BBC Music Magazine
BEST QUALITY Focal Stellia £2,795
The majority of high-end headphones are designed to be used solely with luxury hi-fi components and certainly never taking on the bus. But French brand Focal is shaking things up a little bit with Stellia, an exquisitely designed, eye-wateringly expensive pair of closed-back headphones that can be powered by the finest headphone amplifiers and DACS, or plugged into a portable music player or smartphone.
Unsurprisingly, when I listened to hi-res recordings from my Macbook using the outstanding Audiolab M-DAC headphone amp, the Stellia blew my socks off. They are the most impressive pair of closed-back headphones I’ve had the pleasure of using. The interplay between strings and piano on the Artemis Quartet and Elisabeth Leonskaja’s recording of Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet (Warner Classics) left me open-mouthed. It’s a privilege to hear music like this.
But what happens when you remove them from perfect listening conditions? Thanks to the extra gap between the ultra-soft ear cups and 40mm Beryllium drivers, the space and detail afforded means even a compressed MP3 sounds better than it ought to. focal.com