Pictured: HeadAmp Blue Hawaii & GSX Mini, Stax SR-009, Stax SR-007 MK1 (not tested here, just blew a driver recently ), 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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%)
- none really, which is very rare
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.