I can tell you that the Stella is not the most demanding of IEM’s out there for power. It is only just marginally less sensitive sounding than the CA Dorado and it does require more power than my own Eternal Melody EM5 and the InEar StageDiver SD-5 but not a huge amount.
Testing all three from the Nano BL direct output I found just some marginal volume tweaking upwards for the Stella compared to the other two all BA IEMs.
Normally I prefer a neutral source with most of my IEMs and then just EQ a little for some minor tweaking if required. I tend to use a Cayin N5ii for most of my travels and by and large I found the pairing to be quite engaging. This pairing though is quite neutral and at times can veer to the brighter side. Not a sound I could call annoyingly peaky or sibilant. If anything, just a little hard edge to the sound here and there.
On the flip side how good is the Sony NW-WM1Z and Stella pairing? Fantastic in a word. It’s not as bright sounding as the N5ii and adds a little more bass punch and warmth which I appreciate for pop and rock tracks. The treble is far less hard-edged than the N5ii also though from time to time I do find a little bit of peakiness in the 1Z treble that the Stella is able to expose easily so its not a faultless delivery. I do tend to blame the digital treble sound of Sony DAPs more than the Stella on this one.
I also thought the Stella paired quite well with my portable amp/DAC’s which are more to the natural to slightly warm side with the FiiO Q5 and iFi’s Nano iDSD BL. I guess a little fattening out of the sound and some additional power meant the Stella scaled a bit more to my liking. Certainly, for an unbalanced output I did not find either of these two sources lacking in dynamic range or resolution with the Stella.
What surprised me the most was the level of silence I also got from the direct output of the Nano iDSD BL. This should be a noisier output, at least it is with the SD-5 (though not by much). With the Stella is was very quiet indeed with hardly a need to switch over to the IEMatch output. For those who are wondering if the Stella tuning changes with IEMatch the answer is no.
Eternal Melody EM5
The EM5 is a bit more u-shaped sounding to my ear than the Stella and also a lot less airy sounding with a rolled-off treble. There is more low-end body for sure and instrumental timbre is a bit more physical sounding and the warmer of the two.
However, the Stella sounds way more open with far more treble presence and articulation. It does make the EM5 sound fairly dark to the point where I felt it vocals and midrange was a bit veiled in comparison to the Stella’s excellent levels of clarity.
Take the EM5 is you are treble-shy and want something virtually sibilant free but for me that dark sound leaves me wanting a bit more.
InEar StageDiver SD-5
The SD-5 has a richer midrange with more body and slightly more mid-bass bias delivering more warmth to the instrumental timbre than the Stella. The Stella bass is a bit leaner in quantity, but the quality of the dynamic driver is good, and depth is marginally better than the BA SD-5.
The Stella is more forward in the upper mids and treble and sounds the wider and more open of the two IEMs. The Stella’s more forward treble is perceptibly more articulate, resolving and cleaner sounding than the SD-5.
The Stella can be less forgiving than the SD-5’s more flexible and easier going tuning but does a better job with imaging and female vocals have a bit more focus.
Campfire Audio Dorado
To be honest picking one or the other is going to be entering in two very different worlds even though both are triple driver hybrids. The Dorado is bass heavy, warmish and smooth sounding with a relaxed midrange that continues right up into a pleasant-sounding treble with only a minor hint of energy.
The Dorado not as dark as the EM5, nowhere near as roll-ed off but compared to the Stella is does lack air and height. The Stella is much cleaner and more open sounding than the Dorado, with better instrumental separation, and more precise sound and far better staging height and headroom. However, the bass sounds very lean and lacks the power/warmth of the Dorado bass.
The two almost complement each other in that respect. The Dorado for bassy pop, rock, dance and the Stella for jazz, vocals and acoustics. The Dorado for out and out musicality, the Stella for control, detail and precise imaging.
This has been a worthwhile debut challenge review for me on Headfonia. I think Light Harmonic have done a pretty decent job with the Stella in both resisting the temptation to let it all hang out with bloated dynamic driver sound or aiming for an easy darkish sound to tame the masses.
Yes, the Stella is slightly niche, more at home with audiophile standards, clean acoustical sounds and most importantly female vocals. But what it does, it does incredibly well, and it does stand out from the crowd on that basis.
Pair it with a good natural sounding source and you will find the Stella is very detailed and engaging flagship IEM.