- Tidal ($19.99/month USD)
- Pathos Aurium with 6922EH stock tubes ($1,495 USD)
- 2 x Amperex USN 7308 ($100/each USD)
- Chord Hugo with stock USB cable ($1,495 USD)
- Kimber Kable Silver Streak ($257)
- Audeze LCD-3 (Fazor) ($1,945)
- Abyss AB-1266 ($5,495/$4,494 Lite)
To avoid potential biases, I own all equipment in this review.
The Audeze LCD-3 (Fazored) are known for their lush and darker presentation without sacrificing detail retrieval. One of the most euphonic headphones I’ve ever encountered. Its pairing with the Pathos Aurium (with the 7308s) is a gift sent from the heavens. You get that extra bit of shimmer with these tubes and apparently this is the exact setup the CEO of Infinity uses. The main complaint I have with the LCD-3 is the weight. It’s a bit painful at the top when listening to more than a couple of albums. These are just cans to kick back and chill next to the fireplace with.
The Abyss AB-1266 is a special headphone. I purchased these after listening to a $200,000 Kharma speaker system in San Francisco. I love the effortless reproduction of brass and percussion instruments that a good set of high-end speakers could provide. With the proper amp and a bit of equalization, I would say the Abyss gets me a bit more than half way there. It’s quite a remarkable headphone that sounds like a great speaker system. The primary complaint going for the Abyss is the fit. Fortunately, it found it fit perfectly around my round, medium-sized head. Although I could see fit issues with much larger or smaller noggins.
There wasn’t any equalization used in this review to keep it pure. I’m writing these notes down as I A/B and listen. As with all subjective impressions, take this with a block of salt.
Mike Will (ft. Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J) – 23
- Super clear and crisp sound
- Bass is tight and controlled
- Black background
- More transparent
- Sounds a bit thinner
- Mids are forward
- Bass is abundant, detailed, and creates a good atmosphere for this track.
- Vocals sound a bit veiled and muffled compared to the Abyss
Overall I thought this track was a lot more exciting on the LCD-3. It gets your head bobbin’ and feet tapping. The Abyss sounds too precise and technical for its own good.
Atmosphere – Sunshine
- The sub-bass on this thing is incredible.
- Attack is fast!
- Very articulate and great delineation from vocals to instruments.
- The bass impact is higher than on the Abyss
- The mid-range is silky smooth…oh so delicious
- Doesn’t have as much depth as the Abyss
- Mids are forward
- Sub-bass cannot touch the Abyss
I think for this particular genre, most would prefer the LCD-3 for it’s atmospheric bass response, lush, and forward mids. If you value more separation, tonal balance, and transparency, the Abyss is much better in this respect.
Avril Lavigne – What the Hell
- Crisper and tighter than the LCD-3
- Vocals and instruments have their own space
- The bass impact is better on the LCD-3
- Extension is good on both ends of the spectrum compared to the LCD-3
- More tonally balanced
- Much more dynamic
- The chorus sounds a bit muffled
- Bass response is fantastic with authority, the Abyss sounds a bit thin in comparison
- Easy listening
- Treble extension isn’t as good as the Abyss
- Vocals are a bit veiled and congested in comparison to the Abyss
Linkin Park – Numb
- Some may find it a bit fatiguing
- Clear separation between guitars, piano, and drums.
- More transparent
- Fast! Has more of the organics and realism of a live band playing.
- That sub-bass!
- Vocals are creamy as usual. That mid-range is just so soothing.
- Holistically it sounds a bit smeared compared to the Abyss. Difficult to hear the separation when it gets busy.
- Bassy overtones may overpower the vocals a bit…not as dynamic.
The LCD-3 is less fatiguing but not as transparent. Chester’s voice is much more accurate on the Abyss. On the LCD-3 I felt like it got lost in the bass and instruments. The Abyss has more tonal balance, sounds more live, super black background, and fits well with this genre IMHO.
Bob Marley – Johnny Was
- Bob’s voice is lifelike…as if he was brought back to life.
- A lot more airy
- More transparent and better extension
- Imaging is pinpoint accurate
- Not a lot of weight on the bass, sounds thin in comparison to the LCD-3
- Soothing and euphonic sound you would expect out of these cans
- Sounds congested/veiled in comparison to the Abyss
- Ample amounts of bass reverb…blankets the the sound a bit. Not a bad thing!
The Abyss is simply more transparent. This is a toss up. I think for this type of music, the bass quantity of the LCD-3 is much appreciated. The vocals are more accurate on the Abyss. Both are enjoyable.
What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve – Mindy Smith
- The 10 kHz bump is apparent on this track but wow, incredible vocals.
- Lots of sparkle. Brilliant presentation.
- Crystal clean, black background.
- Sounds organic, lifelike, much like a live performance.
- Imaging is spot on…beautiful.
- Vocals are silky smooth as always although lacks a bit of that air.
- Sweet, warm, and cozy
- Imaging is a bit blurred. The piano placement seems a bit off to my ears
- Much more forward mid-range
- There’s more bleeding between Mindy and the band but still provides an easy listening session.
This track sounds like it’s being played off a speaker system with the Abyss. Amazing imaging, wide soundstage, and transparent. It teleports me to the jazz club the performance took place in. Technically the Abyss wins hands-down however I would be happy with either. The LCD-3 provides a very comforting listening experience and synergies well with this amp.
Lee Morgan – Sidewinder
- Sounds like a great pair of speakers
- Sounds well-balanced, open, and dynamic
- Sounds a bit veiled
- Cymbals sound more realistic
- Weighty bass
- A bit boxy in comparison and doesn’t have that sparkle
I’d much prefer the Abyss for it’s tonal balance and spaciousness. The LCD-3 made the performers sound like they were in a crowded space.
Bill Evans – Waltz for Debby
- Enormous amount of texture, especially on the bass.
- Wide soundstage
- Cozy but not as involving, not a lot of life to the instruments.
- Piano and bass lacks texture.
The Abyss wins on all fronts with this track. The Abyss represented the recording as it should’ve done.
Gustav Mahler – Symphony No. 5
- Elicits a more emotive response
- Grand sense of depth and precision
- Micro-details are fully realized
- Incredible dynamics all around
- Could be delicate or aggressive when called upon. Incredible cans.
- A bit boxy in comparison
- Loses on dynamics but low-end overtones help with the atmosphere a bit
- It’s more bleeding between instruments, not as much texture.
I think classical listeners would prefer the Abyss over the LCD-3 any day of the week. I’m not a heavy classical music listener however you don’t have to be to appreciate the engineering achievement the team at JDS has accomplished with the AB-1266. Amazing.
Miles Davis – So What
- Much wider soundstage
- Super fast, clean, and brilliant
- The trumpet has a human aspect to it
- Bass has a lot of presence but overshadows the performers at times
- There isn’t as much texture overall
- Warmer overtone
- Blurry around the edges
- Great for kicking back but I believe there’s too much body in the presentation
The LCD-3 misses out on the organics which makes this track IMO. With the Abyss, I’m listening to Miles actually playing the trumpet with his chest and heart.
Sam Smith – Money on My Mind
- Well-controlled and accurate
- Resolution is superb
- Actors in the songs are much more involving and immersive
- Stupidly smooth/lush vocals/mid-range as always
- Sounds veiled. I think you could start to see the recurring attributes of the LCD-3
- PRaT isn’t as good as the Abyss
This song sounded completely different between the two headphones. The Abyss kills this track with its dynamics and grip on the entire range. It was gentle when it had to be. The timbre of the Abyss is most welcomed.
Jack Johnson – Banana Pancakes
- Going back and forth between the LCD-3…the Abyss seems more resolving of details
- Sounds more like Jack is playing with rain in the backdrop behind a window
- Bass is tighter and doesn’t overpower the vocals
- Super fast and amazing texturing
- Lacks the sparkle I enjoy from this track
- The rain is a bit smeared in the background
- Bass impact is almost seismic in quantity. Great slam
- Still sounds boxy in comparison
- The instruments are more grouped with the vocals…still pleasant but takes away from the artist’s intention I believe
I enjoyed the Abyss much more for this track. I found the LCD-3 to be fair too warm/dark and the lack of delineation of the vocals to the instruments took away from the sonic experience.
Monica – Right Here Waiting
- I’m loving this black background on the Abyss
- More engaging than the LCD-3 but mids a bit recessed
- Monica’s voice comes out strong with tons of clarity
- All vocalists are separated effortlessly
- Vocals are more forward
- Sounds a bit saturated when all performers are in the mix
- Overall a bit lifeless. Perhaps too dark?
- Sounds a bit too thick for my tastes
They sound completely different on this track, although I did swap out the tubes for the 7308 and it helped the LCD-3s tremendously. Gives it a bit more of that clarity and removes some of the veil. I have to mention at this point the Abyss doesn’t sound great with the 7308 tubes. It loses low-end as well as some sparkle in the high-end. In any case, I would pick the Abyss over the LCD-3 any day.
Selma Hayek – Siente Mi Amor
- Sounds simply amazing. Every hit of the Spanish drum to every pluck of the guitar.
- Overall just a warmer and darker sound.
- Lacks sparkle/clarity
Abyss wins again with amazing textures, dynamics, and realism. The LCD-3 is still enjoyable but doesn’t sound true to the recording.
Tiesto – Red Light
- Sounds thin compared to the LCD-3, not as engaging
- Accurate when it doesn’t have to be. May cause fatigue
- Warm overtones helps this mood for this song
- I’m going to guess this track was mastered on a bassier setup
- The build-ups and rhythm of the song works very well with the LCD-3
- Doesn’t have the clarity of the Abyss…but does better without it for this track
EDM sounds great with the LCD-3. The weight but detailed bass response helped greatly. The Abyss sounded too technical and analytical for this track.
Lenka – Don’t Let Me Fall
- Much more lifelike. Lenka’s voice is well represented.
- Organic and clean
- Her voice is a bit veiled…too calm…but still ultra smooth
- Sounds like there’s a pillow over the song in comparison
If I had not heard the Abyss, I would think the LCD-3 is as good as it gets. To be honest, it’s sometimes hard to tell that it’s veiled until you compare it to other headphones.
If it’s not apparent from the comparisons, each headphone has its purpose. If you prefer more hip-hop/EDM type music which requires more bass slam or if you prefer the easy, lush/sweet/warm, kick-back listening sessions, the LCD-3 is well-suited. If you value transparency, dynamics, imaging, soundstage, and more tonal balance, the Abyss is perfect. I haven’t heard a sub-bass response like that on any other headphone. Granted, the synergy of the Abyss with this amp is still questionable. I’ve heard the Abyss on the Wells Audio Headtrip and it sounds spectacular. Leaps and bounds above the HiFiMan HE-1000, Sennheiser HD800, and Audeze LCD-X/3. I’ll be posting that review soon!