Focal Stellia review: The most exquisite headphone we’ve reviewed to date

French high-end brand Focal is relatively new to the headphone game—its first model was introduced in 2012—but the company has more than 40 years of experience designing audiophile speakers and drivers, so it’s no surprise that Focal headphones are among the most highly regarded in the world. TechHive has reviewed two—the Clear and the Elegia—deeming both to be exceptional, though not inexpensive by any means.

The latest addition to Focal’s stable of headphones is the Stellia. Given what I’ve heard from the company’s headphones in the past, I was eager to give this one a long listen—and I was not disappointed!

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best headphones, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

Features

The Focal Stellia is a circumaural (around-the-ear) closed-back design that connects to the source device with actual wires—no Bluetooth here! In fact, the Stellia comes with two hefty cables: a 3-meter (10-foot) cable with XLR connector intended for home use with an amplifier such as the Focal Arche (review forthcoming) and a 1.2-meter (3-foot) cable with a 3.5 mm connector for mobile devices. Also included is a 1/4-inch adaptor that screws onto the 3.5mm plug, which is more secure than a snap-on design. At first, I thought the XLR cable facilitated a balanced connection, but it doesn’t; the connectors for each earpiece have only two conductors (signal and ground), so the connection is not balanced.

focal stellia profile Focal

The headband and earpiece yoke mechanisms are derived from Focal’s Utopia headphone, and they contribute to the Stellia’s high comfort factor.

The headband and earpiece yoke mechanisms are derived from the company’s Utopia headphone, a flagship, open-back model introduced in 2016. The consistent curve between these elements is said to offer superior comfort regardless of the shape and size of the listener’s head. In addition, the earpads consist of high-resilience memory foam that, along with the headband, is covered with full-grain leather.

Of course, the earcups are designed for more than comfort; they provide excellent isolation from ambient sound and an acoustic environment specifically designed for the full-range drivers. In fact, the earcups include two vents: one to control the balance between the bass and midrange and the other to evacuate the rear wave from the center of the motor to avoid compression and extend the low-frequency response—in other words, this is a bass-reflex headphone! At the other end of the sonic spectrum, EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam behind the drivers absorbs excess high-frequency energy. Finally, acoustic diffusers break up any standing waves and make the earcups more rigid and inert.

focal stellia exploded Focal

The earcup and driver are carefully designed to deliver glorious sound quality.

The full-range drivers themselves are equally well-designed. The 40mm diaphragm is a pure-beryllium dome with very low mass, high rigidity, and high damping. The cross section of the diaphragm resembles the letter “M,” which is said to offer even higher rigidity for more precision and less distortion. Also, the Focal-exclusive frameless pure-copper voice coil reduces the mass even further. The result is a frequency response from 5Hz to 40kHz (±3 dB) with a THD of 0.1% @ 1 kHz/100 dB SPL and a sensitivity of 106 dB SPL/1 mW @ 1 kHz. The impedance is 35 ohms, making the Stellia relatively easy to drive.

I don’t normally comment on a product’s packaging, but I will in this case—it’s as high-end as the Stellia itself. A large, sturdy box includes the headphone in its rigid, woven-cover case along with separate case for the cables. Even the documentation, sparse as it is, comes in its own leather folder.

focal stellia packaging Vendor-provided art.

The Stellia’s packaging is quite impressive.

Performance

At first, I couldn’t find any indication of which sides of the Stellia are left and right, but I finally found small labels on the bottom of each earcup near the cable connector. The cables for each side are marked as well.