Focal Stellia Closed-Back Headphones - Official Thread

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#101

In terms of tuning, are there any comparables in the Focal high-end lineup?

I’ve read several impressions saying that they are not as analytical as the Utopia (I personally don’t find the Utopia to be too bright) but from reading the impressions I still don’t have a clear idea of what the sound is really like. The conclusion I’ve come to is basically a warmer Utopia.

We won’t have ours here until the end of the week or next Monday now so the anticipation is building at ridiculous levels right now in the office.

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#102

The Stellia have a less linear, but more powerful, bottom end than the Utopia, and the sub-bass presence and dynamics are the best of whole overall line-up. I don’t find the Utopia bright, either, but the Stellia are bit more restrained in the lower treble all the same, but a little more aggressive with cymbals. So looking at them as a slightly-warmer, or stouter/more substantial, version of the Utopia isn’t far off the mark:

Interestingly, while they don’t sound quite as open as the Utopia, they don’t sound closed-in at all either. And with the little testing I’ve done in this area so far, seem to project a wider stage than the flagship too. There’s even some depth apparent, though it manifests as curving outwards, away from the listener, as you get further from center. This needs more listening/testing though …

They have a faster, more precise, and impactful delivery than both the Elegia and Clear and out resolve both of those cans as well (detail). The Stellia also greater low-end punch and energy than the Clear and the Elegia:

Here’s the same plot, but with an experimental flat headphone compensation applied:

Timbre is much like the Utopia, but with a bit more substance to full-bodied instruments (e.g. Timpani/Kettle Drum, Double Bass, Contra/Bassoon), as one might expect from the more emphatic bass performance.


I’ve got enough time on them to say they’re keepers (as you know already …), and I feel reasonably confident in saying I think they deserve their place as the penultimate model in the Focal line-up.

I can also see some people flat out preferring these to the Utopia regardless of them being closed-back. And, much like the Elegia, they don’t suffer as much from being closed-back as most other headphones seem to.

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#103

Thanks @Torq that was a great walk through. You made it real clear and a pleasure to follow. I feel like I have a better understanding regarding these headphones now, at least in regards to each other. The charts really help put things onto context.

It looks like Focal have another winner on its hands. They can do little wrong at the minute. At least where over ear headphones are concerned.

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#104

I’ve got the Stellia and Denon 9200 here today. should be interesting to compare

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#105

The Stellia have finally arrived! Real quick thoughts as they have been out of the box for about five minutes.

They have the heaviest packaging of all the Focal Headphones. The leather casing it comes in is very premium but definitely adds weight (I believe shipping weight for these is 10 pounds while the rest of thee line-up hovers between 7-8). The unboxing experiencee is a step-up on the Clear for sure and while it doesn’t have the grandiose case that the Utopia has, I would say the Stellia packaging is still better.

They are lighter than I imagined. On the head they feel very similar to the Elegia with a little bit of extra heft but with the leather used on the headband and ear pads the comfort to weight makes the difference negligible. The Utopia is actually a fairly light headphone until you put the monstrous 4 metre cable on them and luckily with the Stellia, you get some reasonable cables. I could see a lot of people wanting some more length out of the 3.5mm connector cable though. Luckily since it uses the 3.5mm headphone connectors the cable is easy to replace.

The headphones themselves are extremely comfortable. Easily the most comfortable out of the Focal line-up.

Sound-wise I am currently running them through the Interstellar soundtrack and I am only on “Cornfield Chase” so I will have sound impressions later on today. They are currently being fed through the iFi Audio Micro iDSD Black Label as the SPL Phonitor X has moved from my work desk to a more permanent listening location in the office.

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#106

sigh-here-we-go-again

Go on…

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#107

Today actually ended up being much busier than I expected and I didn’t get the listening time that I quite wanted. I will say though that the isolation on these is very nice. @andrew is currently with an office guest with the Sopra 3s playing some Radiohead and I can’t hear a thing which means they could become a permanent fixture in the office.

I did get a chance to walk down the streets of Vancouver with them as well and I used my iPhone 7 Plus with the Apple Lightning Dongle for that walk. I definitely have to do more listening to confirm but it felt like that combo brought the bass down to a similar level as the Elegia. However, it could have very well have been because I was wearing sunglasses so I was not getting a full pad seal. I’ll do some dongle and glasses / no glasses testing this weekend.

As far as music, I’ve been running them through the gauntlet. Hanz Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Raman Djwadi, LeBrock, The Midnight, Goo Goo Dolls, Mumford and Sons (particularly Picture You from their new album Delta) , Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Nine Inch Nails, alt-J, Joy Division, Seven Lions, Alice in Chains, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Logic, Witt Lowry, NF, Childish Gambino, The Scorpions, Less Than Jake, Barenaked Ladies, Smashing Pumpkins, Our Lady Peace, Metallica, Passion Pit and more have all been part of the listening. They seem to handle most genres very well so far and tonally are very pleasing.

I hate to say it but these will probably be replacing my Elegia without too much thought. The only issue of course is that they stand out a little more than Elegia. But who knows, maybe a certain writer will see me on Vancouver transit and I can get featured in a review!

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#108

I think I need to see them in person to actually appreciate the aesthetic…

Also, good mix of artists in there!! You should check out Travis Barker’s album “What about the drummer” I think that is what it is called…

Edit:https://www.discogs.com/Travis-Barker-Give-The-Drummer-Some/master/326197

I’m on a Vinyl records buying binge as of late

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#109

The low end on the Stellia seems lacking to me. Maybe it’s because I’m trying out the Denon 9200 right now, too, but I would say the low end seems light on the Stellia.

Maybe I’m just weird, but I’m not wowed by the Stellia at all.

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#110

Stellia’s bass is elevated above perceptual-neutral. The Denon cans typically have their bass elevated way above that. That’s really “Denon’s thing”. So, based on one’s preferences, either the Stellia will have too little bass for you, or the Denon’s will have too much.

Stellia is not a bass-head can, though it’s a bit warmer than the rest of the Focal line - but generally Focal are going for something more neutral and accurate, where as the Denons and other derivatives on the same architecture are bass-heavy, V-shaped and “fun”.

For me the Denon and Fostex cans, which typically share a common lineage, are almost always too bass-heavy for me to use as a general-use can and wind up getting relegated to specific genres and moods.

If you know what signature you prefer, and how you’re going to use a given headphone, it’s a lot easier to pick models that will generally appeal on a similar level - and then sort them out from there.

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#111

Here’s a comparison of the response profile for the Focal Stellia, Denon D9200 and just for fun, the Fostex TR-X00 (Ebony) (the TR-X00 is just a TH-X00 with removable cables).

Some points in the plot have the D9200 as much as 7dB higher in bass level than the Stellia, and are clearly significantly elevated through the sub-bass too, which gives the Denon’s a lot of their ability to rumble and the perception of hitting hard (I find the Focal drivers do dynamics/impact better than almost anything else, but higher levels at a given frequency will also elicit a similar perception, which is what you get with the Denon).

The treble is also clearly elevated vs. the Focal’s, sometimes by an even larger margin than the bottom-end. And then the mids take a bit of a back-seat. Which yields that “fun” V-shaped signature.

Both have their place, just a question of what floats your personal boat.

Note that the D9200 plot here should be taken with a modest pinch of salt as while it was done on the same type of equipment, and at the same calibration point, it was done by a friend of mine on his units, so there may be minor differences in the details vs. what I would get if I measured them myself (which I’ll get to at some point). The basic profile/shape and levels of the plot should still be useful for basic signature comparison, however.

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#112

I’m coming from Noble K10 and Katana ciems. I’ve used them at work for the past 5 years. I got the K10 (which definitely has more low end) in 2014, but I’ve been listening to the Katana for basically the past year, so I’m used to a more neutral tuning. I’m also constantly surprised at the soundstage from the Katana, considering it’s an in-ear.

Now I want to move from IEMs to closed back (needs to be closed back because it’s for work)

I tried the hd-820s, elegia, aeon flow closed, lcd-xc, sony z1, and a beyer model at audio 46 and liked the 820s, but I couldn’t get a good seal, so sound leaked everywhere. z1s were a quick no. elegia seemed too closed in and the aeon flow seemed too thin. the audeze was fun, but man those things are heavy (and i’d probably never hear the end of it if I had something that big at work). I later tried the ath-l5000 and those things have an amazing soundstage and everything sounds great except they fall off a cliff down low and have no bass. So I want a closed back, but I can’t find one that gives me an upgrade over what I already have and doesn’t leak sound.

So I was psyched for the Stellia when it was announced. A closed back Utopia? Upgrade over the Elegia? Sign me up! I was also curious about the denon 9200 since I haven’t seen too many reviews of those and had heard that they weren’t as v shaped as the 7200s

Anyway, the Stellia arrived, and the first track I always put on with new headphones is Whipping Post from the hi res copy of At Fillmore East. I’m not a bass head, but there’s a lot going on there and how loud Berry Oakley is in the mix gives a good idea about the low end from headphones as well as how it fits in in relation to everyone else. There was definitely more bass than the ath-l5000, but I don’t know if it’s much more than my Katana. Everything else sounded good, but, after listening to the Katana for a year, which is supposed to be fairly neutral, nothing is jumping out at me.

I listened to more (24 bit: Avett Brothers, Springsteen, Damien Rice, Daft Punk, Beck, Counting Crows, Dire Straits, Pearl Jam, Gary Clark Jr, Jason Isbell, Miles Davis, Mingus, Maceo Parker, Neil Young, as well as 16 bit lossless from more like Bon Iver, God Street Wine, Brad Mehldau, The Black Crowes, etc) and it sounded good, but nothing said “wow, ditch those Katanas and keep these.”

The 9200s arrived yesterday. I put on Whipping Post first again, and, yeah, Berry is louder. And TIGHT. It was very apparent that the 9200s are much more v-shaped than the Stellia. I listened to many of the same tracks and compared the two side by side. The Denons are definitely boosted in the low end, but that low end is very tight. The boosted highs are noticeable, though not necessarily to the point of being too much. You can definitely tell it the most on live tracks where the already compressed croud is tinny anyway, but the 9200 amplifies this.

So they are very different headphones, with the 9200 definitely being v shaped and “fun”, while the Stellia is much more neutral (and bass light in comparison). The big thing for me is that I have read so much about the clarity and detail I’m supposed to be hearing with the Stellia, and I just don’t hear more detail than what my Katana already gives me. So Stellia really isn’t doing anything for me. Is it just me? Am I expecting too much out of a closed back headphone coming from a flagship ciem?

In other news, both the people to my left and right could hear what I was listening to with the Stellia, but they couldn’t hear when I had the denons on. So the Stellia have some leakage.

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#113

In general I would not expect a full-size headphone to resolve more detail than a high-end IEM. Maybe high-end electrostatics can pull that off, but I wouldn’t bet on that, either. I haven’t heard anything that renders more detail than the tia Fourté, for example, despite owning a decent collection of flagship cans.

The extra isolation you get with IEMs, custom ones especially, also makes it easier to hear what such high-resolution transducers can resolve.

The better Denon’s, and the Fostex stuff, are known for solid, punchy, tight, controlled but pretty heavily elevated bass. Unless you start playing around with things like the higher-end Audeze or JPS-Labs cans, I’m not sure where else you find that (and they’re not really bass-elevated either … but they do the other traits better than almost anything else). But then you’re out of the realm of closed-back cans there anyway.

The Stellia are vented and will almost certainly leak more sound than a fully-closed back design (they do leak less than the Elegia, more than the AFC). I haven’t done isolation measurements on the Denon, so I don’t know how they compare in specific terms there.

It may well just be that, for your preferences and needs, you already have the best option(s) available.

That last statement is something anyone looking for an upgrade, or a change, should consider. Just because there are other, perhaps more expensive or supposedly “higher-end” or “better” cans (or DACs or amps) out there, doesn’t mean that they’ll be regarded as such by everyone.

Sometimes “upgrades” are just expensive ways to trade excellence in one trait for the same in another. And just because more expensive or “technically better” options exist, doesn’t mean they’ll be something everyone regards as an upgrade or as being better.

That said, while you may already have read it, there’s a nice review of some TOTL closed-backs here.

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#114

I know these feels, I attribute it usually to brain break in though. I have the LCD-X in for preview, and was expecting to be wowed by them…and they are technically very good, I think I over hyped myself for them…which never ends well.

I have had the Elegia on my head for multiple hours every day of the week since they released, and now I’ve become accustomed to the sound signature.

So a trick I’ve been using, is to dedicate my listening time to only the new headphones for a couple of days, then go back to the headphones I’m accustomed to for comparison.

Also, @Torq said it best, in the post above about how someone may like or dislike a thing, it is all subjective, and you shouldn’t listen to people who talk in absolute statements, as they will be hearing things differently than you, due to a mix of factors from genetic/location/environment/source material/equipment/mood/etc

At the end of the day do what makes you (and your ears) happy.

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#115


@Torq

I think I see you there partying on the balcony!! lol…

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#116

Can you use the same cables as mdr-z1r with stelliia?

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#117

Not the OEM ones.

The cables that come with the MDR-Z1R have connectors that are too fat to fit into the recessed sockets on the Stellia. And the cables for the Stellia do not engage firmly enough in the MZD-Z1R (since the Z1R uses TRS connectors and the Stellia use TR connectors, there’s one less point of engagement).

Third party ones might fair better.

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#118

I use Periapt cables, but they have a gap in the socket, which might be problematic for some…I just try and be careful with them.

Oops responded to wrong poster… @emrei that was intended for you.

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#119

The girlie insisted we were down at street level. Which was fun in the French Quarter, but not necessarily sane elsewhere!

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#120

I’ve been playing around with my headphone compensation curve for the miniDSP EARS some more, and I think I’m getting close to having it dialed in as well as I’m going to be able to in the pursuit of reaching perceptual neutrality.

I need to run some more headphones through it for which there are other good, known, measurements to settle on the bass levels and the area around 9kHz, which I might get to today, since those are a bit more variable with what I’ve seen playing with so far.

I’ve included the RAW plot (mic-calibration only), the HEQ calibration and my custom one - above calibrated for 84dB @ 300Hz and below for 84dB @ 1kHz:

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