Extending Past Our Hearing!
Since I have owned Dharma there are times they are all I want to listen to and other occasions where I find them quirky, perhaps even wrong. Without doubt they are an amazing headphone, be it down to the technology or just good engineering. The Harmony Design 909 has been my favourite desktop amp with them, its low gain doesn’t worry about the low impedance and with the benefit of my end game DAC (totaldac) and cables (Double Helix Cables) you are getting a high end sounding headphone with the Dharma. With that said it is definitely not perfect, or ideal for all situations, hence I find it to sometimes sound a little off.
The overall presentation of this would be a balanced to V shaped one, with treble being the most obvious frequency range. It is thicker and bassier than my reference Sennheiser HD800 but only with a bit less treble and similar midrange quantities, meaning tonally, it doesn’t have anything really out of place and thats a great place to build off of!
The bass is one of the areas of this headphone that could/should be a great attraction area but lacks a touch in terms of refinement/quality. If you focus purely on the music it is a well bumped mid-bass that adds thickness and punch to the experience, making these rather musical for an even toned headphone and something that when I am in the mood makes me sing, bob my head and listen to my collection for hours on end and strive to discover new music. But then there is the other side of it, the bass comes short in detail, clear cut punch and can be very monotonous. On top of that it lacks absolute depth or rumble, often a problem with open backed cans but an apparent one nonetheless. The bass is thick and just doesn’t have distinction with notes, maybe due to decay, maybe something more. Slurry and soft would also be words that spring to mind. I think the bass is a very defining part of the headphone because why it is the only thing that ever would make me want to listen to these over my HD800, it is also the reason they sometimes sound just a bit wrong.
The midrange is very even and takes on nothing from the bass. It is forward and pacey, much faster than the bass which leaves the slightest feeling of being unattached but not in an obvious or treacherous way. To me there is not a huge lot to go on about with the mids, they don’t have any real flaws and have a good mix of detail and depth, not being the best at either but a bit of a Jack of all Trades! Funnily enough while I have already said the thick bass does not effect the midrange, at times I get the feeling the treble might, giving it a bit of glitz and pitch.
One of the bigger call outs people make on the original HD800 and something that was apparently addressed with the new HD800S is the 6kHz spike which as a range will cause some irritation if over done. I think sadly the Dharma suffers from too much information in this range, 6-7khz, I cant be super accurate but it seems to be the case, sounding a bit sharp and over cooked in the lower treble. But other than that little gripe the treble sounds very much like a slightly more subdued HD800. Crisp, extended and a little bit dramatic. Extension is amazing and so it should be because thats what the electret driver should be providing. Because it is only acting in a frequency range that is bordering on our hearing ability I cannot say how effective it is but I certainly have no complaints about it!
Now when I was listening off of my Questyle CMA800Rs the soundstage while obviously good being an open backed headphone never really struck me as golden but after making the swap to the Ear 909, I am blown away. For sheer size and three dimensionality it is actually bigger than my HD800, no where near as separated or sharp at imaging but HUGE sounding nonetheless.
Overall the sound of these is great. Very likeable and while not quite at the very top for all technical things if I was to want to listen to music and not worry about recordings I would rather these than an Audeze LCD-2 or Oppo PM-2 for example. I think they could use a couple of small tweaks here and there but for the most part, kudos to their effort!
What a Great First Headphone…
and what a great way to burst from the speaker scene to the headphone one. This may be a tonally balanced headphone but it is a very unique at the same time. While I have likened it to some models in this review it really is its own thing. As an overall headphone it is comfortable and good looking and while more premium materials good up the luxury factor, it doesn’t have any huge flaws. For me I think they missed a beat by trying to appeal to phone users with the low impedance, make it a great headphone with scalability, not one that can plug to anything and get hiss with some more powerful desktop amps. At the price in USA it is certainly a solid buy but with no official UK price, I can only hope it is not a direct dollar to pound swap. Not only should this be a headphone you consider but is also a brand that you should keep an eye on moving into the future!