I’m conflicted. I got the Focal Utopia this week, they’re the best headphones I’ve ever heard - but they’re too fatiguing. Even with treble peaks EQ’d. I can’t use them without hurting my ears.
Open-backs sound poor at low volumes (to me), and they never give me that “loud enough” feeling. So I can turn them up loud without realising. Whereas Elegia sounds great at low volumes - but with less technical ability.
I’m wondering if I should get Focal Stellia instead. For general listening, I prefer Elegia’s “style” of presentation. It’s a more full, dense, cohesive sound. Images are larger, and wrap around my head. It’s very intimate, but still has a “sense” of depth and layering. Every detail is “right there”, placed next to me, instead of sounding far away. Which makes them great for low-volume listening. They also have more immediate “snap” to their dynamics, instead of the heavy, eardrum-shattering “slam” of the Utopias. My Elegia is heavily EQ’d also, I don’t like it stock.
So if the Stellia is (somewhat) close to Utopia performance, but with a more Elegia-style presentation, I’d love it for general listening. I heard Meze Empyrean are great too but I don’t know enough.
Another Utopia problem is the small images. It’s very articulate and real, but every instrument is small in size. This makes it less ‘fun’ for general listening.
But also - Microphonics. I wear these in bed often, and the Elegia is very microphonic (worse than other closed-backs). When I move my head, or the cables, it sounds deafening. Is the Stellia better, or just the same? I’m using a lightweight custom cable too, it barely helps.
So essentially, parts of the Utopia aren’t what I prefer. But I’m scared to lose Utopia’s technical ability if I choose Stellia. Is it a good idea?
Oh boy. Here is my 2 cents for what it is worth and this may be a little controversial. I heard the Utopias at Upscale Audio in So Cal and they were great, not the last word in bass quantity but the tonality was what I was looking for. I purchased a Focal Utopia refurbished pair a year or 2 later but they were not what I remembered. The upper mids did not sound the same and the little 3rd party Cable sucked and was too short. ( I have no idea why they did not include the original cable set. ) I was pretty disappointed and almost returned them, Fortunately I did not . I ordered a Corpse Cardas 10ft balanced Cable instead and to my surprise the tonality that I remembered finally materialized. Nine times out of ten I personally believe that high end cables do not make a big enough difference to justify the cost but it made a difference for me. It is totally possible that the cable included had a defect and that explains the change in sound between the two cables but my theory is that the Utopias are pretty sensitive and need a decent cable. Just my opinion, and as always try before you buy or at least be able to get most of your money back when buying expensive gear like headphones or even tweaks like cables, isolators etc. Hope this helps.
Yeah I got mine used, came with a Forza (I can’t remember the model) cable. It’s too short also. But looking online it’s a top recommendation for Utopia. I have the stock one too, haven’t tried it yet.
The Utopia sounds incredible. I’ve added EQ to reduce fatigue, but at stock + slight bass shelf, it makes my jaw drop. I’ve never witnessed a headphone this good - it fully lives up to the hype.
But I feel it’s a “Wow” headphone, for brief usage. It’s not a long, comfortable listen, it aggravates my tinnitus. While the Elegia has more comfortable presentation for longer listening. That’s why I’m considering Stellia instead. But I’m not sure.
I haven’t heard the Utopia, but when I demo’d the Stellia, it was an epiphany.
what dac and amp are you using? utopia responds to good sources and synergistic pairings
I still need to upgrade my amp, but they sound incredible right now anyway. I’d say the only issue is the “wide corridor” effect, where some sounds extend really wide/far away, and it starts lacking presence on the sides (only some songs). Other songs are fine. It’s just slightly odd.
I just think the Stellia could be a better option for me, since I prefer the closed-back style of impact + the soundstage. Somehow my ears really like that feeling, and it’s missing from all open-backs. Utopia is the best - but Elegia has something about it I enjoy, especially at low volumes.
I guess if the Stellia really compares to Utopia in detail and imaging/separation, it might be for me. I don’t care much for the open, spacious style of sound, even though it’s mind-blowing at high volumes.
Upscale is great! I heard the Utopia at their booth in Axpona and I’m inclined to agree. I lean towards the Stellia because it is not so fatiguing. It’s one of those headphones that’s on my personal to-buy list when I can.
What is your source gear?
I believe (and I could be wrong) the Utopia are treble peaking in your case because they are exposing the faults of your DAC, amp or both.
Why do people say Utopia are source dependent? The are extremely revealing, any flaw from your source will be emphasized and it’s no fault of the Utopia’s.
That could be happening, but to me the treble is great (much better than Elegia’s metallic sound). It’s a little sharp, in a revealing way, but EQ makes it less fatiguing (and less exciting).
The sound quality isn’t a problem at all, it’s a mind-blowing headphone. I feel hypnotised listening to it. (I do need a high-end amp still). It’s just fatiguing in its presentation + dynamics, for me. A new amp won’t change its natural characteristics.
It seems like the Stellia will be a better compromise for longer listening, as I can’t really enjoy the Utopia without killing my ears!
My used set also has weakened springs, from the last owner. The cups don’t “rebound” properly, so they don’t grip my head strongly enough. Seems like an expensive repair, since Focal doesn’t supply the springs alone.
What dac and amp do you have?
Don’t shoot me… My PC uses an SSL2 interface, + Magni Heresy.
Main setup: JDS Atom + Topping BC3 dac. (And my uncle’s old iFi Zen Can)
My uncle thought the Atom sounded “way better” than his Zen Can, but they’re identical. I’ve tested them carefully to rule out bias. The Magni sounds worse to me, but I haven’t done those tests with it, so maybe it’s identical too.
My uncle has an RME Adi 2 fs, I’ll try it when I next see him.
I’ve tried the 30-ohm output on my mixer. It shrunk the soundstage a bit, and loosened the bass a lot (as expected with impedance curves). Not great.
It sounds jaw-dropping on both the Atom and Zen. So I’d love to try the Adi 2 fs.
I need to upgrade, but it’s unrelated. The Utopia does sound incredible, I’m having a great time. But I’m talking personal tastes (which amps won’t solve). I always had issues with open-backs. Closed backs always “hit the spot” for my ears, where I’m satisfied with lower volumes. Same with the Elegia. I’m just wondering how Stellia compares
(I might be wrong though - this is just me wondering. It’s a big purchase, so it’s had me debating Utopia vs Stellia!)
Used radiance for 800 also sound ls mighty nice. Just saying in case you’d prefer to spend midfi $
Stellia can be a little amp picky. I’d say the same for the Utopia, but I’ve never heard the Utopia, just what I’ve seen from others. Radiance seems pretty versatile with the amps I’ve paired it with.
Radiance isn’t too far behind the Stellia imo. Definitely a solid closed back option for the price.
I highly recommend you see if you can borrow the RME for 1-2 weeks and listen to it and see if, to your surprise, it mitigates some of the treble and imaging gripes you are having. I specifically mention 1-2 weeks as opposed to a single listening session or day because differences can take time to adjust to. Also, I woudl recommend you spend significant time with the gear before switching back rather than A/B testing.
I think you might be underestimating how much the source gear can transform the Utopia’s imaging and perception of treble, not just the technical ability.
I think are you correct in regards to Source gear at least when it comes to the Utopia, I have an OG Gen1 Yggy with a firmware update and a gen5 USB , and it sounds good to me . My problem is some DACs bug me and I can’t listen for a long while and no I don’t know why because most DAC measure similarly , for me its the amount of time I can listen without getting fatigued. I don’t think its a frequency response thing because the previous more fatiguing DAC I had stuff sounds rougher even if I played with EQ.