Focal Stellia Closed-Back Headphones - Official Thread



Have you seen the SBAF compensation curve stuff that purr1n has been working on? I was going to try it but I read through some issues with channel matching on it.


Yes, I’ve seen it, and played around with it.

I may be missing the intent of what it is trying to achieve. When I first read the thread I figured it was simply* providing offsets/adjustments to be applied to the HEQ file you download from miniDSP to provide a different compensation profile.

But looking at the actual deltas that are supposed to be applied to your HEQ file, they differ for left and right channels.

That only makes sense if either a) the original HEQ files that were used as a basis for computing those deltas are off somehow or b) the SBAF values are also attempting to counteract other differences in the left/right behavior of the rig used to develop them.

So it seems inevitable to me that it would cause channel mismatches in that case. At the same time, just applying the “sensitive side” offsets to both channels doesn’t “get you there” either.

Rather than mess around with that further, despite very much liking the end result of the SBAF compensation on my “sensitive side” measurements, I decided to just do the work myself, progressively, and in a manner where a) I was 100% certain about what I was trying to achieve and b) was looking to get as close to the SBAF results (not necessarily the same adjustments) so there was some reasonable degree of comparability.

In doing that I’ve almost finished fiddling with one channel. We’ll then see what has to be done to the other to make it match well enough to be useful for channel-balance comparisons.

It may just be that the left and right sides do need different adjustments be that due to the differences in the supplied HEQ data or inconsistencies (normal manufacturing tolerance stuff) between left and right sides that differ for EVERY miniDSP EARs unit.

*I say “simply”, but I do recognize that developing that profile was a lot of work and purr1n deserves a lot of credit/thanks/Scotch for sharing that with the community.


While a proper review will be forthcoming shortly (no … really … and yes I know I’m behind with my backlog), the Stellia are definite keepers.

They’re timbrally closer to the Utopia than anything else in Focal’s line-up. Tonally they have some bass lift/warmth, but otherwise fall neatly between the Clear and the Utopia. And they may well appeal to a broader cross-section of listeners than either, especially those that like a bit more low-end energy in their delivery.

On technicalities, they’re an interesting mix … with overall performance falling closer to the Utopia than to the Clear, but not quite hitting all the high spots of the flagship … except for stage where, curiously, they do a better job with depth and width than the top of the line model.

More details in the review, but these are a genuine pleasure to listen to.

I’m still somewhat in two minds about how I regard these vs. the Sennheiser HD820. I suspect the absolute criticality of the seal with the HD820, and the degree of tonal-wonkiness™* that can ensure when it isn’t right, will likely make the Stellia an easier can to live with for a broader array of people and musical genres. Though the HD820 still has a party piece or two to call its own.

One thing the Stellia is going to do is push me to consolidate my collection of Focal headphones. It’s lovely owning all of them, especially for facilitating measurements and comparisons, but in real terms I am only listening to the Utopia, Stellia and Clear now from Focal’s line-up.

So don’t be surprised if you see my Elex, Elear and Elegia listed for sale shortly (i.e. after I pull the boxes from storage) …

*Or, I guess … (TW) …


I should also add that the Stellia are likely to be my go-to headphone once we depart on our “world tour”, as that’ll necessarily involve a closed-back headphone for much of my listening time (boat engine noise) and they are a stellar combination with the A&K SP1000m.


Hi there, I listened to Stellia today, and I have to admit, that I liked it (very much). I can’t afford them right now, but one can dream, right?

I have got a question though concerning the clamping force, which was, IMO a bit too soft. I mean, it was super comfy, don’t get me wrong, but I thought that if the clamping force would be a tad higher, there would be a better isolation (of the sound coming in as well as sound leakage). But maybe I just don’t have a round enough head :wink:
Or maybe I was just accustomed to the clamping force of my PM3s. They isolate very well.
On the other hand, the clamping force of the CA Cascade (which I sold, because of too much mid bass and too piercing upper mids -> fake resolution) was too high, but I could bend the headband a bit and then it was good.
So my question concerning the Stellias would be: Is it possible to bend the headband in the middle? Of which material is the headband made of inside? Because I wouldn’t want to break it of course.

BTW, I also tested the HD820 … man, that’s a strange sounding headphone. A no go for me. Also the fit is weird.
The LCD-XC is a big coconut, which was, besides its weight, also very comfy, and had a faaaat sound. Like standing in front of a sub-woofer. Which would be cool for one day, but no allrounder, at least for my playlist.

Alas the Stellia costs that much :money_mouth_face:


Don’t try bending the headband on the Stellia (or any other Focal headphone using the same design), it’s not designed for that.

I don’t think additional clamping force would make any noticeable difference to the level of isolation, unless they’re so loose on your head that they’re not actually sealing. When I did my isolation measurements, the results were the same regardless of whether I let the natural tension of the headband do its work, or if I used external bands to get a flatter fit.

They’re not cheap, but they are good.

The HD820, which I still very much enjoy, seem to be a Marmite thing. I think this is down to the nature of the pads and them being very fussy about fit/seal. They work/seal for me without issue just by plonking them on my head. But if I break the seal at all, or, say, wear them with even my thinnest framed sunglasses, or when I recently tried them while desperately in need of a serious haircut they became rather wonky.


Thanks @Torq for your information about the isolation.

Regarding HD820: I had rather big glasses on my head, so there’s that :wink:


When I did my review of the HD820, now that I think about it was that I was wearing my eyeglasses majority of the time, but half-way through using them I started a habit randomly to not wear my eyeglasses while listening to music…fortuitous as it allowed for me to really hear what the HD820 is capable without even realizing it.

I also really had no problem with just plunking them on my head and getting a good seal, but the pads are fairly expansive and allow for the seal to break when moved .


I think you previously wrote that one should avoid closed back headphones unless needed for isolation, or perhaps it was someone else, I can’t remember. If you did, considering how impressed you are with the Stellia and especially with its soundstage width and depth, would you suggest the Stellia as a serious option for those with a $3000 budget over owning both the Clear and Elegia, as it would come to about the same price?

If isolation is not a consideration, how do these stack up against the ZMF Verite you have?


I’ve phrased it in various ways, but in general, yes, I would not choose, nor recommend, a closed-back headphone if one’s listening habits/environment allow for properly using an open-back model. There are exceptions, of course - some closed-back models may do much better with certain genres of music or personal listening preferences - but that’s what they are … “exceptions”.

As for whether I think the Stellia is a viable alternative to a combination of Clear + Elegia?

For me, yes, absolutely.

The Clear is slightly more neutral and sounds (or feels) more open, but otherwise I definitely prefer the Stellia; I find their technical performance to be closer to the Utopia than the Clear. In fact if I could take the best aspects of both the Clear and Elegia and combine them into a single unit, I would still choose the Stellia as it still performs better … even though it is $600 more expensive than the combination.

That does not mean that would be the right choice for everyone.

ZMF Verite vs. Stellia with no need for isolation?

I’d probably go for the ZMF Verite but I need more time doing direct comparisons there to be sure. The current noisy construction work hasn’t made for much time doing anything with open-back cans since the Stellia arrived, so I’m making this particular comparison based purely on memory.



Edit…I posted this not in the right place… sorry!

@Torq wasn’t meant to post that here looking at it makes it seem like I was calling your post bait… I was not. Sorry if any confusion.


Well then, I am going to have to get my ears on a pair of Stellia.

I currently use the Clear for most of my open back listening and the Aeon closed for when I need noise isolation. As the seal on the Aeon is very good I find that after a while they get claustrophobic and it is quite a relief to then strap on the Clear,
even though I find that the Aeon have greater headstage depth than the Clear. But the Clear just feel so open. It will be interesting to see how the Stellia feel in comparison.

Construction noise can drive one to insanity and can trigger revenge fantasies that are best kept to oneself, especially when it’s your neighbour. I suffered through a whole summer while my neighbour dug out his basement with a jack hammer, by himself, which is why it tool the whole summer and why he began at 7AM every Saturday and Sunday.


I also compared the Stellia to the Aeon closed. I have to say that the Aeon is not bad (when amped) but out of my DAP I found it had too less power. The Stellia felt overall refined when compared to the Aeon (also out of my DAP), so there is an audible step up, but I found that it’s not an out of this world step, especially when looking at the price difference, but it’s everywhere the same when you climb up the audio ladder, you pay 2k more to get the last bit of refinement. The Stellia is also more comfortable.


@Torq Do you have any thoughts on burn in of the Stellia? Does it alter the sound in any way? (especially bass)

Edit: and can you also tell something about the scalability? Because I didn’t hear a significant better sound (and could not tell when blind tested) if the sound from my DAP is that different when amped with a 3k amp. Maybe it’s another thing when paired with a tube amp though, I haven’t tested that.
The dealer said, that this is the biggest quality of the Stellia, that you wouldn’t necessarily need an amp for this headphone to shine.


There was no notable change for me with the Stellia from about 30 seconds of firing them up and onwards. They don’t measure any differently now, after a hundred hours or so, either. That’s been a pretty consistent experience with me with Focal headphones.

Only the Clear and Elex were different, and they were just a bit rough on the bottom-end right out of the box - and that went away in seconds, rather than minutes, hours or days. And while I’ve heard people say there are dramatic changes with the Clear over a period of 100 hours that was definitely not my experience (if it had been, I would be more likely to think it was down to the pads compressing than anything about the drivers or cables etc.).

As for scalability - they Stellia are very resolving, so they’re certainly capable of highlighting differences in sources, amps or material, but they’re not especially demanding to drive. So it is, for example, not especially unlikely that the built-in amplification on the DAP is doing all that needs to be done in relation to both the DAC in the DAP and the Stellia.

A more interesting comparison might be to use a difference source with that $3K amp and see what you hear there.

With almost all things audio, the law of diminishing returns is in effect. The Stellia aren’t 2x as good as the Clear or even the Elegia, despite costing 2x and more than 3x respectively. Better? Yes. Obviously so, in some areas. And to me a worthwhile improvement for the difference in price, but that sort of value equation varies greatly from person to person.


I’m currently enjoying the super rich luxurious sound with the extra resolution capabilities of this driver. I think the bass is a bit big… but beyond that I keep having those experiences of doing other tasks at my desk (don’t read into that), and suddenly being forced to pay attention to details in the music I haven’t heard before. And, this might not be my preferred tonality, but it’s the first time in a while that I’ve legitimately gotten goosebumps from sound. There are absolutely “holy shit” moments to be had with this headphone, so that’s a good sign haha. Also, is it just me? or is the stage bigger and more spacious than the Utopia??


It looks like Focal have done it again if all the praise heaped on it is to be believed. I don’t doubt it a second. I have the Clears and are very impressed with them. Focal as a company continues to go from strength to strength. All we need now is for them to produce some TOTL iem’s (well for us iem lovers that is). :grin:


Yes, the bass is somewhat elevated, but it’s tastefully enough done that I think it walks the line between servicing the common expectation that closed-back headphones will be bass-heavy while not messing everything else up in the pursuit of that.

As for the stage vs. the Utopia … yes, I get the same impression when I compare them back to back. While the Utopia sound (or feel) more “open”, the actual stage is bigger with the Stellia. It’s not HD800S/Abyss/HD820 “big”, but it is usefully larger and more evident than Utopias, which came as a big surprise.


At this point, if someone put a gun to my head and told me I had to live life with just two pairs of headphones, and that one had to be closed back - these would be my pick for that role.

And since these are closed back, I am going to go sit in the sun, open a bottle of something intoxicating, and enjoy the best part of this hobby (and the reason I am in it in the first place) until it’s time for our St. Paddy’s party.


Very nice! I will be imbibing my fair share of Irish whiskey today! Starting with some Green Spot and then switching to cheaper stuff as I go…probably this new bottle I picked up to try, Tullamore dew Caribbean rum cask aged, then onto Jameson limited editions…then tonight…a dollop of Baileys for dessert/nightcap…

Also all this Stellia talk…ergh…maybe I’ll have to let go of some of my less used gear and upgrade my Elegia to them.