About the Focal Stellia
The "Utopia" of closed-back headphones
Focal's top-of-the-line closed-back Stellia headphones (pictured with the Focal Arche headphone amp/DAC in Crutchfield's video studio).
The "Utopia" of closed-back headphones
How proud is Focal of their latest, berryllium-driven masterpiece, the Stellia closed-back headphones? Three weeks before their official release, Nicolas Debard, head of Focal's high-end headphone division, traveled to Crutchfield's campus in Central Virginia from his company's North American headquarters in Montreal, Canada. He wanted to personally hand us a sample. Nicolas is responsible for the sound tuning for some of the finest headphones in the world, including the Focal Utopia, Clear, Elegia, and of course the Stellia.
He gave me an inside look at the creation of these headphones while he was here. (You can watch our video interview in the photo carousel above.) Focal's main challenge was delivering a sound and experience similar to their top-of-the-line — but very open-air — Utopia headphones, within the more intimate closed-back design.
Efficient headphones with a perfectly matched amp from Focal
The Stellia's closed-back design offers better noise isolation, so they are more suitable for wearing in public. With that in mind, Focal made sure they were efficient enough to work with a portable music player. Still, these headphones sound even better when driven by a separate headphone amp, like the Focal Arche amplifier/DAC. In fact, the Arche has an amplifier preset designed specifically to squeeze the best performance from these Stellia headphones.
High-grade drivers with beryllium under the hood
You'll find beryllium inside of many top-of-the-line Focal speakers and drivers, so of course they've included it in the Stellia. Focal drivers are known for their fast attack, and it's hard to find a material that's as light and rigid as beryllium. It can start and stop quickly to deliver lifelike, textured dynamics — which Nicolas Debard says is the first sound characteristic that most headphone listeners notice.
Focal formed the beryllium foil into their now-famous, patent-pending "M"-shaped diaphragm domes. This special design gives the Stellia drivers a more fluid movement, which greatly reduces distortion and phase problems. You get incredible sound that spreads across a wide frequency range.
Top-notch sound dampening
Another reason Focal uses beryllium? It has incredible damping characteristics.
"You may have listened to other drivers in the past that give you sound coloration — especially in the mids," Nicolas told me. "That's mainly due to a lack of damping from the cone's raw material."
To show the beryllium advantage, he pulled out a pure beryllium tuning fork, and struck it on our studio desk. We heard the sound from the initial impact, but no change in tone and very little reverberation.
Redesigned drivers for closed-back chambers
Focal uses pure beryllium domes in their drivers for revealing, dynamic sound with low distortion.
But to get that same Utopia sound signature, Focal couldn't just put the same exact drivers in the Stellia's closed-back earcups. "That would've been great," quipped Nicolas. But, he explained, when designers don't properly account for the closed-back chambers, "you can hear some bass compression, or it sounds a bit muddy in the bass or low mids."
So Nicolas and his team thought of the closed-back chamber as if they were moving speakers to a smaller room — and made design tweaks accordingly. In this case, that meant changing the shape of the magnet array, some careful driver positioning, and adding acoustic diffusers. Carefully placed vents allow the air to flow smoothly through the closed-back chamber. This keeps the powerful bass response tight and linear rather than bloated.
Fashionable and functional design
The design is everything I've come to expect from Focal's high-end headphones — as easy on the eyes as they are pleasant to hold. Sturdy, industrial-styled earcups, punctuated with a splash of silver, and held together by smooth-sliding aluminum headphone yokes.
Focal lined the headband and earcups in designer leather. And they filled each ear pad with over an inch of memory foam. The headphones are large and heavy for sure, but the weight is distributed nicely.
Top-shelf presentation and accessories
Focal packs the Stellia headphones in a form-fitting case that's both attractive and practical for carrying around. The headphones and included cables pack up neatly. You have a choice of three included cables, each sporting a nice patterned cloth cover. One is average length and terminated with a 3.5mm mini plug. The other two are extra-long, so you have some slack to just lean back and listen (one is terminated by a 1/4” unbalanced plug, the other a balanced XLR plug).
- over-the-ear, closed-back design for focused, precise sound
- 40mm dynamic drivers made of high-grade materials like strong, lightweight beryllium
- specially designed "M-shaped" pure beryllium domes help reproduce a wide frequency range
- frameless copper voice coil creates strong magnetic field for greater musical detail
- the Focal Arche headphone amplifier/DAC is designed to properly power these headphones for optimum sound quality
- drivers positioned in closed-back headphone chamber to emulate the sound of near-field speakers
- specially placed air vents help manage the tonal balance of the bass and midbass
- leather-lined headband and micro-fiber fabric-lined earcups
- generous memory foam padding on the headband and earcups
- aluminum headband yokes slide comfortably and sturdily into place
- designed, developed, and assembled in Saint-Etienne, France
Accessories and Specs:
- 3 detachable oxygen-free copper cables:
- 9.8-foot cable with balanced XLR4 connector
- 3.9-foot cable with unbalanced 1/4" stereo plug
- 3.9-foot cable with unbalanced 3.5mm stereo plug
- each cable features 3.5mm locking headphone connectors for secure, high-quality connections
- 1/4" adapter included
- rigid, form-fitting storage case with padded interior
- frequency response: 5-40,000 Hz
- sensitivity: 106 dB
- impedance: 35 ohms
- weight: 15.7 ounces
- warranty: 1 year
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
- MFR # STELLIA/ESTLCAS101
What's in the box:
- Over-ear headphones
- 10' Audio cable with 4-pin XLR connector
- 4' Audio cable with straight 3.5mm plug
- 3.5mm-to-1/4" Adapter (installed)
- Zippered hard storage case
- Accessory storage box
- User Manual
- Operating Instructions
- Beryllium - Precautions of Use
- Focal story
- Advisory on properties of leather components
More details on the Focal Stellia
Features & specs
|Earcup Width x Height||3.762" x 4.154"|
|Mic For Taking Calls||No|
|Frequency Response||5-40k Hz|
|Cord Length||109" + 41"|
|1/4-inch Adapter Included||Yes|
|Parts Warranty||1 Year|
|Labor Warranty||1 Year|
Overview: Stellia is Focal's newest high-end over-ear reference headphone. Equipped with new electrodynamic drivers, Stellia can reproduce a wide frequency response (5Hz to 40kHz) with powerful bass and crystal clear highs. It is built for comfort and elegance, using full-grain leather in mocha and cognac finishes. The French-built Stellia comes with two fabric-covered cables, and a handsome zippered hard carrying case.
Drivers: Stellia features large 40mm "M"-shaped dome drivers made of pure Beryllium. The drivers are lightweight and highly rigid (3 times more rigid than titanium) with excellent damping properties, high quality sound, and low distortion. The low impedance (35 ohms) and high sensitivity allow you to easily drive the headphones with a wide variety of sources, from a portable audio player to a high-end headphone amplifier.
Closed-back Design: Stellia's Beryllium drivers are housed in closed back ear cups that feature a matte brandy stainless steel case wrapped in full-grain leather. The plush, 20mm thick memory foam ear pad cushions are also covered with full-grain leather, and provide a good seal for excellent ambient noise rejection. The aluminum yoke is curved to follow the shape of your face, and to provide the proper angle of the drivers to your ears.
Cable: The Focal Stellia headphones come with two fabric-wrapped audio cables. Both cables feature 3.5mm left and right twist-lock plugs for a secure connection to the ear cups. The 10-foot balanced cable has XLR-4 connectors that can be used with many high-end D/A converters and headphone amplifiers. The 4-foot unbalanced cable with a stereo 3.5mm plug for use with high-end portable music players. The cables each have a cotton-braided sheath, and low-resistance 24-gauge OFC copper for maximum signal transfer. A screw-on 3.5mm-to-1/4" adapter is included, so you can use the headphones with your home components or headphone amplifier.
- Frequency Response: 5Hz - 40kHz
- Impedance: 35 ohms
- Sensitivity: 106dB SPL / 1 mW @ 1kHz
- THD: <0.1% @ 1 kHz / 100dB SPL
- Ear Cup Dimensions: 3.762" W, 4.154" H, 2.276" D
- Weight: 15.1 ounces (without cable)