Chord Electronics – Hugo2
The Hugo2 is one of my most-used products of all. It handles everything I throw at it and quite often makes for an excellent pairing. This is also the case with the Diana V2.
You get a very well controlled low end, that has just the right texture and resolution. It goes down low into sub-bass with good authority and creates a nice solid ground. Bass has good punch and impact, it pulls off a dynamic low end with very good energy.
Mids are highly resolved, just like we’re used to from the Hugo2. It fires in every little detail there is, and the Diana V2 captures them. The midrange has superb texture and spot-on timbre to me. The V2’s organic and fleshy mids coupled with the super detailed sound of the Chord makes for a superb pairing. You get the best of both worlds. Technicalities and enjoyment.
Some people have a problem with the way the Hugo2 recreates treble. I have heard from a few people that they find it too forward. With the Chord in the chain highs sound brighter on the Diana V2, but still not to an uncomfortable extent. Yes, hi-hat hits, cymbal crashes and violins sound brighter and more forward, but they are still placed safely in the signature to me.
When it comes to technicalities, it’s a very convincing duo. You get a wide and deep stage with perfect structure. Layering, imaging and rendering are all superb. The V2 separates instruments with a clean cut and portrays them on a black background.
The market for full-sized planar magnetic headphones is getting more crowded every day. We see new manufacturers jump into the ring on a regular basis. But at the absolute high end field there has been a good constancy of brands. At the level of Abyss we only have a short selection of competitors. Most of them have been around for a while, and will probably stay too.
Probably the most notable entry into the top-level planar scene was the Empyrean by Meze Audio. Their first shot was a big success and even I do have one pair of them. In this section we will take a look at how the Diana V2 compares against it’s Phi counterpart, as well as other planars. I won’t give a comparison to the AB1266 Phi TC, although I have heard it, I won’t give you my thoughts about it. The only time I did audition it was a couple of months ago and not in my own apartment. I find these conditions to be less than sub-optimal for comparisons.
All mentioned prices are in USD and only the stock cables were used.
Abyss – Diana Phi (3,995$)
Almost identical in physical appearance the Phi and V2 also share similarities in their sound. While they do differ quite noticeably, there is an undeniable DNA in these two that binds them together. Let’s start with the differences.
The Diana V2 sounds meatier and fuller in comparison to the Phi. V2 puts slightly more weight and focus on the bass and lower midrange, while the Phi does give center and upper mids more attention. Both headphones go similarly deep and have superb extension into both directions, but the Phi to me gives bass higher resolution and finer texture.
The V2 on the other hand has higher density in its lows, it possesses the harder punch and more organic drive. With the wrong equipment Phi can almost sound bass-shy, while the V2 never gives that impression.
The Diana Phi has a more open midrange, that sounds just that extra bit more precise. It scales a larger sound stage and draws the listener into the scene. Where the V2 keeps the musicians a bit closer to you, it’s the Phi that makes them appear more in front. Midrange-body to me goes to the Diana V2 with its fuller and more blood-infused sound. The Phi makes vocals appear bigger than the V2, which gives them more weight and higher emotions.
Pure technicalities is a section where the Diana Phi is hard to beat in my opinion. Only the HiFiMAN Susvara can surpass the speed of the Phi. The V2 is calmer and more relaxed, it makes for an enjoyable listen, while the Phi will wow you instantly. The Phi presents details with higher precision, it renders a finer picture and has a darker background.
Treble is calmer, softer and more laid-back on the V2. The Phi extends wider into the highs and has a brighter shimmer. Both headphones have wonderful dynamic range, which enables them to give you the most details. In terms of imaging the Diana’s also are very close to each other, but the Phi does paint a sharper picture.
Meze – Empyrean (2,999$)
The Empyrean is a very different animal than the Diana V2. Apart from the hybrid voice coil design and the vastly different construction they also have a very contrasting sound.
The Meze puts a lot more focus on the lower registers. It is a very thick and full sound, that’s dark to a certain degree. The Diana V2 creates a more balanced sound, that gives mild extra attention to lows. The Abyss sounds a bit warm, while the Meze has a dark tonality.
Bass on the Empyrean is more forward, thicker and denser compared to the one of the Abyss. The Empyrean is fuller, heavier and slower. While the Diana V2 sounds punchier and more dynamic in its low-end. Both headphones extend very well into lows, but here the Empyrean goes even lower.
Where the Meze can’t hold a candle against the Diana V2 is technicalities. Sound stage especially is an area where the Empyrean falls short. It sounds more congested and closed in. The Diana creates a wider, deeper and taller stage that sounds more open and airy. The Meze does have a certain character that wraps around you with its overly full sound. It gives instruments high weight and makes them sound thick. The Diana gives musicians more space and air to walk around. It has a darker background and portrays each instrument on a darker background.
Treble is again an area where they couldn’t be more different. Although the Diana V2 also has a calm top-end, it still sounds more energetic than the Empyrean. The Meze at times can sound muted and dark in its treble, where the Diana V2 still puts in some amplitude here. The Abyss has wider extension, creates a brighter treble and sounds richer throughout.
The Diana V2 is superior to the Empyrean across pretty much all technicalities. It has a wider, deeper and overall larger stage, better imaging, higher resolution, nicer texture and better control.
MrSpeakers – Ether 2 (1,999$)
The headphone brand formerly known as MrSpeakers has just recently rebranded themselves to Dan Clark Audio. The name and logo changed, but the headphones stayed the same.
The Ether 2 is still my favourite of all MrSpeakers/DC Audio products. It has an overall similar signature to the Diana V2. Both headphones feature moderate warmth and a nice dark background. The Diana V2 to me sounds a bit less digital though. The Ether 2 does have a thinner midrange, that doesn’t sound as resolved and effortless as the V2’s.
Diana V2 reaches just slightly deeper into lows. It has better control and a tighter grip around the bass. V2 is a bit faster in the lows, where the Ether 2 is more relaxed. You get a punchier and snappier bass with the Diana V2.
Mids sound more organic and fuller on the V2 than on the Ether 2. Instruments have more body on the Abyss, but about the same weight on both headphones. The Ether 2 has higher density and less energy in its midrange. The MrSpeakers sounds smoother.
Treble on the Ether 2 is again thinner and brighter. It puts out a higher pitched sound than the V2. The Diana has softer, less fatiguing highs. On a technical scale the V2 comes out on top again. It creates a slightly wider stage and places instruments more careful in the scene. The V2 images sharper with higher resolution.
HiFiMAN – HE1000se (3,499$)
The HE1000se is one of my personal favourites. It combines technical finesse with musicality. Very similar to the Diana V2. On an overall score these two are shooting for a similar spot.
The Diana V2 and the HE1000se both have similar body in the lows, but the V2 puts more weight into them, which gives it a more dynamic and punchy sound. The HEKse has a smoother and slightly more relaxed bass. Both headphones reach similarly deep, but the HiFiMAN does stretch a notch deeper.
The mids of the Diana V2 sound lusher and more organic, while the HE1000se has more midrange clarity here. It has higher resolution and sounds a bit more open. Both headphones produce a very convincing midrange to me. The HiFiMAN however sounds more emotional and faster. The V2 gives a more vibrant lower midrange, that sounds more physical and stronger than the HE1000se’s.
The Abyss and the HiFiMAN both have very good levels of richness in their sound. On technicalities they both perform very well. The HE1000se creates a sound stage that wraps more around you, while the Diana V2 keeps things more in front of you. Diana V2 has slightly sharper imaging, with higher accuracy and precision. Both headphones keep structure and control very well, as they manage to resolve a high count of instruments and informations without breaking a sweat.
Treble-wise the HE1000se has a slightly more forward tuning. It produces a brighter shimmering top-end. The Diana V2 in comparison has a calmer and softer treble. The HE1000se’s is a touch more energetic.
Abyss has created surprisingly small and powerful headphones with the Diana range. The V2 plays impressively well with the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch already, but performs considerably better with desktop amplifiers. I wholeheartedly suggest you to try the Diana V2 out and let her convince you with her naturalism.
If comfort is a concern, you might want to audition these for a longer session. After about one hour there is a noticeable pressure built up on my scalp. The Diana V2 is built very well, and Abyss has certainly achieved their goal of the thinnest boutique headphone. The ceramic coating and the Fibonacci pattern are things I especially like a lot. That’s where the mathematics-nerd in me gets out.
The Diana V2 is a very nice addition to my inventory. Its balanced and organic signature plays very well with my personal preference and I see it counting a lot of ear-time in the future. It’s an almost pocket friendly headphone that I could potentially bring on vacation. Although I can already see the look on my girlfriend’s face when I do that… Maybe I should think about that again.