Quick Impressions: Abyss Phi TC, ZMF Verite Closed, Stax 009 & Sennheiser HE60 "Baby Orpheus"
Apr 17, 2020 at 6:18 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 692

number1sixerfan

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Pictured: HeadAmp Blue Hawaii & GSX Mini, Stax SR-009, Stax SR-007 MK1 (not tested here, just blew a driver recently :triportsad: ), Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC, (2) Sennheiser HE60 "Baby Orpheus" & Verite Closed Blue Ash. Not the prettiest pic and sorry I don't have more, I'm moving to NY (whenever Covid-19 relaxes) and got rid of almost all of my furniture.. cheap card table & limited space for now)

Nothing like a formal review, these are just some general thoughts. I've mentioned sharing some impressions since acquiring some new gear and getting back into the hobby. System: Apple Lossless>Chord Hugo 2> Headamp BHSE & Headamp GSX Mini (loop out).

Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC highlights:
  • The overall sound has enormous presence and wow factor. Given the very unique speaker over ear like design (just imo) this is no surprise, but it’s an experience that is a bit out of this world and very much worth trying just once. You’re really immersed in the music.. at times it feels like the musical artists and band/instrument players are positioned around you. Soundstage isn’t the widest I’ve heard but it’s decently wide. The depth and overall openness is really, really impressive however.
  • One of the most detailed headphones I’ve heard, with excellent imaging/speed. Both aspects stand out tremendously and combined with the first bullet above makes for an extremely clear and resolving sound that only my 009 can compete with. (out of headphones I’ve owned previously, only the K1000 and HD800 have that kind of detail, but with other problems respectively)
  • However, a key difference for the Phi TC is that it sounds more full bodied than the 009 and other cans just mentioned
  • Great Tonal Balance: for the most part there is no part of the spectrum that overpowers the other and everything feels natural. Highs are clear and sparkly (without any edge), mids are sweet with really good vocals (only the HE60 does vocals better to my ears), and the bass is tight and hard hitting with solid presence/quantity.
  • Cons:
    • Need to optimize fit, can be annoying and feels a bit impractical at times
    • I’m hearing just a bit of distortion in the lower bass on select songs (very few) at really high volume levels. The GSX Mini seems very capable in driving them so I'm not what's going on here.. edit*, after some digging I'm seeing I'm not the only one that's experienced this.
Stax 009 Highlights:
  • These headphones are a technical masterpiece, given a slightly "smaller" overall sound than the TC. Best in class detail, soundstage, imaging, clarity and transparency. I've heard very few headphones that do any of these things better than the 009 and certainly not all at once in each category.
  • The highs sparkle with clarity (albeit a bit too much at times) and the mids and vocals are really, really good—coherent with the highs and lows, lush and perfectly positioned. The Abyss and 009 again are very close here, with the 009 just having an edge with the highs, and the Abyss with slightly better vocals & midrange presence
  • Bass: For the most part the bass is solid. Prominent, hard hitting at times and accurate. Some would absolutely prefer more quantity and presence here however
  • Well balanced sound for the most part and very good with a most genres
  • Cons
    • Although bass is tight, detailed & has decent impact on songs that call for it, again it just won't be enough for some
    • Can swing a bit bright on some songs or in general given your amplification and preferences. That tends to be the case with the most detailed headphones out there, but I do end up using my Hugo 2 “warm” filter on some problem songs. Also sometimes just sounds too cold/analytical
Sennheiser HE60 Highlights:
  • To my ears the HE60 have the greatest tonal balance out of nearly any headphone I’ve ever heard. I describe them as the HD600 on absolute steroids, somewhat similar signature & yet extremely better technically and more capable. Crystal clear & slightly warm and liquid, the full spectrum of the music comes together beautifully. Makes for a very natural, life like sound. Extremely musical.
  • Imaging and detail is right up there with the 009/Abyss Phi, but it’s slightly less apparent/emphasized at times given the soundstage/headstage is a bit less open than either. However, this in addition to being a bit forward in nature makes for a very intimate and amazing sound
  • Highs and Mids: highs are detailed & clear, yet extremely smooth. The harshness sometimes present in the 009 simply isn’t here with these. The mids are my favorite aspect of these.. forward, very lush, and just really, really natural sounding
  • Cons:
    • Bass: again, much like the 009 and almost every other stat, although the bass is there and high quality, there just isn’t much of it. And the quantity and impact is even less to a degree than with the 009 imo.
    • Soundstage is adequate, but it can’t compete with the 009/Abyss. Sounds slightly closed in, in comparison. Again this is also a good thing at times in its tradeoff of sounding more forward and intimate.
ZMF Verite Closed Highlights:
  • These headphones are really, really good as well but I have to give a disclaimer. Because they are a closed headphone, they simply sound nowhere near open (duh), spacious and airy as the headphones mentioned above. Some people simply may not like them due to this
  • With the above said, the well balanced sound packed into these closed headphones is just remarkable. There simply isn’t one glaring deficiency and that’s just a rare statement for any headphones. It does everything at an impressively solid to high level. The highs, mids, lows, detail, imaging etc.
    • Yes, I just admitted earlier that it’s slightly more closed in and less spacious, but given the closed design I can’t count that against it.
  • Detail/Imaging: detail retrieval is impressive, as is imaging.. but due to the slightly more closed in sound, it’s not as impressive as with the three other headphones. Slightly behind the HE60 and quite a bit behind the 009/Abyss. Again, very important. Just slightly
  • Most enjoyable bass of all the headphones listed. Perfect across the spectrum and abundant in quantity but controlled. And great impact/slam, just overall well done but not overpowering.
  • Musicality: just like the HE60, the Verite Closed just makes it easy to put the headphones on and get lost for hours. There is more weight to the music than with the other headphones. The liquid midrange, smooth (but not as sparkly) highs, slightly forward sound, the balance... The 009 and Abyss are so damn open, surreal and impressive technically, but like the Sennhesier, the Verite’s just so easy to foot tap and enjoy without a thought or care. And for the sake of clarity, I’d say the Verite is probably about 90% capable in comparison to the 009/Abyss technically. (HE60 probably 95%)
  • Cons
    • none really, which is very rare
Rankings:

Transparency & Detail: 1. Phi TC, 2. 009, 3. HE60, 4. VC
Imaging & Speed: 1. Phi TC, 2. 009 & HE60, 3. VC
Soundstage/Headstage: 1. Phi TC, 2. 009, 3. HE60, 4. VC
Highs: 1. Phi TC, 009 & HE60, 2. VC
Mids: 1. HE60 & Phi TC, 2. 009 & VC
Bass: 1. VC, 2. Phi TC, 3. 009, 4. HE60
Comfort: 1. HE60, 2. VC, 3. 009, 4. Phi TC

This is NOT to be confused with a best headphones ranking of the 4 overall and again just my ears. I find myself listening to the HE60 and Abyss Phi TC the most.. followed by the VC and then the 009. (The 009 is still very capable, but the TC does everything the 009 does with a more impressive experience).. long term, a combo of the VC and TC may have me part ways with the stat gear (oh and to be clear, just to save money lol. Stat rig is special.. just costly), not sure yet..waiting on an HD800S that may help with that.

To conclude, I want to reiterate that all of these headphones are top 10 and likely top 5 all time of all the headphones I’ve heard/owned.. I can’t stress enough that this depends entirely on your preferences and mood/music. If you crave detail, transparency and a surreal headspace and sound, the TC and the 009 are absolutely your choices here (with the 009 being more bright of the two). If you really love a slightly warm, liquid smooth sound with insane vocals while still having excellent detail and clarity, the HE60 is your go to. If you want a somewhat similar level of liquid smooth sound that’s forward with amazing bass and bass slam, the VC is the better fit (keep in mind, the VC has a ton of detail and technical ability, the others are just top in class with it). If you want prominent bass, that may eliminate the stats to boot. It will all depend, but they are all certainly TOTL in my book.
 
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Apr 17, 2020 at 8:20 PM Post #3 of 692

paradoxper

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Bring in a T2 for the 009.

I agree with you 100% regarding the Verite Closed. It's actually the most enjoyable headphone I've ever heard.

I'd also give you recommendation to try out the SR1A as it does some things remarkable that challenges the 009 easily.
 
Apr 17, 2020 at 10:13 PM Post #4 of 692

number1sixerfan

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I wish I had more ears...especially for my Paduak woodied HE60 :)

0417201552a by drjlo2, on Flickr

Absolutely beautiful. Done by Headphile a long time ago or..? Would absolutely consider doing something like this for the backup pair.

Bring in a T2 for the 009.

I agree with you 100% regarding the Verite Closed. It's actually the most enjoyable headphone I've ever heard.

I'd also give you recommendation to try out the SR1A as it does some things remarkable that challenges the 009 easily.

I would go for a T2 if I could make the cost make sense. Have heard great things.

And definitely, the VC's are so easy to enjoy. Amazing to look as well.. SR1A looks really interesting if it weren't for the power needs, may try them out at some point. Goal is to minimize what I have on hand eventually lol
 
Apr 17, 2020 at 10:40 PM Post #5 of 692

SteveM324

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The ZMF Verite Closed scales up significantly with a good tube amp. Just saying....I understand that you’re working with what you have on hand. The Verite Open might stack up better than the VC against the open headphones in this review. I have the VO and I have a VC on order. Nice review.
 
Apr 18, 2020 at 2:54 AM Post #6 of 692

Failed Engineer

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Nice write up. You should try a Carbon with the electrostats. I may be in the minority, but I think it’s all around a better amp than the BHSE (I owned both concurrently for about a year with the 007 and 009 both). The 009 and Carbon is great and you might re-assess the thoughts on bass delivery.

Also sad about the 007. They would have been my favorite from your shootout. Glad you like the VCs!
 
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Apr 18, 2020 at 8:36 AM Post #7 of 692

paradoxper

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Absolutely beautiful. Done by Headphile a long time ago or..? Would absolutely consider doing something like this for the backup pair.

I would go for a T2 if I could make the cost make sense. Have heard great things.

And definitely, the VC's are so easy to enjoy. Amazing to look as well.. SR1A looks really interesting if it weren't for the power needs, may try them out at some point. Goal is to minimize what I have on hand eventually lol

The SR1A power needs aren't too inconvenient but I hear you. I think it would make a nice stop-gap and refresher.

Then you can minimize all and focus on 2 channel. :wink:
 
Apr 18, 2020 at 1:36 PM Post #8 of 692

number1sixerfan

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The ZMF Verite Closed scales up significantly with a good tube amp. Just saying....I understand that you’re working with what you have on hand. The Verite Open might stack up better than the VC against the open headphones in this review. I have the VO and I have a VC on order. Nice review.

I've seen people mention that, but I can't imagine a tube amp changing the signature much.. I can see one enhancing it. The VC are very, very good out of the Mini. But I agree entirely that the VO would've been a much better comparison, just giving some impressions on what I have. May eventually look at the VO.

Just as a general note, the VCs are extremely good. I listened to them all last night (over all of these other cans). The fact that they can absolutely hold their own vs these other expensive and harder to drive headphones is a huge testament to how good it is. Quite a bargain imo.

Nice write up. You should try a Carbon with the electrostats. I may be in the minority, but I think it’s all around a better amp than the BHSE (I owned both concurrently for about a year with the 007 and 009 both). The 009 and Carbon is great and you might re-assess the thoughts on bass delivery.

Also sad about the 007. They would have been my favorite from your shootout. Glad you like the VCs!

I appreciate the feedback. I'll see if there's a way I can try one out or if I can come by one at a good price. The 009 does sound absolutely amazing out of the BHSE, and the MK1 sounded beautiful out of it. The 009 does have a bit more bass out of the Woo Wes, but the BHSE does quite a few other things better than it so I don't use it as much.

Wish I could've compared the MK1s here but I haven't heard them in two weeks or so. But it's a hell of a headphone and has a good blend of the typical Stax strengths but with really good bass. Having it repaired, can't wait to get it back.
 
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Apr 19, 2020 at 12:50 AM Post #9 of 692

number1sixerfan

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Second night in a row I've spent almost exclusively with the Verite Closed and the GSX Mini. There's just no fault to focus on, you just get lost in the music.
 
Apr 19, 2020 at 6:15 PM Post #10 of 692

astrostar59

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My preference is the TC, and having lived with the 009 and various amps (Carbon KGSShv, but not T2) the TC does it all and better.
Raal, can't get used to the lack of bass. Top amp and DAC required for any high level headphone IMO, to max it out.
 
Apr 20, 2020 at 1:08 AM Post #11 of 692

number1sixerfan

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My preference is the TC, and having lived with the 009 and various amps (Carbon KGSShv, but not T2) the TC does it all and better.
Raal, can't get used to the lack of bass. Top amp and DAC required for any high level headphone IMO, to max it out.

I agree. And I love the 009. The TC does a lot of the same things better. The 009 is still more practical and comfortable though, so I'm still really enjoying it as well.. can't see giving either up right now but I know that may change.
 
Apr 20, 2020 at 11:11 AM Post #12 of 692

astrostar59

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The Raal is an odd headphone. It is flawed, no doubt. But the soundstage and speed of it is amazing. For me these kind of aspects fade in time
and you are left with only part of the image, part of the music IMO. I dropped the 009s because I missed the sub bass and solidity of the music in the mids.
No way I could live with the Raal as the main HP. Novelty maybe...
 
Jun 13, 2020 at 3:22 PM Post #14 of 692

Khronos

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Pictured: HeadAmp Blue Hawaii & GSX Mini, Stax SR-009, Stax SR-007 MK1 (not tested here, just blew a driver recently :triportsad: ), Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC, (2) Sennheiser HE60 "Baby Orpheus" & Verite Closed Blue Ash. Not the prettiest pic and sorry I don't have more, I'm moving to NY (whenever Covid-19 relaxes) and got rid of almost all of my furniture.. cheap card table & limited space for now)

Nothing like a formal review, these are just some general thoughts. I've mentioned sharing some impressions since acquiring some new gear and getting back into the hobby. System: Apple Lossless>Chord Hugo 2> Headamp BHSE & Headamp GSX Mini (loop out).

Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC highlights:
  • The overall sound has enormous presence and wow factor. Given the very unique speaker over ear like design (just imo) this is no surprise, but it’s an experience that is a bit out of this world and very much worth trying just once. You’re really immersed in the music.. at times it feels like the musical artists and band/instrument players are positioned around you. Soundstage isn’t the widest I’ve heard but it’s decently wide. The depth and overall openness is really, really impressive however.
  • One of the most detailed headphones I’ve heard, with excellent imaging/speed. Both aspects stand out tremendously and combined with the first bullet above makes for an extremely clear and resolving sound that only my 009 can compete with. (out of headphones I’ve owned previously, only the K1000 and HD800 have that kind of detail, but with other problems respectively)
  • However, a key difference for the Phi TC is that it sounds more full bodied than the 009 and other cans just mentioned
  • Great Tonal Balance: for the most part there is no part of the spectrum that overpowers the other and everything feels natural. Highs are clear and sparkly (without any edge), mids are sweet with really good vocals (only the HE60 does vocals better to my ears), and the bass is tight and hard hitting with solid presence/quantity.
  • Cons:
    • Need to optimize fit, can be annoying and feels a bit impractical at times
    • I’m hearing just a bit of distortion in the lower bass on select songs (very few) at really high volume levels. The GSX Mini seems very capable in driving them so I'm not what's going on here.. edit*, after some digging I'm seeing I'm not the only one that's experienced this.
Stax 009 Highlights:
  • These headphones are a technical masterpiece, given a slightly "smaller" overall sound than the TC. Best in class detail, soundstage, imaging, clarity and transparency. I've heard very few headphones that do any of these things better than the 009 and certainly not all at once in each category.
  • The highs sparkle with clarity (albeit a bit too much at times) and the mids and vocals are really, really good—coherent with the highs and lows, lush and perfectly positioned. The Abyss and 009 again are very close here, with the 009 just having an edge with the highs, and the Abyss with slightly better vocals & midrange presence
  • Bass: For the most part the bass is solid. Prominent, hard hitting at times and accurate. Some would absolutely prefer more quantity and presence here however
  • Well balanced sound for the most part and very good with a most genres
  • Cons
    • Although bass is tight, detailed & has decent impact on songs that call for it, again it just won't be enough for some
    • Can swing a bit bright on some songs or in general given your amplification and preferences. That tends to be the case with the most detailed headphones out there, but I do end up using my Hugo 2 “warm” filter on some problem songs. Also sometimes just sounds too cold/analytical
Sennheiser HE60 Highlights:
  • To my ears the HE60 have the greatest tonal balance out of nearly any headphone I’ve ever heard. I describe them as the HD600 on absolute steroids, somewhat similar signature & yet extremely better technically and more capable. Crystal clear & slightly warm and liquid, the full spectrum of the music comes together beautifully. Makes for a very natural, life like sound. Extremely musical.
  • Imaging and detail is right up there with the 009/Abyss Phi, but it’s slightly less apparent/emphasized at times given the soundstage/headstage is a bit less open than either. However, this in addition to being a bit forward in nature makes for a very intimate and amazing sound
  • Highs and Mids: highs are detailed & clear, yet extremely smooth. The harshness sometimes present in the 009 simply isn’t here with these. The mids are my favorite aspect of these.. forward, very lush, and just really, really natural sounding
  • Cons:
    • Bass: again, much like the 009 and almost every other stat, although the bass is there and high quality, there just isn’t much of it. And the quantity and impact is even less to a degree than with the 009 imo.
    • Soundstage is adequate, but it can’t compete with the 009/Abyss. Sounds slightly closed in, in comparison. Again this is also a good thing at times in its tradeoff of sounding more forward and intimate.
ZMF Verite Closed Highlights:
  • These headphones are really, really good as well but I have to give a disclaimer. Because they are a closed headphone, they simply sound nowhere near open (duh), spacious and airy as the headphones mentioned above. Some people simply may not like them due to this
  • With the above said, the well balanced sound packed into these closed headphones is just remarkable. There simply isn’t one glaring deficiency and that’s just a rare statement for any headphones. It does everything at an impressively solid to high level. The highs, mids, lows, detail, imaging etc.
    • Yes, I just admitted earlier that it’s slightly more closed in and less spacious, but given the closed design I can’t count that against it.
  • Detail/Imaging: detail retrieval is impressive, as is imaging.. but due to the slightly more closed in sound, it’s not as impressive as with the three other headphones. Slightly behind the HE60 and quite a bit behind the 009/Abyss. Again, very important. Just slightly
  • Most enjoyable bass of all the headphones listed. Perfect across the spectrum and abundant in quantity but controlled. And great impact/slam, just overall well done but not overpowering.
  • Musicality: just like the HE60, the Verite Closed just makes it easy to put the headphones on and get lost for hours. There is more weight to the music than with the other headphones. The liquid midrange, smooth (but not as sparkly) highs, slightly forward sound, the balance... The 009 and Abyss are so damn open, surreal and impressive technically, but like the Sennhesier, the Verite’s just so easy to foot tap and enjoy without a thought or care. And for the sake of clarity, I’d say the Verite is probably about 90% capable in comparison to the 009/Abyss technically. (HE60 probably 95%)
  • Cons
    • none really, which is very rare
Rankings:

Transparency & Detail: 1. Phi TC, 2. 009, 3. HE60, 4. VC
Imaging & Speed: 1. Phi TC, 2. 009 & HE60, 3. VC
Soundstage/Headstage: 1. Phi TC, 2. 009, 3. HE60, 4. VC
Highs: 1. Phi TC, 009 & HE60, 2. VC
Mids: 1. HE60 & Phi TC, 2. 009 & VC
Bass: 1. VC, 2. Phi TC, 3. 009, 4. HE60
Comfort: 1. HE60, 2. VC, 3. 009, 4. Phi TC

This is NOT to be confused with a best headphones ranking of the 4 overall and again just my ears. I find myself listening to the HE60 and Abyss Phi TC the most.. followed by the VC and then the 009. (The 009 is still very capable, but the TC does everything the 009 does with a more impressive experience).. long term, a combo of the VC and TC may have me part ways with the stat gear (oh and to be clear, just to save money lol. Stat rig is special.. just costly), not sure yet..waiting on an HD800S that may help with that.

To conclude, I want to reiterate that all of these headphones are top 10 and likely top 5 all time of all the headphones I’ve heard/owned.. I can’t stress enough that this depends entirely on your preferences and mood/music. If you crave detail, transparency and a surreal headspace and sound, the TC and the 009 are absolutely your choices here (with the 009 being more bright of the two). If you really love a slightly warm, liquid smooth sound with insane vocals while still having excellent detail and clarity, the HE60 is your go to. If you want a somewhat similar level of liquid smooth sound that’s forward with amazing bass and bass slam, the VC is the better fit (keep in mind, the VC has a ton of detail and technical ability, the others are just top in class with it). If you want prominent bass, that may eliminate the stats to boot. It will all depend, but they are all certainly TOTL in my book.


Nice comparison!
What do you think of the Raal SR-1A?

Edit:

Oops, did not read on. Sorry!
 
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Jun 13, 2020 at 3:27 PM Post #15 of 692

Khronos

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The Raal is an odd headphone. It is flawed, no doubt. But the soundstage and speed of it is amazing. For me these kind of aspects fade in time
and you are left with only part of the image, part of the music IMO. I dropped the 009s because I missed the sub bass and solidity of the music in the mids.
No way I could live with the Raal as the main HP. Novelty maybe...

Have you tried using passive EQ like a Schiit Loki?
What do you drive them with?
 

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