Every few weeks we shine light on some of the products we represent that have impressed us enough to recommend, or deserve special attention. These are also products that will enhance an existing system, as well as be a strong foundation of a new system setup. This way we keep you in the loop of “what’s new” in the audio & video world.
Headphones & Headphone Amp Combos
Remember when you first expanded your awareness of great audio sound through headphones? It’s time to recapture that feeling…
Sometimes it’s nice to escape to your music with headphones, without worrying about who you might disturb, or get distracted by surrounding noises. And, some of your favorite recordings can sound amazing through headphones and the right headphone amp.
We’re huge fans of the high-end luxury ABYSS Headphones, for their expansive soundstage, accurate timbre, dynamics, and overall comfort. But having great headphones isn’t enough – you’ll want the best headphone amplifier as well.
Plugging directly into your CD player’s ‘headphone out’ jack is not doing it justice in terms of high end quality. Giving your new headphones a dedicated headphone amp ensures that you’re delivering the highest quality preamp and proper amplification suited best for your headphone investment.
In this article, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of the THREE best headphones from ABYSS, and FIVE different headphone amps to pair them with.
In our experience, the ABYSS Headphones are simply the best headphones in audio today. We’ve tried dozens of brands, and there’s nothing compared to the absolute REALISM of the ABYSS headphones.
To illustrate the realism of these ‘phones, I lent a pair of the Diana v2 headphones to a friend while she was doing office work. When she returned them, she confessed that she had yanked the cord out of the jack accidentally, since she “was so into the music that I forgot I was even wearing headphones.” (The cord was fine, I’m happy to report.)
They are now the leader in conversations about “best headphones” and many reviewers use them as their reference. Let’s take a look at the three model options in the ABYSS Lineup:
(List $4,995.00 & FREE Shipping)
The top-of-the-line ABYSS Headphone, the sound is other-worldly. From their website:
“From the very first note, you will hear musicians and instruments in a whole new way. Voices appear out of nowhere and float in between your ears. Piano is in front of you to the left, singers in front of your forehead while drums are slightly forward of them. No electronic tricks, simply the natural sounds of the recording coming through striking emotional chords… that’s Abyss. The AB-1266 Phi can convey the power of a huge symphony and the nuances of the quietest sounds in nature, a private concert for one.”
Details and video here
(Note: Eleven Audio designed their headphone amp specifically for the AB-1266 Phi’s. See below.)
(List $3,995.00 & FREE Shipping)
(List $2,995.00 w/FREE Shipping)
As mentioned above, having a great performing set of headphones and using them without a dedicated headphone amplifier is preventing the headphones from delivering their best performance.
Why Do I Need A Headphone Amp?
Headphone amps are designed to optimize the right level of signal (voltage/current) without distortion, and utilize top-notch pre-amplification sections to ensure the type of soundstage and timbre that brings out the best in the recording.
And, not every headphone amp matches the attributes of the headphones. So how do you ensure a good “match” of headphones and headphone amps? Well, we’ve done the listening test work for you…
Let’s take a look at my suggestions for the Best Headphone Amplifiers to pair with the ABYSS headphones:
(List $3499 w/FREE Shipping)
Talk about a “perfect match…”
”The Formula S amplifier was specifically designed for the ABYSS AB-1266 Phi CC and comes as a highly recommended mate to appreciate the headphones’ resolution and musical abilities. Given it’s power and gain, the Formula S will work its magic on any full size high-performance headphone.
The sonic signature of this amp can be best described as having a highly refined, detailed yet full sound with plenty of harmonic richness, approaching that of a high performance tube amp without the heat. As amplifiers go, in my 30+ years in audio, it’s sonic signature is what everyone seeks as they spent too many years on the audio merry-go-round.”
Eleven Audio Formula S page link here
To be better than the best…this was LUXMAN’s challenge when developing the Luxman P-750u, a new flagship headphone amplifier.
The P-750u is a meticulously refined evolution of LUXMAN’s P-700u, itself a highly respected, industry standard, high-end headphone amplifier, revered by many headphone listeners. Central to the design of this headphone amplifier is LECUA (LUXMAN Electronically Controlled Ultimate Attenuator), a high fidelity computer controlled attenuator which we feel is the ideal volume adjustment system. The P-750u also features ODNF Version 4.0 (Only Distortion Negative Feedback), a proprietary LUXMAN feedback circuit integral to this perfectly balanced headphone amplifier. The addition of a 4-pin XLR balanced headphone output to the P-750u completes the evolution by extending the choice of compatible headphones and elevating the listening experience for even the most ardent headphone users to uncharted heights.
Here’s a nice review of the Abyss Diana’s with the Luxman P-750u.
(List $2495; optional MM/MC phono stage, $400)
The Rogue Audio RH-5 headphone amplifier brings their groundbreaking RP-X technology platform to the personal audio world. The new RH-5 will deftly drive the most demanding headphones with a clarity, richness and tube smoothness that must be heard to be believed. Beyond its remarkable performance and design, the feature-rich RH-5 provides a wide variety of connectivity and user selectable listening options. Ultra quiet, powerful and sublimely musical, the RH-5 offers a superb new option for high end headphone users.
Link to their product page with multiple reviews.
“Advancing our tradition of unmatched audio performance and functionality, the BHA-1 Balanced Headphone Amplifier is our solution to delivering the finest listening experience from your headphones. Functionally a miniature power amplifier, we applied the same robust design elements to the BHA-1 amplifier that we used to develop our full size amps. Six class A fully discrete operational amplifiers generate your headphone output, delivering up to 2 watts of power for more than adequate dynamic range. The BHA-1 provides a true balanced mode via balanced outputs, or you can use the single-ended outputs for more traditional headphones. The BHA-1 also has a pair of XLR outputs which allow you to use the unit as a high quality analog preamplifier.”
Bryston BHA-1 page link here
“The WA33 employs a true fully balanced design in a compact form factor, featuring a quad (four) of 6C45 tubes for the driver that pushes a quad (four) of 2A3 tubes for the power, and all in direct-heated triodes. It delivers high power to drive demanding headphones to their full potential while maintaining a low noise floor for use with highly sensitive models.
The WA33 reveals the most delicate detail with the highest level of refinement. Complex music passages are handled with ease and authority. The expansive soundstage, holographic imaging, and rich tones that are pristine, natural, and vivid create a sense of realism that gives the user a euphoric listening experience. With the WA33, music comes to life.”
Woo Audio WA33 Elite page link here