This is a review of the Abyss Headphones Diana TC, which is a more compact design using the company’s flagship AB-1266 Phi TC technology. It is priced at $4495.
Disclaimer: This is a sample 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 this opportunity.
To read more about Abyss Headphones products that we have previously covered on Headfonics click here.
Note, that this article follows our latest scoring guidelines which you can read up on here.
Abyss Headphones Diana TC Review
It is hard to overstate just how good the Abyss Headphones Diana TC is for such a small and cute-looking planar headphone. It belies its diminutive form factor with a superlative and engrossing performance that takes the Phi pitch to the next level.
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Very fast and articulate performance
Compact and robust design
Much improved comfort levels
Slightly heavier than previous Diana headphones
Needs a powerful well-tuned amplifier to sound optimal
It is perhaps ironic that I have had only fleeting moments with the various editions of the Abyss AB-1266 yet in the last few years I have reviewed its compact equivalent, the Diana from the Phi, through to the V2 and now in our hands, the new Diana TC.
So, asking me to compare this new version with the big daddy will get you a fat no in reply. However, we will be discussing the Diana TC in comparison to the previous Diana versions throughout this review.
For loyal Abyss fans, you will notice that the Diana Phi has been discontinued. That kind of left a bit of a gap between the V2 and the AB-1266 Phi TC so it seems logical that, like the Phi, Abyss Headphones produced a Diana TC version of the flagship to close that vacancy.
The price is formidable, and the ideal system may well be also, but let me tell you this, the potential performance from this gorgeous little ‘big’ headphone sound is the best yet in the Diana series.
As far as I can tell the basic premise inside the Diana TC remains unchanged from the original V1 back a few years ago.
That is, take the current flagship AB-1266 66mm driver technology and size it down to a more compact 63mm version. So, we had the 63mm version of Phi and now a 63mm TC version complete with their latest ultra-low mass diaphragm inside the Diana TC. The outlier is the Diana V2 which is an upgraded version of the original Diana driver.
Abyss does not dive too much into detail on paper regarding the precise nature of the tweaks other than it has an improved trace design and a larger active surface area on the diaphragm. Changes also went beyond the driver to accommodate its more resolving nature.
Probably the most noticeable change was to the acoustical environment with a focus on creating a more open environment through wider gaps, (21.57%), in the Fibonacci pattern on the cup plates compared to the V2 and the Phi.
You have to look closely because it is subtle but you should see a thinner framework structure around an enhanced opening sizing.
Other changes that we will go into more detail about at various points in this review include a new generation of pads and a subtle tweak on the headband, primarily to enhance comfort.
The specific rating of the Diana TC on paper has also changed and it does not look like this will be a fairly demanding new driver compared to the previous Diana headphones with more resistance at 69Ω and slightly less sensitivity at 90dB SPL. As a quick point of comparison, the Phi was rated at 32Ω and 91dB SPL and the V2 is a little higher at 42Ω and 91dB SPL.
The Diana TC comes in two variants; the one you see above is the Titanium Gray with another version is a more retro Dark Bronze finish.
The Titanium Grey is almost the exact same finish on the older and now discontinued Phi though it is not an exact replica aesthetically due to the darker headband leather and the new comfort-related finishes previously discussed.
As ever with the Diana series, the TC form factor is beautifully compact in size, no bigger than your average portable headphone with that almost retro-70 styling and wonderfully robust feel from the CNC-machined aluminum frame. There is very little thickness to both the frame and cups yet it feels 100% rock solid in the hand.
However, the overall weight has crept up with the Diana TC now weighing in at 390g compared to the Phi at 330g and the lighter 330g of the Diana V2.
In truth, all 3 handle in much the same way so the weight difference is not really that noticeable and, as explained in more detail below, the TC actually a bit more comfortable with the new pads and headband.
The materials finish is still one of the nicest out there and continues where the previous 2 versions left off.
You get those shallow square-like cups with aggressively curved corning and a deft mix of leathers and soft Alcantara finishing stretched over that low-profile ceramic coated grey aluminum frame. Even the magnetic headband slider has some nice finishing touches with its super-light carbon fiber finish.
There are very few moving parts in this design which I think improve its looks immeasurably. The open-back plate grills also retain the attractive Fibonacci pattern only with the slightly large hole diameter. Nothing in the Diana TC design ever feels feel bolted on so, for me, the design looks seamless.
Comfort & Isolation
I am kind of lucky in my review timing as each Diana review has come with a new generation of detachable pads. The Diana TC pads are the 3rd gen and probably the most comfortable to date.
The main factor behind the enhanced comfort is the wider surface contact area of the pads when they rest against the side of your head and what seems to be a more supply memory foam variant on the inside.
The original Phi pads have a very narrow contact surface and a more rigid foam structure that for some could dig into your head after prolonged use creating some discomfort. The Diana V2 2nd gen pads were a little softer with slightly more contact surface area so things got better.
However, these new pads are super soft, with far less of an edge on the outer ring and stitching well away from potential rubbing against your skin. It is almost a traditional flat and wide surface area that, combined with a very supple memory foam material, creates a nice pillowy effect when in use.
That does make the pads slightly bigger and may well be a small factor in the increased weight also but I personally think it is worth it for the enhanced comfort.
The second subtle change is on the inside of the headband. Now, this is a thin headband design for all the Diana series but the Diana TC version has a nuanced level of padding that very slightly mitigates the old Phi’s hotspot tendency on the scalp.
It is still not what I would call super soft like a Meze pressure strap but combined with the balanced lateral clamp from the new softer pads it does not press down as much and is far less noticeable.
The finishing on the stock cable is a thick but pliable rubber jacket sheath over a 24AWG custom copper alloy conductor which then splits into 2-wire per channel beyond the metal-Y-split using a transparent thinner jacket.
The 2.5mm barrels are uniquely shaped to fit into the base socket of the Diana TC so they can lock cleanly. It does not mean the sockets are proprietary but they are quite narrow so thin 2.5mm dual-entry alternatives will work such as the Hifiman Single crystalline stock but nothing wider.
Though it matters less on open-back headphones, the stock cable is 100% microphonic-free even above the Y-split. There is also an easy cable to work with having no memory retention or none of that annoying stiffness or flyaway quality you find on other stock headphone cables.
You get a choice of stock cables depending on your likely usage scenario and they are the same choices from the Diana V2 and the Phi.
The options are more about termination and length than actual materials because technically the stock wire is the same no matter what termination you choose.
Termination options included 3.5mm, 2.5mm, quarter-inch jack, 4.4mm, and XLR 4-pin on the jack side. For length, you can opt for a stock 1.5m length if you are planning on moving around, and then 0.5m incremental increases to 3m for home use. There is a $50 additional fee on the checkout price for every 0.5m you add onto the cable.
Before Abyss there was JPS Labs, which, if you do not know, was and is a cable manufacturer. That is a plus for the supplied stock cables with the Diana TC because they are finished to a very high standard indeed.
Packaging & Accessories
The packaging remains quite consistent among the entire Diana headphones range. It is not a hugely complex ensemble at this price point but enough for the headphones to arrive safely.
That means a rectangular compact retail box finished with a sliding outer white cover complete with a picture of the Diana TC, a black inner box, and the headphones neatly packaged inside within its carry case and usually, the cable or cables to the side.
The Diana TC carry case has changed in aesthetics though the form factor and functionality look the same. This is now a more mature tanned leather and black nylon double zipper case which materially feels a bit more refined but in doing so it loses that funky retro-feel of the black and orange “Abyss” logo original.
The insides have no change with a contoured structure in the middle to gently house and secure the headphones with enough space to insert most of the cable lengths on offer in the middle. The bag also has a carry strap on the outside if you plan to take it on the go.
It is an attractive and compact design, more subtle than garish, and with moderate levels of protection in terms of portability.