Focal Stellia review

Focal Stellia

Final thoughts and conclusions. 


So, after about a month with the Stellia, how do I feel about it? Well, for starters, incredibly sad to be sending it back to where it came from. More than any other pair of headphones, I’ve been excited to simply want to make time to sit down and play music with them. They’re addictive in a way that needs to be experienced – they manage to combine detail, dynamics, and tonal balance with aplomb. And, they just so happen to be close-backed. Not once did I find myself missing the air and sound stage of an open-back pair of headphones – if anything I grew to appreciate the ‘cocoon’ the Stellia formed around my head.  

But, of course, there’s the cost factor and there’s no getting around it. And, of course, a lot of the Stellia’s cost includes paying for its sumptuous build and its absolutely decadent aesthetics. There’s clearly a market for this kind of headphone, and if it gets more people to take notice of high-end personal audio and want to experience something truly remarkable – well that’s just great. I appreciated the build and craftsmanship as someone only spending a brief amount of time with the Stellia, but in all honesty, they’re simply too ostentatious-looking for this reviewer. I’d feel simply too conspicuous if I left the house with them, and honesty, probably too conspicuous if I looked at myself in the mirror wearing them at home. If Focal managed to package that driver in a low-key black plastic metal body, with Alcantara instead of leather – and delivered at a lower price-point – then I’d be at the front of the queue. 

And here’s the other thing – the Stellia, to me, is the perfect headphone for someone who’s prepared to pay top-dollar to have the best of something. They’re absolutely a ‘desert island’ pair of headphones – if you could only have one pair, then they might just be that pair. They impress beyond anything else I’ve heard. But audio enthusiasts, myself included, enjoy mixing things up from time to time – and for me, that means using a range of several, less expensive pieces of equipment. 

The Stellia feels like the flagship for the person who’s perhaps not quite the traditional hobbyist who’s looking to add something to their collection and enjoy the nuances between different headphones. Rather, the Stellia feels like it’s been created for someone who’s a) able to afford it, and b) wants to go straight to the ‘end-game’ and own one pair of headphones for bragging rights that screams ‘BEST’ in every regard – more leather…more detail…more bass…more accessories…more everything.

The Stellia reminds me of another ostentatious French flagship from another industry – the Bugatti Veyron. It was, at one point, the fastest and most expensive production car ever made, and it certainly looked like it too. You wouldn’t exactly take a Veyron out for your daily commute nor would you leave it parked on the street, it’s more the kind of vehicle you keep garaged as a ‘trophy’. You’re also more likely to find a Veyron driving in first gear on Rodeo Drive than hammering around the Nordschleife.

But, at the end of the day, it’s all about priorities. What ‘sparks joy’ for you? If it happens to be music, and you plan to listen to a lot of it with something that’s exquisitely designed and manufactured, then what’s stopping you? I can promise you unreservedly that the Focal Stellia is a 10/10 listen – there’s nothing like it. If this gives you a little inspiration to work harder or deprioritize something else in your life that’s not making you happy, then I’m pleased to have been of service. The Stellia is now added to our list of Recommended headphone buys!




Matty's a musician, music-fan, and 'gear-phile' from Sydney, Australia. Outside of his day-job in creative advertising, Matty enjoys live music, lawn bowls, craft beer, and spending far too much money collecting vinyl.


    • Reply March 2, 2020


      Hi Matty!

      I love your writing style – your articles are always a great pleasure to read!!!

      Could you maybe add some sound comparison to other headphones?

      • Reply March 2, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Thanks for reading mate, it’s much appreciated. I left some impressions comparing the Stellia to the ZMF Eikon and Beyerdynamic T1 on page 3 – I think it’s important to compare against headphones you can directly listen-to back-to-back, so I try to always to comparisons with headphones that I have with me at that point in time. Are there any particular headphones you were keen to hear them compared against?

      • Reply March 2, 2020


        Any comparisons with the ZMF Verite Open. I understand open vs closed isn’t fair. Would you rate it on the same level as – LCD 4s/Empyrean/D8000 ?

        • Reply March 2, 2020

          Matty Graham

          I haven’t spent enough time with the Verite or D8000 to give you a proper answer. I LCD-4 is just too dark, and too heavy for me; the Empyrean is tonally very lovely abut just doesn’t have the same aggressive dynamics as the Stellia.

      • Reply August 28, 2020


        I’m fortunate enough to own these, and your review captures them to perfection. I haven’t found a better or more precise description of their strengths and few minor weaknesses. I kept nodding my head and thinking, “Yes, exactly!”

    • Reply March 2, 2020

      Miguel Betancourt

      What a joy and pleasure to read your reviews, simply put, just wonderful!



    • Reply March 2, 2020

      Mike I.

      Very nice review, again; thank you !

      Your comparison with the Beyer T1: gen 1 or gen 2 ?

      A comparison with the ZMF Vérité – closed would be very nice: cheaper, less bling-bling, and also beryllium.

      • Reply March 4, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Thanks Mike – it’s the Gen 1 Beyer T1. I don’t have ready access to a Verite – being handmade, direct-to-customer, and generally pretty expensive! Although, I would love to hear one. If one happens to manifest in the next few days I’ll try and add some thoughts to the article.

    • Reply March 2, 2020

      Thomas Ho

      Well said, I agree with the points that you’ve made about being an audiophile as a hobby. I’ve fallen in love with your review. Well done!

      • Reply March 3, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Great to hear, thanks Thomas!

    • Reply March 2, 2020


      Thanks for great review! Just a quick question please. When you said “does highlight it’s sometimes unnatural timbre in the upper midrange”, you are referring to Stellia or T1?

      Actually, one more question. Have you heard Elex? Sure, it’s open back, but Elex is such a good value proposition. If one wants Stellia but only can afford Elex, I wonder how much of difference there will be.

      • Reply March 3, 2020

        Matty Graham

        I’ve just tweaked it to make it clearer – I’m referring to the timbre of the Stellia when it come to how it deals with some instruments and vocals texturally.

        I have heard the Elex – I recall it being tonally very awesome, and its dynamics certainly were impressive. It’s not going to hit as hard as the Stellia in the low end, in particular, and the beryllium drivers of the Stellia do give it a noticeable edge in the speed and clarity stakes.

    • Reply March 3, 2020


      Thank you for the response and clarification!

    • Reply March 4, 2020

      Brian Becker

      Superb review friend! Such and enjoyable read.

      I heard the Stellia while visiting London and was gobsmacked silly.

      Since there was no way I was getting this approved by my CFO (aka wifey, bless her heart), and I just had to have something, I got the Elegia instead.

      Very happy I did. Cheers!

      • Reply March 6, 2020

        Matty Graham

        They do have an uncanny ability of impressing you right from the get-go, so I’m not suprised Brian. You have yourself an awesome set of cans in the Elegia, enjoy mate.

    • Reply March 6, 2020


      Great review, thanks! It will be interesting to see what you think of the ZMF Verite Closed. I was privileged enough to have the two together for a couple of months. The VCs and Stellia are to my ears, head and shoulders above the closest CB competition as well as being right up there in the overall list of current greats. Having initially been blown away by the sheer scale of the VCs stage and visceral bass kick i was sure they’d be the keepers, but as time wore on i found the stellias on my head more and the VCs less and less. The VCs are slightly W shaped and as such the mids are just that bit too recessed for my tastes, that an i started to find them a portly and plodding compared to the up front, but even handed Stellia, with almost utopia levels of detail and in more liveable with tonal package. I should caveat this by saying i listen mainly to complicated electronica/techno with spattering of 90s alt rock like MBV and pavement. I love hearing up front and detail, but in the most analogue manner possible and nothing takes me into the music like the Stellias. Thanks again :):)

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