A Surprisingly Successful Dual Driver Headphone: The Enigmacoustics Dharma D1000

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

lukeap69's picture

I wonder why you have recommended HEX but not the HEK. Is it because of price?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
lukeap69's picture

That makes sense Tyll. I will be waiting for your HEX review. I will be skipping the Dharma...

Rillion's picture

Concerning the THD+noise, this might be a case where looking at the spectrum generated by just a ~100 Hz input tone could provide more insight. It may be that the type of noise and distortion generated is just not very audible in music.

Cheepnis's picture

Could you clarify if this is the Darma from Big Sound 2015 or a final version? I heard there were some changes made.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
This is a production version I received right at the end of Big Sound.
Seth195208's picture

Placing an open back electrostatic driver closely in front of another driver will cause a lot of bizarre interference between the two. The rear of the electrostatic will fire into the rear driver, and the rear driver(including low frequencies)will fire into the back of the electrostatic. The could be the reason the impulse response has such a hard time settling down. On the other hand, if the electrostatic is sealed in the back, it would cause it's own problems.

Josuah's picture

The bass, though not particularly well extended, is nicely balanced in the mix with a slight emphasis centering around 90-100Hz. The weird thing is that measurements show that the bass has huge distortion, which starts to rise below 400Hz to reach nearly 10% at 100Hz. Looking at the distortion measurements would have me thinking the bass would be a wooly, murky mess, but it just ain't so to my ears—nor the ears of most folks who listened at Big Sound 2015.

I'm afraid this comment makes me think you need to get a better understanding of harmonic distortion and different types of distortion. THD is not necessarily going to come with a loss of separation between notes or inability to clearly hear what you are expecting to hear—there can still be a very distinct start and stop to sounds and overall focus on the primary tone. Harmonics can instead add pleasing or unpleasant "richness" to the sound, and in low frequencies often makes listeners happy because it adds weight and pressure to bass.

To use an analogy you might not like being used in reference to your listening tests, this is the difference between a car enthusiast's subwoofer and an audiophile's subwoofer.

This may in fact be why you felt the bass was more extended and the headphone tonally flat. Not because it was actually providing clean bass at the correct SPL, but because the increased distortion as the frequency dropped provided additional acoustic energy to boost the SPL while the pure tone that should have been present was lower in amplitude. Or it is the cause of the frequency response rise in lower frequencies. This is precisely what Rillion is alluding to when he suggests running an FFT frequency analysis for a pure tone.

A "wooly, murky mess" of bass is more likely to be a result of high group delay coupled with high reverb / decay.

(Also, after hitting preview I don't see any way to submit the post. I have to hit back.)

zobel's picture

You are spot on in these thoughts.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
....but when I see distortion this high on headphones, it usually is a murky mess.
Josuah's picture

Harmonic distortion and a smeared, incoherent sound could be two symptoms with the same root cause. Such as poor control of the driver. However harmonic distortion should be not be considered the cause of smeared, incoherent sound or a measurement of smeared, incoherent sound.

But that association seems to be what you were stating with:

Looking at the distortion measurements would have me thinking the bass would be a wooly, murky mess....

followed by:

Many times after eliciting opinions of the bass performance and getting word back that it seemed okay, I would show the listener the distortion curves.

After reading that, someone is likely to come away with an incorrect understanding of THD+N measurements and how to interpret them. I don't think that's good.

Valhallatier's picture

After all this time, i knew there's something wrong with many of tyll's review, and i'm right. He doesn't know that much about how sound travels, though he know the electronics.

GNagus's picture

I'm not expecting to find a teeny tiny crossover with inductors and capacitors in the headphones, but with no filters present wouldn't there be some cancellation with the drivers overlapping frequencies? Also, bass and treble extension aren't as good as I would expect, assuming that is a key benefit of multiple drivers

zobel's picture

It seems that if the drivers summed in phase at the eardrum the overlapping frequencies would be strengthened, and not cancelling. Who knows in these cans of worms though? Your point that this design, employing two drivers for the frequency extremes, should at least have a decent bass response is well taken.

Seth195208's picture
zobel's picture

What do you think is significant and of interest to us from these white papers, Seth? What light has been shed here concerning Tyll's distortion measurements ?
I have the same questions that you raised above about driver placement. Could that arrangement have something to do with the distortion measurements? (Yes it could, he said.) Thanks for your thoughts!

Seth195208's picture

...explaining his findings on the audibility of non linear distortions..

zobel's picture

I have Dickason's books, and every copy of speaker builder magazine they printed, but never followed Vance Dickason and crew when they started doing voice coil mag. I have been reading others though, and I'm still building systems, so the wave guide stuff is something I've been following. It was interesting to see his findings on the subjective audibility of non linear distortion being directly related to SPL. Is it true then that equal amounts of measured THD (as a percentage of SPL) are perceived to increase with volume? Does it matter where these distortions are in frequency, and in bandwidth (Q)?

About the THD subject; as Einstein said, "We can't measure everything that counts, and not everything we can measure counts." I think, as Geddes states, THD and IMD are too broad and ill-defined to be factors useful in determining subjective quality in transducer response. That is not news. We already have known that the spectrum and Qs of the peaks are the determining factors in the audibility of these distortions. Plots of IMD showing the location of the non linear distortion in relation to frequency are a good tool to show audible spectral distortion. Waterfall plots, and though somewhat less readable, step response and square waves, effectively show frequency response in the time domain. Good tools, those.

And of course the all important SPL/frequency graph! Some day we will be able to present that data as a flat line for flat headphone response. Now there are too many factors that we haven't been able to include in the measurement process. Among these are the individual's ears acoustic interaction with the cans, and that alone is huge. Then there is the realm of the individual's ear/brain interpretation of the same SPLs, which includes hearing acuity and sensitivity, and other factors we don't know about yet, so we can't measure. Hearing, as with all the senses, actually occurs in the brain ultimately. We are just learning about the brain, which is, by far, the most complex thing we are aware of in the entire known universe. Will it be possible in the foreseeable future to connect directly with the brain electrically, via the auditory nerve, replicating and bypassing the ears organs? A wireless implant, not bluetooth ;-) that can be switched into your auditory system (post ear), and switched out for biological hearing would be pretty nifty. That would be the ultimate "headphone" don't you think? Just don't lose your remote.

barun432's picture

Nice Review, Tyll. Please try to review one of the Final Headphones, a company from Japan. They make this awesome headphone called Pandora Hope VI, which incorporates Dynamic driver and balanced armature driver technology. They go for around $600 nowadays and will knock a lot of headphones from your Wall of Fame (All Closed backs in fact) if you listen to it. Hope you review one of their headphones if not the one mentioned above, cause they all have this hybrid driver technology.

Seth195208's picture
barun432's picture

Am talking about a full fledged review of the PH6 and 4 is not a hi-fi audiophile grade headphone like the PH6. He did a measurement earlier this year but not a review. PH6 from a mobile phone scales as good as an un-modded Sony MDR CD-3000 from a high-end desktop rig and in todays headphone market that is unheard of. Hope Tyl will review it so that more people get to know about it.


zobel's picture

Some people will not have comfort problems with these; those with mid to small ears that don't stick out from the head much. Leaves me out.

Shalow's picture

Tyll, I tried to correlate distorsion measurements and what I hear for sometime. I hadn't figured it out completly, but I found a very interesting paper here :
The paper is pretty old, but what they found is pretty interesting. Did you ever had a look ?

Beagle's picture

...is that it never seems to integrate with the rest. It stands on it's own, away from the proceedings, like a kid at recess who's too shy to play with the others.

Mr.TAD91's picture

Cool headphone. It's nice to see how the two driver technologies can work together. Hey Tyll, have you got any impressions on the Pioneer Master 1 headphone? I am really looking forward to your review of them.

I am worried however, about the "fine tuning" the AIR studios technical director did, as I have read some reviews on previous Pioneer + AIR studios products (amplifiers and speakers) that were less than satisfactory in my eyes. As I see it, the engineers and designers should get most of the play time when bringing a new product to the market. This should especially be the case for the Master 1, as they are very costly for a headphone.



zobel's picture

Health and happiness to you, and thanks for hosting this forum! Looking forward to another fine year of music and the gear to enjoy it on at home. You are appreciated, and would be greatly missed if you weren't doing what you do.

Mr.TAD91's picture

I'll ditto what zobel said. And happy holidays/Merry Christmas to all. This time of year I've been rewarding myself for hard work with long listening sessions. We're all very fortunate to have innerfidelity as a solid resource and Tyll as a reviewer. I am anticipating what the future holds for headphione and speaker technology in the new year!

m8o's picture

Yes, I'm very happy I bought them on a Massdrop drop.

Still waiting for Tyll to get his hands on a McIntosh MHA-100, especially to couple with the HE-1000; as almost every person to a rule who has heard the combination says it's the best they ever heard the HE-1000. Now I have to wait for a Sonorous VI review too? -lol

m8o's picture

p.s. this is in response to barun432 above.

lunaswav3's picture

Hi Tyll, happy almost new years! lol. Your reviews are truly in-depth & awesome! I had a small question regarding 2 particular headphones I was interested in acquiring. Have you done a review on the AKG K 142 HD yet? For the price and it's label as Studio headphones, I was interested in your opinion regarding them. Also, I wanted to get the cult-classic SONY MDR-CD900ST, and was just wondering what you'd think of them? Keep up the amazing work you do for us techie audio geeks, lol. Thanks! ♪

Also, I found IF through YT, lol. Cheers!

markm's picture

I'm a new Dharma owner. I just joined the forum after reading a number of Tyll's excellent reviews. I spent the past year putting together a little two channel speaker system. The "hub" of my stereo is the Nuprime DAC-10H. I was pleased to see Tyll's positive review as a I think it's a great piece of kit. With the DAC-10H balanced HP out, I decided it was time to upgrade my RS1 and purchased the Dharma last week.