Abyss Headphones Diana

WaveTheory

100+ Head-Fier
Abyss Diana Phi Review - By WaveTheory
Pros: A prodigiously detailed and textured sound. Fantastic macrodynamics and low-end punch, slam, and detail. A small, light, but very rugged build. Ingenious pad mounting system that also provides multiple sound signatures from the stock pads.
Cons: Mid-range can be too forward. Detail retrieval is relentlessly aggressive. No cup swivel could create comfort issues for some. Cable entry system limits aftermarket cable options. The glue on the earpad mounts is a fail point.
NOTE: This review was originally published on HiFiGuides Forum on 1 April, 2021 - No Foolin'! https://forum.hifiguides.com/t/abyss-diana-series/3959/136

INTRODUCTION

Fellow audiophiles, there’s a lot of ground to cover here. Get yourself a tasty beverage and get comfortable. We may be here awhile…

It’s been quite a stretch for yours truly. A very generous forum member loaded me up with high-end gear to play with and review. One such piece was the JPS Labs Abyss Diana Phi (https://abyss-headphones.com/products/abyss-diana-phi) planar magnetic headphone. Henceforth, I shall refer to the Diana Phi as the DiPhi, both for brevity and because it’s a riff on ‘hi-fi’. These headphones are definitely getting into the high-end range of things with an MSRP of $3995 USD. I’ve seen a couple of used units from the Diana series going in the $2500-2800 range as well. Either way, what do you get for your four grand? Read on to find out.

Unrelated comment, it took me about three weeks to stop playing this song in my head every time I so much as thought about the Diana Phi, just because the first lyric sounds exactly like “please, Diana.” But I digress…

TL;DR

The Diana Phi is the most resolving headphone I’ve had the pleasure of hearing to date. To beat its shear resolution likely requires going HiFiMan Susvara, Abyss’s own 1266 series, or getting into high-end electrostats. There’s so much in the sound – room reverbs, the impacts of fingers on strings or keys, and textures that might themselves have textures, etc. – that it can re-introduce you to some of your favorite music, but also at times be overwhelming. The sound is also very impactful and fast. It puts the listener in the middle of it all. It seems more suited to more intimate styles of music, lacking that grandiosity that makes bigger, epic-sounding music sound big and epic. There are times I really enjoyed the DiPhi, and there are other times it was too much, and my monkey on my back – on my ears? – of my 1KHz sensitivity bit me again with this headphone (see “Know Your Reviewer” section). Yet, there are listeners out there though for whom this headphone will scratch that deep itch to hear as much as they possibly can and revel in its midrange presence.

KNOW YOUR REVIEWER

My preferred genres are rock/metal and classical/orchestral music. I’m getting to know jazz more and enjoying quite a bit. I also listen to some EDM and hip-hop. My hearing quirks include a high sensitivity to midrange frequencies from just under 1KHz to around 3Khz, give or take. My ears are thus quick to perceive “shoutiness” in headphones in particular. I describe “shoutiness” as an emphasis on the ‘ou’ sound of ‘shout.’ It’s a forwardness in the neighborhood of 1KHz and/or on the first one or two harmonics above it (when I make the sound ‘ooooowwwww’ into a spectrum analyzer the dominant frequency on the vowel sound is around 930Hz, which also means harmonic spikes occur again at around 1860Hz and 2790Hz). In the extreme, it can have the tonal effect of sounding like a vocalist is speaking or singing through a toilet paper tube or cupping their hands over their mouth. It can also give instruments like piano, but especially brass instruments, an added ‘honk’ to their sound. I also get distracted by sibilance, or sharp ‘s’ and ‘t’ sounds that can make ssssingers sssssound like they’re forssssssing esssss ssssssounds aggresssssssively. Sibilance does not physically hurt my ears nearly as quickly as shout, though. It’s distracting because it’s annoying and unnatural. Readers should keep these hearing quirks in mind as they read my descriptions of sound.

FEATURES, BUILD, COMFORT

As far as quality of construction goes, the DiPhi’s frame/chassis is what you would expect from a $4K headphone. The cups are rugged and made of machined aluminum. The headband is what Abyss calls “Emotion” that, in their words, “magnetically adjusts and contours your head for a comfortable fit”, which is a confusing combination of words. I think there’s a thin and highly flexible metal band encased in some quality leather for the headband. There is no swivel where the headband meets the cups. Perhaps Abyss is talking about the magnetic pad-mounting system that does change the feel and fit of the headphone. More on this in a bit. Despite the rugged build, the DiPhi is fairly light. It’s easy to hold on the head for a long time. The Fibonacci pattern of the holes on the back of the cup is also visually striking, and according to Abyss also helps with the tuning of the headphone. Also, the earcups are thin, like really thin. Look at this:

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I put that ¼” plug there for scale. So yeah, skinny.

Let’s talk about that pad-mounting system. Abyss has a really good design concept here that is not only ergonomically easy and cool, it allows the listener a fair amount of tuning of the sound. Yet, there is one big weakness in the execution of this design.

Let’s start with the good part. The magnetic field the DiPhi’s drivers put out is STRONG. So strong in fact that it will pick up random things from your desktop:

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:laughing:

Abyss leverages this magnetic field strength and makes the pads magnetically mount to the chassis. They snap on quite firmly, yet are not overly difficult to remove. There are 4 pegs on the outer edge of the DiPhi’s cup on the listener side:

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There are 4 corresponding notches on the back of the earpads:

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Line up the pegs with the peg holes, and the pad snaps right into place. But we’re not done! The pads and the cups are symmetric in plane parallel to the driver, being mostly square, and can be rotated in 90 degree increments for 4 different fits and yes, 4 different sound profiles. The cushion part of the pads has variable thickness (height) all the way around. Each pad has a seam along its thickest portion:

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The seam is useful in orienting the pads to be symmetric with each other on each side, and also remember where the seam should be for the sound you like, eg. ‘up and forward’ or ‘down and back’. This pad mounting system is genius and IMO, sets a standard for how pads should be mounted and swappable. Even if the pads don’t rotate like they do on the DiPhi (and other Abyss models), I want pads to pop on and off magnetically like this. It’s very convenient.

OK, what’s that weakness in this pad mount design I mentioned? It’s the glue. The leather cushion portion of the pad is glued onto the frame with those notches, and it’s a fail point:

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That’s a particular weakness in this design concept because the pad assembly has to be pulled away from the cup with a good amount of force. There aren’t any good finger holes in the construction to use just fingers to pry up the pad by that notched mounting frame, either. That means that pressure is put on that glue joint every time the pads are rotated or swapped, and eventually that’s going to fail. I would like to see Abyss address this because the basic concept behind the pad design is truly brilliant.

There are 2 version of pads available for the DiPhi. There are the stock pads that are the same color as the DiPhi itself, and there are the DMS pads that are black:

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The DMS pads are a little thinner and a little softer, with just a bit more give. The leather is also a bit softer in feel on the DMS pads. I listened to both sets of pads in all four of the pad positions. So yes, I’ll talk about how all that sounds in the Sound section.

Fortunately, the DiPhi’s lack of cup swivel where the cup meets the headband has relatively little effect on overall comfort. The pads are soft enough that even though their asymmetric shape puts pressure on different parts of the head depending on how they’re mounted, I never had major comfort issues. With the pad seam down-and-back, the pads seal around my ear and the Abyss feels like a small headphone conforming to my head. With the pad seam up-and-back or up-and-forward the seal is broken, there’s a slight bit of pressure on the temple or right behind the ear, and it can feel like the drivers are just floating next to the ear, almost like an ear-speaker concept. It’s a different feeling that’s weird at first, but I did adjust to it rather quickly.

Finally…cables matter. And that’s true here for both sonic reason and ergonomic reasons. Unfortunately, I did not have the JPS Labs stock cable included with the set that was sent to me. I’ve been told it’s a really good cable, but I can’t confirm that. The cable jacks on the DiPhi are 2.5mm – which make sense given its thin profile – and are recessed way into the cup. However, that recess is limited in real-estate:

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A very nice Plussound Poetic GPH cable came with my HiFiMan HE1000V2. That cable is terminated in 2.5mm connectors, but the barrels of the plugs prevent it from going all the way in on the DiPhi:

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Hart cables fit, but I had some sonic issues with them. The imaging got a little wonky with Hart cables. I tried 2 of them because I have 2 of them with 2.5mm connectors, the problem persisted, so it’s not a bad cable. “Wonky” means there was a somewhat fuzzy center image that would drift subtly but spend most of its time slightly right of center. So…I ended up having to use the stock cables that come with the HE1000V2…yeah…those nasty-feeling ones that look like catheter tubes. They fit and worked just fine sonically, although I still wish I could have tried the stock JPS Labs cables or gotten the Plussound to fit. If you’re the type to buy custom cables, and if you’re spending $4000 on a headphone you probably are, keep this cable connection issue in mind.

(THE TEXTURE OF) SOUND

Test Equipment

Most of my DiPhi listening took place with the Holo Audio Spring 2 Level 2 DAC, Chord Hugo 2 DAC/amp (as a DAC only), and HeadAmp GS-X Mini amp . The Mini is recognized by Abyss as a good match to their Diana headphones. I also briefly tried the Violectric HPA V200 amp and Cayin HA-1AMK2 tube amp.

Sound Signature

The pad mounting and rotating system means there isn’t a set sound signature for this headphone. There are audible changes, some of large magnitude and others of lesser magnitude. A constant throughout is a very forward mid-range. The mid-forwardness changes some depending on pad position but is always front-and-center. When the pads are mounted seams down-and-back, the pads seal around the ear and the signature is overall mid-forward. With the seams up-and-back the signature is more w-shaped, but with slightly less mid-prominence than the former. To my ear, these were the two extremes. These are also the two positions I spent the most time with. The DMS pads didn’t change the overall signature but did relax the mid-forwardness a hair in both positions and generally presented a more relaxed overall sound; not a big difference, but a noticeable one.

For me personally, the mids are too forward. I have that 1KHz sensitivity and at times this headphone can simply overwhelm me at the same volume levels at which I listen to other headphones without issue. I found the DMS pads with seams up-and-back to be the least mid-forward and my most comfortable combination for listening, though not physical comfort. Here the mids are still forward but are mostly tolerable. For me, ‘tolerable’ is not a word I want to use if I were thinking about buying a $4K piece of kit. Other pad positions would get shouty and throw the timbre off for me. To my ear, the DiPhi frequently sounded like it does when someone cups their hands over their mouth and speaks or sings or sounds like the sound system of your local Cineplex where they pump up the vocal frequencies to enhance intelligibility – or so they say. This issue is a me problem, though. I’ve spoken with several other audiophiles about their experiences with DiPhi’s mids and they are completely dumfounded by my assertions here. For many, the midrange presence of this headphone will be a major selling point.

The bass and treble are excellent, though. There is excellent timbre high and low. The treble is present and sparkly without being harsh, sibilant, or piercing. Changing the pad position changes treble presence slightly, but the technical performance stays more-or-less constant. The bass is always well textured, quick, and extends very deep. The bass presence is one of the biggest pad-position changes, and its quickness and detail change some too. With a seal around the ear (seams down-and-back), the bass is lean. This pad position is also where the bass sounds quickest, most textured, and most detailed. The seams up-and-back is less physically comfortable than the sealed position (though not uncomfortable) but also makes the bass the most present. Here the DiPhi hits like a truck, rumbles with the best of them, and all but the most ardent of bassheads will be satisfied with the bass quantity. The trade off is just a touch of speed and detail is lost in comparison with the sealed pad position and – in comparison – sounds a bit bloated. I want to emphasize the in comparison bit here, because even here the bass still sounds excellently detailed, textured, and quick, just not quite as much so as the sealed pad position.

Resolution

The DiPhi’s resolution is its most standout feature. It pulls more out of the signal than any other headphone I’ve had on my head. Subtle things like room reverb, lip and tongue smacks from a vocalist, the clicking of instrument keys, you name it, DiPhi says “here it is.” And then there are the textures. Oh! The textures! Those qualitative aspects of sound that aren’t just the tone but the instrument or voice behaving the way it does to create that tone? Yeah…it’s here. Up and down the whole audible frequency spectrum, it’s here. At times it can be amazingly organic. Does that contradict my timbre comment above? No. There were still moments when an instrument hit outside of the midrange frequencies that are problematic for me and in those moments…yes…organic, and very much so.

The resolution also holds itself together when music gets busy. The DiPhi seems to suffer very little in its ability to resolve individual instrument sounds even when there are dozens of instruments going at the same time – like in a symphony. From a detail and resolution standpoint, I never heard it lose its cool. Even though they are too-forward and unnatural in timbre for me a fair amount of the time, complex vocal harmonies are also very well resolved. There is excellent balance between resolving individual voices and also blending the voices to create a soundscape. Think of the harmonies in Seven Bridges Road by Eagles here.

The resolution is also very forward. The DiPhi is highly resolving and comes across as being proud of it and wanting to announce it from the rooftops. Listener preference matters here. Some listeners will be enthralled in the level of aggressive detail being fired down their ear canals. Others will find it too much. I am somewhere in the middle. There were times when I loved the detail. There were times when it got fatiguing.

Spatial Presentation

Imaging and separation are on point with a good sense of depth. There is a fair amount of holographicity (I’m making that a word!) to the spatial presentation. It’s not big, though. The stage is a bit more on the intimate side. While instruments and voices are placed well and differentiated from each other within the soundfield, the overall sense of space is a little on the small side, even when a track demands to be big. Bohemian Rhapsody, 1812 Overture, Toccata & Fugue in D Minor on a pipe organ, Mountains by Hans Zimmer, etc. all benefit from sounding HUGE. The DiPhi doesn’t do huge. To be honest, though, the only time I ever really noticed the soundstage and imaging, for good or ill, was when I expected/wanted a track to sound bigger and grander. When the limited size isn’t an issue, the spatial presentation does little to call attention to itself. IMO, that’s a compliment. The imaging and separation are good enough to be non-distracting. They’re also not distracting in the opposite direction…until that last bit of size is needed.

COMPARISONS WITH OTHER HEADPHONES

I had the distinct privilege of having the DiPhi, the Audeze LCD-24 ($3495), and the HiFiMan HE1000V2 ($2995 – HekV2) all in-house at the same time. What a treat! All three of these headphones are fantastic in their own ways. They all have their own place in the high-end headphone market too. I also own a Fostex TH900 with Lawton purpleheart cups and driver-side tuneup (~$2000 when all is said and done) that I will comment on here briefly as well.

I compared the HekV2 and the LCD-24 a bit more to each other in my LCD-24 review (a HE1000V2 review is pending, I promise). This comparison will be tailored more to how those stack up with the DiPhi.

The DiPhi is the most resolving of the three. The LCD-24 and HekV2 are no slouches in the resolution department either, but the DiPhi is simply on another level. After that the 24 resolves individual instrument sounds better than HekV2 but HekV2 resolves really busy, complex music better. The DiPhi doesn’t care if music is simple or extremely busy, it’s resolution is absurdly good in either case. This resolution can also make the DiPhi hard to relax with, whereas the more subtle resolving approaches of the 24 and HekV2 make them more kick-back-and-relax types of headphones.

All three headphones image and separate very well. To my ear, the HekV2 has the most natural imaging, which is connected to it having the most natural soundstage of the three. The HekV2 has that HiFiMan egg-shaped line enormity to its soundstaging and then places sounds in that soundfield very well horizontally, vertically, and with depth. The 24 and DiPhi are also very good here but the 24’s 1KHz energy can tend to collapse the soundstage and imaging. The DiPhi’s mid-forwardness doesn’t do any similar collapsing but it also just doesn’t sound very big as a general rule.

The treble timbre on the LCD-24 is stellar and leads the pack in that category. The DiPhi’s bass timbre is equally stellar and it easily leads in that category. For my ears, the mid-range timbre on the HekV2 is the best of the three, and it’s not close. Some of that is the HekV2 having a dip around 1KHz in its frequency response which matches my ears’ sensitivity almost perfectly. Some of that is that it is more subtly detailed and doesn’t announce how detailed it is in that range; sounding more natural to me.

In terms of bass presence, the DiPhi leads when the pad seams are up-and-back and might actually come in third when the pads are down-and-back to create a complete seal around the ear. The HekV2 is close behind the DiPhi in the up-and-back position though and both are noticeably ahead of the 24. The DiPhi easily has the most bass texture and slam of the three (again, with seams up-and-back). The 24’s bass initially presents as being slightly more textured than HekV2’s but I think the HekV2’s increased presence in the bass makes that texture a little less readily noticeable, but upon further listening it’s definitely there. I’ll bring the TH9000 Lawton back in here, because perhaps the TH900 is more accessible comparison point for many. I think the TH900 and the DiPhi can have similar bass presence and punch when the DiPhi pads are in the up-and-back position. The DiPhi has more detail and texture, but the quantity of bass is more similar to a TH900. It may not come across that way initially because the TH900 has a pronounced V signature where the DiPhi’s mid-forwardness might decrease the perception of bass presence in comparison.

When I first put on the DiPhi, 24, or HevV2, I notice certain things about them right away. For the DiPhi the resolution and detail are always the most attention grabbing, followed closely by how forward the mids are. For the 24 the first things I notice are how natural and lush it can sound with exquisite treble timbre…until its shoutiness comes in. With the HekV2 it’s the huge and believable spatial presentation along with being warm and relaxed. The weaknesses of the three are the relentless to the point of fatiguing detail and resolution and mid-forwardness that messes up midrange timbre for the DiPhi, the shoutiness and limited ability to resolve complex music of the 24, and the at-times inappropriate soundstage size along with rare but nonzero treble sharpness/sibilance with the HekV2. In fairness, many listeners will find the HekV2’s mid-range presence lacking as well.

If I were to spend $3K+ of my own money on one of these three headphones, it would be the HekV2. It’s frequency response and more subtle approach to detail retrieval – it’s still very resolving just not DiPhi resolving and DiPhi proud of it – are better matches to my hearing and music tastes than the other two. If I were to buy 2 of these 3 – dreams! – the second would be the DiPhi, although in fairness I’d probably look elsewhere first. The DiPhi has genuine strengths that make it even better suited for some music that I listen to more than HekV2. But, I also don’t listen to that music nearly as much.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The DiPhi taught me some things, both about what is possible in sound reproduction and about my own tastes. It’s hard to believe how much detail can exist in a recording – good or bad recording really – until you hear one of these headphones. It has also painted the clearest sonic pictures of the concept of ‘texture’ for me to date. I am now able to hear textures more effectively in less resolving equipment because I know what to listen for after hearing this ‘pure form’ – for lack of better term. However, I also learned that this hyper-detailed presentation sounds unnatural to me on most material. I prefer more subtle detail. To my ear, real-world sounds aren’t detail-forward. The details are naturally occurring and more subtle than what the DiPhi presents. What the DiPhi does in detail retrieval is absolutely impressive and can at times be fun in its own way, but it also can be too over-the-top and reduce the realism for me. However, many listeners will think that I’m nuts here and love the DiPhi for how much it can extract from the signal.

The Abyss Diana Phi is truly a technical marvel of a headphone. They packed prodigious detail retrieval, outstanding bass quantity and quality, and the coolest and probably most ergonomically genius pad mounting system I’ve ever seen into a very robust but small package. It will present you almost all there is in your music – good or bad. Personally, I wish for a little bit more soundstage size from this headphone, and at least one pad setting that would chill the midrange even more than the current options. Unfortunately, I just could not get the midrange timbre to sound right with this headphone because it is so mid-forward; everything had a hollow sound to it. Still, many listeners will not hear that issue or just plain like that approach. And to those listeners, the DiPhi should be on your audition list, no question.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the music!
magicguy
magicguy
Impressive review, thank you so much !
I'm very curious about the Diana V2, obviously, the V2 is more "forgiving" regading the source, and less details retreiving at the same time...
I should try both next week, I can't wait !
Have you ever heard hte V2 ?
Another thing, do you know the DMS mod for pads ?
WaveTheory
WaveTheory
Thank you! I have not heard the V2. I would like to as I understand that its signature would be more to my liking. I'm not familiar with a DMS pad mod other than the pads of his design.

mvvRAZ

Headphoneus Supremus
Diana V2 and Diana Phi - a joint review and comparison!
Pros: Two of the best HPs out there bar none
Portable, durable and lightweight
Very comfortable
Pure audiophile bliss
Cons: Getting the fit right can be a bit difficult at first
Paint chips really easily
Packaging
Specific downsides to be discussed for each model
Usual disclaimers: I purchased both the Diana V2 and the Diana Phi at full retail (didn't even manage to score a lousy 10% off this time -_-). No incentives were provided in exchange for a positive review but get your shilling umbrellas out as it is about to rain praise

Open back headphones preference disclaimer: My track record with headphones is a mixed one on a good day, and flat out terrible on an average one. I listen to very little live music, and don't have much of an affinity for actual live performances, so open back headphones end up being at a sort of natural disadvantage when I'm evaluating gear. I flat out dislike that "borderless" effect that open backs create as I find it prevents you from being able to get a good image of exactly where everything is happening.


With that out of the way - let's get started on the actual reviewing

Packaging, build quality, comfort and other useless information

In the case of the Diana series by Abyss you can get most of the negative points out of the way right off the bat by starting with the packaging. The headphones come in what's essentially a shoe box, and inside that you get a little bag, not too unlike the typical toiletries bag you get gifted for your birthday by those two friends you met once at a party a few weeks ago. It's not a bad bag, and it is very comfortable to carry them around in for when you need that 4000$ setup on your business trip, but I just can't help but feel like it is far too understated when discussing headphones that retail at 3500 and 4400 in the EU.

From that point forward however, what you get is well.... spectacular. For one the stock cable on the Diana series is easily the nicest stock headphone cable I've come across to date, being thin, ergonomic, supple and very aesthetically pleasing. The build quality of the headphones is also something to marvel at and I absolutely love the fibonacci spiral touch - my only complaint here would be how easily the pain chips - all of Abyss sports a certain industrial look, so those scratches end up looking almost appropriate to the headphone, but it's still something to consider.

On the topic of comfort, I've read quite a few complaints about how the Dianas sit on your head but I've actually had the opposite experience - I absolute love how lightweight they are and the very low clamping force feels amazing too. Coming from HPs like the Rosson Rad-0 and most recently the Verite C, I find the Dianas a whole lot more comfortable and ergonomic for long listening sessions. They sort of sit on your head as a headband more so than the "helmet-y" feel that other headphones give me.

It's also worth mentioning that these look way, way better in person than on any of the photos I've seen online.

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Sooo.... how do they sound?

Where the general identity of both headphones is concerned, I find that they have quite a few similarities in their presentation and in just how unconventional they are for open back headphones. What won me over where both models are concerned is how pitch black the background is, how exaggerated the instrumental separation is, and just how precise the resulting perception of the imaging is.

1. Diana V2

The Diana V2 is for the most part a neutral/warm headphone, with a decent infusion of midrange warmth and a hint of a bass boost.

The bass has reasonable authority and presence, with excellent depth and a more supportive identity to the signature of the headphone as a whole. It's tight, precise and very fast throughout the entire spectrum. I could personally use just a little more decay for that satisfying oomph, but what the Diana lacks in decay it certainly makes up for in punch. The usual test here is something like Claptone's The First Time Free - the Diana is able to capture the beat drop decently well - it doesn't quite make you turn up the volume to 120 the way the 1266 does though.

As I shared in my initial impressions, the midrange of the Diana is absolutely stellar, and only potentially toppled by how good its treble is. It possesses just the right balance of forgiveness and detail, where it doesn't exaggerate any and every imperfection in a recording, but at the same time doesn't smear them. It has exceptional weight and texture, giving vocals and instruments alike an extremely satisfying presence and personality.

I'm an especially big fan of how linear the midrange tuning of the Diana V2 is - it is able to give emphasis and warmth to the midrange without boosting any specific area to oblivion.

The treble of the Diana is pure, uncensored quality. It is more contained and controlled than that of the Diana Phi, but possesses a similar sparkle. The main emphasis to my ears is in the upper treble registers, which hits my preferences to the dot - I'm not a big fan of lower treble peaks, but I do absolutely love a slightly overdone upper treble in order to give cymbals a little more emphasis and a little more of that "airy" feeling.

Where technical ability is concerned, the Diana V2 (and the Phi) are very unconventional within the headphone segment. The size of the soundstage of the V2 is a plain XS - there's no other way to put it. I would however take the smaller stage of the V2 with the extreme precision of vocal and instrumental placement and the absolute pitch black background over the regular "floaty" staging that most headphones offer - I'd say that's probably the #1 reason as to why the V2 was the first headphone that ever really worked for me.

Detail retrieval is very high without being exaggerated or brought to the absolute forefront, and the separation is world class - better than practically anything else I've heard.

2. Diana Phi

The Phi is the older and meaner sister in the Diana family. It sacrifices a little of that pleasantness and comfort of the V2 to deliver a more exciting and engaging performance - I personally really vibe with that, but as it will be covered a little later, would recommend with more caution.

I'd describe the tonality of the Diana Phi as a gentle W, with an emphasis on the upper treble region. It's essentially a Diana V2, with a DNA infusion from the 1266.

The bass on the Phi is the one clear upgrade as you move up in the Diana lineup - it is bigger, bolder, more impactful and a little slower. Going back to Claptone's The First Time Free, I'm really enjoying the low end as its own thing more so than as a support to the rest of the signature. It doesn't quite reach the absolute godmode bass of the 1266 Phi CC, but it takes a pretty solid step in that direction.

The midrange on the Diana Phi is, IMHO, not radically different from that of the V2 - I hear a similar warmth and forgiveness, with a very good balance between the lower and upper midrange. Nothing feels especially emphasized or brought forward, vocals enjoy really good body and warmth (not quite as much as they do on the Diana V2, but I'd say that's more of a difference in perception as a result of the upper treble of the Phi)

The highs of the Phi are fundamentally similar to those of the Diana in that there is a certain tilt in favor of the upper treble. As I mentioned earlier I'm a huge fan of that and it is the kind of enhancement to the engagement of the headphone that I absolutely love. The Phi "objectively" takes this just a little too far (not too unlike the 1266 actually), which really hits the sweet spot for me, but it might come across as a little unnatural or too airy.

Where technical ability is concerned, the Diana Phi takes a similar approach as the V2, but goes a little further in order to justify the difference in price tag. The background remains pitch black, instrumental separation is even more exaggerated, and the staging stretches a little further without losing the clear boundary and specificity that I discussed earlier.

Detail on the Diana Phi is brought slightly more forward as a result of its more present upper treble, and displays a little harshness in some very specific situations/recordings. Said harshness feels more as a biproduct of boosted engagement however, as opposed to artificially boosted detail (that's usually in the region of boosted lower treble).

Sources used during listening and what I found works best

Full list: Romi BX2, ifi Micro BL (+LPGT), LPGT, HeadAmp GSX Mini with RME ADI 2 DAC, Burson Conductor 3 Reference, Topping A90

For portable, the LPGT does alright on its own for a casual listening session but the bass gets left behind a little due to the insufficient power. The Romi BX2 (non-plus) is especially transparent and neutral, and delivers on absolutely amazing treble. I personally preferred the ifi Black Label however, as that provides a rather pleasant bass boost which does especially well with the Diana V2 and the Phi, while remaining very neutral and clean throughout the rest of the spectrum

Both my desktop setups (Conductor 3 Reference and GSX Mini) also add some warmth to the lows (coming from IEMs the low bass pressure of HPs is quite hard to adjust to), and I personally really enjoyed that with both Dianas. I briefly tried the Topping A90 but found it way too neutral and transparent for what are already decently neutral headphones as is - the low end didn't have the authority I needed.

All in all, I'd say a largely neutral source with a bass boost complements both signatures really well, and for the Phi you could even go with something a little darker if the upper treble bothers you - I personally am a sucker for upper treble, so it sits just right with me

Final Verdicts!

If you're a fellow IEM-crazed Head-Fier that's spent countless hours in stores looking for that one headphone that is able to deliver something similar in presentation to what the little devils do, maybe my experience is of some help - the Diana V2 and Phi are pretty much spot on what I've been looking for.

IEMs aside though -

The Diana V2 gets an easy recommendation from me. It is an exceptional headphone, with a tonality that manages to remain safe without being boring, and has the kind of technical prowess that is right up there with the very best, and in some aspects IMHO remains unmatched by anything but the Phi.

The Diana Phi's tonality works a little better for my preferences, and I'd still heavily recommend it but a little more cautiously due to 1) the price difference and 2) the upper treble - while I absolutely melt inside when I hear that kind of enhancement of the upper registers, I realise it might not work for everyone.

Overall, amazing work by Abyss - the Diana V2 really sent me down a dark road with their products - in under a month I've purchased a brand new V2, then a Phi and currently I'm discussing a custom colored 1266 TC with their design team... Lawd help me

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HeavenlyD
HeavenlyD
Great review, and good to see you have the Phi matched well with the Burson. I’m just about to hit the “spend” button with the 3XR, and struggling to find anything that’s comparable and ‘semi portable’around the house that sounds as well matched. I tried the HPA-4 and didn’t get that wow factor like I did the Burson, having said that I also listened to music I’m not familiar with which I did with the Conductor so maybe I needed to side by side. What do know is the HPA4 needed 12 db more to get the same volume from the Phi as it did the Utopia I was switching between at the time.
magicguy
magicguy
Thank you for your review, that the one I was looking for... :wink:
Would you consider an Hugo 2 in source, specially with the V2 ?

chimney189

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Sound
Build
Cons: Possibly comfort
My first encounters
with the Abyss Diana headphone was at an audio-store called F1 Audio. At the time I was more interested in listening to the HEK-SE, so I didn't have enough time to listen to the Abyss headphone, but it clearly left some impression with me. Fast forward 2 months and I'm sitting on a barely padded chair at a meet in Chicago with the Abyss Diana Phi on my head and I'm waiting until my iPhone is left with at least 5% battery in case someone needed to call me or there was an emergency... priorities, right?

The Abyss Phi, once again, left an impression with me. Although this time it would be long-lasting: I simply did not want to stop listening to my favorite music, or even music that I've never heard before. I know many audiophiles know what I'm talking about and how after an experience like this it's difficult to not start looking at your financial state. As I was listening to the Diana Phi I went on Head-fi.org and quickly posted an AD for both my ATH-ADX 5000 and my Sony MDR-Z1R. It felt impulsive, but it also felt right. I tried to use both of those headphones as portables but they just didn't cut it out with their size. I've always wanted a true high-end portable, and the Abyss Diana Phi tickled that fancy.

Before I made the final decision to sell two great headphones I went to the F1 Audio Store the next day. I believe I was there 10 minutes after it opened, and the employees were constantly walking in and out of the store in order to unpack all of the audio-gear they presented at the ZMFestivus in Chicago. It felt a bit awkward, but they let me stay in a quiet room on a plush couch with my iPhone 6 and FiiO A5 amplifier that the Diana Phi was plugged into. I finally tuned into the speed, finesse, details, impact, dynamics, cohesiveness and overall 3D-effect that I've actually never heard in a full-sized headphone, at least nothing that had all of these qualities in one package. I was sold.

I decided to sell the 2 headphones, however, I decided to purchase a Diana V2 instead of the Diana Phi because the Diana V2 was more affordable, had the same fit and comfort as the Phi, had an upgraded driver that was built off the Phi driver's strengths, had more color options (the Diana Phi color is terrible in my view) and was said to be more warm and not overly-detailed like the Phi was. This sounded like a true, all-around headphone for portable use.

I apologize for the long build up, but the build up to eventually diving into a headphone purchase cannot be ignored in my opinion. So, let's actually begin this long review:

The package
of my coffee-colored Diana V2 came in a nice, small package. There was an outer sleeve to the actual box that contained the Diana V2. Inside the box there was a small, brown carrying bag with the Diana logo on the front: I'd like to point out that I have yet to use this bag. It has a nice foam cut-out where one can put the Diana in so it remains stable, but I just haven't had the need to use it. Inside this bag was the Diana V2 and a stock 2m cable, terminated in 3.5mm and a 6.3mm adapter at its side. All of these items were zipped up in separate zip-lock bags, which I thought was nice. Compared to the unwieldy Sony MDR-Z1R package I thought that the Abyss Diana package was well-made and really made an emphasis that this headphone is primarily meant for portable use.

The fit and comfort
of the Diana V2 is, at first, a bit awkward: the new pads fully cover my ears, but the outer part of my ears basically rest on the slopes of the inside of the pads. It's still comfortable, but still noticeable from time to time. The pads themselves are made out of lambskin leather and are fitted onto the headphone by way of magnets -- there are a lot of magnets built into this headphone. Out of the 4 adjustment levels I only had to adjust mine to level 1. These adjustments are made out of long-lasting carbon material and are controlled by magnets. I believe that this is a first in the headphone world, which is really wonderful and makes me feel like I'm holding a luxurious product. The headband is also made up of some type of magnet material that literally conforms to your head .. once again, another first -- although I do have to say that there are some listening-sessions where I notice a hot-spot on-top of my head and I have to readjust the headband positioning to feel relief. The clamping pressure feels just right for me, but for larger heads it MIGHT be an issue.

The finish
of the Abyss Diana is top-of-the-line. It is built like a tank, uses premium materials and it weighs in at under 350 grams. I can see this headphone lasting a long, long time. However, I'd like to point out that even after owning it for just about a month I am noticing tiny chips on the paint.. and I tend to take care of my headphones pretty well. It looks like setting them on a counter, even gently, is enough to damage the paint so I would recommend setting them on some plush cloth or on a stand if you want to keep these headphones in pristine condition.

The sound
of the Diana V2 is first and foremost, VERY balanced: nothing is missing, everything is included. I remember listening to the Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory OST, and this soundtrack is a wonderful test of how a headphone can handle complex passages. The speed of the Diana V2 is bar-none spectacular. I think I said, "Wow," out-loud while I was listening to them at one point. The sound of the Diana V2 had my head spinning in circles. I then moved onto the Halo OST, and this soundtrack is especially good at testing how a headphone can handle highs and imaging. Yet again, the Diana V2 came through with winning colors. Nothing was ever sibilant, yet the extension and details in the highs kept me engaged throughout. There is one track where, with any other headphone, the imaging pans strictly right-to-left and back again. However, with the Diana V2 it was right-back-left-forward-center, etc.. there was layering within the imagining.

For bass, I go to my go-to: Cannibal OX: Cold Vein. The bass is there, it is weighty, fast, precise, controlled and never bloomy unless the track calls for it. I'd like to say that this headphone lets you hear what the recording intended for the listener to hear. Yet it's not boring. It is neutral with a slight aggressiveness that keeps me engaged no matter what I'm listening to. The dynamics of this driver deliver in spades. From top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top everything has a sense of impact, yet it is still smooth at the same time. The center imaging and cohesiveness, the control and the depth and width of the sound-stage is where this headphone really shines. It just feels like this driver is in control and it never lets what you hear get out of hand.

The mid-range is neutral to my ears. It's dead-to-rights center. This is especially evident when one listens to music at louder volumes. When listening to louder volumes with the Diana V2 nothing within the sound-spectrum crumbles, so be careful with how loud you are listening your music to! This also applies to vocals, male and/or female. You will hear things that you never heard before, which is cool. Live music is wonderful as well. I feel like I'm a part of the crowd that can be heard throughout the song.


The portability
of the Diana V2 is where some people might be turned off. Most of my listening has been done with iPhone 6 + DFR or FiiO A5, and they work AND are absolutely needed. This headphone will not run off of an iPhone or any other phone by itself. You would also need a very powerful DAP in order to get this headphone to higher-than-usual volumes.

All I know is that I recently went out on a walk. A fall day, cool and a bit breezy. Just how I like it. While I was walking I was listening to the Diana V2 and never felt like I was wearing something ridiculous. This is a stylish headphone that screams "TRY ME!"

Please do me a favor and at least audition these headphones before this world ends.
S
Satir
n/a

ufospls2

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: -Sound quality
-Comfort (if the fit works for you)
-Build Quality
-Weight
Cons: -Length of stock cable
-Fit may not work for some people
-Price
Abyss Headphones Diana Phi

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Hi Guys,

This is my first attempt at a full review, so please forgive any errors or lack of detail. The reason I am writing this review is I am so impressed with the Diana Phi. I warn you in advance, this is going to be a positive review, which makes sense as I wouldn’t purchase a product I don’t enjoy.

My preferences are below

-Weird Electronica, Jazz, Rock, and some Metal.

-Lots of quality bass, not too warm, and lively treble.

To be honest, its sort of like Abyss Headphones general sound signature is made for my preferences, hence I enjoy their headphones so much.

Abyss started out, as most of you know, with the AB-1266. Not the most conventional headphone, but a sonic wonder. However, it is a no compromises headphone. Its big, a bit unwieldy, and sounds awesome. Second up from Abyss was the Diana. The complete opposite from her big brother, the AB-1266. Very light, flexible, and much less expensive. However, Diana, whilst still retaining the Abyss sound signature, did make some concessions in terms of ultimate resolution and detail. She also has a bit of a friendlier sound signature, making rough recordings a bit easier to listen to. This is to be expected as Diana was built to a lower price point, as was also supposed to be a transportable Abyss. Diana was, and still is, a superb headphone, worthy of anyones consideration at the $3000USD price point.

With all of that being said, the question that still hadn’t been answered was could the AB-1266 (now the AB-1266 Phi) be turned into a very comfortable and light headphone like the Diana, whilst retaining the detail, resolution, and overall greatness of the original Abyss. I wasn’t sure if it could, due to the originality and uniqueness of the AB-1266’s frame and adjustment capability. However, with the effort Abyss has put into the new Diana Phi’s pads, adjusted headband, and the transplant of the AB-1266 Phi’s driver technology and materials, Abyss Headphones has managed to get close. Damn close.

I have owned both the AB-1266 and AB-1266 Phi (not with the CC pads however) but I don’t have a pair currently so I can’t do a direct comparison. I will do my best at the end of the review from memory, as well a quick comparison to the original Diana from memory.

The sound of the Diana Phi is…palpable. Thats the best way to describe it.

pal·pa·ble

/ˈpalpəb(ə)l/

adjective

adjective: palpable

  1. 1.
    (of a feeling or atmosphere) so intense as to seem almost tangible.

Yup, that pretty much describes it.

The tonal balance of the Diana Phi is pretty much exactly the same as the AB-1266 Phi, as one would expect as they use pretty much the same driver.

Bass

The bass is a bit elevated, but not overly so. It gives the music a sound that is closer to reality. I am a drummer, and pay close attention to how bass is portrayed as it is so important. Both kick drums, and bass lines. The interplay between the two, and how present it is in the recording is very important. The Diana Phi’s bass hits massively hard, and doesn’t have a hint of woolliness, or roundness to it. The attack and decay are crazy, it hits, and gets out of the way for the next punch. If you don’t like bass much, and prefer bass light headphones, these might not be the right choice for you. As I have said before, for me and my ears, Abyss does bass right.

Mids

The mids are very similar to the AB-1266. A tiny bit pulled back, but not overly so. They don’t sound sucked out at any frequency, at least not to my ears. This tuning works especially well with electronica/rock/ and metal, which makes up most of my listening time. They don’t have the warm, smooth and musical sound you might find on an Audeze pair of headphones. They are, pretty much, the exact opposite of that. A colder, more exacting, and precise listen overall. Think of a butter knife vs. A surgeons scalpel, both great tools that have their uses, just different.

Treble

The treble has detail on par with the best headphones on the market. In fact the detail of all areas of the sound signature are well…epic. I have owned most, and heard pretty much all of the top of the line headphones out there, and the Diana Phi presents detail with the best of them. The treble is very fast, perhaps not matching the speed of the SR-009, but damn close. I think there is a little peak in the treble somewhere, but I haven’t found it problematic thus far. The treble doesn’t drill into your eardrums, and I haven’t noticed any sibilance yet. This is the one difference I have noticed vs. The AB-1266 Phi, which would sometimes have a little bit sibilance at higher volumes. I wonder if there has been a tiny bit tuning done to the Diana Phi with regards to this? I’m not sure. There is a good sense of sparkle (for lack of a better term) and presence to the treble. It isn’t rolled off, and extends well. Two thumbs up.

Soundstage

Now, the one area I was really worried about with the Diana Phi was the soundstage, vs. The immense sound field the AB-1266 Phi projects. As expected, the Diana Phi’s soundstage is smaller, and is about on par with the Hifiman Susvara. However, likely due to the new larger pads, the Diana Phi has a larger soundstage than that of the original Diana, and is both wider and deeper.

Technicalities

As mentioned above, the detail retrieval of the Diana Phi is top of the line. Both macro and micro detail are superb in my opinion. You can tell that the headphone is doing its best at extracting as much information from the recording as possible. Dynamics with the Diana Phi are very similar to the AB-1266 Phi.

Build

The build quality of the Diana Phi is among the best I have experienced from any headphone manufacturer. It is very solid, and maintains Abyss Headphones goal of minimising moving parts and resonance from the frame of the headphone. The pads are made from real leather, and everything seems to have been thought about. The headband is covered with Alcantara, which should stand the test of time very well if my past experience is anything to go by. The size adjustment clicks are just tight enough, but not hard to move. The Diana Phi is manufactured from aluminium, and the frame is very thin. This is especially evident when you take the pads off and looks at the ear cups profile.

The headphones weigh 350 grams, which is very light for a top of the line piece of gear. There are lighter headphones out there, but I think Abyss has managed to strike a nice balance between weight and durability (I hope.) The headphones connectors are 2.5mm TRS plugs, which is the same as my Hifiman Susvara. These are not my favourite connector as they are a little bit fragile, and don’t always have the best connection. However, Abyss has moulded a bit plastic at the bottom of the connector to make sure they sit securely and flush with the frame of the headphones. It is a really small detail, but much appreciated. The supplied cable could be a bit longer, but it is nice and supple and well made. I definitely prefer the Diana cable to the AB-1266 cable, I just wish it was half a metre longer, thats all.

IMG_0584-1 2.jpg


Comfort

The Diana Phi are a very comfortable headphone, due to their weight and the new ear pads. However, I know some struggle with the fit of the original Diana. I found the original Diana comfortable, so it might be best to try the Diana Phi prior to purchasing if you didn’t get on well with the fit of the original Diana. It took me a few hours to get used to the fit of the Diana Phi, as with all things Abyss, its a little bit unconventional. The headphones don’t clamp as hard as some others, and just feel a bit foreign on your head. However, once you get used to how they feel, its almost like wearing nothing at all. The one complaint I have in terms of fit is that they do seem to be comfier if I’m not wearing glasses. I think this is due to the edge of the pads being a bit stiffer than most other pads I’m used to, pressing against the glasses frame. With the Susvara for example, glasses are not a problem at all. I haven’t found it to be a problem in terms of creating a hot spot or pressure point that hurts after a long period of time, but it is something to note if you wear glasses. Again, best to try them if you can.

Comparisons

I’ll do my best to compare the Diana Phi to the original Diana, and AB-1266 Phi as I suppose that is what most people are interested in. Please keep in mind these two comparisons are from memory, and to take them with a pinch of salt. I will also do a quick comparison to the Hifiman Susvara, as that is the other pair of headphones I have here.

Original Diana: The original Diana sounds a bit less dynamic. It is also a little bit warmer. It doesn’t have the same level of detail retrieval of the Diana Phi. However, compared to other headphones in the $3000 range, it is perfectly acceptable in terms of detail, the Phi just takes it to that next level. The original Diana seemed to work better with poorer recordings, as it has a little bit less transparency. The original Diana is probably the better choice of headphone if you just want an all rounder, and the Diana Phi is the better choice if you want a dedicated hardcore top of the line headphone. A part from the extra bit warmth on the original Diana, the tonal signature is very similar. The original Diana was comfortable for me, but for some people I know it isn’t. The original Diana’s pads were over ear for me…just. However, for people with larger ears, they may be more on ear than over ear. The Diana Phi pads should solve that. The Diana Phi also has a tweaked headband that should provide a fit for more head shapes than the original Diana.

AB-1266 Phi: The AB-1266 is, for me, and all or nothing headphone. Its big, brash, and makes no compromises. I have always found it comfortable, but again, I know some people don’t. The Diana Phi is much lighter and comfortable than the AB-1266. However, you do lose out on a bit sound stage and imaging precision with the Diana Phi. This is to be expected as you can’t manually manipulate the angle and width of the frame like you can with the AB-1266. Tonally the Diana Phi is pretty much the exact same, apart from the lack of slight sibilance that I mentioned earlier. If you want the full on Abyss experience, consider purchasing the AB-1266 Phi CC. There is nothing else like it on the market. If you don’t mind a little bit less soundstage, and want a lighter headphone that can be worn all day comfortably, consider at least trying the Diana Phi. You really aren’t missing out on much, in my humble opinion. Might I still purchase a pair of AB-1266 Phi CC? Perhaps. However, it is a lot of money to spend when I feel I am getting most of the experience with the Diana Phi. Time will tell I suppose.

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Hifiman Susvara: If the AB-1266 Phi CC is the ultimate expression of the Abyss sound signature, then the Susvara is the ultimate expression of the Hifiman sound signature. I truly enjoy both of these headphones equally. They are such a stark contrast sonically. The Hifiman is a bit more laid back, a little bit warmer, and quite a bit easier to listen to. It has a little bit less bass, and is a bit more like a warm hug, than the punch of detail and music you get from the Diana Phi. The Hifiman weighs about 100 grams more than the Diana Phi, but it is well distributed, and is also a very comfortable headphone, albeit a more conventional wearing experience. In terms of detail an soundstage I would say these two headphones are pretty much equal. In terms of tonal signature, the Susvara has a little bit less treble energy, and as I said, a bit less bass quantity. At the prices the Susvara can be had for nowadays, especially on the used market, I would highly recommend trying both, as well the AB-1266 Phi CC, if you are in the market for a pair of headphones in this price range. It will really depends on your needs, and tonal preferences as to which will work best for you. To be honest, at this level, its pretty much hard to go wrong, its more about you, and what you personally enjoy from a pair of headphones.

Conclusion

If you enjoy the sound signature Abyss Headphones provides, you owe it to yourself to give the Diana Phi a try. I realise that these are very expensive headphones, but even if you don’t want to spend this kind of money on a pair of transducers, give them a shot at your local dealer, or a local Can Jam if you can. They are a lot of fun to listen to.

The Diana, Diana Phi, and AB-1266 Phi CC are a very impressive line up of headphones. Each offer something unique, and are worthy of consideration should you be looking for a pair of headphones in their price range. Abyss headphones aren’t for everyone, but if they work for you and your ears, they are hard to beat. The Diana Phi has taken the best of the Diana, and most of the best bits of the AB-1266 Phi CC, and put it together in a much more user friendly package. It sounds almost like a Phi CC….but is comfier than the original Diana. Whats not to like really? I don’t know what Abyss has planned for their next release, but I will follow along with great interest. Joe Skubinski and co. at Abyss Headphones have always been very helpful whenever I have contacted them with a question, and really do seem to be proud of their work. They stand behind it 100%.

All in all, Abyss Headphones and their sound signature just work for me and my ears. I urge you to give them a shot, for all they may look a bit funny at first, they might work for you and your ears too :)
PeteSTRADAMUS
PeteSTRADAMUS
I'm really interested to see how these compare to the Empyrean.
Solan
Solan
A review after my heart! And your preferences have a decent overlap with mine. For me:

-Weird Electronica, Jazz, Vocal, Symphonic.

-Lots of quality bass, slightly but not too warm, and accurate treble.

Anyway ... Would you say the Diana Phi is top end also with my slightly different preferences? I already have the Stellia as an ace for vocals, and am looking for which planar will best complement it, perhaps by being extra good for the magnificent works and - weird electronica like Shpongle and Software - and plain weirdness like :wumpscut:. Not that there is ever anything wrong with also being good for vocals.

(Also considering he1000se, but it doesn't have the superb build quality the Abyss do.)
ufospls2
ufospls2
They aren't a warm headphone, but apart from that, I think they would be good for your music taste.
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Pros: Transparent, "speaker-like" presentation
Highly engaging and realistic tonality
Fantastics looks and build quality
Cons: Earcups might be too small for some users,
Provided 5' cable more suited to portable rather than desktop use
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the chance to hear various iterations of the Abyss Diana through their development, and was really excited to finally hear the production version earlier this year at CanJam NYC 2018. Although my audition at the time was a relatively short one, it was enough to pique my interest in spending some time with this headphone and I’ve now had the chance to spend time with a production review sample for the past few months.

First a little background on Abyss Headphones and the Diana project. High end cable manufacturer, JPS Labs, formed Abyss Headphones, and their first product, the Abyss AB-1266 took the headphone world by storm back in 2013. The headphone was a serious attempt at creating the best sounding headphone in the world and developed a strong fan following for its unique ability to create a strong sense of realism, and perhaps, the most “speaker-like” sound of any headphone. While the AB-1266 has seen further refinements over the years with the AB-1266 Phi (and the most recent AB-1288 Phi CC), one of the common points of discussion among Abyss fans, has been the ergonomics of the AB-1266. It’s an extremely large headphone, a headphone that requires a proper fit (and the requisite patience) needed to achieve this, as well as a headphone that requires a significant level of upstream gear in order to maximize its enormous potential.

It seems that with this in mind, Abyss Headphones set out to develop a headphone that would preserve much of the sound signature of the larger AB-1266, while addressing some of its ergonomic points of contention, while enabling an overall lower point of entry in terms of its price. Enter the Abyss Diana.

The Diana is a semi-open back design, features large 63 millimeter planar magnetic drivers, and has an impedance rating of 40 ohms. The build quality is second to none, with beautifully machined aluminum ear cups that are finished in ceramic and come in a choice of 3 colors: black, coffee, and white. The headphone is surprisingly light and compact with square shaped leather ear pads that magnetically click into place. And although the Diana is not a true circumaural fit for me, the Diana is light and I found the overall comfort level to be high. The leather and alcantara headband along with a very satisfyingly smooth adjustment mechanism completes a very refined package. One thing to note, the Diana ships with a 5’ cable (with the termination of your choosing) which while great for portable use, might be a tad short for home/desktop users.

I’ve been using the Diana in the following configurations:

  • As a portable headphone driven by an Astell&Kern SP1000

  • As a portable headphone driven by a Hugo 2

  • As a desktop headphone driven by a DNA Stratus (2A3 tube amp)

Despite the 40 ohm impedance rating, the Abyss Diana will happily take as much juice as you can give it and its sound quality belies its more common “portable” descriptive tag. This is very much a “full” size flagship headphone in a “portable” package. With that said, in order to achieve this full size sound, I would at the minimum recommend using a portable amplifier such as the Hugo 2. A further and distinct improvement was heard when adding the beefier 2A3 tube amp into the chain.

The sound quality of the Diana can be described as open, transparent, punchy, and with fantastic tonality. These headphones will immediately grab your attention with a “speaker-like” and three dimensional presentation that is overall similar, albeit “smaller”, to its bigger brother, the Abyss Phi. The Diana has a more intimate soundstage than the massive soundstage of the Abyss Phi and one that is closer to the Focal Utopia. And while the aforementioned Utopia can, at times, have a “too much of a good thing” type of tonality, the Diana remains remarkably balanced.

Overall, the $2995 Abyss Diana is a flagship headphone that should a must audition for those looking for this level of performance and in this price category. The fact that the Diana is also portable, is icing on a very sweet cake.
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