JPS Labs Abyss AB-1266 Planar Magnetic Headphones Measurements

Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

Uncompensated frequency response plots show a headphone that, while a bit hard to adjust initially, is relatively insensitive to positional changes on the head. Compensated frequency response plot show bass response nicely extended and beginning to fall off at about 28Hz. Between 30Hz and 1kHz response shows a mild U-shaped response heard in listening tests as a modest coloration. The wiggle at 500Hz is too low in frequency to be an internal acoustic resonance of the headphone; my guess is this is the primary resonant frequency of the driver diaphragm. The fall in response after 1kHz to 5kHz is somewhat excessive, and likely lead to the perceived modest lack of presence in listening. I like to see cans go to 2kHz before falling, and the deep notch between 4kHz and 5kHz is excessive. While it's encouraging to not see a 10kHz peak in the plot, the treble energy between 6kHz and 20kHz is quite high; I'd like to see it about 5dB lower.

30Hz square wave has good shape showing only a mild non-linearity, but noise on the plot is a little excessive. The linearity here and the fact that the THD+noise plot rises only slightly in the bass indicates good bass tightness heard in listening.

THD+noise plot is fairly good, but significant noise on the 100dB curve and rising distortion after 4kHz does cause concern.

30 Hz square wave shows a very fast rise time, and the initial impulse response looks extremely fast. But in both cases the initial edge and impulse is followed by significant noise. I believe this is the high frequency grunge I heard in the treble that sounded sparkly on simple music, but that would bring confusion with complex treble information. It's this issue that kept these cans off the "Wall of Fame".

Impedance plot is the flat line typical of planar magnetic cans, in this case measuring 48 Ohms. There's no isolation to speak's an open design.

With 320mVrms and 2.14mW needed to achieve 90dBspl, you're not going to drive these baby's with an iPod. A hearty headphone amp with grunt quietly listening at home is what's called for.

JPS Labs
7601 Seneca St.
East Aurora, NY 14052

Audioaddict's picture

I havent listened to many high- end headphones, but from your review it sounds like these are great minus the treble issues! I'm a little surprised to see what the FR looks like considering how nicely they sound to you. Guess this proves that a chart can look ugly (for a world-class headphone) and still sound good. Same for the V-moda m-100 i guess too. 

Currawong's picture

I am so disappointed. 

John Grandberg's picture


joelha's picture

Great review, Tyll.

Is there a portable amp which could satisfactorily drive these headphones?


Tyll Hertsens's picture


Cami's picture

On the first pic you look like a king on the throne, reigning over those Amps and cans, I was kinda looking for that scepter to your right, lol.
I wish I could have the chance to audition that kind of gear with my favorite recordings, but because my enthusiasm is way bigger than my wallet, that is unlikely to happen. It is nevertheless fun to read about it and to see you there painstakingly sacrificing your valuable time for the curiosity of all us enthusiasts, lol.
What else can one say, fabulous gear, and fun to get a glimpse of it and your impressions. Regarding the HD800s and amplification, have you ever tried them on a Violectric V200?

Long live the King!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

And no I haven't heard the Violectric, sorry.

Cami's picture

If you can get your hands on those huge and exotic champ Amps, you can surely find a V200 out there to give it a try. I have a V100 and a pair of HD800s, and I recently heard my Senns with a V200 and liked it more than my V100 (Axel Grell's favorite Amp with the HD800s).

With all the mods and tweaks to improve the HD800s, interesting material for an article could be finding the right Amp for them. Maybe a couple of Amp pairing suggestions could be another interesting and valuable variable for the Resources section, especially considering difficult cans. Anyhow, just some loose thoughts.



John Grandberg's picture

Tyll knows where to find a V200 whenever he wants one.... wink

Cami's picture

Buying a pair of cans for $1500 is no minor spending, at least for to me; and to mod them with some ugly hack is not what I had in mind when I bought them. Finding the right Amp sounds a lot more reasonable, and with the general unavailabilty of good Amps to audition at your nearest hifi dealer, an Amp-can pairing section at Innerfidelity would be a useful resource, and it would make a lot of sense, since these blogs are primarily aimed at buying stuff and for people looking for more info to make an informed purchase.

It would of course also be a great stimulus for the tech talk that most enthusiasts like and a place for their further valuable contributions, as well as a space for practical application of many of the principles that are often discussed, such as impedance, gain, frequency response, damping, voltage, output power, etc., etc.


24bitbob's picture

I'm using Sennheiser HD800's with the Anaxilus mod.  I use (or used) a Violectric V200 amplifier.  I love these headphones, but agree with the shortcomings that Tyll and others have identified.  The Anaxilus mod took me closer to where I hoped to be, but I still tired of the sound after a while (still love the headphones though, the good/great outweighing the not so good for me).

I recently bought a Luxman DA-200 DAC/headphone amplifier, and oh boy does that pairing sound good.  I'm using the Luxman DAC fed with a Musical Fidelity 192 V-link, which has replaced the Chord QuteHD I had feeding the Violectric.  The improvement in sound I'm hearing being most significantly affected by the amplifier section of the Luxman I am sure.  It's way ahead of the V200 in my opinion.  Worth checking out for those looking to make their HD800's sing.

Thanks Tyll for the great work.


MacedonianHero's picture

Great write up Tyll! Can't say I'm surprised by your findings and agreed, these are the fugliest headphones I've ever seen!

I would expect better measurements (FR response, not having rolled off bass, better square wave plots, lower bass distortion and quicker impulse responses) from $1000 headphones.

jerg's picture

One particular thing I noted is that the measurements (especially FR and 300 Hz squarewaves) of the Abyss look strikingly similar to that of HE400s.


It's curious to say the least. Perhaps the HE400 and Abyss were both being tuned toward a similar sound signature, deviating from the neutral ideal, intentionally?


They also both exhibit a segment of nasty THD flares, but differ by the distortion residing in midrange of HE400, and treble for Abyss.

johnjen's picture

You forgot to mention the ukalele in your ensamble… yes

JJ smiley

flatmap's picture

Did treble performance improve when the AB-1266 was mated with any of your other amps?

Long time listener's picture

It strikes me (having seen only the photographs) that the only think that makes these butt-ugly is the square design of the frame. Jeez, what a design choice. Nothing like turning people off to your phones before they've even heard them, or giving them a reason to waffle if they like them but can't quite decide to buy.

Jazz Casual's picture

Another informative and easy to read review Tyll. I've got a feeling I'm going to like its sound. But OMG! the design of that thing. Did Ozzy Osbourne have a hand in it and does it come with a matching t-shirt?  

John Grandberg's picture

...and if so, does the shirt have this on the front?


ultrabike's picture

Gotta say I heard these and they are not bad at all. As Jerg, I also noticed that these exhibit similar response to the HE400. I'm an idiot and did not compared them during an audition... and they were right there! 

These are really good in the bass area, but do have some issues in the tremble. Not too bad though. These are more than listenable... actually quite nice!

Don't like the looks... But then again, there is the akg1000, the jeckling floats, and the entry level staxen (207 to 507)... all of which are an afterthought in style IMO, but are unique in their own way.

Don't like the price... 'cuz I can't afford them (and a crap load of other stuff anyway).

Jazz Casual's picture

Yes, but it has to be said that none of those headphones cost five and a half grand when they were released. I'd also expect a TOTL headphone at this price to garner high praise for its sound reproduction - "not bad at all" and "more than listenable... actually quite nice!" is hardly a ringing endorsement. ;) Putting sound quality to one side for a moment, at least the SR-009 looks like a superb piece of high-end kit. Everything about the Abyss right down to the logo design is inelegant.  

Cami's picture

spiderfan's picture

Thank you Tyll for a great review.

Just one question, why was the EF6 head recommended? There are soo many headphone amps out there that are much better, even solely for planar magnetics. In addition, it wouldnt be very fair to compare this with a Stax on the blue hawaii, I'd thought. The blue hawaii is in a completely different league.

I would have loved to have seen a cavalli amp used with the AB1266.


darrenyeats's picture

I heard the HD800, LCD3 and Abyss on the same day: the Abyss is the one I would consider purchasing despite its higher price. Please bear in mind this was a quick comparison and I am approaching it as a newcomer to high end headphones (though not high end hi-fi in general).

star's picture

according your review ,the hd 800 is your top edge headphone if well amped ,?
but the well amp you suggest is no longer available
the poster who suggest
didnt done comparison with the ecpaudio one ,while this is basicly more then less a dac not a amp ,he must got ecciting by it in first place ,but amp must alwayes bring more results then dac ,unless you dont deal with a sound dac in begin with "
now what relates to reality ,how does a good amp thats available moently like cavally gold ,masskobo 394 driver the hd 800 compare to those two above ?

martin's picture

Hi Tyll,

I was wondering what recording you use to evaluate the highs with the drummer alternating brush strokes?