Abyss is a smaller, boutique headphone brand based in Buffalo, NY – which is not just their headquarters, but also the location where their headphones and drivers are built. They’re perhaps most famous for their “Frankenstein”-like AB-1266 headphones, but they also have a more sleek headphone line in Diana. Diana TC is the latest Diana revision, aimed at delivering endgame sound with a little more style than your average headphones.
Build and Design
If nothing else, Diana TC has the sleekest profile that I’ve seen in a headphone at this level – and it really nails an aesthetic that would look perfectly at home on a runway or alongside designer jeans or a leather jacket. Overall, the build is somewhat of a paradox: it’s very well made, with excellent materials and a great aesthetic, but has some ergonomic issues. In terms of fit, Diana TC is moderately heavy, and lacks that sort of “melt onto your head” feeling of headphones like the Meze Empyrean or Dan Clark Stealth.
The package includes a cable and carrying case. Overall the materials and design for the cable feel high quality, but it has a couple shortcomings, like pretty strong memory, and also the wires above the Y-split feel a bit thin. It’s a solid cable, but doesn’t live up to the materials or design of the headphone itself. The case follows the same sort of “designer leather jacket” aesthetic as Diana TC, and is very sturdy and well made. There’s just enough room for a DAP in there with the headphones and cable, making the case good for traveling with your headphones, though it’s not quite “throw it in your luggage” levels of sturdy or protective.
With its stylish looks and luxurious design, you might expect a smooth, fun sort of sound – maybe something in the vein of the Focal Stellia. Diana TC instead goes for a largely linear sound, with its key characteristics being transparency and resolution.
My initial impression of the Diana TC takes us back to the fit of the headphone. I had some trouble getting a complete seal around my ears which led me to initially hear Diana TC as bass-lite and shouty. After getting the fit right, it became clear that the bass was tight and linear, and, while there was some midrange emphasis, with the correct positioning it has a great sense of clarity rather than feeling shouty. The treble is also very well balanced, providing definition and air without fatigue.
The amp choice also had a pretty big impact on my enjoyment of Diana TC. My current desktop reference is the HeadAmp GS-X mini, which has proven excellent all around, and provided a good pairing for a reference delivery with Diana TC. Switching to a Feliks Audio Euforia opened a new aspect of the headphones, with added punch to the low end and a great weight in the low mids.
Diana TC has strong stereo image performance, providing vivid, holographic vocals, and excellent separation. The soundstage wasn’t particularly wide, but it did have a great sense of three dimensionality and provided a sense of the music surrounding the listener.
Diana TC is reasonably efficient and sounded quite good out of portable devices even using the unbalanced connection. While they’re generally revealing in the sense of retrieving high levels of detail and micro-detail, I also found them to be particularly revealing and transparent in the way they present the characteristics of your DAC and amp. From a DX170 to the SP3000 to the Euforia, the headphones revealed not just the nuances of the music, but also proved to be a great tool for analyzing the characteristics of the rest of your signal chain.
One of the most distinctive parts of Pink Floyd’s “I Wish You Were Here” is the opening, where you hear someone changing radio stations until they land on the intro to the song, and then start playing along before the song itself actually starts (it’s a very meta moment). The better the imaging is on a headphone, the more convincing the feeling becomes of one guitar being in the room with you, while the other is playing on the radio. Diana TC delivers this illusion perfectly, giving a real tangible feeling that you’re in the room with a radio and a guitarist – or perhaps you are the guitarist. Of course the song itself sounds great, with a natural instrumental timbre and rich, powerful vocals.
On “Change Your Heart or Die,” The Midnight blend a variety of 80s aesthetics from searing guitar solos, to lush washes of analog synthesizers to create a unique soundscape. Diana TC offers a great sense of space as classic keyboard sounds define a wide stage around the more centered vocals and guitars. They also provide a tight punch from the drums and a great sense of depth to the soundstage along with clear placement of separation of each piece of the song.
Diana TC delivers Christina Perri’s vocals with an up close, personal feeling, but also with a certain sense of softness on “human.” The verses have a warmer tone, while on the chorus and bridge, the high notes have a visceral delivery that comes up just short of being sibilant. The instrumentation is nicely balanced with a variety of largely acoustic textures providing the core dynamics of the song, and Diana TC proves to be quite adept in the dynamic delivery of the highs and lows of the song.
Comparison: Dan Clark Audio Expanse
Dan Clark Audio and Abyss certainly have some similarities as brands, as they both create flagship planar magnetic headphones, and built them in the US. When it comes to their specific headphones, like the Expanse and Diana TC, there are some clear differences in the design and philosophy behind them. While Diana TC has a vintage inspired look, Expanse goes for a more hypermodern, utilitarian look, and where Diana TC aims for a stricter linearity, Expanse has a more tuned target sound.
In terms of the build, both brands use high quality materials with excellent design and attention to detail. For fit and comfort, the Expanse has a huge edge, being one of the most comfortable headphones on the market, but Dan Clark makes some sacrifices in visual appeal to achieve that level of comfort. Diana TC was designed with the profile and look of the headphones in mind, and while some might prefer the techier look of Expanse, aesthetically Diana TC would be my pick.
In terms of sound, the two are definitely a different flavor of HiFi, with Expanse providing a slightly emphasized bass, less midrange and a larger soundstage, while Diana TC offers more clarity and transparency and a more neutral tuning. The imaging and the soundstage are somewhat close, with Expanse feeling wider and more spacious in general, but Diana TC presenting a better sense of separation within the stereo image.
So, would you prefer the melt onto your head comfort of Expanse, or sacrifice some comfort for the visual appeal and style of Diana TC? And for sound do you prefer the transparency and neutrality of Diana TC or the slightly more sonically sculpted Harman sound of Expanse? In the end, both headphones provide top of the line experiences, and the question really comes down to preference in every aspect.
The Bottom Line
In Diana TC, Abyss has created an excellent and unique headphone, combining a brilliantly transparent sound with one of the most stylish designs on the market. If you’ve wanted to take the plunge into the top end of headphones, but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars for something with the more industrial look of many top end headphones – or you have concerns about the quality of materials in relationship to the price – Diana TC delivers endgame sound with the absolute best materials and visual design.