Review: Focal Stellia

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With the Focal Stellia headphones, the French manufacturer has enriched its range with a pair of high-end, high-fidelity closed-back headphones in addition to the Focal Elegia released at the end of 2018.

Casque Focal Stellia
As well as providing remarkable sound performance, Focal’s latest generation of closed-back headphones boast a finish comparable to the most beautiful fashion accessories.

Focal Stellia: luxurious presentation

Le casque Focal Stellia et ses accessoires
The accessories provided with the Focal Stellia headphones include a carrying case and two cables made of OFC copper conductors, all presented in a magnetic leather box.

The Focal Stellia headphones impress right off the bat, with their packaging setting the tone. The headphones come in a lavish box covered in cognac-colored leather. The box holds the headphones, which are in their protective case, in addition to a second leather-clad box. The latter contains two beautifully made cables: a standard cable and a balanced cable with an XLR connector. Lastly, a leather pouch contains the maintenance and user manuals.

Focal Stellia : finition cuir, aluminium et acier inoxydable
The Focal Stellia combines leather, aluminum and stainless steel with outstanding craftsmanship.

With the Focal Elegia, Focal Elear, Focal Clear and Focal Utopia headphones, we’ve become accustomed to an exemplary build quality which has become the signature of the manufacturer from Clermont-Ferrand. The Focal Stellia boasts a similar esthetic, but with a bolder and more stylish flair. The the earcups’ surface is made from cognac-colored, perforated stainless steel. This design reveals the leather cover, which is the same color as the the upper part of the headband.

Focal Stellia: comfort

The headphones’ headband is generously padded. The mocha-colored inside part is micro-perforated so as to let the head breathe. The earpieces are fitted with 20mm-thick memory foam pads. The earpads are covered with full grain leather which is cognac-colored inside and mocha-colored outside, and ensure unparalleled comfort. Just like the other high-end hi-fi headphones from Focal, the Focal Stellia’s solid aluminum yoke is directly connected to the headband.This system provides the hinged earcups with greater freedom of movement, which in turn guarantees a perfect fit for all face shapes.

Focal Stellia : yoke en aluminium
The rotation on the vertical axis of the Focal Stellia headphones occurs where the yoke and the headband meet.

Rather imposing and massive at 435 grams, the Focal Stellia headphones are actually very comfortable to wear. Despite wearing glasses, we didn’t experience any discomfort or fatigue, even after listening sessions that lasted for hours.

Focal Stellia: closed-back design

A pair of closed-back headphones was definitely missing from the top end of Focal’s range of hi-fi headphones to be able to enjoy the finesse of Beryllium drivers with a DAP. This is now possible with the Focal Stellia headphones which provide excellent passive isolation. Tested in an open-plan office with around 10 workers, they allowed us to easily remove ourselves from the background noise. We were able to enjoy a listening session in excellent conditions, without disturbing those around us, even at high volume.

Focal Stellia : coussinets en mousse à mémoire de forme
The thickness of the Focal Stellia’s leather-clad memory foam earpads suggests softness and comfort… Thanks to their closed-back design, the headphones also provide impressive sound isolation.

Focal Stellia: Beryllium domes

Each of the Focal Stellia’s earcups house a driver entirely designed and manufactured by Focal in their French production workshops. The cone is made from pure Beryllium, an ultra-rigid metal which allows the driver to reach exceptionally high frequencies while ensuring a significant distortion reduction. Focal also uses Beryllium for the tweeters in their Focal Utopia, Focal Electra and Focal Kanta speakers, as well as the Focal Utopia hi-fi headphones. This driver’s unsupported coil, combined with the intrinsic properties of Beryllium, makes it possible to attain an incredibly light moving component. Soundwise, this is demonstrated by an excellent impulse response.

Casque Focal Stellia : haut-parleur à membrane Béryllium
The Focal Stellia headphones’ Focal Beryllium driver benefits from an exceptional transient response. The sound restitution is intense and highly precise.

As they cover a particularly wide frequency range (from 5 Hz to 40 kHz), the Focal Stellia headphones allow the user to listen to high-resolution audio files (HD FLAC and DSD) with a DAC or suitable headphone amplifier.

Focal Stellia: audiophile cables

The Focal Stellia headphones come with two cables, each comprised of OFC copper (AWG 24) conductors. The first is an unbalanced cable with a mini-jack connector which may be connected to the 6.35 mm jack adaptor provided by Focal. At 1.20 meters long, this cable is mainly intended for on-the-go listening with a DAP. In fact, the Focal Stellia’s impedance rating is only 35 Ohms, this ensures optimal use of the M-shaped Beryllium dome’s dynamic qualities, with a DAP, or even a smartphone.

Focal Stellia : câble symétrique avec connecteur Neutrik
The Focal Stellia headphones’ balanced cable, with a Neutrik connector.

The second cable that comes with the Focal Stellia headphones adopts a balanced design and has a 4 point XLR connector. At three meters long, it is particularly suitable for home use and can be associated with an audiophile-grade headphone amp.

Focal Stellia: test conditions and listening impressions

For this test, we decided to combine the Focal Stellia with the Chord Mojo portable DAC in addition to the Cayin CS-55A tube amplifier, connected to a PC running Windows (Deezer 320 kbps, 24/96 and 24/192 HD FLAC files) via USB. We also listened to Deezer on an Android smartphone (Oneplus 6). We used the unbalanced cable for each listening session.

Focal Stellia et Chord Mojo
The Chord Mojo is a great match for the Focal Stellia headphones, which will also sound great with a tube headphone amp and a DAP.

The Focal Stellia headphones are characterized by a dynamic sound and by their tonal balance. The Beryllium cone’s responsiveness is exemplary, which is reflected in the pleasing vibrancy of the listening experience. The attack is bold, the tempo is pronounced and very energetic. The highs are extraordinarily clear, and the midrange displays superb definition. For those who enjoy a more full-bodied sound restitution, the lows may seem as if they lack physical impact. But even though they aren’t pounding, they are present and are revealed to be deep, detailed and very nuanced. They require robust amplification in order to deliver their full potential; the Cayin CS-55A is therefore a perfect partner for the Focal Stellia.

The aeration and spatial imaging, without being as good as those of open-backed headphones such as the Focal Utopia, ensure an enjoyable experience with a satisfyingly wide stereo image. Music isn’t confined and it unfolds pleasantly around the listener, with the vocals remaining centered. We could deplore a slight lack of depth in the structuring of the different sound layers, but nothing too dramatic.

Casque Focal Stellia avec l'ampli Cayin CS-55A
The Focal Stellia headphones driven by the Cayin CS-55A amplifier (KT88 tube version).

Focal Stellia: conclusion

From an acoustic and esthetic point of view, the Focal Stellia is perfectly in line with the previous high-fidelity Focal headphones that we have had the opportunity to try. The M-shaped Beryllium driver is extremely clear and precise. When driven correctly, it also shows exciting energy. These Focal headphones will appeal to listeners who are tired of overly expressive headphones and for whom neutrality, accuracy and balance are the most important criteria when looking for a pair of headphones. On-the-go use is possible, and the Focal Stellia sounds very pleasant with a DAP or a smartphone. However, it was during listening sessions with a powerful dedicated amp that we were truly blown away by this pair of headphones.

High-quality materials, superb finishes and luxurious accessories top it all off.
The price is daunting, but when a product is this good, who’s counting?

What we liked:

  • The build quality and finishes.
  • The dynamic and balanced restitution.
  • The comfort, even when wearing glasses!

What we would have liked:

  • Another color choice (not everyone is a fan of cognac…).

 

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