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RMAF 2013: Diving into // The Abyss

CT6A1634 What a great name for a pair of headphones! You also have to have a big pair of brassy ones, too, to pull it off -- there's just too many literary and pop culture references that come too easily to mind that getting distracted by all that would be too .... "What the hell was that?!?!" That was my first reaction to playback from The Abyss. I have no idea what it was I was listening to. Some kind of techno thing Mike Mercer might have pulled off, after an hour or two of warm up. Whatever it was (I wasn't the one driving the boat at that moment, I was sitting on the second of two pairs while a "kid" 20 years my junior was doing something evil), it was dark, insidious and altogether malevolent. "Things" were pinging around all over the place, thunder was coming in from over the horizon, and Something Bad was cracking it's way up from Below. Wow. Folks. I have to tell you ... The Abyss is cool.

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And quite frankly, anything less would be like throwing money into a long, dark, bottomless hole. How much money? Just a hair under $5,500. And you still need an amp. That is crazy money for headphones! That’s significantly more than the vaunted Stax-009 headphones, one of the best-rated and well-beloved ‘cans to ever grace the Earth with their presence. Like I said — big brassy ones.

Okay, complaints from the general vicinity of my walled aside, here’s the skinny — The Abyss headphones may well be the best sounding headphones I’ve ever heard. And here, driven by the incredible and incredibly expensive Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold (just under $6,500) head-amp, I had — perhaps — the best headphone experience I’ve ever had. It most definitely didn’t hurt that the whole system was being served up as part of a 42-course tasting menu from one of the finest digital converters available in the world today, the startling (and also startlingly expensive) Da Vinci from Light Harmonic ($20k), shown here in a viciously hot Ferrari red. Abstracting out the cables, computer and monitor, this was a $32k headphone-only system — and it was putting out the best sound I heard at RMAF this year. It was insane. Hellishly deep bass, heavenly soaring heights and a mid range that was musical and detailed and mesmerizing. I broke out in a cold sweat three separate times and vomited several gallons of oxygen-rich diving fluid during this demo. Oh. My. God.

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How much of that was headphones? How much amp? How much DAC? How much Russian water tentacle? I have very little to tell you. I did manage to hear The Abyss on several systems at the show — including an Auralic demo and two different Woo Audio demos, one of which was right here in the same room, on the opposite wall. There, I found the Woo Audio WA5 (prices start at $2,750 for the head-amp-only version, and can climb up to $6k, depending on options, upgrades and tubes) fronted by an Auralic Vega DAC. Here, the sound was ravishingly round and dimensional, even if it lacked the overall bottom-end impact that the Cavalli brought.

The impedance of The Abyss are 46 ohms nominal, with an 85dB sensitivity. Frequency response claims to be 5Hz-28kHz, the low-end of which may be something optimistic like “useful”, but not anywhere near flat (it’s at least an F10 number), but still, big brassy ones.

The fit of The Abyss is a little odd. It “floats” over the head more than a bit like the Jecklins do, and with the mass and overall bulk, the experience is a far cry from my almost-intangible Sennheiser HD-800s. The earpieces almost make contact with the side of my head when properly set up; to get there, there’s a hinge in the middle of the metal head-band that can swing in and out — a little bit — to accommodate various heads. If your head is … ah … Plus Sized, like mine … you will have to scoot the ear cups over your ears and make sure you have enough room to have them sit in their appropriate loose-fitting position. That head-band, by the way, will not flex. At all. The hinge is the only way to set/reset the fit.

Anyway, loved this room. Fantastic demo! I’m hoping to be able to get both the Cavalli and The Abyss in at some point, but apparently there’s a bit of a wait on both pieces which is completely weird. It’s almost like the units are flying off the shelves like … bats out of hell?

Dude. I cannot help it. You throw me a pitch this slow, and it’s just reflex. At least I didn’t go dig up a movie poster. Oh, wait.

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.

4 Comments on RMAF 2013: Diving into // The Abyss

  1. Question: Did you try it before or after knowing the price?

    I have this stragne feelings that audio-snobs have this “expensive = better” built into theie subconscious. We need to let people try phones without knowing the price first.

  2. Keith Dinsmore // October 23, 2013 at 11:35 AM //

    I had the Cavalli Liquid Gold amp at home for a week before its release. Beyond incredibly great. I happily own a Cavalli Liquid Fire and the Gold takes everything to another level. Bass is just powerful and weighty. One day I will have one of these amps.

  3. Panagiotis Karavitis // October 21, 2013 at 5:13 PM //

    gone are the times when a STAX combo made your head spin with the price. we will be seeing 10K cans within a year or two

    • Part-Time Audiophile // October 21, 2013 at 7:14 PM //

      Honestly? I’m surprised we haven’t already.

      People talk like head-fi is the “gateway drug” to hi-fi. I think that’s too simple, but what does seem to be happening is that hi-fi has finally noticed head-fi. Let the pricing insanity begin!

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. RMAF 2013: This is the End | Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile
  2. First Look: Abyss Headphones AB-1266 | Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile

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