I’ve been hearing a lot about a certain pair of $3,000 “luxury” headphones over the past few months. They’re called the Stellia by a French headphones manufacturer Focal, and if you’re one of countless other headphone enthusiasts like myself, then you’ve probably heard about them as well.
Now, I’ve never really been interested in luxury anything as a general rule. I have little in the way of brand loyalty, and will instead research the heck out of something until I find the “best” one – whatever that even means. And if what I just said sounds contradictory, well… just because something is marketed as luxury doesn’t mean it’s high quality. Instead, I prefer to spend more – often a lot more – on well crafted products that I know will last me a long time. Fewer things, but of higher quality.
What’s the deal with the Focal Stellia headphones?
They’re essentially high-end headphones from a company with 40 years of experience creating headphones with cutting-edge technology, and everyone has been gushing over them. That’s why I just had to try them myself.
But is all the hype warranted? Here’s what I think…
Subjectively, how do they sound?
Headphones are a little bit like wine. Everyone has their own preferences, and certain flavors (sound characteristics) appeal to us more than others. That’s why the best advice I can give anyone looking to buy a pair of high quality headphones is to try as many as possible and see what sounds good. What sounds fantastic to me may not sound great to you, and vice versa.
Having said that, here’s my take on the Stellia headphones: they’re probably the best reference headphones I’ve ever used, and believe me when I say I’ve tested hundreds over the past 10 years.
The sound is perfectly neutral. It’s neither warm nor cold, it’s right in the middle. Vocals are crisp and clear, the bass is just-so, and the sound-stage is excellent – especially for closed-back headphones which often sound “dumpy” to me. Yes, that’s the way I choose to describe the sonic characteristics of most closed-back headphones, and I’m sticking to it!
Headphones and computer equipment are one of my few weaknesses, and it’s almost comical how many pairs of headphones I own. Some for gaming, some for music, some for working out, and some for watching movies. However, it turns out I may not actually need so many pairs anymore, as the Stellia are remarkably versatile.
Let’s talk build quality and aesthetics
The build quality is top-notch, as I would expect from $3,000 headphones. Aluminum housing, full-grain leather strap, and luxurious memory foam padding. Even the case looks premium.
I have absolutely no issues with the build quality, and fortunately the Stellia happens to be very comfortable as well, despite being on the heavier side, weighing 0.96lb (435g).
What I really do not love is the colorway, which is cognac, mocha, and more mocha. I can see what they were going for, a sort of chalet-goer aesthetic, but it’s just not my style. I would absolutely love to see the Stellia released in a black and silver, or even gold and silver style. I suspect that I’m not the only person that feels this way. Something a little more contemporary would be wonderful, especially since these headphones are also designed for use with mobile phones on the go.
The technical specs…
I’ve left this until nearly the end for two reasons: though I appreciate high quality sound, and feel I’ve got a decent ear, I’m not a “spec nerd”. I also don’t find the raw stats particularly useful, for reasons I mentioned earlier. So I recommend mostly using these to ballpark whether the headphones (roughly) fit your criteria, and then trying or buying a pair to confirm. It’s really the only way to be sure.
- Type: Circum-aural closed-back headphones
- Impedance: 35 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 106dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
- THD: 0.1% @ 1kHz / 100 dB SPL
- Frequency response: 5Hz–40kHz
- Loudspeaker: 1.6″ (40mm) pure Beryllium “M” shape dome
- Weight: 0.96lb (435g)
Where can you buy the Focal Stellia headphones?
You can purchase the Stellia directly from the Focal website for $2,990, or through Amazon or a number of local dealers. Yes, it’s $10 less than I claimed earlier in the article, so rejoice in your new-found savings! Because I guarantee that the moment you have a chance to try these, there’s no way you won’t decide to forgo a few months of rent to own them.