Focal Stellia Closed-Back Headphones - Official Thread

Great review with great photography once again. Nice job @Resolve.

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Great review. I enjoyed reading your comparisons most of all, even though I only have the Clear’s. I do love the Clear’s and don’t think I will be trading those in any time soon but even still, I was debating on getting the Empyrean’s or the Stellia’s. I ultimately just decided to purchase the Empyrean’s but may still end up with the Stellia’s one day.

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Thanks @Resolve for that great review. Do you in the meantime know why your unit has a bit more midbass than the unit @Torq has measured? Or is the variance only seen on the graphs? It would be interesting to see when Torq also measures your unit, what differences there really are.

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Ya I’d be interested in that as well.

At the moment I think the most likely reason is that there is some slight variance in the units. This is the case with other Focal headphones as well, where the shape is generally the same, but off by a few dB in some places. Not something to worry about really, especially if you EQ anyway. The other possibility is that my test environment isn’t as good as Torq’s. I’ve literally just got it sat on a desk, where as he has his more carefully set up to eliminate vibration and whatnot. But my other measurements tend to line up more closely with his, so I’m leaning on the side of it being variation between units.

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One of my favorites!

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Here are my first impressions of the Stellia:

Overall the Stellia has a perfectly balanced sound and is very suitable for long listening sessions. For me, a very little bit more subbass would have been fine, and in return a tiny bit less high mids. There are some tracks where the “s” and “sh” sounds of the singers are too pronounced. If I had a DAP with good EQ (like the new LPGT), then that would be achieved in no time, although of course I prefer to use no EQ, if it can be avoided.

Which I’m not really satisfied, is the sound attenuation from the outside (this has made my old Oppo PM3 better as well as the CA Cascade). Also, the Stellia loses a lot of sound to the outside and disturbs, especially when listening to louder volumes, the people in the same room. In my opinion, therefore, the term “closed-back” is not right. It should be called “Semi-Open” or “semi-closed” for my sake. But “semi” - something does not sell well I guess :wink:

The earpads themselves are incredibly soft and adapt well to the shape of the head. Even with glasses (at least for me) no problem and no bass loss, which I very much welcome. Nevertheless, it would of course be fine if the headphone had been a bit light weightier. On the other hand, this is hardly possible to produce without giving up high-quality materials. Since I prefer to do without cheap plastic I´d rather take the weight into account. But if Focal still finds lighter quality materials, I do not mind.

The cable is ok. When the music runs, you can hear no more cable noise. It is just too thick and inflexible, but at least high quality. I would have liked, for the price of the Stellia, an additional cable with 2.5 balanced, on which one could put on a 4.4 adapter. Of course, if Focal had managed to add even lighter and more flexible cables than those that shipped them by default, that would have been fine.

All in all, I could have done without the luxurious packaging, and would have liked to have better cables, see above.

The case is great because where the cable is, my DAP fits in!

The Stellia is more than enough to drive with my Calyx M. The processing of the Stellia is great! It is the first “closedback” - cough cough - headphone that is not foldable, which I have considered. In fact, I will use it every day as I walk through the city. So far, I’ve heard with the InEar ProPhile8, the Stellia is an upgrade in every way, but not, as mentioned, in terms of isolation.

All in all, however, a 1A product.

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Great. Very nice impressions.

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After being “on the road” with the Stellia for a few days, I feel that somehow I’ve got the reverse problem of @Resolve, in that I am losing too much bass frequencies with all the traffic going on as well as underground etc. So what did I do? I cranked up the volume a bit so that the bass was back again to my linking. Then there were two problems: First, I annoyed the others in the bus etc. because the leakage was too much and secondly the mids were too much for me now.
When listening at home the sound is perfect, but alas on the go, it is not. Then I thought about stacking (because its the low priced alternative in getting a new TOTL DAP like the LPGT that has a good enough digital EQ). So I researched a bit and found two options: The new ifi X-Can that has a good price but maybe not TOTL sound quality (I don’t know … does anybody know?), the other one that is the more pricey one is the VorzAMP Duo II. Both units have got a “bass switch” that I would use for on the go. Has someone heard the VorzAMP Duo II? The reviews suggest that the EQ is analog and very nicely done (without bleeding into the mids … at least the +3 db switch). It´s about 700-800 Dollars, that’s really not nothing, but it is way less than buying a new DAP, because for the time being I am still quite happy with my Calyx M DAP. So I´d rather invest into a portable amp and maybe in 2 years get a flagship DAP used for a bit more reasonable price. What do you guys think? Good idea?

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In regards to isolation for headphones, I think there are a lot of bad assumptions/beliefs and/or misunderstandings about what’s possible.

For one, passive headphones will always be better at keeping sound in, than in shutting it out. For another, the amount of effective possible attenuation of external sound for over-the-ear designs tops out at about 10 dB. And that number is for hearing protection devices, which are specifically designed to shut out noise. Headphones will invariably be lower.

You can read more about it here. It’s relevant to all headphones, not just the Stellia. And it rapidly becomes a case of “right tool for the job” if you want it to be effective.

In regards to how much sound headphones keep-in, and the Stellia in particular, they’re a bit better in this regard than the Elegia, but, in the most relevant region (1 kHz to about 6 kHz) are as much as 12 dB “leakier” than, say, the non-vented (as far as I’m aware) AEON Flow Closed:

I’m a bit surprised that in an environment as noisy as any bus I’ve ever been on (typically about 90 dB in motion) that anyone can hear any sound coming from the Stellia unless they’re being run at levels I’d consider unwise (if not actually unsafe) and/or they’re sitting inappropriately close. If they are, they are, but I’m still surprised by that.


As to using an additional amplifier with some level of bass-control, I find it hard to imagine that the on/off nature of such things is going to justify the cost …

And the Calyx M does not, as I recall, have a proper line-out - which means you’d be amping its amplifier output. This is less than ideal. You’re probably better served with a new DAP around the same price as the amplifiers you’re looking at … $7-800 today would get you a DAP that beats out the Calyx M in terms of sound quality and features AND that includes a proper, high-quality, EQ capability (with both parametric and graphic configuration options), lower noise and more powerful output.

At the end of the day, its down to what you’re happy with. For me, that means “right tool for the job” which pretty much precludes using any passive headphone in anything but the quietest of public settings.

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Thanks for your response. I already saw your measurement and can confirm that. Those 12db that are “leakier” than some other closed backs are those 12db that kind of matter for me. Maybe the busses in my hometown are quieter than others hahaha. Also my family told me that they hear the music, they didn’t complain when I heard with the same loudness with my PM3s.

Which DAP would you suggest? I don’t care about android/wifi/bluetooth etc. I don’t even care about battery life. I care about sound. That’s why I still stick to the Calyx M, which by many is considered on par with TOTL daps like the new Cayin N8 and LPGT. I compared the Calyx with the AK380 and found the SQ of the AK inferior, also the new Cowon L flagship can’t compete IMO. But I didn’t try the new SP1000 daps (which are too expensive of course). Anyways, I´d like to try 7-800 $ DAPs and if they are better than my DAP then I am all in :slight_smile:

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I should have said “$7-800” DAPs that I think sound better than the Calyx M, since different people obviously have different preferences and put different priorities on various technicalities.

I preferred the A&K SR15 and both the Sony ZX300 and WM1A (would have to be used to come in at the stated price) over the Calyx M. Both offer balanced output, as well, which the Stellia is fully able to take advantage of. I found the mid-range on the Calyx M to be a bit unsettled when there was a lot going on and the overall presentation to be “hyper-detailed” (in an “oversharpened” way, rather than “an actual resolution” way). Not that it was bad, it just didn’t work for me.

I’ve not heard the Lotoo Paw Gold Touch, but I do have the Cayin N8 here … and while I’d need it side-by-side with the Calyx M to be sure, and only have about 8 hours listening to it now (with whatever caveats about burn-in you want to apply/assume), its as good as, or better than, several units that I have heard in direct comparison to the Calyx unit and all of which were, for me, better than the M. So there’s a bit of triangulation in there.

I wasn’t an A&K 380 fan either. Haven’t heard the Cowon L.

As ever, I’d recommend trying before buying as preferences, priorities and synergy are all important factors. But I still don’t think adding an amp to get a 3 dB (or other fixed value) bass boost is going to get you what you want.

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Thanks @Torq. I will definitely try to listen to the recommended DAPs!
Maybe I should have mentioned that my M is hw modded. But anyways, you’re probably right that it’s not the wisest to pair it with a portable amp, because it also has no line out (except I succeed in getting a used one for 300 bucks or so).
The search goes on for the perfect synergy with the Stellia. Meanwhile though I‘ll listen to some good tunes :wink:

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Well, it’s been a month, or more, longer than I intended, but I finally finished my full review of the Focal Stellia. Not that it should contain any surprises for anyone that’s been following this thread!

This review will likely mark the last I do that’s so long. My plan is to focus on the sound, essentials and final verdict in future reviews, with references back to the official product threads, and the manufacturer’s site, to flesh out the non-subjective details (design, technology, etc.), and more immediate, and stream-of-conciousness/episodic impressions.

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@andrew took a pair of Stellias with us on our trip to France to visit Focal last week so obviously I had to get some pictures of it around Lyon. This is over-looking the Rhône river on the way into the centre of Lyon where all the expensive shops are located.

The Stellias look has definitely grown on me completely and I still think the leather pads on them is one of the comfiest pairs of pads out there. If they didn’t change the sound so much of the other headphones I would throw them on all the pairs, even the Utopia. They feel like luxury sitting on your head.

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I should be receiving my pair of Stellia’s soon, thanks to Taron & Andrew!. My pair seems to be well traveled and I can’t wait to hear them for a longer duration of time after I first listened to them at the meet. Will report back soon hopefully!

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That’s great to hear! I’m also in the same SHIP I should also be receiving my stellia soon! I can’t wait to give them a listen as I really enjoyed listening to them at the meet. I’d also like to thank Taron and Andrew as well! I can’t wait for my pair to arrive I’m excited!

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Grover Neville‘s take on the Stellia seems to be in line with all the other impressions:

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congrats to @Panohm and @Ship !! Aren’t you glad I told you about this event and made your wallet a lot less heavy? :slight_smile:

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Heavy wallets, they plague us all!! Down with the heavy wallets!!! Down I say!!!

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Definitely. Gotta drop all that weight and get a healthy posture back. Doing good healthy life choices.

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