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Diana: the second release by Abyss Headphones!

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by music alchemist, Aug 13, 2015.
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  1. Beagle
    Amazing....stunning. But due to the busy time of the year, I'll have to post when I get free time over the next few days. I'll try and measure tomorrow.
    davenindigo likes this.
  2. mulder01
    dammit I want one now. Though I promised myself I'd never buy anything until I heard it first. Probably should stick with that...
    PeteSTRADAMUS likes this.
    I love these. How they look, I obviously haven't heard them yet, but I'm more intrigued then ever.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2017
  4. FastAndClean
    they are the cutest little planars for me
  5. soullinker20
    they look so cool and very portable
  6. Music Alchemist
    (If this was shared here before, I forgot.)



    "Diana is engineered to play the delicate nuances of piano and violin yet pound your head with clean powerful crescendos when called upon. ABYSS began with their world class AB-1266 Phi headphone and worked to develop a new speaker transducer customized for the thin lightweight profile of Diana with unique engineering to take abuses like no other planar headphone.

    Retaining the amazing speed and impact of the large AB-1266 Phi while miniaturizing the entire headphone package proved to be a huge engineering challenge. ABYSS spent two years toggling between Solidworks 3D software and machining prototypes to reach a point where she could be no thinner. The ultimate result is a ultra thin yet rigid shell that begins at over 1000 grams of aircraft grade aluminum then ends with an under 100 gram frame structure once the CNC machine completely removes every last bit, with smooth accuracies measured in fraction of a thousandth of an inch. Thin is in with Diana, and every one of her sculpted curves is purpose built for good looks, and great sound.

    Diana comes well dressed with your choice of three classy outfits. Hard ceramic finishes give her metallic parts color, and as in the finest of sports cars soft breathable leather and Italian Alcantara® cradle your skin.

    Acoustics are huge with headphones, they’re like tiny rooms for your ears, and being material experts allows ABYSS to fine tune the room to offer up speaker like performance around your head, sound as if you are seated next to the band. The open back Fibonacci hole pattern was tuned to match Diana’s speaker drivers perfectly, allowing her to breath like life itself. Open back means more of a sense of space and you-are-there realism, with a positive benefit of allowing you to still hear your surroundings while on the go. Lower volume settings let you carry on a conversation with others while playing relaxing background music, raise the volume to dissolve outside noise. The proximity of Diana’s natural sounding speakers to your ears allows the brain to focus on the music rather than outside noise.

    As with any ABYSS design, longevity and lack of moving parts are very important traits for final sound quality. Diana is equipped with a magnetic headband that adjusts smoothly and cradles your head comfortably without pressure, and lambskin ear pads are contoured to fit the shape of your head. You’ll completely forget you are wearing headphones.

    Diana is comfortable, stylish, and plays ABYSS world-class sound. In our opinion, she’s the finest and thinnest boutique headphone money can buy!"

    And some pics I came across... The first two are from Woo Audio and show how flexible the headphones are.



    Last edited: Dec 26, 2017
    Beagle likes this.
  7. Beagle
    OK, here goes nothing....the Diana only gets better as I go on, so I think this should hold up over time.

    I used to get some enjoyment out of composing a review, but now I hate the prospect of foisting my tastes and opinions on others who would only benefit it they shared the same likes as me. And I certainly never thought I would ever be doing a review of the Abyss Diana. If you recall, I kind of cast a cynical and jaundiced eye at them when they first appeared. To my eyes, they looked like a cheap dollar store or gimmicky Apple store affair, very insubstantial...especially for the asking price of $2999. Since they appeared to be geared toward portable use, I saw them as an on-ear size, making them even more insignificant looking in my mind. We also have a tendency to think 'plastic' in pictures of modern gadgets.

    As time went on, I grew more curious. At that price, they had to offer something. There were few if any comments on them, and one particular brief summation was very nasty towards them (which as it turns out, is so far off the mark as to be not taken seriously at all). But further down the road there were positive words from TAS, HiFi+ and a couple of others. I became more curious....to the point where I decided I needed to hear these. And the only way for me to hear them (other than traipsing around to shows that I didn't have time to do) was to order a pair, which I did in October.

    After a few delays (Abyss updated the earpads for a better fit) and a nerve-wracking debacle with the Canadian delivery courier, the Diana arrived.

    The box was much smaller than I was expecting, but I was very happy that it was what it was....which was simple. I hate getting a new pair of headphones and having to open a large box, then a sub-box, then numerous trap door flaps, foam et al to get to the actual item. Who needs it? The Diana box is just the right size, with an outside cardboard sleeve. The headphones come in a nice canvas carrying bag, and that's it. Diana is there, all cabled up, ready for action. At first, you feel you deserve more for your cash outlay, but again, you got what you really need, no more no less.

    The feel of the Diana as I took her out of the box (sounds creepy, no?) was one of a solid build from solid materials, which it is. As I took them out of the bag, one of the earpads fell off, then the other (maybe I trembling with excitement?). I put the pads back on, while noticing that they adhere by way of a small magnetic force onto four metal pins. I put the phones on my head and the fit was not secure and felt odd...I'm already fighting with Diana. But there is an orientation...the pads are thicker on the bottom and one of the sides, so, because they had fallen off, I had to figure out the proper orientation on my own. The seam on the pads should be adjacent to where the cable fits in to the earcups (at least that's how it fits and feels best for me).

    So....the first thing I do when I get a new set of phones is to run frequency sweep tone (from 20Hz to around 200Hz) on repeat, to shake down the diaphragms (like a pitcher warming up in the bullpen). Within a few seconds, I predicted that the Diana would have the best bass of any headphone I'd ever used....it sounded basically flat throughout the sweep. The 20Hz tone was pretty much the same level as the 200Hz.

    On to the sound. I could sum up the Diana sound in two words....tidy and precise. Also fast, clear, unetched. And the imaging and soundstage is first-rate. The drivers sound perfectly matched. Only well-matched drivers will give you clearly defined images and the correct reproduction of the recordings soundstage (the soundstage is in the recording; at best, a headphone can only provide a proper reproduction of that). Diana will place things above, in front of, or outside the head if the recording tells her to.

    The "game-changing" (I hate this term) thing for me was the bass (as I could foretell on the initial test). Bass notes were clean and tight, dynamic, jumping out at times, and extending way down (you can almost "see" it go down due to the clarity). They emerged from a clean black background, out of pure clean air as opposed to a foggy smog-like murk that exists on a lot of headphones. You can follow the individual notes in a line without them overlapping each other....there exists space between them. No overhang; think of the bass notes as actors on a stage during a play. When it is their turn, they should be there. Otherwise, they should exit the stage. Some headphones (due to resonances and distortions) have the bass notes hanging around the back of the stage or off to the sides, still visible. This clarity and precision sometimes makes you think the Diana is coming across as thin, or lacking warmth. But then you suddenly hear the depth of an organ as it enters the picture and all is as it should be. There is also the illusion that bass is 'travelling towards you' like when you listen to loudspeakers.

    About the midrange and treble, I've not much to say. What you hear depends on the recording. All I can really do is express gratitude for the lack of colorations and distortions, the absence of obvious dips, spikes, glare when listening to well-engineered recordings. Really, I'm sort of lost for words. Hard to describe a characteristic that has no character. I can usually only describe problems I hear in these areas of the spectrum, such as suckout, sibilance exaggeration, peakiness, rolloff, honkiness...all of which the Diana does not give even a hint of. So I am left with the potential of hearing proper timbre of voices and instruments, and if the recording provides that, the Diana lets it through basically intact. Everything sounds tonally natural for the most part, effortless, flowing naturally, not syrupy or sugar-coated, not smoothed over. It's a nice big crunchy healthy salad, not a Big Mac.

    This became almost a source of frustration during the first few days, when the Diana would sound wonderful on some things, and not so great on others. The first reaction is that I began to wonder if I realy like this headphone or not, then I eventually realize that it is the messenger delivering what it is being fed. The Diana will not make everything sound wonderful and hifi-like, but it will keep the wonderful sounding wonderful. Everything is open and clear, and the top end seems to extend into the stratosphere with those great recordings.

    I just want to expand a bit more on some of the design factors I think are responsible for Diana's lack of colorations and portrayal of realism, besides those of the solid aluminum structure.

    The fit is, like the sound, tidy and precise. For some, when you put them on they will feel stiff, hard and unwieldy. The pads will feel hard and it seems like you are not getting a proper fit. It's a matter of adjustment and getting used to a 'non-seductive' comfort. Some headphones are so comfortable (right off the bat) that they can psychologically make you think the sound is just as warm and relaxed as the fit. Rather like a smooth-talking salesperson who reels you in with promises but doesn't really have what you want to buy. The Diana rests on the head and over the ears with minimum fuss, and you come to "know" and get used to it. Once the pads begin to soften a bit (after a couple of days), it locks in. Another positive...there is no sweet spot you have to find each time you put them on; the sound stays put. There is no side-to-side or up-and-down swivel option for positioning of the earcups but due to the pad design, one is not needed, not for me anyway. Some will be aghast at the lack of flexibility in the positioning of the earcups (especialy for a $3000 headphone) but the design was obviously intentional in order to have as few moving parts as possible, thus keeping rigidity at a maximum and potential vibrations and rattles to a minimum. It was a case of how to fit an amazing set of drivers with a housing that would do no harm.

    Another crucial design success is the headband and it's total lack of resonance; as Keith Howard of HiFi News always points out in his reviews, a noisy headband assembly can add much coloration to the sound of a headphone. And extreme example of this (in my experience) was the Audio Technica ATH W5000...tap that metal rod while wearing them and it would ring like a bell. Most other headphones will, at the very least, transfer vibration from the headband to the earcups when you tap on it. When you tap the top of the Diana, you hear a the sound of your finger hitting the headband only and it stops right away...it does not ring and travel to your ears.

    One more very pleasant surprise was the minimal leakage, considering this is an open-backed planar headphone, which usually leak sound out the back like the Titanic leaked water (the AKG K812 was the worst in this aspect). To put in perspective, the Diana leaks less than the HiFiman 400i, 560, the HD800, HD700, Audeze LCD-X or EL8 open-back. For the record, I listen at low to moderate levels so YMMV.

    So the overall sonic 'picture' I 'see' with the Diana is one of clarity, unfettered openness, natural dynamics, total freedom from compression and romanticizing of the sound, quick, precise and vibrant. And now that I actually have the headphones in my hands, the look and feel is one of class and sophistication. OK, I've gone from two words to over ten, but maybe I could truly describe Diana in one word....honest. Expensive, but best money I ever spent on headphones because I finally got 'better' rather than 'just different'.
  8. MacedonianHero Contributor
    ^ Thanks Dave....great write up! From my time with the Diana, they really impressed me and were likely the best portable headphones I've heard to date. They share a lot of the transparency and clarity of the Abyss-Phi, but in a form factor that you can take with you as well (and don't require the same power either). Just beautiful sounding headphones that, while small, sounded quite big and profound!
    Beagle likes this.
  9. soullinker20
    very nice write up @Beagle

    got me sooo much more excited to receive ours. did you use portable or desktop setup on them?
  10. Blitzula
    I'm surprised so many folks like the appearance of the Diana. Not a fan there, looks like a few hundred dollar headphone.

    Cool to see the sound is good, which is much more important. Intrigued to hear about the differences between this and the original Abyss and Phi.
  11. Rayzilla
    I assume the technology of the Abyss AB-1266 Phi trickles down to this HP as opposed to that of the original Abyss? Or does this have a sound signature that is different from the Abyss?

    I have tried the original Abyss and seriously contemplating buying a used one. Buying a new Abyss Phi is out of my budget but if this is close to the Abyss Phi then this is an alternative direction since it is in the budget of a used original Abyss.
  12. Music Alchemist
    Based on what Joe Skubinski (the designer) said, the improvements in the drivers of the AB-1266 Phi were actually derived from the improvements made while designing the Diana's drivers. I'm sure the original AB-1266 (also the only one I have heard) is still better than the Diana overall, but the Diana has various benefits, such as being easier to drive, more portable, its own unique sound, etc.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
    Beagle and Rayzilla like this.
    @Beagle Awesome review! made my choice all that much harder on what to get next. :frowning2:
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
  14. Beagle
    I did not review these as a portable on-the-go headphone a la Oppo PM3. I considered it as a home or desktop headphone that you could take to the office or in a hotel while travelling.

    I used Cayin N5 and Fiio X3v2 players loaded with CD rips and hi-rez downloads, going into Burson Soloist, Rupert Neve and Gustard amps. The Diana is not easy to drive at 91 dB/mw sensitivity. Also used MD comps from vinyl as well as straight from the source.
  15. FastAndClean
    Beagle please post some pictures of that sweetie
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