Cain & cain abby



It you are in the financial position to spend the kind of money Abbys go for, then you should consider purchasing these quality speakers. Their style and sound are unlike any other out there.

Check the Amazon website here for more information on this product.

Cain & Cain Abby

It you are in the financial position to spend the kind of money Abbys go for, then you should consider purchasing these quality speakers. Their style and sound are unlike any other out there.

A lot of ink has been spilled on the Cain & Cain Abbys. Hell, they’ve been around for nearly 6 years and have been reviewed by most of the online journals. They have won a bunch of best of awards and they’ve been making the rounds on the show circuit like some fat guy in a rhinestone-studded jumpsuit. So why, you may very well ask, am I writing about the Cain & Cain Abbys?

While paying for our Chinese takeout and thinking about Michael Fremmer’s Stereophile review of the $65,000 Continuum Caliburn turntable, I found myself reflecting on my wallet. I’ve owned the same one for well over twenty years. It was an expensive gift, ostrich, but it’s turned out to be a bargain in the long run; a cost-effective extravagance. It has followed the shape of my backside through the ups and downs of pounds and it’s remained formidably comfortable. It fits. And it does its job of organizing my daily traveling essentials of ID, cash and credit exceedingly well.

Three years ago I went shopping for speakers. My trusty Odeon Double Six’s did not make the move to our new home very well, their horn tweeter shouted at my new, smaller room. So off to the various audio salons I went, trusty wallet at-the-ready. I listened to a bunch of well-reviewed speakers in the 2 to 3 thousand dollar range but nothing stuck. Same old hi-end sounds; hear that bass? Hear that tweeter? It wasn’t until a very friendly and very knowledgeable audio-store guy, let’s call him Steve Cohen, said “Have you heard the Abbys?” Well, I hadn’t. So, Steve hooked ‘em up to some funky Altec-green tube amp and I became hooked. I smiled. I even played it cool, coming back for a second listen a few weeks later. But truth be told, they had me at hello.

The Cain & Cain Abbys don’t sound like most speakers. Part of the reason is that they sport a single driver, a sound monocle. The Abby design is a variation on the Voigt pipe or TQWT (Tapered Quarter Wave Tube) originally designed by Paul Voigt in the 1930’s. In an article he penned for the single driver web site, Terry Cain makes reference to Herb Jeschke’s variation of the TWQT as his starting point when designing what turned into the Abbys. So, the Abbys are a variation on an old theme. But, wait just a minute. Like a monocle, doesn’t a single driver fall short? Hasn’t progress taught us that we need a few drivers, two minimum, to play that funky music right? Well, if I can add anything to the pages of praises for the Abbys it’s to simply reinforce the belief that simpler is sometimes better. Less is in fact more.

The Abbys are 70” tall, that’s 5′ 8” to put it into human-height terms, which is where the Abbys stand, but a mere 9” across. From the side the Abbys taper from 9.5” at the bottom of the cabinet to just about 2” at the top. The bases are 12 x 12”. If their height suggests they can overpower a room, take it from someone who says they’re 5′ 8”; that just doesn’t happen. That is until the Abbys do their thing. But while sitting silent, I find the Abby’s unusual-for-a-speaker looks totem-like; not modern, retro or even antique, the Abbys exude a timeless ethnographic vibe. My pair are finished in the standard Alder and we are talking solid wood, not real-wood veneer or counter top material, but cabinet-grade lumber on three sides. The back of the speaker is black MDF. Terry Cain, one of the Cain’s in the name and the man behind the speaker company, is a cabinet maker by trade. And this experience and love of the craft is apparent in the Abby’s finish quality which is as about good as wood gets.


Coming Soon!

The Abby comes in two basic flavors: Normal and Nearfield. The difference is in the Fostex driver employed. The Normal, which I own, incorporates the FE166e while the Nearfield, makes due with the FF165k. The short story on the difference is that the Nearfields are meant for smaller listening rooms, i.e. listening in the near field. Other options include all-Maple and various stains including some funky sunburst Fender Strat finish. Not to complicate matters too much, but there’s also a SuperAbby that includes a rear-firing super tweeter and the same driver found on the Nearfield version.

When buying a hi-fi I think it makes sense to start with the speakers since they come with physical requirements that most other gear do not. Floor-standing speakers stand in your room. So, your speaker of choice has to agree with whatever sense of décor you may or may not have. Another potential speaker syllogism is they may or may not dictate the range of amplifiers you can explore. Something like the Abbys with their easy load at 95dB and no crossover let you dip way down into single-digit SET-territory. And this was somewhere I knew I wanted to go when shopping for my next pair of speakers. If the idea – 2 Watts of output power is enough – rattles your audiophilanthropic cage, then read on.

Rhythm. There’s very little rhythm online. I’d suggest there’s next to none. Now go into your favorite music store, somewhere like Other Music if you’re in NYC, and you get music, other people in-the-flesh, informed help and more importantly a physical vibe. Granted sometimes everything is just off; people bumping shoving music too loud or too weird and I say just leave. Go home. Then there are those times when everything just gels. Smooth easy sailing while you shop the isles pulling CDs and/or LPs from the shelves like mana from heaven. Walkin on sunshine. It’s those moments you’ll never have on the net no matter how sophisticated Amazon’s recommendations get. Physical space being the key – rhythm ain’t virtual.
Abby has rhythm. Lots. If you like to dig your music, way down deep, then the Abbys may be for you. On the other hand if you’re looking for frequency extension – silky highs and bass-y bass way down low all with a measurable linear response to make your EKG jealous, read a magazine. If you want music, you may want to go listen to a pair of Abbys. The lack of another driver and cross-over turns out to be no lack at all. Think free-flowing simplicity. Tap water as opposed to the bottle. Murumari’s The Wolves Hollow blips beeps and smooches with ear-apparent realness. The Rolling Stones Let it Bleed all over your room. Mozart delights, Scelsi tickles and Bach soothes. There’s absolutely nothing virtual about Abby. I’ve heard any number of multi-driver, cabinet dead end, Kevlar and Corian toting monstrosities make Starker’s Bach Cello Suites sound plastic-wrapped. Virtual. The immediacy of the Abby’s reaches out just far enough to tickle your fancy and say “follow me”.

So immediacy they got, and tone they paint with as wide a palate as you’ll ever need. Tonal color lending a different flavor to cello, viola, and violin so you can get wrapped up in Webern’s sorrow (at least that’s how I hear it) like a tattered childhood blanket. If your jones dictates helicopters and Wagner watch a movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love movies. Only I don’t need pyrotechnics with my music. If an emotional connection is what you’re after, go single. Adding more drivers and crossovers just complicates things. You may think you need the stuff they offer, but once you go monocle you’ll understand the knowing wink.

But, won’t I miss the extremes? The light that shimmers off the cymbal sparkle, the organ’s gut wrenching rumble? I’ve attempted to strap-on the extremes by way of a ribbon super tweeter and the Cain & Cain Bailey sub woofer and I’ve recently had a change of heart. As the physics class I never had suggests, when you add something you’ll be subtracting somewhere too. What you lose is a difficult thing to isolate, but it’s a wily beast we’ll call emotional involvement. I find the part of me that responds to the extension of the super tweeter to be centrally located upstairs, in my head. Ah yes, hear that sparkle? And listen, there’s more detail too. Hi-end sound. Impress your friends for the 15 seconds they spend when you convince them to enter your sound lair. Impressive no? That’s a direct-to-disk recording of Diana Krall and Patricia Barber singing Holy Cole’s greatest hits from the Tom Waits sings Cole Porter song book. 200 gram. Did you hear that dog bark? Hear that train a comin? Sound effects. Now perhaps I’m overstating and underselling what some may actually enjoy. The Bailey sub woofer will certainly provide that extra body, some additional gravitas to the sound’s color. And the ribbon super tweeter will smooth off the upper registers and silk-ify some screachiness. But my feeling is you’ll have strayed from the path of simple. If you were around and out in the 80’s, the day when good friend’s and spirits became not enough for a good time was a sad day indeed. A low point in our social scene typically delivered by some guy wearing way too much cologne. Of late, I think of the add-on super tweeter as delivering a similarly heady and short-lived snort of tingle.

I’ve tried a gaggle of different amplifiers, preamplifiers and sources with the Abby’s and while they were pretty wonderful throughout, I’d have to say that you haven’t heard the Abbys I love unless you’re driving them with a single-ended triode amplifier. I’d suggest something hand-wired with high quality output transformers, silver wire and no coupling caps in the signal path. Directly heated triodes. Further still I like the 45 or possibly the 50 triode as the output power tube of choice. As one our Recommended Systems suggests, the Fi X fits this bill to a T. No the Abbys are not perfect and I have heard them sound a bit aggressive up top when paired with some solid state and digital amplifiers. If it’s perfection you seek, chew some Bazooka bubble gum while reading the comic. Just to keep audio-things in perspective, give me any loudspeaker at any price and I can make it sound not-so-good. Point being, some care should be taken when choosing an amp. Think warm.

With the average annual income in the U.S. of A. clocking in at around $49k in 2003, spending $1500 on a pair of speakers is an investment. I’m certainly not in a position to judge the Abby’s value since that shifts with ones income and savings tides. And as much as music is an integral part of our lives we’re talking about a luxury item here. I don’t know about you, but I find the idea that a luxury item costing a thousand dollars+, hell even tens of thousands of dollars to be a declared bargain, myopic at best. All that said, if you’re in a position to spend this kind of cash on your speakers and you’d like something that delivers sensual music making and will fit no matter how or where your musical tastes grow, lend the Abbys an ear, preferably both.

Technical Info:

Driver: Abby "Normal" — Fostex FE 166e

Abby "Nearfield" — Fostex FF 165k

Sensitivity: 95dB

Frequency Response: 40Hz to 20kHz (+/- 3dB)

Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms

Minimum Impedance: 5 ohms

Finishes: natural alder wood, hunter green, kind-of-cobalt blue, rosewood red

Dimensions: 9" x 9" x 70" (WxDxH)

Price: Approximately $1,500 per pair

See the Amazon page for CAIN & CAIN ABBY Review here