Focal has gone closed-back again. The brand’s original closed-back design, the $899 Elegia, received mixed reviews when it was released. Now, Focal is trying it again with their very pricey and pretty lady, the Stellia. At a cool $3000, what can the Stellia deliver that the Elegia cannot? And, soundstage aside, does it come close to the performance of the Utopia? Let’s find out in this Focal Stellia Headphones Review.
Focal Stellia Headphones Review
The fit is so luxurious and comfortable, you’ll want to wear these cans while getting a mani-pedi. Seriously folks, the build and aesthetic design of these beauties is where the money is being spent. No cutting corners in this department. The Stellia employs the same headband and yoke as the famous Utopia. And the full-grain leather, memory foam earpads are softer than a baby’s bottom. In fact, after wearing these Cadillacs, the Elegia feels like a 1999 Honda Accord. The Stellia feel much less obtrusive and more plush against the ears. But at the same time, it provides more sound isolation than the Elegia.
The Stellia sports the M-shaped dome (full-range speaker driver) that Focal fans have become accustomed to. And they're pure Beryllium, just like the Utopia. Like the Elegia, these cans are super easy to drive. At 35 Ohms, a small portable amp will provide more than enough juice to power it. The frequency range is a wide 5 - 40,000 Hz. We’ll see how that translates into sound below.
Focal throws a balanced cable in the package, in addition to the regular ¼ inch. At 3 meters, the 4-pin XLR cable is also twice the length of the unbalanced cable. So, you can dance around the living room in your tighty-whities without ripping the plug out of your amp. The material-insulated cables also have a thick and durable feel. And after your spouse sees your most recent credit card statement, the cables will probably outlast your marriage.
Overall Impressions: Detailed with great separation, but vapid at times.
We have a civilized and controlled bass here. It has some tight grip, giving pop some good punch for the most part. But there’s not much of a sub frequency response, so you can forget about hip-hop. Still, it’s detailed and clean, avoiding bleeding into the higher frequencies. And if you compare it to the relatively anemic Elegia, you’ll definitely notice a more powerful and warm low end from the Stellia.
The Stellia delivers a present and almost even midrange, with the upper mids slightly favored over the lower mids. But vocals don’t sit too far forward, and you’ll feel like you’re getting the full scope of the mix in this range. Still, it’s not as meaty as the Utopia. And I hate to be a downer, but these cans lack vitality. In fact, they may be more lifeless than the sound of my grandmother slurping chicken soup from her plastic-wrapped recliner. Snare drums, for example, that are mixed to convey tons of impact are left tepid in their presentation, subsequently detracting from the energy of the song. And mixes that are usually filled with richness and color (even on a flat headphone) are left weak and unemotional.
That being said, the Stellia does certain things very well. Listening to guitar strums in the lower mids, the separation was primo, while the layering of instruments in complicated arrangements was handled skillfully. And the level of detail is also worthy of Focal’s brand. String instruments revealed all their nuance and subtle tones, giving cellos and violins a very natural feel. So, classical or folk music might be the most ideal genres for these cans.
Listening to strings in this range, there was an outstanding amount of transparency and resolve. And in general, the nice high-frequency extension (along with some good speed) breathes a little life into these cans. Listening to Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, the percussion had a snappy sparkle that finally gave me the whiplash I expect from a headphone in this echelon. At the same time, you shouldn’t find this frequency range fatiguing on the ears. Even while playing a little Miles Davis, my snowflake ears didn’t mind.
Not a bad soundstage for a closed back headphone, but of course, certainly not as spacious as an open-back Focal model. Still, the imaging is pretty spot on. But in terms of dimension, I was hungry for a little more depth. And comparing the Stellia to the Elegia, the Elegia offered a slightly grander feel. And that may partially be because of the fit. That being said, the Stellia was still able to maintain great definition with distant instruments, while on the Elegia, they felt fainter or less outlined.
What do you give an audiophile who has everything? A luxurious and aesthetically gorgeous pair of Focal cans that will turn heads while keeping the noise down. If you've got 3 grand to burn and a lover who deserves it, why not?
If you're ready to take the Stellia home...