Feb 12, 20191310 views

Focal Stellia: A Closed Back Utopia

Well, these were just announced. Sporting tech like a frameless 100% copper voice coil, M shaped pure beryllium domes, and a lot of the same tech featured in the Elegia to reduce resonance and absorb harshness up top. They seem to be vented so I believe they're technically semi-closed. They should be hitting the market in early March and will retail for $2,999. Not shocking they retail more than the Sennheiser HD 820 ($2,400) but I'm more curious how they compare head-to-head as these are the only two TOTL "reference" closed backs on the market I can think of. Specifications:
  • Type: Circum-aural closed-back headphones
  • Impedance: 35 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 106dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
  • THD: 0.1% @ 1kHz / 100 dB SPL
  • Frequency response: 5Hz–40kHz
  • Loudspeaker: 1.6″ (40mm) pure Beryllium “M” shape dome
  • Weight: 0.96lb (435g)
  • Cables provided:
  • 1.2m OFC 24 AWG cable with 1/8″ (3.5mm) TRS jack connector + 6.3mm adaptor
  • 3m OFC 24 AWG cable with 4-pin Neutrik XLR connector


Rodderox11, gorian2222, and 10 others

Mine just came in today. Some first impressions: Both Utopia and Stellia, unsurprisingly, deliver an extra measure of naturalness, smoothness and refinement over Elegia. I noticed this when Elegia came in and I compared it to Utopia, and I’m still picking that up. I'm using “Blue Fires” by Delerium & Mimi Page as a test track. The opening vocals have a crazy amount of chorusing, and there are subtle differences in the decay. Both Utopia and Stellia share what I refer to as an effortless fade into infinity. The smooth and lingering fade of the vocals gives that first couple lines of the song a sense of undulating like a gentle wave. Elegia, on the other hand, rolls off a little too quickly and that wave effect isn’t as pronounced. As far as isolation goes, Stellia strikes me as very similar to Elegia. I feel about the same amount of damping of outside sounds, and while my wife listened it seemed like Stellia was doing a similarly good job of keeping sounds in. Elegia, however, has a very slight sense of being boxed in. It’s a very minor coloration to the sound that’s only evident during quiet passages. Frankly, Elegia is nothing like the Fostex TR-X00 in terms of sounding claustrophobically closed-in, but you can tell they’re a closed-back design. I only mention this, because Stellia sounds quite a bit more open by comparison, even with nothing playing. It’s kinda uncanny. As far as detail retrieval, the Utopias are not to be beaten. Not saying they’re better than Stellia, but whatever differences there may be are sufficiently negligible that I don’t feel like picking a winner. One area where Stellia really shines, though, is bass. Utopia has very articulate and pleasant bass, but Stellia ups its presence to a thoroughly satisfying effect. Juno Reactor’s “Playing With Fire (Jitter Remix)” rolls along with a thunderous bass line that is simply magnificent on Stellia. Another impressive track was “Dissolved Girl” by Massive Attack, where warm and fuzzy bass notes are offset by razor-sharp vocals. Overall, I was hoping Stellia might combine the best parts of Utopia and Elegia into one package, and based on my first hours of listening that’s what they seem to have done. Couldn’t be more pleased with this purchase. :-)
Bought them. Going to review them and wear them outside like a douche
I’m going to buy these.
Unless you're made of money, a waste of money! Seriously, those headphones can only be worth 3k if those are valued on perceived value and marginal performance gains. No, I haven't heard them! But many of us remember not much more that a decade ago TOTL could be had for $450. Why should anyone buy into the idea that $3000 is justifiable for something as fragile and soon to be related to yesterday's FOTM as a pair of headphones!?!?!
Euro colors... different... 'make it your own'... thing... color-changing cars are coming... BMW made a shape-changing Z4, want it...

This reminds me of when I had to change my niece's diaper.
The color, that color.. I'm not too much of a fan, but I do like that they stand out from the rest. To me they look more mocha and brownish. I'm a big fan of copper, brass and bronze but these don't look like those colors. More of a chocolate. My bet is that in person, they will look different than these photos. On sound, we will wait and see. The price seems way to high. I feel with closed cans, $2000+ just seems unrealistic for what you would be giving up over open; it's almost like buying an expensive sports car, but its throttled at max 120mph. I think the Senn HD820 is a perfect example of this. The build looks very high quality.
And epic timing this was, too. Just last night I finally broke down after days of deliberating and ordered the Elegia. I’ve been listening to Fostex Ebonies at work, and they’re fun, but they’re nothing like my Utopias. So I thought, well, the Elex signature is at least in the same family, even if they’re not as refined. A closed-back version of that Focal house sound is what I really want—I should just do it. Did it, went to bed happy, then woke up to email announcing Stellia. Doh! BTW, Jay, I’m blaming you for my recent Elegia obsession. Somewhere else on this site I recall you praising the Elegia as one of your best purchases of 2018, or something like that. I’ve been trying to hold out for my Ether CX to ship, telling myself that new and improved closed-back cans are just days away and I *don’t* need any more headphones, but then I remember “but Jay said...” and I’m right back to wanting closed-back Focals. :-) The irony is that I could choose to be upset and say that if I’d only waited one more day I’d have saved myself a chunk of change, but the reality is that I’m thinking if I’d waited one more day I’d have probably missed out on the Elegia.
Glad you got them because I prefer the elegia over the elex in most song genres. Elex can sometime be too bright for me so I might end up selling in the future for lcdx. I would stay away from the uptopia and stellia because most of the money goes towards marketing, manufacturing and research. The high value cost doesnt make the headphone stellia sound a lot better than the elex, elegia or clear at all. Its just a different sound signature closer to elegia at hype train cost.
So, the Elegias came in today and I had a problem with them: I'm working from home today and was expecting another delivery that required a signature, but these cans are so damn good that I didn't want to take them off. And their isolation is good enough that there's no way I was going to hear the doorbell while listening to them. :-) I got my package, though, so all is good. Back to listening.... My current desktop playback chain is full of little compromises (SE connection on Aune X1s, fed by analog out from my monitors through a mixer). Despite the non-optimal chain, I'm thrilled with these first few tracks. They're delivering everything I hoped they would: decent isolation? check! compromised sound signature due to closed-back design? nah, not really. That Focal house sound? Oh, hell yes. Too late to stay away from Utopias--I already own them. I did a quick A-B with my reference chain: Utopias via balanced connection to Astell & Kern AK380 and, yeah, going back to the Elegias I can hear the mud now. Still, it wasn't an entirely fair comparison. Cable swap, and I'm now listening to the Elegias on the same AK380 playback chain as the Utopias. Clarity is improved, but we're still not up to the "effortless to infinity" presentation of the Utopias. Is it the drivers or the closed back design holding the Elegias back? I'll be honest--I don't care. For the purpose I bought them, the Elegias knock it out of the park. It takes a direct A-B comparison to notice the differences between the two, and they're both obvious enough to easily declare the Utopias superior and minor enough that I'll never give a second thought to them while I work. After all this, I've gotta admin, I remain intrigued by the Stellia. Do I need them? No way. There's no missing capability in my current lineup of headphones that needs to be addressed. No real problems that need "fixing." My best justifications for wanting them are to satisfy my own curiosity about whether Focal has managed to combine the best bits of Elegia and Utopia into one package, and because, well, my AK380 is also an awkward shade of "upscale brown," so, fashion statement? Lol.
It seems like the price should of been $1,500. Price will drop in sale for these give it year. Looks interesting but too expensive.
Agreed. I have a feeling they'll do something similar to $1,500 like they did with the Clear after the Elear and Utopia dropped. They always start low then high and release a middle child last. At least that's been their track record.
I'm typically an all black cans guy, but I love the color. Not the price with that FR curve though. Looks like a more U shaped Elegia. I think the mids will be too recessed to be called a reference. Will have to get some head time to be sure though.
I don't know what to make of the brass look they've gone with. . . might be quite striking in person, but the photos look a bit blingy. I guess this means we'll get a closed back Clear ;)
I dunno, I kinda dig the color. Mainly because it is so different. I have too many dark/blacked out cans. I kinda miss that with the funky beige/brown Sennheiser HD 598/599. Have you heard the Elegia yet? They have a sound that is very reminiscent of the Clear. While lacking in overall resolution comparatively, for a closed back can, they offer the same reference level sound while actually being portable and closed back. If you haven't checked out the new cup and driver design, give it a go as the drivers and tech in the Elegia were new for Focal and it seems what they learned there made it into this new Stellia. I was reading they have a new robot in their factory to assist in building the drivers due to their higher tolerances that just couldn't be matched by their typical hands-on approach.
For that price sticker, I think you'd be entitled to a little bling anyway :) Brass tends to look better to me in person, but in pictures these look a lot like the 'rose' Beats and Bose that are ubiquitous in airports. Clearly a lot of people find the aesthetic appealing in a premium product, but it's not for me. I have not tried the Elegia, I need to give my Fostex TH/R some serious use time to see if my huge head is an issue for the infamous hinge. When I'm ready, I am looking to give the Clear some serious ear time competing with a potential TH909. As often, the disagreement is semantic, but the term 'reference' is typically misapplied to TOTL cans. The only 'reference' headphones I know of are from Etymotic. . . not only do they offer an exact target curve reference, but they explicitly define manufacturing variation percentage and provide you with measurements of adherence. Not only that, but their reference target doesn't magically 'improve' between product releases; Ety's sound like Ety's hearing model, not like the current month. TOTLs like the Utopia, HD800 etc are signatures, not references, and there's nothing wrong with that. Heck, even with a looser use of the term, there are tons of mid range pro oriented cans like the HD280 that are very close to diffuse reference (as for Harmon 'reference', there are TONS of great closed options obviously).