Abyss Diana MR Review featured image

ABYSS DIANA MR Review

Today, we review the ABYSS DIANA MR, which is a 5th-generation high-end set of planar magnetic headphones for both portable and home use. It is priced at $2995.

Disclaimer: This sample was sent to us in exchange for our honest opinion. Headfonics is an independent website with no affiliate links or status. We thank ABYSS Headphones for their support.

To read more about ABYSS Headphones products that we have previously assessed on Headfonics click here.

Note that this article follows our current scoring guidelines which you can read here.

Abyss Diana MR Review featured image
ABYSS DIANA MR Review
Summary

The ABYSS DIANA MR is the company's most accessible set of high-end open-back planar headphones to date. It delivers a beautifully smooth and refreshingly beefy tuning compared to what I have heard before from any set of DIANA headphones. 

Combined with its diminutive size it might just well be one of the best-performing high-end headphones to date that is a worthy insert into your travel bag.

Sound Quality
9.5
Design
9.3
Comfort
9.1
Synergy
9.4
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9
Pros
Most accessible tuning in the Diana headphones range
Beautiful and compact design
Replaceable pad options
Cons
Still needs additional padding for optimal scalp comfort
9.3
Award Score

The 5th generation headline description of the new ABYSS DIANA MR planar headphones requires a bit of a breakdown.

Over the last few years, the DIANA series of planar magnetic open-back headphones has been divided into two unofficial groups; the Phi and TC on one side, and the DIANA original, and the V2 on the other.

The older Phi and TC are pitched by the company as their TOTL DIANA series headphones with the driver tech trickling down from the AB-1266 Phi CC and Phi TC version. They are more expensive but technically perform at a level above the OG and the V2 aiming for a very resolving and speedy performance. 

The 2018 DIANA original and the V2 retailed for around $1000 less, are not quite as resolving with a slightly different driver. However, they generally have a more seductive timbre that might appeal to a wider audience.

The DIANA MR’s price at $2995, combined with the general feedback on its tuning to date, places it in the latter group as opposed to the former.

Indeed, throughout this review process, the DIANA MR lived up to that tag in the best possible way as one of the smoothest sound signatures ABYSS Headphones has produced to date.

ABYSS DIANA MR side profile

Tech Highlights

The ABYSS DIANA MR is a compact set of open-back planar headphones and on paper, it is being pitched as being their most portable-friendly design to date but still sounds great with desktop amplifiers.

That portable description should be highlighted because its 30Ω load is more voltage-friendly for portable devices such as DAPs and portable amplifiers compared to the TC’s nominal 69Ω rating.

However, with a 91 dB/mw @1kHz sensitivity benchmark, you are still going to need a source or amp with plenty of gain headroom so I suspect it will scale with even more power. 

The DIANA MR still uses a 63mm planar magnetic driver with a slightly thicker diaphragm compared to the ultra-low mass AB-1266 Phi CC and TC diagrams in the higher-end models.

However, it has been further enhanced from the DIANA V2 driver design which in turn, was drawn and improved on from the original DIANA driver.

I believe the driver’s trace pattern work to the magnetic field has been further optimized to enhance its resolving capability as well as lower its load compared to the 42Ω rated V2 driver.

All of that is held inside a radically enhanced aluminum frame that is now lighter than the TC frame but still retains excellent robustness.

ABYSS DIANA MR twisted without pads

Design

The design has always been a standout aspect of the DIANA headphone series and the new DIANA MR is no exception to the rule.

The 390g DIANA MR still retains that compact and exquisite retro aesthetic with the square-like cups that have aggressively curved corning. You also get a clever mix of leather and soft Alcantara finish stretched over a low-profile gunmetal-toned aluminum frame which is coated with a polymer ceramic finish.

The open-back plate grills still have that attractive Fibonacci pattern that blends right into the main cup housing, however, the actual aluminum component for the cup structure is much lighter now with more intricate backplate machining.

There was also a similar recalibration for weight with a fresh headband spring steel design. Although you won’t see that new shape since it is wrapped in leather it is a lot more flexible than previous iterations.

There are very few moving parts in this design but it matters not because this is a very robust and flexible headphone with a fantastic stretching quality that you rarely see in a high-end headphone.

Design Options

This new version also seems to have the widest range of finishing choices making the MR probably the best-looking DIANA yet.

Those choices include Carbon Weave, Forged Carbon, and our review sample here which is called Sapele Wood. There is a 4th choice but it is a play on the Carbon Weave with the stock lambskin leather earpads and headband replaced with a cactus leather headband and UltraSuede ear pads.

The black UltraSuede ear pads are here also for testing and comparison purposes but aesthetically the tan-toned lambskin provides and more harmonious aesthetic with the Sapele frame.

I picked Sapele Wood primarily because the 3 existing DIANA headphone models I have here for comparison all have that grey or black visual.

This new mix of tans, wood grain, and gunmetal framing stands out by a country mile. If anything, the DIANA MR Sapele edition’s earth tones double down on the cool retro-70s vibe inherent since day 1 of the DIANA series launch. 

ABYSS DIANA MR earpads

Comfort

Pads

The DIANA MR sticks with a pad design that is very close to the version that came with the DIANA TC and that is a good thing in my book.

Several substantive changes in the TC pads improved the comfort levels over the older Diana V2 and Phi pad versions.

The number 1 change is a wider surface contact area on the top of the pads when they rest against the side of your head combined with a softer memory foam compared to the stiffer material inside the Diana V2.

The earlier pads narrow contact surface and stiffer memory foam could dig into your head after prolonged use creating some discomfort. That is not the case here with these new fluted pads with far less of an edge on the outer ring and stitching well away from potential rubbing against your skin. 

The DIANA MR ear pads on this sample do seem to be a little bit taller compared to the TC black leather pads that came with my sample from a few years back. If anything, they also feel a little plumper and more malleable on the inner wall.

The net effect seems to be better contact with the neck area below the ear and in turn, that might improve the seal below the ear for the bass response. 

Sadly, I do not have the vented pads to tell you how different things are but we do have the Vegan UltraSuede options here alongside the Lambskin stock pads. They have the same shape and structure as the stock leather pads but with a softer feel on the side of the head that some might prefer for longer listening sessions.

ABYSS DIANA MR on its side

Headband

The headband design is different from the TC version with the fresh new spring steel design and a different leather finish.

It is still a relatively thin form factor but with subtle additional padding on the underside to reduce the potential for uncomfortable scalp hotspots and enhanced flexibility it should fit more heads.

It is a welcome improvement over the older flat design but even so, after around 2 hours of solid listening, I did start to feel the effects of a minor hotspot on a narrow area of my scalp so it’s not perfect for my head. 

It is still not what I would call super soft like a Dan Clark Audio pressure strap but combined with the balanced lateral clamp from the softer pads it is quite manageable for my head.

Thankfully, Abyss has been keeping an eye on this and you do get an additional stick-on comfort pad that slots neatly on the underside to further enhance the comfort levels. Once sorted the comfort levels are excellent, especially in combination with the Vegan UltraSuede pads.

Abyss Headphones Diana TC Review

 

Stock Cable

Save for a change from an aged chrome tone to black for the splitter, the DIANA MR cable is the same cable that ABYSS has used throughout the DIANA series since its inception. 

This is a 24AWG custom copper alloy conductor wrapped in a rubber tubing jacket which then splits into 2-wire per channel beyond the black finished metal splitter using a transparent thin urethane wrap.

The supplied cable is a stock 1.5m length cable but you can elect to get additional 0.5m lengths up to 3m at $50 per 0.5m on the website checkout page. You can vary the plug also from a 4-pin XLR or 4.4mm balanced to an SE 6.35mm or 3.5mm single-ended.

The connectors are fixed with the Abyss time-honored uniquely shaped 2.5mm pin barrels that fit and lock into the base of the Diana MR.

They look seamless when locked but the downside is you will find it hard to cable-roll unless you have similar thin barrels such as HIFIMAN’s old 2.5mm dual-entry terminations. I do know Abyss is now supplying their connectors to aftermarket cable designers which should help those looking for these terminations on their favorite cables.

If you are going portable, stock 1.5m is perfectly fine. It is not such a heavy cable either or one prone to memory retention. As an open-back headphone microphonics from the cable should not present a problem.

ABYSS DIANA MR carry case

Packaging & Accessories

The ABYSS DIANA MR comes with completely revamped packaging including a new carry case.

If anything, the new traditionally shaped all-white box looks a bit plainer compared to the old show-box multi-colored version but there is a reason for that inside with an entirely new carry case.

Before we had the retro-70s wash bag styling for the Phi and Diana V2, then Abyss reverted to a greyer version of the wash bag whose aesthetic seems to be the basis for this entirely new Geekria-type headphone case.

I kind of miss the bolder colors of the old wash bags but I can see why Abyss went for the more traditional oval zipper case.

It provides a higher level of 360-degree protection for the DIANA MR inside compared to the older wash bag with a nice presentation when opening them up. You still get a subtle nod to the previous color schemes with the little tags attached to the zipper which is a nice touch.

Click on page 2 below for our sound impressions and recommended pairings.

Click on page 3 below for our selected comparisons.

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