A Surprisingly Successful Dual Driver Headphone: The Enigmacoustics Dharma D1000

This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

The room was crazy loud at CES last year, but even through the cacophony the new dual-driver (dynamic/electret) Enigmacoustics Dharma D1000 ($1190) had something special.

I've heard a fair few dual-driver headphones, and basically they all sucked. Well, maybe that's a little harsh...but just a little. The AKG K340 was a similar headphone, but to my ears not nearly as good sounding as the Dharma. It's hard enough to get one driver to sound good in a pair of headphones, getting two drivers to seamlessly mesh is task fraught with peril. Up above about 5kHz acoustic resonances typically cause the response to surge up and down as acoustic cancelation and reinforcement begin to dominate the sonic landscape in the small ear cups. Add a second driver, and to my mind all bets are off.

And that's what's shocking about the Dharma, it's quite simply the best sounding dual driver headphone I've had the pleasure of wrapping around my head. Let's have a look.

Physical Description
The Enigmacoustics Dharma D1000 is a full-sized, circumaural, open acoustic headphone. This is a dual-driver headphone with a full range 52mm diameter Washi paper coned dynamic driver and an electret (permanently polarized electrostatic) driver, which Enigmacoustics claims comes on at about 10kHz.

Enigmacoustics_Dharma_Photo_EarpadDisassemblyThis is Enigmacoustics first headphone offering and I must say it has the look and feel of a headphone made by an accomplished manufacturer. The overall construction and materials seem quite good. Leather, chromed steel, and aluminum make up the bulk of materials.

I like the look of the Dharma: its sculpted black metal lines accented in silver and beefy leather headband give it a high-tech stealthy look to me. The cable entry points look like torpedo tubes on a modern sub. The mostly metal construction feels good in the hand and inspires confidence in the build. And big kudos to Enigmacoustics for making the branding subtle. The only logos seem on the Dharma is "ENIGMAcoustics" embossed on the headband and rendered very faintly in a change of finish on the outside of the capsule housing.

Earpads appear to be protein leather. They are circular with an inside diameter of 2.5" leaving ample room around the ear. The pads are attached with a flange that inserts into a groove around the edge of the housing; outside diameter is 4". After-market pads should be readily available. Pads are about 5/8" thick.

The pad cover is unusual (see pictures at right) in that it is not sewn to completely capture the foam insert. Rather, the earpad cover wraps around the pad somewhat overlapping underneath. This may be very cool for DIYers who want to modify the pads as foam replacement is easy, and making perforations for vents on the interior sides of the pad is a ready mod, if one so chooses. (Personally, I'd buy extra pads for the playtime.)

The foam does not appear to be memory foam, or if it is, it's not a high grade. I would characterize the pads as a bit stiff, but not uncomfortably so. Again, DIYers will likely find ways to improve the Dharmas here.

The depth of the earcup is a bit shallow due to the electret driver towards the front of the ear, and what appears to be some sort of acoustic chamber at the rear that my ears just touched. I'd like to investigate the nature of this rear bump further but the complexity of the baffle had me shy away from comprehensive disassembly.


The headband is leather over two chromed steel rods; there does seem to be an internal stiffening part between the two rods. The headband pad is a hammock with elastic straps similar to that seen on the AKG K701 and Philips X2. This is one of my least favorite ways to have headphones adjust to head size. The weight of the headphones, tension of the strap, and caliper pressure against the ears must be critically balanced in order for the headphones to feel comfortable on the head. Enigmacoustics does seem to have gotten this recipe quite close, and the headphones are reasonably comfortable. But the pressure is just a little too strong at the top of my head for me to give really high marks in this area.

The ear capsules swivel within a pair of gimbals. The outer semi-circular gimbal is firmly attached to the headband, and to the top and botton of the inner gimbal. The inner gimbal is attached to the front and rear of the capsule housing. Both pairs of gimbals have a limited movement of about 10 degrees. The outer gimbal has some friction to its movement; the inner gimbal moves more freely. I didn't hear or feel any squeaky stuff; it feels like the friction of the outer gimbal was designed that way. This creates a bit of resistance when donning the headphones that requires just a bit of fidgeting to get them properly adjusted to the side of your head.

The included cable at 3 meters is ample in length for home use. The fabric cover is soft and seems to resist transmission of mechanical noise, but I also found it quite prone to tangling and kinking. The cable is terminated with a standard 1/4" headphone plug. The connectors that attach to the earpieces are the same as those found on the Sennheiser HD 800. I did try an after-market pair of WyWires balanced cables for the HD 800 and they worked fine.

Also included is a hard sided storage box with foam cut-outs for the headphone and a small box to store the cable. (Photo next page.)

Physical Summary
Even though I found the comfort of fit and cable handling as just a bit clumsy, I would characterize the build quality, materials, and styling of the Dharma D1000 as a solid offering at its price/type. To my mind, Enigmacoustics has done an outstanding job in terms of the physical characteristics of their first headphone.

And now, on to the even more complex, paradoxical, and...I guess I can say...enigmatic character of its sound quality.

Irvine, California, USA