Focal Stellia Review and Measurements

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

  1. netforce

    netforce MOT: Headphones.com

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    Elegia was discontinued by Focal suddenly this year without much warning. Shame since that means the Focal closed backs left are Listen of Stellia now.

    For me personally I think I would say I prefer the Stellia but need to do a bit more of an extensive demo when I get a chance.
     
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Stellia is no doubt way better, in another class, two classes. I think it’s just one of those pieces that needs more massaging, which I didn’t have time to do.
     
  3. Poleepkwa

    Poleepkwa Friend

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    It would be interesting to know the reason for this. Poor sales? I really enjoy the Elegia for what it is. The Stellia seemst be a step up as per impressions here, but that price is also more, a lot more. The market for decent closed backs are still very unpopulated.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2020
  4. netforce

    netforce MOT: Headphones.com

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    They never confirmed why to me, so maybe someone else could chime in if they know specifically why.

    I have a few theories. The Elegia did sell fairly well for us for a while but once the super cheap Adorama Elegia kept happening, my sales fell off a cliff. Matching their price was basically the equivalent of losing money on each unit sold for us.

    Second theory, covid and supply chains. We do actually sell more Focal in wall speakers than any other product for our custom installation side of the business. We were waiting months and months earlier this year for Focal to fill our orders. Back either late Feb or early March. Focal came to the store and we asked why we essentially had at the time, hundreds of speakers on backorder.

    They said that they were hit with a one two punch. First in January, in France Port workers were on strike so nothing was coming in or going out. Then once that was fixed, covid had ravaged through China. Focal makes and assembles a lot of their stuff in France but supply chains for plastics, metals, magnets etc were severely impacted. Then later on, France was under lockdown for a stint.

    It wouldn't surprise me if Focal at that time, looking at their potential production for the rest of the year and if they were to do another production run of the Elegia if it was not worth it. I think it was either April or May, all I got from Focal was an email saying, "The Elegia is now discontinued". Even if I had wanted to get some more from Focal, their NA warehouse was completely out.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Oh, and the stock cable sucks. Too stiff, too short, too orfras.
     
  6. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    I want to say it’s because closed back headphones are relatively compromised, but so are IEMs and people don’t seem to have A problem spending a lot on them. I suppose IEMs are portable. High end closed back headphones are a niche in an already niche market.
     
  7. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Too many fucking focal models that are all too expensive and have yuppie fuck names I dislike very much. I can’t keep it all straight. But I guess I’m not their target market. I don’t think they make a headphone I’d like.
     
  8. will_f

    will_f Friend

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    I think Focal makes great headphones but they are pretty expensive. Not much you can do about that. I’ve been watching eBay to see what used utopias go for.. Positively stoopid amounts for second hand gear. My bigger beef is that Focal insists on providing complete crap cables.
     
  9. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    Yup, Focal cables are crap for usability, which is too bad as the ones that came with the Clears are solidly made but handle like hungry pythons. Elex are "reasonably" priced. Clear not that much more if you get a good deal, and for me worth it as an upgrade to HD650 (though I keep the Senns around for their mids). Anything much over $1k is too much for me to stomach though, so the Stellia are out. What I've read of about the Elegia gives me the impression they're a bit wonky sounding. Oh well ...
     
  10. Poleepkwa

    Poleepkwa Friend

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    I do not find the Elegias wonky sounding for a closed headphone. They do not have boosted bass or sizzeling treble) Would love to hear the Stelia, but like you said, price is too high for me.

    They are French...
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2020
  11. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    You shouldn't judge a book by its yuppie cover. Clear is fairly neutral sounding, have a listen if you get a chance.
     
  12. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    @Clemmaster (or anyone), have any thoughts about DAC/amp synergy with these HP's? Given these are Focals, I would think they would synergize with warmer DAC/amps such as the BW2, Asgard 3, or a "tubey'"transformer coupled tube amp, particularly when compared to the VC's?

    Thinking about giving these a go - I am always chasing the closed back dragon...
     
  13. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I definitely will! Lots of headphones I haven’t heard since I’ve been out of the game for quite some time. Clear is now on the list. Neutral is a word I like to hear. Well, on this forum at least where it might actually mean something.
     
  14. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    @purr1n, @Clemmaster I learned from a video review that the back of the Stellia cup is slightly open where the "F" logo is. Doesn't seem like this results in significant sound leakage. However, can either of you please speak to whether the isolation of the headphones is materially compromised because of this? I'm asking because I'm considering these for home office usage and sound isolation is important with an active, sometimes cranky, toddler running around.

    What about comfort over long periods in terms of heat inside the cups?
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    I didn't sense any appreciable sound leakage in our out. They are about on par with Fostex T50RP, maybe even a better seal because of those ear cushions that feel like massive squishy suction cups. In an air-conditioned office environment, I didn't have any problems with comfort. The pads are very thick and plush, so this could be an issue if I had the AC off. I know I would not use them in a non-AC environment in SoCal summers for over 15 minutes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  16. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    They’re really comfy to me. The pads are the best that ever graced my ear.

    Isolation is excellent. I can listen to music with the GF watching TV in bed. She only complains about outside leakage when I take them off. When they’re on, they isolate very well.
     
  17. sluttyindian

    sluttyindian Rando

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    Would love to know this too... thinking of getting a pair for the office with my eitr/Modi Multibit/MCTH as several people have complained about the leakage from the Clears. Now that more people are piling back into the office I cant use open-backs anymore :(

    @gixxerwimp - How do the Stellia's compare to the Clears, especially out of the Modi Multibit/MCTH combo?

    Not really keen on messing with any EQ. (For reference was not a fan of either the Atticus or Elegia's tonality. Love all the gear/synergy in my sig)
     
  18. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    I missed this.

    I do NOT like the ECP DSHA-3F with them, which sucks as I bought it specifically for Focal headphones. The Stellia’s impedance is quite different from the Clear (which I owned when I ordered the amp) and the Utopia so this could be it, but the resulting sound is pretty lean and glassy.
    The T4 on the other hand is really good with it, even in high gain, surprisingly!

    Before I got both ECP amps, I had the Torpedo III and EC BW2. Of the two, I preferred the Torpedo. The BW2 felt more colored with more rounded transients, although it had a nice soundstage presentation.

    As far as portable DAC/amps, the H2 was a good pairing. Back then, it was the only pairing I didn’t feel the need to use EQ. The other pairings were missing some upper mid energy, which literally put me to sleep when laying in bed.
    The Kann Cube with EQ is also really good.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
  19. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    I've had Stellia for coming on 2 months now and have been meaning to post some impressions. @sluttyindian has prompted me to finally do so. Searching through my early profile posts about Stellia, I was:
    • Initially very impressed with the clear, open sound. Detail/plankton extraction is impressive, a definite step up from Clear, and not closed sounding at all (*more on this later). Tried Utopia briefly a few years ago, they were technically impressive but too bright for me. Stellia tonality is ideal for me with zero Zout source.
    • Negs so far: can't wear my glasses as breaking the seal messes with the bass; clamp seems a bit stronger than Clear's so a bit of fatigue; leather pads can get a bit warm.
    • First listen was out of BF2 > SW51+ low Z. A bit of mid-bass bloat which correlated with the impedance curve and that was easily fixed with a touch of EQ.
    • Moved to the bedroom MB v2 > MCTH and tonality was pretty much purrfect.
    I continue to be impressed with the Stellia's technical performance. Stage is compact but imaging is super-precise. Blackground (if a headphone can have that) is the best of all my headphones. I think it's partly due to them being closed and blocking out ambient noise. Decays seem to go on forever. I hear things I've never heard before in everything I listen to. Plankton extraction is significantly better than HD800 (modded), also perhaps enhanced by the isolation. Clear (with a bit of front foam) are a touch brighter and more forward than Stellia, and don't have the bass extension. Aside from a slight midbass bump (enhanced by higher Zout), Stellia sounds very neutral and flat to me.

    I haven't had a closed phone since I sold my ZMF Blackwoods several years ago. The Stellia do sound "closed", but I'm not noticing any significant cup reverberations. It's more a lack of an "open headphone" sound, and a slight resistance to pressure equalization after jaw movements or inadvertently doing the Valsalva maneuver. I find that Aventine by Agnes Obel has an overly resonant sound, but this is not exacerbated by Stellia (I'm not actually sure that closed headphones would make it worse in general).

    Comfort-wise, the headband on the Stellia is much better than the Clear. I think they have the same shape, but there's more foam padding and much less of a hotspot. With Clear, I need foam wedges held in place by a knitted cover to reduce the radius so that it wraps the top of my head and eliminates that nasty Focal Hotspot™. This is unnecessary with Stellia. Speaking of headband cover, the dark brown leather of the underside of the headband and outer surface of the pads doesn't get grimy and greasy with use. The ligher coloured inner surface of the pads has darkened where my ears come in contact. The top leather surface of the headband can be easily stained by greasy fingers, so make sure your hands are clean when handling them. There is a thin foam ring encircling the grill covering the drivers that my ears touch lightly, but I don't find this bothersome. I assume it's necessitated by the closed design as it doesn't feature on the Clear (nor in photos I've seen of the other open-backed Focals, but this photo of the Elegia seems to show it). Speaking of the Elegia, I tried it briefly in show conditions and found it a lot more forward that Stellia, but that's all I can say.

    So after new toy syndrome has worn off, I'm still using Stellia regularly, particularly when isolation is needed and with my bedside rig (phone > iDSD USB-to-S/PDIF > MB v2 > MCTH). HD800 has made it back into rotation and loses out a bit in clarity/plankton, but provides an open presentation and spaciousness which is a nice change. Stellia is blacker with the isolation, but feels a touch claustrophobic in comparison. Both Stellia and Clear can be used without EQ, though the latter benefits from a bit of subbass boost and Stellia needs a bit of midbass suck with higher Zout (like the SW51's low Z output). HD800 (even heavily modded) requires major EQ surgery for me.

    I did a bit of cable comparison between the cable fraggler made for me with Norne DIY Cu wire and an Ag/Cu hybrid wire I made. The result was:
    • pure Cu cable is better for Clear as it benefits from the slight warmth and increased bass punch and smoother treble of Cu (the effect that I've found IME)
    • Ag/Cu hybrid is better for Stellia as the midbass bump is compensated by Ag's slight bass reduction and increased tightness, and Ag's added clarity takes what Stellia does well in the mids and treble up another notch. I tested a pure Ag wire version and I prefer a bit of the Cu warmth mixed in with the sound of the Ag wire (YVMV, etc.)
    All in all, I'm very happy with my purchase and think it's reasonably good (ahem) value at the price I paid for it used. Brand new on the other hand ...
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
  20. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    @gixxerwimp : are you my separated-at-birth twin brother?!

    I concur with everything you just said. I went through the same Clear->Stellia evolution and my initial and lasting impressions are identical to yours.

    Same thing for the glasses breaking the seal. This is a shame ‘cause I need glasses while working at my desk and can’t use them as much as I’d like to working from home...
     

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