Headphones HE

Stellia and HE. I bought my system and my dealer convinceda me to get a secondary system within my allotted budget 2 years ago. Primary is sn3 ndx2 wilson tunetots, which i really enjoy. I also have atom he nap100 bowers 705s2 and stellias. I like the speaker amp combo much better than the stellias. I barely listen to them anymore They sound flat and lack dimension to me. Im thinking about selling the secondary system as the headphones do nothing for me. I wanted closed backed so as not to disturb my wife. A case of buying the review as opposed to properly demoed. Does anyone have a similar experience with stellias? Btw the he with nap 100 and 705s2 is delightful but when i listen, i listen to the main system.

Perhaps a case of both needing to still run in?

But not having demoed it it could be a case of you just not liking them. Can you go listen to a set that is already run in at the dealer?

Did you audition the Stellias before buying? Like speakers, headphones are the component most responsible for sound character, and what one person may love another may find unlistenable. And unlike speaker there are no room effects to possibly mess things up. If you did hear first and they were great, then the question is what has changed. If they were always like that then unfortunately it seems to me that you chose, or were persuaded to buy, the wrong ones for you. And really there isn’t a fix other than changing.

Saying it again… you need to add EQ on focal headphones.


I didn’t like Stellia when I tried them, and they were a well run-in pair. Too revealing, a bit sterile and ultimately more impressive than enjoyable. Some tracks were great, but others just seemed flat or fatiguing.

Headphones are a very personal thing, and that is before fit enters the picture. Many like the Focal ranges and also the Sennheiser 820 but they left me cold. I prefer the more organic (if perhaps technically less proficient) ZMF and Grado character, although even within those brands there are variations. Grado dont make any closed back though.

IMHO you absolutely must try before you buy, and with your system too. There is a reason quite a lot of high end headphones appear s/h or ex demo.



Not sure where/when you’ve said it before as I don’t recall reading, but not in this thread! However, my understanding is that Atom HE doesn’t have any EQ facility, so some sort of additional DSP box or filter needed.

Yes. Audirvana on a Mac or PC acting as a server

As someone who really enjoys the HE / Focal combination I’ll suggest that this is very much a personal choice instead of a requirement.

I would not understand why anyone would pay the cost of an HE and Clear MG, two devices designed to work together, and needing DSP to make the sound acceptable. Sounds more like buying the incorrect devices then.


That is marketing (or wishful thinking). No evidence they were so designed, only that the two companies have a shared ownership so get sold as a bundle. I agree with you re DSP though, far from essential and rather more faff than I’d ever consider too.



I think perhaps this time there is more to it than that. Back in the day when Claire was active here she mentioned using demos of them in her office at Naim together.

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Thanks, I didn’t know that, but ultimately the HE works with a huge range of headphones and the OP has a lot of choices, and they can have very different characteristics. You can definitely look beyond Focal and be happy.



Oh definitely, did not mean to give the impression that it’s only good with that one. On the contrary, you are right. Which in a roundabout way is what I meant, that you should not need DSP to fix that pairing, then you should really buy something else.


DSP is free. I got my Elegias for £300 on sale. Didn’t like Sennheiser. Liked the Utopia but too expensive. A tweak in Audirvana fixes the Elegias for me - sound now better balanced and has a soundstage rather than being in my head. What’s not to like if not being ‘purist’ ??

Is DSP works for you, fine. I was commenting on the idea of a whole line of headphones not being able to function normally without DSP as is suggested but the comment here:

Fair point.

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A relevant question would be how do you know what equalisation to apply? By ear is rather random , not knowing where to start. With speakers I’d use REW to measure, but for use with headphones you’d need a dummy head with measuring microphones built in.

Edit: Are there published correction curves? A hearing test app I’ve used allowed selection of a number of headphone models by name, to correct for their response, so such data must be available at least for some headphones.

Interesting (and answers my added question/assumption).
What is now needed is the same for speakers - except of course it would be best set up in room to compensate for room effects - and there is more of a limit to the degree of boost sensible with speakers, and in particular foolhardy indeed to try to boost out a room cancellation.

Couple of posts from the original HE thread. Utopia were used as a reference. But also as you say, it was designed to be flexible and drive a wide range of headphones well IIUC

cc @Kryptos

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So i did not demo as my dealer at the time did not have any pairs. I tried some audeze and some utopias. I have elegias too which i like a little more. I was sold, i did not buy. I had the original atom driving the bowers, which is quite a combo. I demoed the he driving a 250dr, the nc equipment was not out yet. I also had a 272 w 250.2 w dr that i liked better than the sn3 ndx2 but i NEEDED the new platform. I have no regrets in that regard. The stellias are run in i think. I leave them on.