Sound – Amplification
As mentioned in the article, the Abyss Diana TC needs good amplification, and the synergy plays an important role here as the TC is a transparent headphone. Abyss also mentions this on their website, and they state that: “a cellphone will not play to satisfying levels nor quality. High performance headphones require a quality portable headphone player or headphone amplifier for best results”.
The headphones I have choses for this section are also the ones I used most to listen to the Diana TC to (next to the Solaris). Our choice of tube amps: the Auris Audio Headonia and the Felix Audio Envy. The dCS Lina and Niimbus US4+ are the amps in the solid state category. The DACs used for this comparison are the dCS Lina DAC and the Musician Audio Aquarius.
The Synergy with the 2A3 Headonia is exceptional and in this combo you get the very best layering, precisions and note extension. The sound stage width, as well as the spaciousness in this setup are at a very high level. The presentation is natural, highly dynamic and revealing, but always musical. The tube smoothness in the delivery here of course helps. For what body, weight and bass impact are concerned, the Headonia and TC combo is a bit lighter compared to fuller, thicker sounding Solaris.
The Feliks Audio Envy uses 300B power tubes and sounds a bit different from the Headonia. With the Diana TC you get a combo that sounds fuller than the Headonia, with more presence from top to bottom and a better bass impact. The downside here is that you get a less spacious and wide sound, where the note extension and precision is at a slightly lower level. What also impresses here in this setup is the depth, layering and natural smooth vocals. The treble section here is less lively and extended, but the mid timbre makes more than up for it.
I like the Diana TC with all of the article’s tube amps I have used it with. If you want the best technical level, the Headonia is your amp. For a fuller sound with gorgeous vocals, go for the Envy. The Solaris is a mix of both these amps with good extension, body and smooth vocals, but it’s not as technically strong as the Envy or Headonia. It’s also a bit darker, reducing the energy and clarity a little.
The synergy with the dCS Lina stack (with the amp on high gain, as dCS prescribes) is also very good. You get a fast, super tight and clean delivery, but with great depth, layering and precision. The technical level in this combo is extremely high. I also adore the vibrant, spacious mids and natural vocal presentation of this combo. For what weight and body are concerned, this combo is on the lighter kind, but it’s never thin sounding. Bass is present when needed and it reaches down deep, but it’s quality over quantity for sure. If you like a high technical level and one of the best vocal presentations, this is a setup for you.
The Niimbus US4+ in general is a full and warmer sounding, very musical amplifier. With the TC it shows just that, and that results in the fullest and weightiest sounding Diana TC, with the best bass body impact and. The US4+ also smoothens out the TC and for some this might cover up the clarity and cleanness a bit much. The treble section here is soft and easy on the ears. It maybe is the least technical amp of all the ones in this article, but it is the fullest, biggest sounding one with the best bass impact. While I really do like the US4+ in general it to me doesn’t bring out the best of the TC? But this could be exactly what you want and prefer.
It’s easy to say that the Diana TC because of its transparency and driveability needs a good, powerful and high-end amp. If you’re looking at this level of headphone in this price category, then I am sure that spending the same amount on amplification won’t be a problem. I’m not saying you need an expensive amp per say, but in my case it’s the higher end amps that make the TC sound best, it’s that simple. So do try the Diana TC with your amps of choice before you buy it, amplification is super important with this headphone.
Sound – Competition
Unfortunately, the Diana Phi and V2 stayed with Linus and I only listened to the V2 at a show for a few minutes, so it’s not possible for me to compare them to these two headphones. On the other hand, I can compare it to two of its biggest high-end competitors, the Audeze LCD-5 and the Hifiman Susvara. For this test we used the dCS Lina, with my Laptop & Roon via USB (Chord Epic digital cable + AudioQuest FMJ + PowerQuest 3 and NRG-Z3 power cables). Both the LCD-5 and Susvara are using the balanced output.
The Audeze LCD-5 is selling for about $4500 in the US, making it a direct competitor of the Diana TC. Diana TC’s size-wise is quite a bit smaller than the LCD-5, but the latter one has the best comfort for long listening sessions. The Diana TC is the most neutral and balanced tuned headphone of both. The LCD-5 has quite a bit more body from top to bottom, with fuller mids and bigger bass impact. The TC is the winner for what concerns articulation, resolution and clarity. The Audeze treble is a bit softer and rounder and easier on the ear where it in the TC carries more energy and liveliness. Even though the LCD-5 uses bigger (90mm) drivers, the Diana TC is the more spacious, airy sounding headphone with the wider soundstage. Both are great headphones, but they’re also very different and have different strengths. This makes them more complementary headphones, and I can why one would have both headphones in their collection.
The Hifiman Susvara ($6000 USD) still is one of the best headphones around. It is a lot bigger in size and the headband system is much more impressive, but it also works better for long listening sessions. Like the TC it is lighter in body and bass impact. The soundstage, spaciousness and airiness are at an ever higher level compared to the Diana TC, and that combined with the highest resolution and precision, still make it a higher end headphone to me. The Susvara does need good amplification, but it isn’t as picky as the Diana TC is. These 2 headphones are more similar than the Diana TC and LCD-5, but the Susvara pushes everything a step further, and performs at a higher technical level. At the same time, I feel the delivery of the TC’s mids is a little smoother, and that really brings out engagingly natural vocals.
The Diana TC is an excellent high-end headphone. If you like excellent PRaT, precision, a high resolution and an airy, spacious presentation, then the TC will be the perfect headphone for you.
The TC is also small in size, which makes it one of the most portable high-end headphones on the market and for on the go. The downside here is that it needs good amplification, and not just power.
After spending multiple months with the Diana TC it is very easy for me to grant it our Recommended Buy Award. It is replacing the Diana Phi from our Best Buy Headphone list, where it is in good company.
Now I just have to find a way to add the Abyss AB1266 PHI to my collection, so I can properly review it.