When I reviewed the Abyss AB-1266 Phi headphones late last spring (link: https://headphone.guru/abyss-ab-1266-phi/), I was completely floored with the sense of realism and just how “speaker-like” these headphones sounded. Well, never to rest on their laurels, the folks at Abyss headphones have updated their flagship headphone by adding a very attractive ceramic coating (“CC”) and new ear-pads. While the ceramic coating is all about the looks, the new ear-pads serve to tune the sound to even higher levels that I didn’t think possible with a pair of headphones.
The drivers and overall frame have not changed, but to help them pop visually, Abyss has now added a very durable two-tone ceramic polymer coating along the metal frame. Per the photo below, this really looks quite spectacular. That said, I also think that the original (like my pair) also looks quite appealing. But more importantly, the sound has been improved upon even further. Just when I thought Joe Skubinski has squeezed all of the great audio brilliance out of the Abyss with the new Phi drivers, he goes back to the drawing board and updates the ear-pads to offer even further sonic transparency. Having just received my ear-pads a few weeks ago, I was quite happy with what I heard from them. Looks wise, they are clearly one of the very best looking and feeling ear-pads I’ve come across on any pair of headphones. The new lambskin ear-pads acoustically tune the new Phi drivers to even higher levels of performance. They are a tad thicker and now sport perforations along the outside of ear-pads and offer a more consistent seal around my ears with a good level of overall comfort.
For this update, I performed several A-B direct comparisons with both versions of the Abyss ear-pads using some of my very favourite recordings. My upfront setup consisted of Roon Labs Player –> Chord DAVE DAC –> Eleven XIAUDIO Broadway Balanced Headphone Amplifier. This is one of the very best setups I’ve heard regardless of ear-pads used, the Abyss Phi headphones reach the most speaker-like soundstaging I’ve ever heard from a pair of headphones. The Eleven XIAUDIO Broadway Balanced headphone amp, while small in stature, has a lot of power and kick and really helps the drivers on the Abyss Phi headphones hit full stride! My first recording for my direct comparison was the Cowboy Junkies’ newest album: “All that Reckoning”. I’ve been a fan of Cowboy Junkies since they broke out on the scene here in Toronto and fell in love with their haunting take of “Blue Moon Revisited” and was hooked ever since.
Right from the title track “All that Reckoning Pt. 1”, I immediately detected that the new ear-pads offered an improved centre-focus and midrange to the vocals. While with the original ear-pads, this was very much a strong suit of the headphones, the new ear-pads were able to flesh this out even more and bring Margo Timmins’ vocals even further up front and centre. I could also detect improved clarity of the smallest details and nuances within this recording with the new ear-pads to levels that I only thought were the territory of the very best electro-static headphones. Simply put, you get incredible clarity and a flatter more neutral tonality with a 30-second ear-pad swap out.
Next up I selected a more bass intensive recording. As I’ve always felt that the Abyss headphones have offered some of the very best bass quality and impact I’ve heard from a pair of headphones, I wanted to specifically see just how the new ear-pads affected this already impressive performance. “Lateralus” by the progressive metal band Tool was my choice to perform this specific comparison. As soon as the rumble kicked in from “The Patient” I could tell that the bass had changed slightly, but definitely for the better. The same depth and rumble were certainly present, but what I was able to discern was that some of the bloom with the original ear-pads was tightened up and made a bit more concise. Overall, as fantastic as the bass is with the original configuration, I found that the presentation now had among the tightest and most detailed bass there is in personal audio. To hear this level of depth, detail and texturing, I used to think you’d have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a full two-channel stereo setup. Simply put, when you incorporate their expansive sound-staging, these headphones offer the closest speaker-like presentation I’ve heard in personal audio and the new ear-pads help the Abyss AB-1266 Phi / Phi CC headphones achieve a level that I didn’t think was possible.
Overall I was quite happy with the sonic improvements with the new lambskin ear-pads by Abyss. The improved bass detail and vocals really helped elevate an incredibly great headphone to an even higher plane of existence. While not cheap at $395 USD, I felt that the improved fit and sound quality was well worth the cost of admission. If you’re in the market for a pair of one of the very best headphones around, I strongly recommend that you give these headphones a try – you will not be disappointed!
Price: $4995 USD