Where does it matter and what do you gain: APS-C, Full Frame, Medium Format

APS-C vs Full Frame. Sensor size and what is promised.

I had been surfing around youtube recently and saw some interesting videos/comments on things like ISO, sensor size, equivalence  and so on. Some companies claim APS-C will give a smaller lighter package, others argue that if we look at the the equivalence, there is no advantage and in-fact full frame is better. But is that true? Does a full frame truly have 2x more light? Does a 17-50 f2.8 really equal to just a 24-70 F4? Is it true that APS-C is pointless since it doesn’t save any weight?

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Fujifilm GFX 50s with 250mm F4 and XT2 with 200mm F2

As you can see in the above, a APS-C can be larger and heavier then a medium format. So weight saving is a very subjective thing. Below we dive deeper into the sensor, equivalence and weight.

APS-C is smaller then Full Frame in area.
APS-C is smaller then Full Frame in area.

First lets look at the argument

A image taken by a 50mm F2 on an APS-C will look similar to 75mm F2.8 (or F3) on a Full Frame. There is probably not much debate on the looks and output on the photo. Where the argument lies is when companies market a APS-C lens and claims it saves weight when compared to a Full Frame similar lens.

Case in point, Fuji 16-55mm F2.8 vs 24-70mm F2.8. Definitely the Fuji APS-C version is smaller and lighter by about 300+g.  The Full Frame camp will argue that it is not equal and that a 24-70mm F4 is more comparable. The APS-C side will then counter that  a 16-55mm F2.8 is longer (approx 24-83mm) and you still get F2.8 in terms of light. This is where things turn ugly, people will start arguing that Full Frame takes in twice as much light and thus produce better image quality and bokeh. We will not touch on Bokeh since a Full Frame F2.8 is definitely better in that aspect. For this write up, lets look at exposure, weight and image quality.

In exposure there are 3 parameters, Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture. Aperture is usually based on the 35mm standard and talks about how much light is let in by the lens. Shutter on the other hand is how much light is let in capped by the set duration.

Returning back to the lens, a F2.8 will always result in a F2.8 shutter. The 16-55mm F2.8 can take an image at 70mm with a shutter of 1/100 while a full frame equivalent in looks, which is about F4, will need 1/50 of a shutter. The fact remains that a F2.8 lens is always faster then a F4, even if they look similar due to difference in sensor size. But where does the extra light and sensor area go to?

D850 vs D500 Dynamic Range
D850 vs D500 Dynamic Range from Photons to Photo

What this chart shows is the dynamic range: the amount of information captured and thus usable. This affects us greatly when we do stuff like pull shadows and recover highlights for those crazy demonstration of black image to full colored +5 exposure.

So if we look at the chart above using the same company (cause everyone defines their own ISO) camera, you will notice that the D500 Dynamic Range at ISO100 is the same as D850 at ISO 165. So a full frame with 1 stop of ISO boost is the same as an APS-C at base.

So with this in mind, revisiting the lens, a 16-55mm F2.8 gives you faster shutter speed then a F4 equivalent. All the full frame camera need to do is raise their ISO by 1 stop and it equals out. In-fact it will be close to totally equaling out including image quality and whatever advantage a full frame sensor is suppose to have. So yes mounting a F4 version of the 24-70mm on a full frame essentially makes it the same as an APS-C 16-55mm F2.8.

We have gotten quality out of the way, let us look at the weight. We take the Sony A7m3 with the 24-70mm F4 vs the Fuji XT3 + 16-55mm F2.8. It is not exactly equal since the Fuji version does zoom in almost 15% more (70mm vs 83mm)

Sony: 650g + 426g = 1076g

Fuji: 539g + 655g = 1194g

Now its quite clear the XT-3 combination is heavier. It weighs some 120g more but gives you 15% more zoom. But wait, the A7m3 is the lightest Full Frame around however the XT3 is probably some of the heaviest of its type. Let us use the XT30, which for most works and outputs the same as a XT3 except for a smaller body and less buttons.

Fuji: 380g + 655g = 1035g.

Now we can go even further with some of the other bodies in the X series but you should get my point. APS-C body can get smaller then a Full Frame. At least no maker has made a lighter full frame then a APS-C ever was. So as a set of camera and lens, APS-C will be lighter. Just for a comparison to the lightest setup you can make with a APS-C that has a full frame equivalent.

Fuji A5 with 18mm F2 : 361 + 118 = 479g

This is lighter then any full frame camera and you only give up 1 stop of dynamic range at the lowest ISO.

So the question now should changed: why is a good APS-C lens heavier even though it covers a smaller sensor and image wise just equates to a 1 stop slower Full Frame. We need to look at lens construction and the demands of APS-C.

Lens components
Lens components

A lens is built up of many parts. Depending on what you use to build and how rugged you built it, more then just glass, the items around it will carry that extra weight.

If we go back and view the 24-70mm F4 by Sony, it’s made out of plastic vs the 16-55mm which is made out of metal. Considering the extra zoom and just the material difference, it is where the extra weight goes. There are probably many other things inside such as AF motor, the type of element and electronics. Many of such things do not scale in weight from Full Frame to APS-C. There’s just no way to get around physics and if you make something with a heavier material, or what to get more (range in this case) it will cost something. There are probably ways to offset such as using more exotic glass like Leica but that will bring the price to stratospheric levels.

There is also one more parameter that will result in an APS-C lens to be heavier, and that is the quality needed of the lens to perform similarly as a full frame equivalent.

Lens imperfection
Lens imperfection

Firstly, I am no lens designer and if there is a mistake I am open to corrections. That said base on my understanding, a lens job is to focus the light. Many things affect this, from the quality of the glass to the lens tolerance and design. However, no lens design is perfect. That is why sharpness varies from lens to lens and even within the same lens there is some variation. Which brings up the simplified diagram above. At the same megapixel, a Full Frame has bigger sensor sites then a APS-C. Therefore, to design a lens that can work as good on a APS-C as it would look on a full frame is actually harder as the tolerance is lower. You may be using less material due to the smaller sensor, but you will need better material and overall better quality to work as well. This usually translates to some extra weight be it more/better lens elements or material with tighter tolerance. Which pretty much explains why good APS-C lens cost quite a sum of money and probably cost more with all the glass needed for correction. A good APS-C lens can easily perform to whatever full-frame has, it just cost the same as a full-frame lens and weighs as much.

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So as you can see above, a top notch APS-C lens, the 200mm F2 by Fuji, really performs as good as anything out there and maybe a little more due to the advances in technology. Perfectly sharp, highly corrected, extreme fast AF with Linear Motor. All this can be done, at a cost that is similar to the Full Frame 200mm F2. It does come with a tele-converter and considering all the advances, it definitely is as good of a deal if not better then its equivalents.

So where does this all leave us in the end? Full-Frame and APS-C are really about the same. APS-C can be lighter by basis of smaller cameras and if you use a lens of similar built with specs comparable to its full frame counter part. APS-C performs similar to a Full Frame that has added 1 stop of ISO and using a 1 stop slower aperture lens. A Full Frame given the best condition, will always outperform a APS-C camera when it comes to image quality at the lowest ISO. Sharpness and image quality is more of a metrics of the lens then the sensor itself, unless you need the 1 extra dynamic range at the lowest ISO.

So if you want the lightest possible package, an APS-C is still the way to go. What you lose is 1 stop of dynamic range and probably 1 stop of noise compared to the best of Full Frame. That probably wont affect you as much unless you love to shoot in extremes: Extremely Dark or Extreme Bright. One needing the noise performance while other requiring the best dynamic range. Just remember that APS-C does not equate to a cheaper system or a lighter system if you want full equivalence to the full frame versions.

Of course there are still other things to consider. Very technical stuff such as read out speeds which is bias to smaller sensor size and that not all full frame performs as good as a D850 when it comes to dynamic range. If you were to browse around photons to photo, you will see modern APS-C is quite comparable to some Full Frame Sensors or almost no difference. If we are to look at the a Full Frame with similar frames per second as the XT3, that will be the A9, D5, 1DX. Non of them really performs better then the XT3 sensor in terms of image quality.

XT3, D5, 1DXm2, A9
XT3, D5, 1DXm2, A9

Comparison between XT3, D5, IDXm2 and A9

So what about Medium Format? Replace APS-C as Full Frame, Full Frame as Medium Format, and you get the same explanation. The biggest reason why Medium Format cost more and produce even higher image quality is because its a niche product, built for people who wants something better and willing to pay for it. If you get the best of everything for Full Frame, you can achieve 95-98% at maybe 80-90% of the cost. In the end, you pay for what you get and no one can beat physics for free :)

And a picture from the GFX50s, Medium Format Crop Sensor Camera

GFX50s with 110mm F2
GFX50s with 110mm F2

 

Workshops!

I’ll be holding two workshops

One is a basic studio that covers how to do simple studio photography

https://www.facebook.com/events/385071658954411/?ti=cl

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There’s also a guided workshop that focus more on shooting and I will just explain some concepts. The theme is artwork like portraits.

https://www.facebook.com/events/266998334188357/?ti=cl

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If interested do sign up at the links or email me at Richard@zpeaktures.com

Fujifilm XF 200mm F2 Preview: The Beast

XT30 with the Xf200mm F2
XT30 with the Xf200mm F2

Sometime, a maker decide to push the limit in both performance and price. A aps-c only super telephoto class prime that cost similar to those white ones you see at sporting event? This has got to be the first. Enter the Fujifilm XF 200mm F2 R LM OIS WR. The first of its class for aps-c or smaller sensor, 200mm F2 with a equivalent look as 305mm F2.8 on Full Frame. 200mm F2 are not new stuff, there’s the Canon and Nikon dating back from 1980s. Fantastic lens built with the best optics then. Both companies refreshed them in the past 10 years and when used on an aps-c, will give similar results to the one by fuji. What makes fuji special is its using the latest in optics design and built only for the smaller sensor, resulting in 10-20% reduction in weight and improved optics. At 2260g, it’s lighter then any 200mm F2 or its full frame focal length equals of 300mm f2.8.

200mm @ F2
200mm @ F2

Fuji is not one to shun from putting their latest in their more consumer centric camera. Infact their latest XT30 will out-perform the XT3 in auto focus till the new firmware is up. That may look and sound silly, mounting a small consumer priced camera that’s 1/6 the cost on a white beast of a lens. However what you get is a setup that weighs slightly over 2700g, with an F2 light gathering capability and 300mm view. There is probably no setup that performs similarly at this weight. Balance may be in issue but nothing an additional grip or monopod can’t solve, which is usually staple in such setups.

200mm @ F2
200mm @ F2

But there will be nothing great if optics are not there. And this lens delivers in spade! Extremely sharp, it even look as good as my GFX shots which is famous for sharpness. It’s also very well corrected, almost insignificant chromatic aberration (CA) at 100%. You can find some at 400% view but that’s really pushing it. The CA is also of a a light yellow variant, which is much preferred over the magenta ones.

200mm @ F2. No LOCA
200mm @ F2. No LOCA

But the biggest best thing is that minimization of longitude CA aka bokeh CA. This is a bigger issue then normal CA as they are hard to correct and tints the background especially things like silver railings above.

Speaking about bokeh, this is a cream machine. Even when compared to full frame equivalents. There’s nothing better then a 300mm f2.8 unless we take out the super teles of 400mm f2.8. And we still have f2 speed which means a faster shutter 😀

Other then optics, the lens is well built and also comes with a tele-converter. Initial test shows little drop in sharpness and with it, you can actually do some simple macro. 0.63X similar to a full frame anyone?

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And one last thing, I like the bag it comes with. Slide the lens in with the camera attached. Not bad really for a traveling solution.

So wait for my full review, where I have more close up and testing. Also look forward to more reviews especially the X, GFX and their series of equipment!

New Shoot: Embracing a new style

Recently I got hooked on to a single light with backdrop, more traditional artwork style of photos. Really nice and love the image produced.

Shot with just one large octabox above the subject. Enjoy!

Model: Karen (https://www.facebook.com/boiledcurry/)

Dress by : https://18atelier.com.sg/

Studio : https://www.lunarworks.co/

Lighting: Elinchrom Litemotiv 190, Godox AD200

Camera: Fujifilm GFX50s

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Review: Shangri-la Jr: Relax and Let it all go

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Thanks to AV-One for the close door review of the Shangri-La Jr. Priced at approximately $8000 USD, this place it near the top of the pecking order for headphones.

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Built with 4 pre-amp tubes, a metal chassis with a nice gloss surface for its energiser, a metal frame with leather ear-cups and headband, it looks luxurious as any other electrostat out there. The headphone is really similar to the Stax-009, infact even the weight is similar. The only difference is the cables, and this I say goes the the Shangri-La JR for its braided cables unlike the easy to twist flat cables of Stax.

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But enough with the build and exterior stuff, how does it sound? For the short summary: As flagship goes, it’s great. But if you listen to female vocals, chants and choruses, or love music with tones of treble like bells and cymbals, this is the one.

Setup used that day with a IPad (flight mode) -> Chord Dave -> Shangri-la Jr

As I dont have the luxury, my cross comparison is with the Abyss 1266 and Stax-009 for a few songs. Im not going to go song by song but directly what I think its great and what its competitors is slightly better. Why slightly you may say? Cause all this are flagship, and as flagship goes, its just hard to not sound good.

Straight on listening it, the sound is wide, diffused, airy and just relaxing. Listening to a few tracks from asian female vocals like Suara and Susan Wong, in one word, Sublime. This is coming from someone who listens to Abyss and KSE1500, the sound of the Shangri-la JR for asian female vocals it’s world class, if not chart topping. It has this really wide, laid back feel that makes the vocals surround you, ever so natural with no strain. Till the very last breath of each song, it brings out the type of music you will just want to kick back and relax the time away. Of course there is exceptions, being a more diffused then the rest, it lacks the high energy in the female vocals if the track demands it. In this, the Abyss does it way better, being concentrated and powerful. Male vocals on the other hand, I place it on par with the rest, I couldnt really say this, 009 or abyss is better in the limited time I had or even in the first impression.

Another area that its great is the treble. It’s better then both 009 and abyss, sounding really natural, distinct, and has a decay that just sounds just right. In the track Powder Snow by Suara, there are many japanese bells used in the song, and every time it appears, the Shangri-La Jr handles it like a champ, sounding ever so natural and smooth. From the built up of the bell sound to the really soft end decay, it is there and right. like a real bell getting jingled next to you. This is a truly defining sound feature that puts it over the Abyss.

The last thing that really was better was the darkness and transition within the songs. Its like listening to music in a sound treated room, even if there is a split second of silence, the Shangri-La JR replicates it. This is really important especially in slow songs with occasional instrument and alot of emphasis of the vocals to me. It allows me to concentrate and appreciate all the elements of the moment. When the music does ramp up, transitioning from silence to full blown and back down, it was masterfully handle. Leading Abyss by a small but noticeable margin.

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Now for the rest which was what I felt good but not defining features.

Soundstage is wide, not huge like the HD800, but definitely slightly larger and more surround then 009 or Abyss. It does have more headroom or Z-Axis to the sound compared to the Abyss which is just wide sideways. Is it however that significant, probably not to me but your mileage may vary.

The sound on the whole felt more balanced. It is not flat like say KSE1500, but it feels just nice with good emphasis on all spectrum of the sound, no one overpowering the other. However when required to standout by the music, it brings out the dynamics, making it enjoyable. Again this is a taste, and if your like thumping mid bass, Abyss is a much better choice. More emphasis on the mids? The 009 does a better job. If anything, your choice of song and preference is more important then the technicalities.

Now for things that I felt that the competition may do better

The bass of the Shangri-La Jr is good. Deep with good impact when needed. This is especially apparent versus the 009, which if anything is what I feel a little light on it. The Abyss may not go as deep, but if I was to choose a headphone to enjoy tracks with drums, the Abyss is the way. It has more impact, more energy, and just more enjoyable. That said, the Shangri-La Jr is still probably the best electrostat I heard for Bass, that itself is definitely an achievement. Do note, I never got to hear the Shangri-La Original or the Orpheus Series in a quiet room, so if anyone has comments on this do add on.

The other part is the energy of the sound. If the track needs energy and fast paced, the Shangri-La JR can definitely keep up and is a enjoyable experience. That is of course if no cross comparison is done. The Abyss and the 009 just had more energy in the songs I listen. The vocals when they scream or when the instruments rises in tempo, the Shangri-La Jr just felt a touch lower in that excitement and power that the competitors bring out.

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The above pretty much are all the key points I picked out during my session. Other then those, the Shangri-La like every electrostat, is airy, transparent, with great details and seperation. If there is a last note I want to add, it is sibilance or the lack of it, essential if you are one to enjoy pop music. If you are the type that listens to whatever you like, and loves modern pop songs, the Shangri-La JR is high up the list.

I hope you enjoy my impression on the Shangri-La Jr. It is a truly enjoyable experience. Once again thanks to AV-One for the close door demo session and Hifiman for the demo set.

 

 

A Chance Hands-On: The Phase One IQ3 100mp Trichromatic

Today was a great experience with Mezame Shashin-ka shooting the XF + Trichromatic Digital Back. Being a photographer that loves backlitted shot and ambient lighting, the XF had the great dynamic range and shadow recovery unseen in my other system Leica and Nikon. All shots are done without additional lighting support equipment or reflector.

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The best function I love was also a simple one: the multi screen preview, showing the histogram, highlight burnout and image itself. This allow me to work to the cameras dynamic limit, something that doing on other cameras can be a slow process of switching screens. Theres red and pink to denote level of clipping. Really great stuff. The other thing is the AF system. It works on backlit situation. Something that can’t be said for many cameras today. And AF-R works too, though sometime I need to be a little patient and wait for the beep before firing off.

And no XF review is complete without a Detail zoom in. Rather then just doing it on screen, I printed it out on my printer in A2 and took a photo of the eye. Look whoes in there haha.

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Thats all for my impression, had a great time with the system and Mez haha.

Below are the photos from the shoot. Enjoy!

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Review: The Abyss AB-1266 Planar Magnetic Headphones

The Abyss AB 1266.

Some call it the Medieval Torture Device. I call it audio heaven.

I shall not mince my words: Abyss is butt ugly. On first impression, I doubt anyone will even figure how the heck to put it on to your head. Followed by its weight, its one of the heaviest in the 640g range. It is on first sight highly unadjustable and uncomfortable. How can something like this sound good? Add on the initial price tag of more then 5K, maybe JPS Labs went mad or something.

But the truth is actually far from it. Price has fallen to 4k + (Abyss Lite Edition. Same thing just less accessories). I got mine cheaper then a LCD4 in my area. Its actually highly adjustable, and quite comfortable once you are done with it. Infact due to its design, you wont be as affected by the ears and its surrounding area heating up like most other headphones. The sound can also be describe in one word: Sublime.

First lets look into the design. The Abyss is made of out of solid aluminium pieces bent and merge together. I have a feeling that if you throw it at someone, concussion ensures. Its probably the most solid built headphone I touched, even beating those of Beyerdynamics. The frame will probably last you a lifetime unless you get a car to run over it. The elastic bend is where the headphone rest on. The headphone was designed to actually rest on your head, with the ear cups lightly touching around your ears.  This will put bulk of the weight on top and thus making it rather comfortable. And since there is little clamping force, its more comfortable then many headphones out there, lets not forget it also reduces the chance your ears heating up and sweating! The next question in most people mind now is how do you actually adjust it to there.

First we take a look at the top, the joint there can be extended by about an inch and slightly bent forward or back. So depending on your head size, just pull or bend accordingly. Next is the ear cups. Its of a asymmetric design. Attached with a magnet, it can rotated up to 18 positions. So just rotate them till you feel comfortable and the entire cup is resting on the side of your head. This adjustment takes around 20-30 min in my experience and its the most important phase of using this headphone. Infact, it will determine if you ever enjoy the headphone, both comfort and sonically.

The issue of this headphone and why many cant understand it when they do auditions is this: The adjustments of the entire headphone determines the sound. Clamp down too much and you lose bass impact and make the overall signature warm. Pull it too far apart and you will get a relatively bright signature. If the earpad fully sits on the side of your head, you get a full sound. But if you want alittle more dynamic, leaving a gap in the seal will give you a better experience. The thing is this headphone is finicky until you get it right. Once you obtain the fitting and sound you want, its onward to audio bliss, SUBLIME!

The Abyss is quite the monster to drive. With 85db/mw, its just slightly better then HE6 which is 83. On the Hugo TT, that will equate to violet or light blue for volume and even white if your track is soft. Its power requirements are also quite high, many amps will not have the grunt to fully power it to its fullest. Best to get something that can do 1w on output. When I first audition it with the Hugo, its rather flat and boomy. The TT did a much much better job as it had the current to swing. For me I use the Cayin IHA6 pictured on top. The IHA6 amp outputs 7w per channel, its a monster in power in a relatively small package. The abyss never needed more then 12 position to be too loud for me.

Sound:

Equipment:

Laptop -> Hugo TT -> Cayin IHA6 ->Abyss

HD800S

HE500

Tracks used:

Powder Snow by Suara (Female Vocals)

Musouka by Suara (Female Vocals)

Liberi Fatali by Distant Worlds(Orchestra/Chant)

Send my Love by Adele (Female Vocals)

Hotel California

 

This section is based on a properly fitted Abyss.

This headphone is fast. Faster then my HE500 and HD800S. This gives it a more dynamic feel with nicer blacks as instruments tend to not decay longer then they should. In Liberi Fatali, the bass and the treble will never mix. I can hear the xylophone in the background clearly even with all the other instruments and chants. In Hotel California, you can clearly hear the guitar pluckings as the bass pounds away.  Instrument separation is just fantastic as everything could be easily identified and heard.

Soundstaging and placement is fantastic. Its soundstage is wide and huge, comparable to the HD800S in size. However its Z Axis doesnt feel as great the HD800S, I will say HD800S feels a little more holographic then the Abyss.This also lead to a slightly better separation in the HD800S. In Liberi Fatali, instruments could be heard clearly but on the Abyss, you cant exactly pin point its position all the time unlike the HD800S. There is also a slightly different feel to the soundstage. HD800S felt like a concert hall with mid row seat while the Abyss is a more closer to the front. This is very apparent in Hotel California, where everything felt closer with the sound radiating out far.

The Abyss is transparent and detailed. To me its more transparent then HD800S and the HE500. Other then my KSE1500 which sounds about the same, everything else felt like there is a veil over them muddles things a little. In the tracks for the female vocals, the voice is just crystal clear with all the instrument sounding right.  In Musouku, you can hear the little guitar plucks that is usually lost. It does mean that many modern recorded song for the masses will sound bad. You can probably pick up every crackle which can be downright irritating.

Vocals and mids are great, natural but a little recessed.The Abyss is just so much more relaxed and natural in the mids then the HD800S. In Send My Love, there are those claps. The Abyss just renders them like exactly how you would expect, a slap like impact followed by quick decay. The HD800S however sounded like just a mass of sound that feels like a clap. You cant tell the exact point of impact.  The mids are slightly recessed on the mids for the Abyss. This gives them a feeling of being slightly further away. Due to the way the Abyss is voiced, it sounds perfectly fine, but put it next to the HD800S and it becomes apparent. In Powder Snow, Abyss felt like the vocals were aligned with the instruments while on the HD800S, the instruments played a more supporting role. That said, even though its slightly behind, the Abyss felt more natural. The HD800S vocals felt a little constricted when compared. However there is an issue at times. In Hotel California, the bass can at times feel like it overpowered the vocals due to the slight change in placement. Though if you are a basshead then this is totally up your alley.

Cause Abyss is King for bass. I tried many headphones before I purchased the Abyss. He1000, LCD4, HD800S, LCD3, TH900. When I tried the Abyss properly, I just could not forget how it sounded. I told a friend of mine who ran one of the shop that sells everything but the Abyss: “Sorry but I will probably purchase the Abyss. It is deep… deep like its name stake, The Abyss” The thing is the Abyss bass goes not only deep, it sounded like a sub woofer. It impacts the side of your head and ear. You can feel that rumbling vibration that was lost in almost all headphones. Most headphones just had a tight, deep and impactful bass. The Abyss had all that plus a bass that can be felt just like a Sub. Its controlled, you can pinpoint the point of impact, then its decay, rumble and vibration there after. That was not the only thing great, with all the rumble, definitely the mids will get affected, but it isnt. It really felt like a properly integrated sub woofer, clearly separated but part of the total audio landscape.

The last part is the treble. Here, I will say the HD800S had a more distinct treble that sparkles a little more but never confusing. It also means the Abyss due to its treble being a little more tamed to me, sounded much more pleasant with almost no sibilant. The treble also sounded more natural. The little bells in Powder Snow just felt like the small bells you would hear. It was reported in complex treble tracks, the Abyss may sound confusing in the treble region. I did not personally heard it in the tracks I used. Maybe it needs a full orchestra with lots of instrument in that region which I did not have access to.

There is something I noted of the Abyss when I tried it out with my friend. I usually listen on the Hugo TT at around Dark Blue while he does it at Light Blue. This translates to around 85db peak at 90+ vs 97db peak at 100+. We noticed at my levels, everything is in control, but at his preferred level, the bass had this weird vibration which we believe is distortion. We therefore believe that at higher volumes, the Abyss may have big and powerful bass but it will distort and therefore if you are sensitive to such things, do audition it at those level before purchase.

The Abyss is a medieval torture device that sound as deep as the Abyss. As a TOTL, I believe it deserves its place in todays context. You will be called nuts 3 years ago at 5.5k when it first debutted but now with pricing reaching similar levels of LCD4 (and maybe even the Focus Utopia), it is definitely a must try if you are in that market. Especially if you like quality sound with bass sounding like a sub woofer that is clearly missed in almost all headphones. Lets not forget its one of  kind look which is actually quite comfortable.