This is the place to discuss the Abyss Diana Phi Headphone, I’ve used @driftingbunnies review of it as the jumping-off point
Respectfully, your friendly neighborhood mod Darthpool
Review below =)
Patented planar speaker drivers in the DIANA headphone are modeled after our infamous AB-1266, considered by many as the finest headphone money can buy. Deep bass, very real vocals, and smooth clear highs with near perfect piano and guitar, the DIANA headphone lets you enjoy music as life in a classy timeless design. – Abyss-headphones.com
- Driver Type – Planar Magnetic
- Design – Over-Ear
- Weight 350 grams
- Impedance 32 ohms
- Sensitivity 91 dB/mw
- Frequency Response 6 Hz - 26 KHz
- Price - $3,995
- Colors – Titanium Gray and Dark Bronze
Throughout my journey as an audiophile, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of brighter headphones. Whether you attribute it to my borked ears (which can still hear up to 19k) or my difficulty to hold onto headphones that cost more than $1,000, I’ve used my humble DT990’s 600ohms for a long time. They have been comfortable, fun, and provided a great bang for the buck for vocal intense pop music. However, due to covid-19 and the introduction of different audio discords, I’ve been roped into trying more higher end headphone such as the ZMF Aeolus, Verite Open and Closed, Empyrean, Utopia, Diana V2, Arya, and HE-6se.
The Diana Phi interested me because it seemed like a Utopia in Diana form. I enjoyed the Diana V2s that I was able to audition due to a very generous friend and once I fiddled around with the Diana enough, I was able to get it to fit comfortable. I also enjoyed my one-night stand with the Focal Utopias but her headband gave me a headache that lasted overnight. I also wanted something that could provide a vocal presence compared to the Verite Opens but still provided a rich and euphoric experience that the ZMF’s provided.
Sources and Music Used in Listening Tests
The amplifier and DAC used in this impression was the Schiit Yggdrasil A2 with Unison USB and Luxman P-750u. For listening tests, I used music from my FLAC library with genres ranging from pop, Asian pop, jazz, and acoustic.
Packaging and Accessories
I believe most people find this a little comical but the Dianas come with a toiletry bag due to its “portable” nature. It’s a nice material and includes a small little Abyss badge at the zipper but overall, I’m not the biggest fan. I’d rather have the traditional boxes that other companies include with their flagship headphones.
The box itself is also causes me to chuckle since it’s just a sticker of Diana Phi over a regular Diana V2 box. The box basically is just a little larger than the toiletry bag and is a simple magnetic box with a cardboard wrap. At the very least, you can say that Abyss put more of their money into developing the headphones instead of its packaging.
Design, Build and Comfort
The first thing I noticed when taking out the Phi out of the bag is the weight. While it’s not the heaviest headphone, it did weigh more than I expected. It has a nice heft to it but you can tell that all the weight is from the aluminum cnc’d cups that hold the drivers. There isn’t a lot of weight around the headband so with the cushion, there isn’t really any weight on the top.
The cups stay in place with magnets
The headphone will hang on the side of your head and depending on your head shape, that can be a good thing or a terrible thing. With the original earpads, I don’t feel much discomfort with the Phi at all. They’re comfortable and don’t clamp like a traditional headphone.
The one strange thing that I’ve experienced is that the left driver will cause a vacuum-like sensation. I’ve asked other people to try it and while some others are able to recreate the phenomenon, it seems like it is dependent on head shape. I’ve currently reached out to Abyss to see if they can shine some light into what is happening and what the solution might be.
Edit: After speaking with Joe from Abyss, he assures me that it’s due to the planar drivers being fresh from the factory and they need a little more time to settle in before that goes away. He explained that there’s a non-drying adhesive that they use to mount the drivers and that will settle in after at least 100 hrs of burn in. I’ll keep playing music through these headphones to see if it goes away over time.
One thing that concerns me is the paint chipping that others have experienced in other forums. It seems unusual to me that Abyss would paint the aluminum rather than anodize but overall, I think the headphone is built well and looks nice. I know aesthetics can be a hit or miss for some people but it I don’t feel embarrassed wearing it compared to some other lookers (i.e. SR1A).
Properly powered, the Diana Phi does not lack any resolution. While I have not tried some of the detail monsters like the Hifiman Susvara or the Abyss 1266 TC, the Phi rivals Focal Utopias and easily beats the Verites in my opinion. I don’t feel bombarded by details or forced to listen like some other headphones (i.e. Arya) but if I do want to critically listen, the details are readily available. I can confidently say that if detail resolution is something that you prioritize, Diana Phi is a good candidate to consider.
Soundstage and Imaging
Imaging on the Diana Phi is precise and accurate. There is depth to the direction and not just width. While it does not sound as wide as a Verite Open, I don’t find the Phi claustrophobic at all. I would say that even when something is supposed to be more intimate, the presentation from the Phi would be a step or two away from the action. This can be seen as a good or bad thing depending on your preference.
As a bassist, I like to play in the pocket. I will listen to the drummer and make sure I never stray too far away from the pocket. In the same way, the Focal Utopia is like a bassist. It will keep within a certain pocket with its soundstage. The Phi is a little wider when it comes to its pocket which compromises a little bit of intimacy. I would probably put the Phi’s soundstage sort of in the middle of the Utopia and Verite but possibly just a step more toward the Utopia.
One thing that I do enjoy is the vocal forwardness of the Phi. It seems like the vocals are a step or two right in front of the supporting instrumentation which is something I prefer compared to something like a Verite Open where sometimes the vocals and instruments fight for your attention. Some headphones like to cheat by boosting the treble in order to achieve this effect. While the treble does seem a bit more present compared to the Verite, I would say the treble is just the right amount.
Tonality and Timbre
The tonality of the Phi is pretty inoffensive in my opinion. There is plenty of midrange and bass to balance the details on the upper range. The bass is tight and compact without bleeding into the midrange. When a piece calls for impactful bass, the Phi is ready to take on the challenge. It doesn’t have an overstated bass punch like the Empyreans but isn’t “bass light” like some might consider the Utopias to be. I would say the Phi have a fairly typical planar bass that does provide impact but doesn’t quite have the natural decay that some dynamics have.
Nuances in vocals are easily picked up and are nice and smooth. In terms of timbre, I would say it’s one of the more natural planars that I’ve tried. It’s not quite as organic as the Verites from memory but nowhere near the strangeness that planars might exhibit like the Arya. If ZMF had a timbre score of 10, I would place the Phi at around 8-9ish. Guitars still sound like guitars but might have a tiny bit more of the plucked characteristic compared to dynamics. If the Phi was your only headphone, I believe brain burn in would make any slight issues with timbre disappear.
Based off of memory, treble and mids are comparable to the Utopia with just a tiny bit more mids. However, since I don’t have Utopias in front of me, all I can truly say with confidence is that I really enjoyed the Utopias tonality when compared to the Verites and the Phi is a step in that direction. Treble extension is good without being overbearing. Mids are present and aren’t bullied by too much treble or bass. Overall, I find the tonality very enjoyable and keeps me engaged no matter what type of music I’m listening to.
So, should you get this headphone? In my situation, I listen to well mastered to decently mastered music. I have an amplifier that will power these very comfortably and a DAC that extract most if not all the details I need. I also enjoy music with vocal tracks and really enjoy simple acoustic covers vs super busy songs or electronic music. For someone like me, I think the Phi does a really good job checking all the boxes. It’s comfortable, presents a great amount of detail, and allows the vocals to be supported by the instrumentals. I enjoy more of an intimate soundstage so something like the Utopia and Phi are up in my wheelhouse. If you’re looking into picking up a Phi, I don’t have too many caveats about it besides having a proper chain and possibly trying them first to make sure you have the golden head shape. Besides that, I would consider the Phi worthy of stepping into the ring with other TOTL headphones without the ridiculousness that some of them call for (i.e. price and pickiness for Susvara or 1266). If the Phi is within your budget, I’d highly recommend picking one up to audition.