Only a scant few years ago Focal was exclusively a loudspeaker and raw driver manufacturer, but they have expanded to embrace the headphone market with a passion. Sitting at the apex of their current model line-up, the Stellia, represents Focal’s current thinking on what makes a superlative premium, closed-enclosure, over-ear headphone. It all comes down to three words – luxury, comfort and sound.
Before we more into comfort and sound let’s look at the Stellia’s technical details. The Stellia has a single, 1.6” (40mm) full-range driver that uses Focal’s M-shape surround and the same materials, pure Beryllium, as Focal’s flagship open-enclosure Utopia headphone. It also employs the same yoke/headband system as the Utopia, which is a very comfortable, beautifully-finished, and designed to withstand all the rigors that humans can subject a pair of headphones to.
Genuine caramel coloured leather graces both the headband and the earpads (no pleather or Naugahyde here), which fit my cranium like a soft deerskin glove. Given its wide range of adjustment, the Stellia will fit yours equally well. Even though they weigh .96 lb./435 grams, which is on the weighty side, due to their cushioning and weight distribution the Stellia don’t feel heavy, even after hour-long listening sessions. Unlike the Utopias, which arrived with only one cable, the Stellia come with a full complement of supplied accessories, including a 4ft OFC 24 AWG cable with 1/8” (3.5mm) TRS Jack connector and a 10ft OFC 24 AWG cable with 4-pin XLR connector, as well as a jack adapter and stylish two-toned travel case.
It’s hard to fault the Stellia’s sonics. Unlike most closed-enclosure headphones, through the Stellia the soundstage does not have any sense of being 'closed in' or limited by the enclosure. On Carl Broemel’s “4th of July” the reverb-laden guitar on the right channel seemed to extend out towards infinity.
Low level information and overall definition through the Stellia ranks with the best I’ve heard. On the very headphone-friendly Billie Eillich track, “&burn” sourced from Roon/Tidal, which has some seriously deep synth bass coupled with lots of sonic subtlety including whispers and sighs, the Stellia made it easy to hear even the most buried-in-the-mix parts. You never have to work to hear low-level detail through the Stellia.
Compared with the Sony MDR-Z1R, which are also a closed-enclosure over-ear, single-driver headphone, the Stellia had cooler midbass with low-power amplifiers. Using the Focal Arche headphone amplifier, the two headphones had more similar harmonic balances. I felt on some material the Stellia could produce a slightly larger, less laterally constricted soundstage. Both headphones had convincingly natural midranges, as evidenced on the unvarnished version of 'Whiter Shade of Pale' performed by Don Reeder via Roon/Tidal. But in terms of overall harmonic impression the Stellia had more matter-of-fact presentation while the Sony MDR-Z1R was more romantic. Comfort-wise I give an edge to the Stellia – the higher clamping force on the Sony made me more aware of them. Looks-wise, the Stellia are suave and just a wee bit flashy while the all-black Sony MDR-Z1R are understated and all-business.