These were one of the brands that I highly anticipated and were also as far as I can remember, the first booth I attended, quickly trying out their brand new and not yet released Dharma D1000 headphones. Due to some reasons we will get into a bit later, I have been very excited about these headphones and have actually been in touch with Wei Chang from the company over email. As we was checking into our hotel, I noticed him across the hall and it ended up we was to be hotel buddies, so we had the opportunity to talk a little more to the folks at ENIGMAcoustics and get to know a little more about their operation, with the most prevalent thing I can remember being how much Wei liked his name being on a pint glass in the bar.
The Sopranino super tweeter, what they are known for!
Enough about that chance encounter and more about the gear and the Dharma headphones always caught my eye due to their interesting technologies. Now Enigma are pretty new to the audio scene and their products have always revolved in a way around self biasing electrostatic drivers. In simple terms, electrostatic drivers that don’t need a specialised amp or “energiser”. They first put this technology into use for a loudspeaker super tweeter but have now scaled it down and moved it into a headphone, which as you know, is much more my scene. The thing is until 10kHz, the Dharma is pretty much a traditional dynamic headphone and then we crossover to the electrostatic section and that keeps playing music all the way to an absurd 50kHz, electrostatics am I right? Multiple driver headphones with different technologies aren’t as rare as you would imagine so it doesn’t normally take a lot to overlook one, especially when most sound crud such as the headphones Obravo were demonstrating with their AMT and Ribbon drivers but the D1000 hype train started pretty quick and only kept building and that FORCED me to get interested and at $1200 (subject to change) it isn’t as silly as some other new headphones, I am looking at you yet again Obravo.
Have a look inside and you can see the electrostatic driver on the right
Catch the light right and you can see the ENIGMA logo
I am glad I did keep an eye on these as well because they sounded great. Too my ears I heard elements of the best dynamic headphones such as the Sennheiser HD800, but with a little more of a musical nature, a thicker bass but also a very obvious detail throughout. You also had great speed and very clean transients, something that is obviously very electrostatic. Add that to the fact their were no negatives of the two drivers with them integrating beautifully and the fact the sound signature is such a pleasant one, these headphones have a lot of reasons to please, everyone we bumped into at the show, be it friends or a company such as Questyle, they were besotted by the Dharma.
While some people may be spooked by its specifications such as a low impedance of 26 ohms, Enigma wanted this to be available to all, not just those with fancy gear and pride themselves with how epic it sounds out of just a smartphone. That’s not to say it doesn’t sound good out of something a bit more powerful, I enjoyed it out of my Bakoon HPA-01Ms voltage out, the Questyle CMA800R (my reference amp) and their Athena A1 they were using to demo the headphone. Another thing I love is their choice to be the second headphone to adopt the HD800 connectors, as I use them as a reference, when I do get my Dharma’s, I will have a dual 3 pin XLR Double Helix Cable waiting so I can use them with CMA800R mono blocks, that’s gonna be a good day indeed.
Josh listening to the Dharma with the Athena
The headphones were also comfy and seemed well built, from what you can tell with a 30-minute demo at a show anyhow. I did also want to mention that Wei made it clear that this was not their last headphone, just their first, maybe we can expect to see a closed back model, a cheaper model or even a higher performance level, so Enigma are looking to really become a key player in this industry.
Being inquisitive guys and not wanting to leave a stone unturned, we also checked out the other stuff they had going on. Obviously there is the Athena A1, a vacuum tube amp with a hybrid output stage. This has a planned price of $1500 and comes in a beautiful glass chassis (with a choice of two colour front panels) with a design that oozes class. It really doesn’t look like what you expect from a headphone amplifier and that’s what I like to see, because as much as I like them, too many flat rectangular boxes gets boring. Sadly too many variables will stop me commenting on the sound of this to much but it gave the best soundstage of any amp we tried when feeding the Dharma’s and using Josh’s AK240 as a source.
Lastly, you had their listening room, yes they do headphones and speakers, very much like us at Inearspace now, and they were playing their Mythology speakers with the additional M1 stand. The speakers are pretty standard at first with a 180mm PP cone as a woofer and 34mm soft textile dome for a tweeter but it then has the Sopranino super tweeter installed on top, with a range up to 40kHz and a user selectable gain and crossover point (8, 10 or 12kHz). The Sopranino is $3,900 a pair and the Mythology with M1 stands (it includes the Sopranino) is $14,690, no that isn’t super cheap but compared to all the 100k plus speakers on the top floor, these did half impress, especially with their humble front end including a Logitech Squeeze Box (they used S Booster power supplies through out). Along with one other room, these were easily the stand out speakers on the bottom floor and would have still cause a stir on the upper level when the prices sky rocketed, and that’s not just coming from me, Josh will back me up.
Crossover and gain switches
S Booster Power Supply
With a growing product line and some great products, ENIGMAcoustics are etching themselves deep into the high end audio scene and I can guarntee you, this wont be the last you see of them on Inearspace!