Amping and pairing
With 35-ohm/106dB sensitivity drivers, the Stellia was definitely designed for use with a wide range of source gear – in particular, mobile equipment. What’s very quickly apparent about the Stellia is the fact that you’re able to just very, very good performance from said gear. It’s not tremendously amp-picky, nor is it altogether difficult to drive. However, if you’ve gone to the trouble of acquiring yourself fancy new sports-car, you sure as hell aren’t going to fill it with 91 octane. And it’s the same with audio gear – sure, you can go from zero to ‘too loud’ in under 4 seconds with any old fuel, but you want to make sure you’re extracting the best from it. So please, if you’ve gone to great trouble (and great expense!) of getting a great pair of headphones like the Stellia, you’ll get more reward from using better-recorded source material, with better source gear.
I spent most of my time listening to the Stellia with my Questlye CMA600i using the balanced 4-pin cable. The Questyle easily drove the Stellia to comfortable listening levels at around 8:30 on the volume pot and proved to be a transparent, powerful and enjoyable pairing.
The Stellia also proved to be a genuine portable contender when it came to pairing with high-quality mobile sources. Sonically, it was a terrific match with both the Chord Mojo and the new Astell&Kern S700, neither of which broke a sweat driving the Stellia in 3.5mm single-ended mode. I would have loved to have tried the 2.5mm balanced option on the A&K DAP, but I didn’t have an adapter on hand (sorry!). However, there was nothing missing from my musical enjoyment via single-ended playback to warrant requiring the maximum 4vrms of the balanced outputs. Dynamics and bass impact did feel a little leaner on the Mojo after immediately using the Stellia with the Questyle, but still impressive nonetheless.
I did enjoy tubing the Stellia, spending a few enjoyable albums’ worth of time with them paired to the Hagerman Audio Tuba, which I reviewed last year. The Tuba is a transformer-coupled amp, with the ‘LO’ output having an impedance of 5-ohms – about right for a 35-ohm headphone, but sometimes this can play with the frequency response of lower-Z cans. Not so with the Stellia, which were an absolute treat on the Tuba. Throwing the Tuba’s EL84’s into the equation tended to make the Stellia slightly softer and rounder in terms of bass impact, and did make for a slightly more gentle upper-octave. While it didn’t exactly sacrifice resolution, The Tuba did make for a smoother, less defined image and smoother treble response.
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