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.

 ??  ?? Gold standard: the superb Focal Stellias
Gold standard: the superb Focal Stellias

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