I’m just going to get straight to the point. A few of the complaints I’ve heard regarding the Abyss headphones:
- Recessed mid-range
- High frequency/haze or brightness issues
- Lack of warmth
I personally don’t mind the scooped mids as it seems to give better focus on the midrange of the song without having it be in-your-face. The other two issues I could attest to, but overall, the stock cable isn’t too bad.
- MSB Analog connected to Lumin S1 via Kimber D60 BNC digital cable
- Lumin S1 Streamer/DAC
- Sim Audio Moon Neo 430HAD Headphone Amplifier
- 7 x Stillpoints Ultra Mini (under Sim Audio Moon Neo 430HA Headphone Amplifier & Lumin S1)
- 4 x Stillpoints Ultra SS (under PS Audio P10 Power Plant)
- Kimber Silverstreak with WBT connectors RCA interconnects
- Abyss AB-1266 Headphones
- JPS Superconductor HP cable
- Shunyata Alpha HC Zitron power cable
If you’re interested, I’ve placed my raw notes below. They will give you incredible insights into my impressions with the cables. It’ll also be very apparent which cable dominated this comparison.
Over the course of a couple weeks of objective and casual listening, taking notes on separate documents on different days (to ensure consistency in my impressions), and going back and forth between the two cables, I’ve concluded one thing. The Superconductor cable nearly transforms the Abyss into a different headphone. The midrange and vocals on the Superconductor cable is without a doubt sweeter and more forward than the stock. A very detailed, deliciously textured, and definitely warmer cable. I love how it adds that warm-bodied sound to vocals which gives it that human characteristic. This reason alone makes the cables a worthy upgrade. The Superconductor adds volume and weight to pianos and guitar plucks and just has more warm, cozy, yummy, low-end textures. You hear more of the music naturally diffusing into the space. There’s just more meat to the bones. Compared to the Superconductor cable, the stock cables don’t have that extra body required to be convincing and natural. Instruments seem to have more presence and the soundstage is expanded in all directions. The JPS Superconductor HP cable just chocolate coats the entire range with this addictive harmonic richness.
That said, I believe the JPS Superconductor HP cable might be adding a bit too much thickness/warmth and overly smooths out the vocals for some recordings. Doesn’t sound like a lot of air around the actors on some recordings. To my ears, it’s almost borderline dark, soft, and veiled. It lacks the sparkle, especially with acoustic music, and some micro-details are smeared. It just isn’t as revelatory. If we could just dial it down a bit and it would be perfect…but in that case…I may as well get a HiFiMAN HE-1000 for the price of the cable itself. I kid. 🙂
The stock cable is more neutral (perhaps lean is a better term) and delicate in tonality but is extremely detailed, still super fun to listen to, especially for strings. Details such as the flick or cry of bow of a violin is also more apparent. I call it the “tickle” factor. Although vocals aren’t as full, I could hear more micro-details in the singer’s voices which could make it or break it as far as an emotive response. How a singer carries a pitch, timing, and rhythm is made more apparent with the stock cable. I also feel the Superconductor has a bit of bleeding between the lows and mids. For example at the 3:00 mark of Jesse Cook – Baghdad (Live), the slapping of the drums is a bit smeared and not as visceral as the stock. I do believe the stock cable is more transparent and has a blacker background but it does have this glare/tinge on the higher frequencies. This could possibly be due to the aluminium alloy based conductor used in the cable. It also has a flatter soundstage…which could be a deal breaker for many. To me, it wasn’t really noticeable until I A/B’ed the two cables.
Overall, I gravitated towards the JPS Superconductor HP cables during most of my listening. It’s the more cohesive, organic, effortless, well-controlled, and addictive listening experience. The SC brings the stock from a slightly grainier and “digital” presentation to a smooth, analog sounding one. It’s the difference between listening to a recording and a live performance. It works better for most genres of music and I think it’s a fantastic upgrade over the stock as long as you’re OK with the caveats mentioned above. I see merits for both and there are going to be some that prefer one cable over the other. When two components sound good, it almost comes down to taste. I could see myself keeping both for my various listening preferences. However, if I were to pick one, it would undoubtedly be the JPS Superconductor HP cable. They have a very relaxed presentation that is difficult to describe in that they do not lack much detail, extension, or dynamics, but there is just something about them that is involving and easy to listen to. If it weren’t for the lack of shimmer and shine to the higher frequencies, the SC is a no-brainer. You really don’t know how good this cable is until you hear it.
In the end, the JPS Superconductor HP cables fixes the Abyss complaints mentioned at the beginning of this post…with flying colors.
Those Were The Days – Blubell & Black Tie
- More low-end textures for the SC
- SC is more dynamic
- SC more body and weight
- Stock still sounds good
- SC more cozy
- Strings still sound beautiful and I would be happy with either
Heart of Gold – Neil Young
- Super clean, no grain that I could hear
- Lean, bright light on the room
- Sparkly and precise
- Envelopes you
- Crazy imaging, stock sounds flat in comparison, crazy textures
- Warmer for sure
- it’s stupid funny but they sound completely different
- Deeper soundstage
- Vocals are more natural with blood flowing
- Wider soundstage
- Textures are fantastic
- Drums have more presence
- Sounds more like music
Gypsy Eyes – Jimi Hendrix
- Stock: That intro drum just doesn’t have the same weight heft and clarity as the SC but still very tight
- Stock is leaner without that organic atmosphere
- Intro guitars, you could hear the distance in depth between the two but with stock they sound like they are on the same plane
- SC: Guitar crunch has more detail and separation with rifts and vocals, simultaneous sounds delineate better
- Stock is definitely a flatter soundstage
- SC more engaging
- You don’t think anything is wrong with the stock cable until you hear the SC
Layla – Eric Clapton
- Stock is more of an extra, doesn’t miss a point but lean and not as fun.
- Funny thing is, I would be happy with either…then i switch to the SC and you are brought to the actual concert with warm bodies in the audience and Eric playing up front.
- Much prefer the SC…sounds like a different headphone.
Tempest (Live) – Jesse Cook
- SC: Holy crap, goosebumps galore.
- You could see the shape of the body of the audience cheering
- More realistic to the warmness of a live performance
- Just not as much meaty textures but sounds good. I know i keep saying that.
- More matter-of-fact and sparkly
- Keep coming back to this, matter of taste, but if you want to be transported to the music, go SC
- Tickle me so good
- Both are fast
A Way – Lotte Kestner
- Warmer, cozy
- Mids are more forward
- Spooky realistic vocals
- Not as much sparkle on the strings
- I think most ppl want their speaker systems to sound like this
- Lean, crystal clear
- Almost sounds more x-rayish and but not analytical
Beneath Your Beautiful – Labrinth
- Stock still sounds pretty good, more neutral sound
- SC much warmer for this song, more cozy
Over You (Demo) – Ingrid Michaelson
- SC: Blood is flowing through a body, you want to sing with her. If you enjoy vocals, you must get the SC.
Murder Ink – Dr. Dre
- Stock: Before switching back to stock, I just picture a leaner picture more neutral tonality.
- Less weight on the bass but still very tight.
- Very detailed and tonally balanced.
- Bass hits hard!
- The warmth overpowers the song at times.
- The SC doesn’t dominate all songs. There are still songs (like this one) I prefer with stock. Most songs on the SC sound better however.
Nobody Wins – The Veronicas
- The SC sounds much better for this song, deeper soundstage, more warmth, sounds very natural.
- The drums are more explosive and just sounds more enjoyable.
Call You Tonight – Whitney Houston
- Stock – Sounds more like a recording while the SC sounds more like she’s singing to you in a private venue. SC kills it for the vocals. They both seem to have the same amount of detail but the SC is more holographic with the sound. Not HUGE but you could hear a slightly better separation and noticeably deeper soundstage. More textures, SC kills it once again.
- SC is more musical, more dynamic, more body, more meat. deeper.
23 – Mike Will
- Stock is matter of fact but still enjoyable. The SC might be too much sweetness for some. Oddly enough, for hip-hop, I like the stock.
Black or White – Michael Jackson
- The SC actually gives the sound a more chocolate coated sound precisingly surrounding the elements of the song. doesn’t make it dark
- It also adds some naturalness to the voices. I think the SC does mask some of the details.
- So in this particular case, I think the SC cable removes some of the dynamics in this intro. The father doesn’t seem as precise in location and doesn’t have as much authority, more soft.
- The guitar rift is definitely less detailed and it doesn’t give that same eerie effect as with the stock cable did.
Cielito Lindo – Marta Gomez
- No goosebumps with the SC
- The guitars sound much better on the stock. more details in the voice on the stock. You could hear more of her voice and I think it’s more accurate.
Adele – Love in the Dark
- The mids are much more forward on the SC
- Sounds like a different headphone, eerie, sounds much better than the stock. The stock has this treble haze that makes it an unnatural presentation.
- SC has a lot of depth, textures, the piano has weight.
- Everything sounds better on the SC on this album. her voice is just melting.
- A lot more natural and emotive…SC wins. Fatality!
Damien Rice – I Don’t Want to Change You
- You do lose a bit of the brighter atmospherics like in the intro of this song to the SC, but the SC is quite warm and soothing.
- Stock actually doesn’t sound that bad. Unlike the Adele album.
- Stock: Clarity in the vocals
- Stock: You could actually hear a lot more detail in his voice.
- Looks ike it’s hit or miss with this cable. it definitely draws you in more…but if you value transparency, i think the stock one is better.
- Vocals definitely sound more real and natural on the SC
- i think the SC gives a baseline improvement to the mids. Worth the upgrade.
- Much better control even at around the 4:00 mark. The stock had a lot of glare and succumbed under pressure.
- You do miss out on a good amount of treble extension IMO. Overall, if i wanted a speakers system…or something natural sounding…the SC would be it.
Baghdad (live) – Jesse Cook
- Both are exciting cables but I felt there was a lot of detail loss with the SC. Definteily warmer, “I’m there” atmosphere.
- But I really like the stock cables sparkle and detail and rhythm. Much preferred the stock for this song.
- I also think the stock sounds more like what the engineers for this song wanted it to sound like.
Gone – Kina Grannis
- SC: A sweet and coherent sound. Her voice comes out very natural and warm and beautiful.
- Both are good, the stock is pretty exciting and transparent.
- If I had a speaker system, i would probably want more of the SC sound due to it’s more natural tonality.
- I think most would probably before the SC. I enjoy both and see merits for both.
More Random Notes:
- Abyss stock vs supercondcor (Purist Audio Aqueous Aureus vs. Audience AU24 SE)
- a way – guitar plucks are so much better on the SC
- better separation
- SC more holographic and sweet
- SC more clarity on vocals
- original cables sound more tubey? still sweet, but not as much texture
- SC – blacker background
- SC – more dynamic, more euphic, more real, vocals are much better with the SC
- stock cables sound a bit flat in comparison, more blurry edges, not as dynamic
- SC – much more dynamic and holographic
- SC – amazing control
- SC – more texture, you feel the instruments
- SC – delicate but precise, more emotional
- SC – much more resolving and control
- I must say the Aqueous + Lumin S1 + SC has quite an amazing sound. The AU24 SE is more “correct” and sounds right but the aqueous is just silky and yummy, musical enjoyment.