Early impressions - 2 / 27
The Enigmas have been here for a few days now, so I've had a little time to get introductions out of the way. I feel confident enough to speak about them now, but keep in mind I prefer to stretch my impressions out and comment over time, as I believe that's a better way of sharing impressions (at least for me). My mood, tastes, and listen habits aren't always consistent. While I may have been introduced to these, I still think it's going to take a while longer for me to really get to know them. Also I apologize in advance, but I've been a little stressed and haven't had a chance to take any good photographs of these yet; I'll try to get some posted sooner rather than later, time permitting.
The Enigmas arrived in a HiFiMan case. Since he mentioned there being a customized carrying case, I'm assuming this is a functional stop-gap for the time being. Knowing LFF this is also his having a bit of fun with me. Taking the Enigmas out of the case, I was immediately struck by how polished and pulled together they look for something handmade by one overworked guy. These are solid headphones. One thing to note is that they do not come with their own headphone cable. LFF says this was a decision on his part to keep costs down and not force anyone to buy his boutique cables. The connectors are standard mini XLRs, so this was no big deal for me personally as I had several Audez'e cables lying around that do the trick.
The overall build of the Enigma is well executed. The cups look uniform and consistent, and the Suji finish of the sample pair is an understated matte dark grey / faded black flourish. Those wanting something a little flashier should probably go with the more traditional wine or honey finishes. Otherwise the Suji provides a very unique and "well worn" effect, like a pair of black denims jeans mixed with volcanic ash. Personally I like it a lot. The frame of the headphones is metal and segmented to allow for size adjustments, adorned on top with a length of rubbery material. An [apparently controversial] strap of leather is suspended via elastics and serves as a self adjusting headband. The swatch of material itself is soft and flexible, full grain leather without any rivets in the middle unlike the above picture. The underside was a light brown in contrast to the black on top, and this kind of stood out a bit against the black and chrome everywhere else. Aside from that however the headband looked well integrated and as a whole the headphones were aesthetically pleasing to me.
The suspension system can be removed by lightly bending two custom made clips. I found it intuitive and straightforward. I found the top-most, rubber headband to be much less comfortable however, so I really don't foresee many people wanting to leave the leather swatch off. Easy removal is convenient for replacements however. Overall, comfort using the suspension system is very good for me personally. The fit is snug and the earpads are very plush. This makes for good isolation and long term wearability. One caveat for me however is that the metal sliders tend to snag hair, so removing the headphones can sometimes pull on it which is annoying. Also those with really big heads might find the clamping pressure to be a little much. A friend of mine has a rather large mellon-shaped noggin, and he actually found the Enigmas to be too tight after five minutes or so. Due to the metal headband however, I have a feeling the more big-headed among you could bend the assembly to relieve that excess pressure. I just didn't want to attempt this on the loaner pair since it's not mine! Something to keep in mind though. Another very minor quibble is that the adjustment sliders tend to not stay in place when the cups are pulled apart; they usually want to slide back up a bit. Once they're in place though, I have a tendency to forget about them like the Paradox. I find them quite comfy.
Driving the Enigma is moderately easy. They're not what I'd call a highly sensitive 'phone, but they're not power hungry either. Plugging them straight into my MacBook Pro or into my Sony Walkman Android players yielded good results. On the Schiit Vali or Leckerton UHA-6S however they really shined. How do they sound? Simultaneously accurate and relaxing. All of the LFF tuned headphones I've heard over the years have a linear and meticulously balanced sound; what makes the Enigma stand out from its brethren however is a more easy-going and mellow demeanor. To fall back on a metaphor: they're like a pair of prescription lenses, only rose tinted. You don't miss out on any details or nuances, but everything is presented in an inoffensive light. Less than stellar recordings are much more tolerable when channeled through the Enigma than on, say, the Paradox.
What makes the Enigmas worthy of their name however is the way they handle well recorded material. On tracks with better mastering, the Enigmas have a tendency to come alive. To say they scale up with better recordings is to miss the mark somewhat; no, it's almost as if the Enigmas wake up when fed high quality music. Put another way: they reward you for good recordings but don't punish you for bad ones. Most of the time the Enigmas have an effortless presentation and manage to sound open by closed headphone standards, but on certain tracks---once again---they light up and capture the recorded space in an uncannily accurate and convincing manner. This duality is perhaps why these headphones are considered an Enigma by their creator: just when you think you've got them down, they manage to surprise you and surpass your expectations.
Treble is comparatively less emphasized than the Paradox, but I wouldn't call the Enigmas dark. The bass has a bit of a boost as well, but I wouldn't call the Enigmas bassy. The midrange in turn is where these headphones really shine. They are, in a word, seductive. Though they never stray too far from their linear path, they have a certain inner warmth and glow to them that makes listening to certain genres of music especially pleasurable. They seem tailor-made for vintage recordings... R&B, jazz, soulful psychedelic rock. I'm reminded of times spent listening to vinyl records into the early morning hours.
These aren't for everyone, mind. This is a point LFF is keen to stress. If you're looking for something a bit more dynamic and nimble, something that can dig deeper into the recesses of a given track, I'd suggest the Paradox Slant as a more appropriate alternative. It was especially impressive to me in its ability to present a lively and engaging expanse of details and nuances. Accuracy is the utmost concern of the Paradox family. Even still the Slants and Enigmas are clearly cut from the same cloth to my mind. They both see the same things, just at somewhat different vantage points.
All in all, I can say I'm impressed by the Enigmas so far. I have a few relatively minor complaints regarding their construction, and I don't think they're for everyone sonically, but when they're dialed in and you're in the right mood for what they offer... *thumbs up.*
Edited by MuppetFace - 2/27/14 at 12:53pm