Focal Stellia Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by purr1n, Jul 18, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Well, probably more measurements than a formal review. Quick impressions are that on a technical level, they are somewhere between the Clear and Utopia, closer to Utopia. The Stellia is a closed variant in Focal's line, above the Elegia reviewed here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/focal-elegia-review-and-measurements.8190/

    IMG_20200717_101035.jpg

    Personally, I prefer the Elegia from a tonal signature point of view, but the Stellia is massively better in terms of resolution, transient response, and just plain ol' liveliness and engagement. I didn't have as much time to tweak stuff as I wanted. As with any closed headphone (with the exception of properly executed Fostex T50RP mods), there's stuff that's a bit off and requires EQ to massage. The frequency response looks quite good though, but still.

    Focal Stellia
    Frequency Response
    EARS / SBAF compensation
    upload_2020-7-18_19-54-9.png


    Stellia vs Elegia
    Frequency Response
    EARS / SBAF compensation
    GRN/RED = Stellia
    BLU/ORA = Elegia
    Y-axis compressed to better show differences
    upload_2020-7-18_19-59-17.png

    The Elegia has more lower and middle mids.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    This is an alternate frequency response measurement, but done on the flat-plate coupler, also compensated (attempt where flat line across is roughly neutral). The weakness is no pinna, so depending upon headphone interaction 2-5kHz may be different. The flat plate coupler benefits is greater immunity from pad / placement variations, consistency and repeatability, and maybe better quality high frequencies.

    Focal Stellia
    Frequency Response
    FPC with "B&K" compensation
    upload_2020-7-18_20-7-50.png
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    When I first plugged them in, I remarked to @Clemmaster: whoa, f**ton o' bass!. The Focal headphones are all highly dynamic. Even Tyll remarked that perhaps too much so. Combined with this highly dynamic nature and elevated bass, it felt like a pounding!

    @Clemmaster mentioned that the Focal were super sensitive to seal and designed for French people like himself with small narrow heads. I have a big Asian head so perhaps my seal was too much. After some tweaks with looser fitment, I got it perfectly right.

    To illustrate the point of seal sensitivity, I have provided these measurements. The broken seal was probably 0.5mm and 1mm! It took me several takes to get what I wanted to show! That's how sensitive the seal was in regards to the bass.

    Focal Stellia
    Frequency Response changes dependent upon seal
    Y-axis compressed to better show differences
    upload_2020-7-18_20-17-29.png
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2020
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Focal Stellia
    FPC Harmonic Distortions
    L channel
    upload_2020-7-18_20-21-36.png

    Focal Stellia
    FPC Harmonic Distortions
    R channel
    upload_2020-7-18_20-22-1.png

    D2 and D3 and even D4 are kind of high in the mids. Maybe this is one aspect of the closed-can weirdness that I heard?
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    CSDs.

    The decay is overall faster than Elegia with more black space floor visible. However the Stellia is also more ringy, more evident ridges.

    FPC Stellia L.jpg

    FPC Stellia R.jpg
     
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  6. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    CSD looks impressive in low mids but not so in mid-upper highs (ringing, ziggy, etc).
    Subjectively, does Focal really eliminate cup resonance that much?
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    That's pretty much it. I wish I had more time, but too busy and I have a ton of product sitting here on the shelf. Sorry to go all science on you. As the great John Atkinson presented on one of his powerpoint slides: "measurements lie"*

    *I'm sure the audio scientists will get in a huff over that statement, but I'm sure many of you understand what this really means.
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I actually felt the Elegia was better at eliminating the cup resonance!
     
  9. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    Huge price difference between the Elegia and Stellia. Which one sounds more like the Clear? A closed Clear would be nice to have for when I need some isolation.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Stellia is more like the Clear, both in FR (Stellia is less laid-back) and technicalities. Technicalities are better on Stellia than Clear, almost Utopia level. The Clear being open has better midrange tonality that was less wonky.

    Elegia technicalities seemed to be a nick below the Elex.
     
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  11. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    I do EQ the Stellia to get the ‘engagement factor’ right.

    Once that’s taken care of, it is an obvious step up from the Clear (except the bass) and the reason why I sold the latter.

    Isolation is really good on the Stellia, too.

    I feel the Stellia has a more even FR than the Vérité Closed and works well with most genre right out of the box and the rest can be fixed with EQ.
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Verite Closed is very much acquired taste.
     
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  13. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    The Vérité Open are one of my favorite headphones, though!
     
  14. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Could you elaborate on this? What made you feel that way?
    When I heard them (it's been a while) I massively preferred the Stellia in terms of tonality. I always thought the Elegia sounded off in the midrange in a way that the Stellia just didn't. Not quite as bad as the Elear, though. Tonally the Stellia may even be my favorite Focal, just a tad too warm. I find the Clear overall too warm and like the Utopia it had a bit too much of that 1.5kHz midrange bump.

    I did prefer the Stellia's bass response with my glasses to break the seal, which was a lucky coincidence. Otherwise too bassy. Either way I'm pleased to see such a superbly flat response from 200Hz to 3kHz, jives quite well with what I heard. Thinking about it the Stellia is by far my favorite closed headphone I've heard to date.

    FWIW: German Stereoplay magazine measurements: https://i.imgur.com/8CjFo5C.jpg
    Looks a lot more midrange-focused. Even then 200Hz-3kHz region is very flat.
     
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  15. Josh83

    Josh83 Friend

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    I kind of have the opposite view.

    The Stellia is a much better, more tasteful version of the HD820, with its crazy low bass hump and dip at 200-300. In my listening and measurements, the Verite C was much flatter in the bass, with just a little mid bass bump and a minuscule dip at 200.

    Resolution seemed on par between the two, with the Stellia having more zing in the treble for more overt detail. However, I don’t think it actually wrings any more detail out of recordings than the Verite C does.

    I don’t use EQ, so maybe the Stellia can be fixed with EQ. But stock, I definitely felt the Verite C was the more neutral headphone. (Also easier and cheaper to tune with pads than the Stellia.)

    Now, maybe as Marv said this is a head size and seal issue. But I thought the Elegia had a nice, neutral FR and my head didn’t change (that I know of) between auditioning the Elegia and the Stellia.
     
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  16. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Lame absolute without relative comparison. Do they have Elegia graph for relative comparison?

    Like I said, I wish I had more time. The Elegia measured with more lower-mids and mids relative Stellia. My guess is that any one or more of the following could be a reason for my preference of Elegia tonal signature:
    • While both Elegia and Stellia have similar uneven highs, the Elegia has bumped up lower to middle mids, therefore pushing down the highs. I've been on a darkish headphone tilt lately with HD650 and HF-3 with TTVH pads.
    • Maybe I still couldn't get the seal quite right and Clem could be right on the Focal's being made for smaller skinnier European heads. With the tighter seal on my big wide Asian head, I could be getting a bass boost that evened out with the measured lower to middle mid plateau on Elegia
    • Highish D2, D3, and even D4 in the mids of the Stellia, which would inflect upper mids contributed to my sense of wonky. Again, it wasn't bad tonality on a outright level. More like "wonky" with the limited amount of time I had with it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2020
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  17. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Timely measurements/comments for me. Since I have comfort issues with the Verite pads on the VC closed, and with an EQ "fix" for the 3-4k "W"/dip the trade off is distortion, the Stellia has been a serious consideration lately. @Clemmaster, does your EQ curve tackle the 4k dip of the Stellia, and if so does it bump up distortion levels?
     
  18. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    I bump ~2.8dB @ 6.5kHz with a fairly low Q, so the 4kHz gets bumped up, but only slightly so.
    This must be my own preference, rather than shooting for strictly neutral, though.

    Also, I use the EQ only on warmer sources (Kann Cube and main rig). I didn’t need EQ with Hugo 2.

    I’ll share my EQ later. It’s not easy to share images here.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2020
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    For completeness. Not sure what to make of this, given lack of data on closed headphones.

    Focal Stellia
    Attack and Decay Envelope of 10-cycle Sine Burst
    B1696 Stellia.wav.jpg

    Focal Elex for comparison below. Unfortunately, I forgot to take this measurement for Elegia.

    Focal Flex
    Attack and Decay Envelope of 10-cycle Sine Burst
    B1696 Elex.wav.jpg
     
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  20. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Not Elegia, no. Here's a link with some other measurements for relative comparison: https://imgur.com/a/1pHG6Q0
    I think they use a flat plate coupler. Sadly the newer measurements are more smoothed than the older ones.

    Yeah, the higher THD is also evident in the stereoplay measurements. I didn't listen at higher levels so I'm not sure if I heard it. Kind of interesting how the Utopia measures with higher THD at 100dB than the Clear and Elear. Pads? Magnet?

    I think the strong upper mid dip on the Elegia made me dislike it, very similar to the Elear which I also hated. Elegia didn't seem to be quite as seal-dependent IIRC.
     

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