I agree, but the restrained praise itself is a bit damning. Industry insiders like Tyll know better than to preemptively pan new products based on prototypes, because there's no good point to nipping in the bud something still in development and presumably undergoing improvement. But for being among the most expensive headphones in production they could use a bit more praise behind them than "promising" to get me interested.
I think it's interesting mostly that the appearance is entirely different now but the price is exactly the same. I like the appearance more now -- the spider web design was silly -- though it looks unfinished, like a metal shop Stax knockoff. JDS could benefit from getting an industrial designer to consult on this, because they seem to be flailing for a design.
To me they look like the lovechild of the SR-009 and TakeT H2+. Maybe that's why I like them so much? Really though, I think this is very much a case of form following function. Even the goofy spiderweb design had a purpose in acting as a diffuser. The box-like look of the arc assembly comes from having both horizontal and vertical adjustments, which I think is actually pretty cool.
I do agree regarding the restraint thing: for something so expensive to be "okay" or even "pretty darn good" is not particularly inspiring, and the whole thing snowballs and becomes a bigger issue versus what it would be otherwise. Therein lies one of those conundrums with regard to impressions: people going into an audition may be expecting middling performance from the outset, the mindset that they couldn't possibly measure up to their price. I suppose that's something of an opposite to the much more commonly discussed halo effect among people who paid great sums of their own money.
A buddy of mine---someone with a lot of experience listening to and repairing orthos---really liked the sound of the Abyss. He described them as having a bit of the character of high-end horn speakers (not the vintage horn speakers of FAD however ... lol). I keep harping on the engineering behind these, but it has a few ortho lovers I know rather excited. It would be nice if some of that could "trickle down" to a more reasonably priced device.