphone and want to take it off almost immediately, but that was my reaction to the elegia. my experience with the stellia couldn't have been more different. it immediately felt and sounded "right" (for me). i'd have no qualms paying considerably more money for it.
  9. GreenBow
    I am still in pretty early stages of running my Stellia in.

    I am still totally confused about what I think of them. On one hand they can sound gorgeous. On the other hand, comparing them to my AKG N5005 leaves them sounding low par for now. I now lots of folk have told me they need running in. There is also brain burn-in, and getting used to the signature.

    In direct comparison with my N5005:
    • the N5005 have more bass, but I think they do almost trace the Harman curve. Meaning a slightly elevated bass.
    • N5005 have a fuller sound, but that could be due to Stellia being more detailed.
    Stellia have:
    • more detail on sounds
    • probably more accurate timbre

    It's very easy for me to do direct A-B comparison between Stellia and N5005. Chord DACs have more than one headphone output, and I can have three headphones attached with TT2. (Two with Hugo 2.)

    Soundstage so far still quite small with the Stellia, although probably a bit bigger than the N5005 (IEMs). IEMS naturally have a smaller soundstage, compared to full size headphones anyway. (Oddly some reviewers say the Stellia soundstage is small, but some say it's reasonably large.) However I always felt my N5005 soundstage was good-generous, given what they say about IEM soundstage. It means the Stellia soundstage is so far liveable with. Or at least with the Stellia, there is enough separation and not much in the way of congestion. Some music can be a bit congested and that's how it is. (I'd need a Chord M-Scaler (or Chord DAVE) to decongest music further. TT2 is exceptional on its own though.)

    What the Stellia do over the AKG N5005 though is sound more open. However any full-size headphone would sound like that anyway. Just how it is. The openness allows the Stellia to shine somewhat though.

    At first I said the Stellia were barely better than my N5005. Now I would say they have maybe twice the fidelity of the N5005. The Stellia seem to need to fill out more in the bass though. (Then sometimes they sound right, in the bass.) Initially I thought the bass was already full, but it's not. What I think so far is that the Stellia can sound trebly, without airiness. That might be down to either Stellia needing to fill out on the bass, or the treble to refine further: or both. I seem to remember that running in even some budget Grado headphones years ago, meant the treble refined. Coarseness that I heard initially, smoothed out.

    For reference, I have another quality TT2 representation to compare Stellia to. We can actually run speakers directly from the TT2. It means no need for an amplifier and interconnect. Since we lose quality across those anyway, driving speakers direct with TT2 produces incredible results.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2019
  10. GreenBow
    Did you audition a fully run in pair? Or do you mean you liked the Stellia straight away, even new from the box.
  11. up late
    both the elegia and stellia were store demo models
  12. BiggieBig
    Your right the bass on the N5005 is gorgeous but my stellia fully burnt in I would say have a very open and plentifully bass signature
    give then 200+ hours.

    You rind me of myself keep :) comparing and regretting your decision.
    I would suggest forget about the comparison use your Stelia for 2 weeks let then have at least 200hrs + once the signature is established then do your comparison.
  13. GreenBow
    Actually I feel no regret over my decision. It's more about fear that the Stellia will not burn in as much as I would like. Or the way I would like. Like e.g. I am not sure I could solidly say I have heard the speed that beryllium is known for. Although this morning I thought I noticed it the moment I started with the Stellia.

    I have experienced burn-in with equipment before, but it's a long time ago. I can't remember the range of the change.

    I do prefer the Stellia over the N5005 on my TT2, beyond any doubt. There is no question my so far run-in Stellia can sound .........…. gorgeous ......…. on good recordings.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2019
  14. teknorob23
    interesting early impressions and I have to admit you’ve made me curious to try the Akg’s! Re the soundstage, I have found the stellias are pretty transparent to the components in the chain behind them. The chord DACs have bags of detail, still perfectly separated but focused within a relatively small natural staging. If I add in the euforia in front I get an instant increase in depth, but the amp has similar width to the hugo. I’ve recently picked up a fostex hpv1 portable tube amp which is surprisingly good for the money and has a noticeably wider stage, as does the ibasso dx220 with amp4. All these amps present in different widths all of which are conveyed pretty faithfully by the stellias. Since owning the stellias I’ve sorted out all my interconnects, power leads and mains conditioning. The Stellia has proved a great window the sonic effects of each these tweaks, not all of which have been successful. This the sort of performance I’ve only experienced with 10k+ speakers. For this reason I’m not surprised different stellia owners report different widths and they’re probably all equally valid.

    I hope things keep improving :)
  15. GreenBow
    Actually I think you make a good point about the Stellia reflecting tweaks. I have recognised that recording quality is instantly noticeable. They are becoming really quite revealing too.

    With reference to the AKG N5005, I think as always it depends on the source DAC. I find they have perfect synergy with the Hugo 2. Although I very occasionally feel they could use a touch more treble air. With the TT2 I think they need a bit of treble air just a little more often. (The TT2 is just more dynamic and detailed.) The Focal Stellia show me what a slightly more open treble sounds like with these DACs.

    I'm actually making the N5005 sound a bit dull sounding, but that's not the case. It's more that it's close to the Harman curve. Which means a little elevated in the bass, with the reference filters. Making it absolutely superb for gadgets like my Sony ZX300 DAP. Also I use the N5005 with the Hugo 2 a lot; like for hours. (Now I will use Stellia of course.)

    However the N5005 come with a set of filters, incl. bass boost, reference, mid high boost, and high boost. It means I can swap in some treble air and leave those filters on if I want to. It has to be noted that even using the high boost filters with the N5005 does not make them bright. It simply returns the open type of sound, or brings them a forward a little.

    I have linked the HiFi+ review of the N5005, so can see them say that, and that it's commendable. Paragraph four on this page. https://www.hifiplus.com/articles/akg-n5005-earphones/?page=2

    (Scary though when someone thinks about buying kit you recommend. As there is always the chance they won't like it. If you can find a discount price though, it's a slam dunk.)
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2019
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