Designing the ABYSS AB-1266
ABYSS AB-1266 Headphone Design
The AB-1266 is all about the sound. Our goal was to capture the sound of the finest speaker systems and music rooms in the world. Most importantly, they had to convey music as naturally as if you were sitting in the room with the band. This was a huge undertaking for a small company.
The first thing you notice when you hear the Abyss AB-1266 Phi headphone is what the human brain is so good at recognizing, natural musical sounds, freedom to the music. The headphone is not producing weird sounds that tell the brain it’s a headphone. Instead, you hear cymbals ring out in time without hard metallic sounds, guitar strings resonate inside the guitar body, not some tubby or tin box. Drums have real impact, you hear the rolling of the drum skin, not a thump and it’s over.
Let’s start with the most important component, the speaker or driver. The AB-1266 driver must transform an amplified signal to motion so your ears hear only music, not some vibrating plastics or metallics. Getting it right here is most critical, and most difficult.
We started from scratch with an open mind, and used up nearly 5 years of our lives to create unique materials, magnetics, and acoustic design never before thought of in any full range headphone driver. This patent-pending speaker design is unique to the world, hearing them in action is never boring.
Next up was the structure or frame upon where to mount these fabulous drivers. Our extensive knowledge of high-end loudspeaker design and materials told us the finest loudspeakers have minimal cabinet resonances, meaning they do not vibrate and produce a sound of their own that would interfere with the beautiful clarity of our drivers. Typically with loudspeakers this equates to a very heavy multi-layered cabinet, not something you can wear as a headphone.
Headphones tend to be riddled with lots of plastic, moving parts, all sorts of loose fitting components that translate into rattles and noises not part of the music. There was no way we were going to let that happen here.
The AB-1266 was designed with a lightweight rigid frame, machined from solid aluminum. Dozens of prototypes were built, and at each level greater intricacy was obtained in it’s anti-resonant construction and artistic detail.
Machining to this level of detail is nothing short of art in programming and tooling, so much so we purchased our own CNC machines and trained for more than a year to do it ourselves in Western New York, USA. It was the only way to control the finished quality of what was to be the world’s finest headphone.
Once we engineered the main frame components, adjustability was necessary, every persons head is different. Trouble is adjustments mean vibration, noise, and points where failure ultimately occurs. We wanted the AB-1266 frame to withstand most any abuse, never requiring maintenance or repairs due to broken parts; durability was key.
Engineering boiled it down to a single pivot point on the top of the headband. It took another 6 months designing just this pivot point, ultimately machining our own unique screw and slot design that allows not only width adjustment, but also height, toe in or out, and clamping force. Simpler is better.
So now we have the speaker drivers, anti-resonant structure, and ability to adjust for fit. Next up is how to rest the AB-1266 on top of various head shapes as comfortably as possible. In essence it had to float and act as a suspension system isolating head motion from the music. and what’s more comfortable than a hammock. We worked toward perfecting this shape, adjusting leather and foam thickness, suspension, so many small details so this relatively large headphone sits on any head feeling light and comfortable. We studied the forces at play using statics and physics to tweak right down to the way the leathers were stitched.
Last but not least was acoustics, how to create a near perfect miniature acoustic space as if you were listening to your favorite band in an open room. Ear pads, foams, surface shapes and dimensions all had to be experimentally derived over many hundreds of hours of listening to many different genres of music. The goal was to ride a fine line between ultimate resolution and musicality while recreating as best as possible the original acoustic space in proper perspective.
In the end, all that is heard is the beautiful wave of music from the drivers coupled directly to your ears in an acoustically fine-tuned space having the subtle details of the instruments, voices, and the room the microphones picked-up during the recording- Music in your own private space in the Abyss.