While Hi-Fi companies making the jump to personal audio is becoming a common trend, Enigmacoustics have done things very differently. Yes, we are seeing a lot of the traditional HiFi speaker companies have a bash at the headphone market but I don’t think any can claim to have done so with the seriousness and dedication as these guys. Their first headphone the Dharma D1000 is unlike any other headphone on the market but that is not new ground for Enigma as they have always done things in a unique way. They are known for just that on the speaker market as well, employing the Sopranino super tweeter to work along side their book shelf speakers. I have heard said speakers at the High End Munich Show and they are stunning. There is actually is a funny story regarding the show when it comes to Enigma. Being a self confessed headphone maniac I obviously keep as up to date as possible with all things headphone related and had seen some interviews of Enigma at past shows, talking about the (at the time) prototype of Dharma. As Josh and I were queuing to check into the hotel I recognised the man queuing next to me. At first I was a little puzzled to how the hell I knew this face but then I realised it was from Tyll’s (of Innerfidelity.com) Interview. I introduced myself and it was indeed Wei Chang of Enigmacoustics and that was my first true introduction to the brand and their passion for headphones.
The Dharma D1000 is their first foray into the personal audio world along with the Athena A1 valve based headphone amp. That being said while it is certainly the focus for them now I know it is not just a first and last effort, it is a playground they want to expand in and they already have ideas for future designs to back up the D1000. That is certainly an exciting concept. Priced at $1,190 in the USA it might have been one of the more expensive headphones a few years back but with HiFiMAN, Sennheiser, JPS Labs and Audeze really pushing costs up, for what is a flagship open backed headphone this really is not too bank breaking. Select Audio have taken the helm as UK distributors but I can’t find any UK retailers selling them online to get a grasp on the UK RRP.
An Electrostatic Headphone… Driven by your Phone!
The big talking point and exciting prospect of the Dharma is that it is a dual driver headphone. Not like some of the silly attempts in some cheaper headphones (TDK ST800 for example) I have tried with a 50mm woofer and a 30mm midrange/highs dynamic driver that never sounded as good as standard single dynamic driver… no, this is much more technical. What Enigma have done is implemented an electrostatic driver that is self biased. That does in fact mean you don’t need an expensive matching electrostatic amp or even a power supply, it takes the music source from your amp or player and does the rest itself. In fact at 26 ohms you can plug these into pretty much anything. This is in essence trickled down from their Sopranino which is also electret based and covers similar frequency responses in their applications. The 52mm dynamic driver is the main creator of the frequencies that makes up our music, vibrating sounds out to 10kHz where a first order filter allows the electrostatic driver to take over and cover up to 40kHz. If it makes it that far that is some unholy extension. That being said they also claim the dynamic driver gets down to 5Hz, thats a little optimistic if you ask me, especially for a completely open headphone.
I do want to talk about the 26 ohms impedance rating of this. When Wei told me about this he was very much proud and urged me to try out the can with Josh’s AK240, which may I add did indeed do a good job. But I have to be honest and say this is a negative to the headphone. It is an open backed model, not made for use on the go. In my home I want to sit and listen to these in comfort, off of the big rig! My reference headphone amplifiers, the Questyle CMA800R mono blocks put out a bucket load of power and for that reason aren’t suited for my portable cans and in ear monitors due to hiss. Well, sadly Dharma falls into that category and I get hiss with them. It isn’t just the Questyle, other desktop amps I have had in suffer from the same problem with Dharma, especially tube based products like the Tektron Ref. If I had my way this would be 300 ohms, not hiss with any desktop product and still be drivable to an extent by the more powerful portable products if that was really your desire. This is of course only my train of thought and if you haven’t already got a desktop system which would indeed be a whole lot more of expense, then the low impedance and easy driving may really draw you into purchasing this headphone. Of course no portable stuff I have sound as good as it off better desktop gear that doesn’t hiss with low impedance cans, such as the system of my totaldac d1-tube-mk2 and the Simaudio Moon 430HAD/Harmony Design Ear 909.
Perhaps a Little HD800 Inspiration?
Disregarding the headband, the Dharma certainly take on some design cues from the HD800, especially now the new S version is also black! I like that they opted for the HD800 cable connector, even if the mini XLRs that Audeze implement are a little more widely used. Having my majority of cables made for HD800s though, so this was ideal for me. It is only when you get them in do you realise what is perhaps a slight over sight. Most aftermarket cable companies such as Double Helix Cables use a custom chunkier HD800 connector and the ports on the D1000 are very recessed. Basically if there is any heat shrink over the connector it won’t reach. I had to cut up my Complement 4 to get it fitting with the Enigma. There is good news though and that’s that cable companies are now aware so just give them a heads up if you own a Dharma and they will make sure the cables fit.
On first view they are not as space age as the HD800s but the middle grille they have on the outside of the cup is very similar and with them both being dynamic drivers for the most part, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a little bit of inspiration, the HD800s are legendary.
Like the HD800 these are insanely comfy, perhaps even more so due to thicker ear cushions and the suspension head band. The headband I am actually a big fan of, it is light with a big surface area so it feels almost non existent on your head. The cups have low clamping as well and your ears have plenty of room in the cups although they are a bit shallower on the side of the electret driver.
Build is very high quality but I had one little quirk. I may well have been much more positive in this area but while listening on one occasion the left channel indicator fell off, obviously it’s not truly a big deal but with headphones of this money, this just shouldn’t happen. The headband is textile bound and has held up perfectly but the main housing is all plastic and feel it. The yokes are metal and feel very impressive regardless.
Regarding the situation of the channel indicators, after reading the review Wei actually enlightened me on the situation a bit more.
“Please accept our sincere apology for the inconvenience that faulty side indicator had caused. We’ve discovered this is limited to only advance demo units we provided to a select few locations, yours included…. The main thing is that we’ve since located the cause for the faulty button and have since addressed the issue.”
It looks like it was an early problem but is now completely fixed and wont need to be a concern for any customers. As it is no longer a problem I asked Wei if he would rather me remove my comments but to show what an honest and transparent company they are he said it would be wrong to ask me to get rid of my observations. Huge respect to Wei and Enigma in this regard having had so many companies try and censor my work in the past!
The included cable is very much similar to the HD800 stock one and seems pretty solid to me but honestly I have used an aftermarket cable much more frequently due to both my Questyle Mono Blocks and Harmony Design Ear 909 being balanced.
I saw similarities with the HD800 aesthetically but maybe they are completely unjustified and all in my head, Josh doesn’t see it and called me an idiot, each to their own.
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