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LFF's Enigma (new from the maker of the Paradox)

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by muppetface, Feb 18, 2014.
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  1. MuppetFace
    Presenting a new closed-back orthodynamic headphone: the Enigma
    This is the latest creation from head-fi member and sound engineer, LFF.
    No official launch yet, but folks have listened to these at the recent Bay Area Meet, so I thought I'd go ahead and start this thread to let people share their early impressions. I've got a "review sample" coming my way to try out as well, so I'll report back with my findings.
    A few preliminary details:
    ~ LFF says his goal for the Enigma is to have a more easy-going sound compared to the Paradox, but one that could still be considered fairly neutral like his other headphones. 
    ~ LFF says these will be fairly easy to drive, and some have even tested them un-amped from an iPod with good results.
    ~ All of the Enigmas are made by hand and carefully tuned by LFF.
    ~ Three finishes will be available: a wine color, a blonde color, and a special finish called "Suji."
    LFFunnamed-2.jpg LFFunnamed-4.jpg LFFunnamed-1.jpg
    Click on the examples above for a larger view.
    More to come...
  2. MuppetFace
    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.*
    anetode likes this.
  3. Questhate
    Got to hear these at the Bay Area meet. 
    These are probably the best closed headphones I've heard. I got to hear them back to back with the LCD-XC and Alpha Dogs, and the Enigmas were the only one to get the mids spot-on, in that they didn't have that "cupped" sound typical of closed-back headphones. I was amazed at how open these sounded. 
    Compared to the Paradox Slants, the Enigmas are tuned a tad more musical (touch more bass, notably), but definitely tuned by the same ear in that they are neutral-ish. LFF's "house sound" is flat. The Slants have a bit wider soundstage, while the Enigmas isolated outside noise better. As with all of LFF's headphones, they were detailed without ever being harsh -- no troublesome peaks in the treble whatsoever. 
    Good resolution, but that's hard to determine from meet conditions (unless its a headphone thats terribly un-resolving), so I'll reserve further judgment on the sound until I can get a longer audition. 
    Apparently, they're all custom made -- custom cups, custom drivers, custom headband assembly. LFF is a perfectionist, so the finish on the two models I saw were impeccable. The headband doesn't quite have that "heft" that people expect from a more expensive product, but I'm sure they were chosen to be light and comfortable (they were noticeably lighter than the Paradox). LFF told us a bit about his process, and it's apparent that a LOT of time and care goes into each headphone. Honestly, I thought the price of these were going to be twice as much as they actually are. 
    Wish I got to spend more time listening to these, as they were the highlight of all the headphone rigs I heard at the meet. 
  4. Greed
    I guess since the cat is out of the bag I can mention that I've been discussing these headphones with Luis (LFF) for a few weeks now. He mentioned them in a passing by type email when I was inquiring about his Code-X mod. Apparently his inspiration came from the HE-5 coupled with his mod which is supposed to be a large improvement over stock form. I was intrigued so I inquired for more information. I took the chance after hearing how much development and time went into R&D and the construction of these headphones. Luis mentioned these will come in three different wood finishes, and one being extremely labor intensive (Suji). The three wood choices include: Wine. Honey, and Suji. I found the story behind the Suji finish very interesting. Here is what Luis said:
    Hopefully this is okay with Luis, me posting. If not, Luis please let me know and I can remove immediately. 
    Anyways, I opted to buy a pair and to my surprise I'll receiving #001 according to Luis. I'll be posting my thoughts after I receive them and give them a good listen. 
    These have me very excited and after seeing a picture of the final model, these looks like a homerun. 
    sansfin likes this.
  5. I was in as soon as I heard about LFF's grandfather.  Too bad it repels insects, now I'll have to find something to pair it with other than the Dragonfly...
    Questhate likes this.
  6. Think it depends on configuration.  If you really want Luis to buff your wood like his grandfather used to, it costs extra.  But it will leave your wood harder.
    alv4426 and SoAmusing777 like this.
  7. zerodeefex
    They sounded wonderful in person at the SF Bay Area meet. Best closed headphones I've had the pleasure of hearing. They've got that LFF signature neutrality but skew over to a little musical and I loved them. Great isolation and the sense of openness was rocking.  I only had a short listen but when I got home and listened to my other headphones, I had to order them.
  8. DairyProduce
    How much do these cost?
  9. themad
    Thanks all for your quick impressions!
    I've just Googled for "Suji wood" a couple hours earlier and was amazed at how beautiful those finishes look!
    I guess I'm not the only one looking for excellent closed-cans based on orthodynamic drivers so these should be a pretty big success.
    By the way, I'm #3...[​IMG] 
    @MuppetFace , when should you receive your Enigma?
  10. mechgamer123
    Dammit guys, all these positive impressions are really making me want to get one when I can afford it... D:
  11. Questhate
    There are numbers thrown around, but it'd be more fair to leave it up to LFF to announce more details and pricing, as I'm not sure if it's finalized or not. I did tell LFF he could easily charge more, given the market and competition, but he said he'd like to keep the price as low as he can. I get the sense this project is a labor of love more than anything.
    Congrats on getting that Suji finish. They look *really* cool in person, and have much more character than a standard matte black cup. He did say they take a lot longer to finish, and sometimes he has to scrap a cup that cracks during the burning process, but offers them anyway because they're unique and badass. 
    Looking forward to reading your impressions when you get them. 
  12. MuppetFace
    I'm getting LFF's personal pair to audition in the next few days, as I agreed to do a write up for them. Haven't placed an order yet, but I will if I like what I hear. I'm a sucker for good closed headphones.

    I can let folks know via PM, but not publicly yet.
    EDIT #2:
    Once I post my impressions, I'll be able to reveal it publicly.

  13. M-13
    That price sounds very doable, even for guys like me. Loving it, can't wait to see photos and more impressions.
  14. themad
    Great! Your impressions are more than welcome.
  15. gelocks
    So... are you guys saying that these might FINALLY be my first LFF headphones?!?!?!?!?!?!?! :wink:
    To the members that did try it, how is isolation and leakage?
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