Leave it to a relatively new company to produce the type of headphone most of us wanted for the past few decades. EnigmaAcoustics is primarily an electrostatic loudspeaker producer, yet has only just recently dived into the shark tank of headphone designs with their new Dharma D1000 hybrid electrostatic/dynamic. Bold move, undoubtedly! But, can the Dharma measure up to both dynamic and electrostatic flagship competition out yonder?
EnigmaAcoustics has performed a fusion of an electrostatic driver and a dynamic driver with their new Dharma D1000! The end result ended up both looking and sounding like a sexy female super model Frankenstein, instead of the stereotypical and ugly Robert De Niro monster from that terrible Kenneth Branagh movie from a while back. Nope! No ugly brute here. This time, someone has made a proper hybrid headphone that is more like a Rosie Hunington Frankenstein…yum. Not too long ago, Flare Audio produced their R1 headphone with some type of mystery driver tech that nobody was allowed to know anything about, but with a result that sounded like a nice molting of a dynamic and planar driver on the molecular level. I can’t say that I am even aware of anyone else trying to do anything similar, let alone succeeding at crafting a hell of a headphone like this Dharma.
I give major respect and points to anyone who tries to push the boundaries of audio tech and I love seeing someone…ANYONE…try to do something different and bold with their product. So before continuing onward, I’d like to start a slow clap for EnigmaAcoustics. It brings a tear to my eye knowing full well that someone succeeded at doing something very different from everyone else. I wish the other big names in the audiophile industry would attempt something like this, instead of playing it safe or even rehashing an old driver with a new exterior paint job and selling it for the same price…*cougcough*…looking at you Sennheiser.
EnigmaAcoustics has patented a technology called SBESL (Self-Biased Electrostatic Technology) which “eliminates the need for AC connection to provide a polarizing voltage.” Alright, that seems cool on paper. Funky terminology seems great makes me feel warm and fuzzy. But, what the hell does that mean and what does it do for the headphone? Truth be told, it does wonders for tone and little else. If you have experience with electrostatic headphones, you should be aware that they pipe out a different feel to planar and dynamic driver designs. Sadly, those who aren’t as experienced with the three primary types of headphone drivers (planar, dynamic and electrostatic) just won’t care enough about hybrid designs to warrant a purchased based purely on tonality. Thankfully, they should be purchasing this D1000 based on clarity and dynamics needs though.
The Dharma houses perhaps one of the better builds in a lower end Summit level headphone ($999 and up) that I’ve ever experienced. That headband frame is solid metal and extremely stiff feeling, unlike the plastic frame of the HD800 which feels like a child’s toy or something by comparison. For this price, I’d totally expect all plastic to be used to negate the costs of the hybrid driver design. But, I was impressed and a bit taken aback at the idea of the Dharma’s usage of hefty build materials. At 450g, she is a bit heavy and cumbersome, but still comfortable and offers me a good fit. Not great, just good. The frame feels extremely rigid and solid, but it is not at all a conforming experience with regard to fit. It does feel loose on my head and doesn’t grip as much as I would prefer. Clamp factor isn’t a problem and I actually think I would like a bit more, at least to make the headphone feel more stable on my head. It really isn’t a problem though and is more of a personal gripe. The headphone feels “of a higher quality” than you might expect, so I’m rating it high for build quality in general.
Pads n’ Cable
The angled leather ear pads are nice, but a bit firm as well. I’d prefer more plushness, but I might be spoiled by the likes of the AudioQuest Nighthawk and similarly very comfortable headphones with excellent ear pads. The Dharma’s cable is a fantastic fabric laced style that…ah damn…is prone to kinking. My cable kinked itself within days, but thankfully the Dharma shares the same input connector ports as the HD800, which makes it possible to use HD800 custom cables! Thankfully, I’ve a nice Moonaudio Dragon cable that I’ve used with my HD800 for some time. It works perfectly with the Dharma and I couldn’t be happier, as it saved me a lot of cash on balanced cables and such. Although, I’ve found that balanced XLR cables to not offer much for the low end at all, but more on that later.
The headphone is mildly efficient and doesn’t really need much power, you should be fine with your pick of a portable amp or solid portable DAP. 1-2watts is overkill when paired with desktop amplifiers, you really don’t need that much wattage. I am sad to report that the stock cable of the Dharma, while a nice and hefty fabric style, still retains all the problems of the HD800 stock cable…because it literally is a clone of it. It still has the huge and bulky HD800 cable, complete with the odd angled grove on one side of the adapter as only the HD800 cable adapters do. That also isn’t a big deal, but I hate large ¼ adapters. The headphone is branded as efficient, so it should come with a 3.5mm stock adapter and not a large ¼. I’d prefer to easily pair with a portable source and amplifier instead of rocking a huge string of adapters just to use the Dharma with portables.