Focal’s new crazy-expensive Stellia headphones are utterly clear, remarkably open

CES 2019 was, as usual, a whirlwind of mayhem, filled mainly by measured sprints from booth to booth and the tapping out of quick keystrokes as I wrote about the latest Atmos soundbars and true wireless headphones. At some point every year, though, I get to slip away to the Venetian to hear something special, and this year, Focal’s $3,000 closed-back gemstones known as the Stellia stole my heart.

The Stellia headphones, just officially unveiled today as part of this year’s CanJam show in New York City, are an opulent slice of audiophilia from the French headphone maker that wrap you in luxury even before you turn the volume dial clockwise. When it comes to style, they draw heavily from Focal predecessors like the Elegia and the Utopia, including the same “yoke” mechanical features in the headband that help the cans naturally conform to the shape of your head.

Imagine the improvement to your commute with this kind of performance.

On the interior of the Stellia’s dimpled earpieces, fluffy foam pads are jacketed in smooth leather, while the cognac and mocha finish adorning the model version we got to put our hands on is as elegant and distinctive in person as it looks in the pictures. It’s notable that the earpads are designed for isolation, as we’re just not used to seeing a pair of headphones at this, shall we say, barrier of entry in a closed-back chassis that’s presumably designed to let you take your high-end sound on the go.

That checks out when it comes to the accessories as well, which include a braided cable with an available 3.5mm jack, as well as one with an XLR connection for a dedicated headphone amp, all packed in a European carry-all of sorts that looks like it could house a briefing for the next G8 summit.

Speaking of headphone amplifiers, the Stellia arrive at CanJam in tandem with Focal’s first-ever DAC/amplifier, dubbed the Arche, which was employed by Focal’s reps for our short audition.

When it comes to the sound, the Stellia are predictably clear, detailed, and beautiful, but they’re also spectacularly open, with a wide and airy soundstage that helps dispel the idea that closed-back headphones have to sound, well, closed. While we only had the chance to audition a few tracks, there’s an immediate sweetness here, mixed with brilliantly clean resonance and fast transient response that blend together for impressive results.

The Stellia are incredibly comfortable, with a build quality that is at once sturdy and luxurious.

Making the Stellia listening experience more intimate with the closed-back design, yet keeping the soundstage expansive and dynamic, allows for a best-of-both-worlds scenario that had me engaged and enthralled from moment one. It also doesn’t hurt that the Stellia are incredibly comfortable, with a build quality that is at once sturdy and luxurious. I’m not sure how many users plan on taking a pair of $3,000 headphones on the road, but imagine the improvement to your commute with this kind of performance serving as an escape from the exterior world.

Of course, at $3,000, you could easily afford to park your car downtown instead of riding the train or, better yet, buy a used car if you don’t already own one. Still, we expect the Stellia to turn heads this year, and look forward (as always) to what’s next from Focal.

While the headphones didn’t show as live on the site at the time of publication, Focal should be adding the Stellia for purchase on its website soon. If you’re in the New York area, you may just want to swing by CanJam and give them a try yourself.

Gaming

Loot boxes? EA vice president prefers you call them surprise mechanics

An Electronic Arts executive said that loot boxes are “surprise mechanics” like Kinder Eggs and that they are “quite ethical and quite fun.” Speaking before a U.K. parliament committee, the executive wouldn't even use the term "loot…
Home Theater

Get the most boom for your buck with the best headphones under $100

Everybody wants a bargain, and this list has a bunch. For those looking for a solid set of headphones without spending a big stack of cash, this list is your ultimate guide. Check out our picks for the best headphones under $100.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods — we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our favorites, with all the features you want.
Gaming

From Nintendo to Capcom, here are the best booths we saw at E3 2019

Every year, publishers and developers gather in Los Angeles to show off their games at E3. Booths are a major part of the excitement and this year didn't let us down. From Nintendo to Capcom, here are the best booths of E3 2019.
Deals

This gorgeous 65-inch LG 4K TV gets a steep $200 price cut at Walmart

There's no doubt about it: Now is the best time to purchase a 4K TV. Networks all around the world are churning out 4K content at warp speed and prices of 4K TVs are on the decline, like this 65-inch LG.
Home Theater

Picture-in-picture reportedly headed to Apple TV in tvOS 13

When tvOS 13 is released to a general audience this fall, it could be sporting a previously undisclosed feature: Picture-in-picture mode. It was spotted in an early developer release and it reportedly only works in the TV App.
Home Theater

Forget the remote: Yamaha offers two new affordable, Alexa-enabled soundbars

Yamaha announced two new soundbars aimed at fans of Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. The affordable new soundbars are both designed to provide viewers with great sound at an affordable price, with built-in Alexa voice control.
Home Theater

From home theater to home studio, these are the best speakers you can buy

Whether you’re looking for a spiffy surround sound setup or a small system to listen to Spotify, a great pair of speakers can make all the difference. These are the best speakers in all shapes and sizes.
Home Theater

Don’t cash in that 401(k)! These are the best 4K TVs you can get for under $500

These days, you can land a pretty epic 4K TV for under $500. Still, sorting through the litany of options online can be both time-consuming and overwhelming. Check out our list of the best 4K TVs under $500.
Deals

Walmart kicks off an unmissable deal on a 55-inch Samsung QLED 4K TV

Walmart has a treat in store (or rather, online) for those in the market for a QLED TV: It has knocked a massive $385 off the 55-inch Samsung Q6FN, sending the price tumbling below $1,000.
Home Theater

These TVs might cost less than $1,000, but they certainly don’t perform like it

Check out our picks for the best TVs under $1,000 to enjoy top-shelf features like 4K Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range, and gorgeous image processing. Park yourself here to find the absolute best values in TV land.
Home Theater

Here are Netflix’s picks for the best 2019 TVs for streaming its shows

This year, Netflix has added a new criterion for its Netflix Recommended list, known as Always Ready: A TV must keep the Netflix app open, even while asleep, so it's ready to go as soon as users fire up the app.
Home Theater

Netflix Recommended TVs: What does it mean, and why do you want one?

Netflix Recommended TVs will have faster startup and playback. Our guide gives a quick breakdown of Netflix's criteria for recommending current TVs and explain what this means for you.
Deals

Walmart offers a fantastic deal on a 70-inch LG 4K Smart TV

It's important that the television in our living room is large and clear enough to immerse everyone in the action — like this 70-inch LG 4K TV, which is now on sale for $940 at Walmart.