What's a trip to ISSE 2017 without testing a pair of true audiophile-grade headphones that way beyond many people's pay scale? With that in mind, we tried the Abyss AB-1266 Phi.
The AB-1266 Phi features a unique design. Its machined aluminum frame acts as the headband that holds both halves together. To tighten or loosen the headphone's grip, you just push or pull the frame at the joint to your desired grip strength. The elastic inner band is what rests on your head, while the frame itself has a generous clearance when worn. This is an interesting ergonomic form factor, since it looks into the grip strength alone, while it offers enough room for bespectacled users.
The audiophile headphones use the brand's proprietary planar magnetic transducer design paired with a thin, low-mass diaphragm. Inside, there are custom-made high-power neodymium magnets with an optimized slot pattern. On the outside, the cups are made from real lambskin for comfort. The cans themselves are open-back, which makes it crucial for users to enjoy the AB-1266 Phi in a quiet place with no one to disturb, and vice versa.
While we did test the AB-1226 Phi, it was hooked up to its exhibition setup. The tube amplifier was a Woo Audio WA33 (worth S$12,888), with the headphones connected to it via the Phi's default alumiloy (copper-aluminum) cables. The music source was a Chord Blu MkII CD player. Songs they had on rotation came from a Dire Straits compilation CD that featured the band's most famous songs, notably:
The Abyss AB-1226 Phi's sound is striking in many ways. It offers a 'circular' yet open-air soundstage that highlights its balance. Percussion sounded robust, and it has outstanding precision on the guitars. It provided terrific separation and handling between each distinct frequency range as well. While it's possible that the entire setup helped to prop up the headphones, it's still quite impossible to imagine the band playing in front of you and the AB-1266 Phi.
The strive for its balanced soundstage also brought out the AB-1226 Phi's purity by paying considerable attention to accompaniment instruments. While it could afford more depth for midrange and bass frequencies, those ranges are nonetheless full-bodied, while its treble felt slightly rounded off to suit the overall sound signature of the headphones.
The Abyss AB-1226 Phi is available in Singapore, starting at S$6,388 for a set of basic accessories, all the way to S$10,588 for the complete haul.