Our senior headphone contributing writer Simon Kern writes: “A few weeks ago I started to hear rumors of an update to the fabled Abyss AB-1266. Abyss' Joe Skubinski and his son Eric developed the AB-1266’s planner magnetic drivers from the ground up over a period of nearly five years. First introduced to the market in 2013 this is THE Headphone that really started off the High End Audio side to Headphone Enthusiasts. It is an unusual looking over ear planar magnetic design. At its original time of introduction a few years back both the design and the cost at $5495 USD shook up the Headphone market, they were the most expensive headphone by some margin.” 

“Their only competitor in terms of price is the Stax SR-009 Electrostatic, however you could not have two more different sounding Headphones. The Stax 009 lacked the sheer drive and bass thunder of the Abyss. It was quite unlike anything that we had seen before and was advertised in The Absolute Sound and Stereophile as THE Headphone that could bring the sound of a High End 2 Channel system to those looking for outstanding performance from a Headphone.

Personally I found the aluminium frame to be heavy and the fit unusual, it took me a while to adapt to the headphone and experiment to find the correct fit, it that respect they reminded me of loudspeakers in that there was so much adjustment including toe in. The primary adjustment is a central top joint of the individual sides which hold the drivers. This top mounted central join allows for adjustment of the two black anodized aluminum headband sides with the top mounted screw type friction fitting that allows the space between the two earpieces headphones to be widened and narrowed, and which allows the ear-cups to be rotated forwards and backwards. There is no tilt adjustment on the headband, but the large angled pads can be rotated to effectively change the tilt.

It was the only Headphone that in order to work at its best required a unique fit where the ear pads sat off your ears barely touching them, the standard Headphone fit where your ears are sealed by the pads is the opposite here. Even though they can adjusted to fit like normal Headphones so the pads are in touch with your face it is the wrong way to setup the Abyss.  The recommended fit was for the ear pads to hang off your ears without any seal. The irregular shaped ear pads have an array of magnets so you can remove them and turn them so that you could with a bit of experimentation find a relatively comfortable fit. Electrically Impedance was rated at 46 ohms nominal with a low sensitivity of 85dB, distortion was quoted at less than 1%, weight is 660 grams without cables. Their low sensitivity required a powerful amp and they were usually seen at Audio shows powered by a High Powered Amp.

The performance of them is outstanding particularly in the areas of sheer dynamic speed and drive, sound staging, bass weight and extension. It would be fair to say that at their introduction they were a world class Headphone when paired with a suitably powered Amp sat at the top of the market for Planner Magnetic Headphones and pretty much everything else except for the Stax 009 which was designed for a totally different listening experience. 

I was only thinking to myself a month or so ago that the Abyss was in need of an upgrade such is the speed of development in the Headphone market when Abyss’s Joe Skubinski informed me of an upgrade to the drivers available to all of the original owners at a price of $1,500 USD. The upgrade will be available in twelve weeks time with owners required to contact the factory first to organise a slot. The new version is the Abyss 1266 Phi.”

Simon will updating his Abyss shortly and will share how it sounds. Here is the official press release:

Model AB-1266 Phi Headphone 
We have some very cool news concering the iconic Abyss AB-1266 headphone. In working toward creating the world's thinnest boutique headphone Diana®, new high-tech magnetics were created that allowed us to further re ne the AB-1266 transducer. 
We are now producing new planar drivers for the AB-1266, the updated model named the AB-1266 Phi, after the lower case Greek symbol φ. 
Much improved transparency to the source, crazy low frequency impact and resolution, scary vocals, a clear window to the source. If ever there was a headphone that can transport you back to the studio, this is it! 
The best attributes of the  nest dynamic, planar, and electrostatic headphones, rolled into one. Put another way, high-performance audio reproduction will never be the same.
For more information visit Thank you! 
Joe Skubinski