Focal present Stellia headphones and Arche headphone amp/DAC
Vocal about Focal
Three years on from their Utopia open-backed headphones, French loudspeaker firm, Focal, have released the Stellia high-end, closed-back headphone and a headphone amp/DAC, dubbed Arche.Focal’s new Stellia headphones adapt the Utopia open-backed design to create a closed-back version. This required the development of a new generation of electrodynamic speaker drivers capable of working at low acoustic load while offering a wide frequency response (5Hz – 40kHz). Numerous signature Focal technologies are incorporated within these speaker drivers, including a frameless 100% copper voice coil and an ‘M’-shaped pure Beryllium dome, which help Stellia deliver precise bass articulation, and treble with detail.The Stellia headphones can, of course, be used with the new Arche amplifier and DAC. This all-in-one headphone solution was developed by Micromega for Focal and combines a digital-analogue converter as well as two pure class A amplification modes (Amplifier and Hybrid) designed especially for headphones. Arche also offers presets for every member of the Focal headphone range to make sure you get the absolute best from your particular combination and future headphones will be supported by firmware updates.
Stellia’s full range driver housing includes two vents, the first controls the balance between the mid and bass frequencies and the second extends the frequency response of the speaker driver. EVA foam positioned behind the speaker driver absorbs high frequencies and the presence of acoustic diffusers in the ear cup break up standing waves by dissipating residual energy, they also provide extra rigidity so that only the actual driver is involved in generating sound.
The materials used in the earpads are specifically designed to provide an acoustic environment that diffuses and absorbs the audio signal in equal amounts to provide a linear frequency range between 1 and 10kHz.
For those that use headphones over an extended period, comfort is a concern and the Stellia uses the headband and yoke mechanical approach, creating a consistent curve to offer comfort, regardless of the shape and size of the listener’s face and head. Additionally, the acoustically optimised memory foam on the earpads provides comfort and the closed-back design enables a level of soundproofing and privacy.
Turning to the Arche amp/DAC, Micromega have used their electronics expertise to reduce crosstalk on the input, amplification and power circuits.
The two premium digital-analogue balanced AK 4490 converters have an extended operating range of 768kHz at 32bits designed to ensure quality reproduction of high-resolution audio formats. Arche can thus processes PCM format signals, 384kHz, as well as DSD 256.
Arche features a dual mono channel design and each has a class A power supply, which allows the use of headphones with very high impedances.
The amplification can be switched between two modes, Amplifier and Hybrid. In Amplifier mode, the output impedance drops to just 0.1 ohm which results in major listening dynamics. The second mode, Hybrid, benefits from higher output impedance and the result is a tonal balance that slightly favours the bass, midrange and extreme treble registers.
Connectivity is mostly via the rear panel which features an analogue input (RCA) and three digital inputs (USB, toslink and coaxial). Arche can also be used as a digital-analogue converter to drive the signal towards a power amplifier used for powering a pair of headphones or high-fidelity loudspeakers, via an XLR format balanced output, doubled up with two RCAs for amplifiers with more traditional connectivity.
Front panel inputs let you connect up to two pairs of headphones via 1/4” (6.35mm) unbalanced stereo jack outputs and a balanced 4-point XLR. The multifunctional rotary potentiometer enables total control of the system. As well as the selection of inputs and volume control, the output level can also be optimised in relation to the impedance of the headphones connected.
Arche comes with a solid aluminium headphones mount, so accessing and storing the headphones is quick, easy and space saving.
The Stellia headphones have their share of accessories too. These include a woven cognac and mocha faux-leather rigid travel case and two high-quality cables. The first is a 3-metre cable with a symmetrical 4-pin XLR connector and the second measures 1.2m with a 3.5mm stereo jack, it is designed to connect Stellia to a portable audiophile player. Stellia’s voice coil offers extremely low impedance at 35 ohms, making the headphones very easy to drive through the output of a mobile audio source.
Stellia is available February 2019 in cognac and mocha finishes priced £2,750 and Arche is available March 2019, price not known.
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