About the Warwick Acoustics Bravura Headphone System
A personal audio rig that looks, feels, and sounds special
The Bravura electrostatic headphone system delivers one of the most transparent, resolving sonic experiences I've heard — with bass you can feel.
A personal audio rig that looks, feels, and sounds special
Some headphones are known for certain strengths and sonic characteristics. But in terms of the overall listening experience, the Warwick Acoustic Bravura headphone system is one of the best I've ever heard. This complete, closed system includes the super-premium Bravura electrostatic 'phones and the dedicated Sonoma M1 amplifier/energizer needed to properly power them. The M1 features a built-in digital-to-analog converter that's optimized for this system, along with custom-made cables.
I was fortunate enough to spend about six weeks with this electrostat system, sitting right next to my home office. I auditioned plenty of other headphones during that stint, but my eye wandered often to this gorgeous combo of gear. And many times, I had to give into the temptation of those glittering, tinted magnesium earcups.
Detailed, revealing sound from an all-in-one system
It's called a "closed" system because the Warwick's Sonoma M1 amp/energizer/DAC and Bravura headphones are both intended for each other — and neither will work with headphones or amps from other companies. As you'd probably expect, these aren't the type of headphones you use on the go with your phone. Instead, this is designed for people who are downsizing from an ultra-high-end speaker-and-amp system or perhaps want something comparable for another room or for late-night listening.
The Sonoma M1 amp fits neatly on a desk or end table and feeds steady power to the Bravura electrostat headphones.
Warwick keeps the power clean and consistent
Electrostatic headphones require consistent power, which is why you need the special Sonoma M1 amplifier (sometimes called an "energizer") included here. This machined-aluminum workhorse is compact enough to fit in most desktop setups and serves up just the right amount of power — and restraint — for the Bravura headphones to excel. It's the exact same amp the company included with their renowned original Sonoma M1 electrostatic system.
Trickle-down headphone technology
While the amp has stayed the same, the headphones have received some notable improvements. Since designing that original system, Warwick developed their cost-no-object APERIO electrostatic system, which retails for more than $30,000. When designing the Bravura headphones, they took some of what they learned from creating that super-luxury system to further play to the amp's strengths.
My listening impressions
This Bravura system offers one of the best examples of that profound electrostatic transparency, where it feels as if the sound is simultaneously emanating from everywhere and nowhere at once.
The beauty in this system is that it doesn't really impose itself on the music you're listening to. That's not to say it's reserved — though it can be if the song or genre calls for it. But if the track calls for big and over-the-top, these headphones can certainly oblige. This headphone system is designed to allow a song's character to shine through rather than force-feeding you its own personality.
As I've noted with other electrostatic systems, when I put these on I get the sense that I'm almost "inside" the music, a part of it. Imaging is spot-on, rendering a genuine sense of place. Lead vocals were typically right in front of me, dead center, and there was tremendous instrument separation.
An event, every time I hit "Play"
I shouldn't overlook the rewarding ritual of firing up this headphone system. Hitting the satisfying power switch on the back, adjusting that oversized high-precision digital volume knob, and reclining with the day's first cup of coffee. It's a multi-sensory moment that often helped clear the early-morning fog from my head.
These electrostats seemed to serve every mood. They were as comfortable presenting an intimate acoustic set as they were a spread-out, dynamic orchestral production. Loud-to-soft moments felt true-to-life and layered, and midrange and high frequencies had presence and detail.
Realistic bass — that I could feel
But I really got a kick out of the bass. It's hard to get the same bass experience with headphones that you have with speakers in a room — where you can feel the low-end as much as hear it. Headphones that make the effort to do that often sound bloated, overextended, or like they're beating you over the head with bass. The bass response in these headphones was always natural — and even subtle and reserved when the track called for it — but it also delivered that impact I sometimes seemed to feel in my chest.
It was perhaps best illustrated by the album Philadelphia International Records: Dmitri From Paris Remixes. I was tipped off to this engaging DJ mix of old-school Philly soul records while I auditioned the Bravura 'phones. Dmitri From Paris manages to preserve the spirit and distinct texture of those classics from Harold Melvin and Teddy Pendergrass, while stitching them together with a thumping bass line. It packed plenty of punch, but not an obnoxious amount.
And most importantly, it was more of a grounded, visceral presence — opening up the sound, and allowing the rhythm, percussion, and horns to soar.
How do electrostatic drivers work?
In most electrostatic headphones, you have electrically charged diaphragms suspended between two metal stators. Warwick has developed a new type of electrostatic driver that only uses one metal stator per earcup, but the idea is the same. The diaphragms receive a fixed, high voltage, while each stator receives a varying audio signal to move the diaphragm back and forth.
Intricately etched magnesium earcups help protect the vitals and allow air to flow.
Driver improvements for lower distortion and stronger bass
For the Bravura headphones, Warwick has further refined their well-received High-Precision Electrostatic Laminate (HPEL) transducers. These hand-assembled drivers use a single stator design, which cuts down on weight and removes the metal obstruction on the side closest to your ear. That means you get purer and more direct sound — helping place you in the middle of the music.
Warwick has clearly addressed some of the feedback they received on their original headphones. I tried that original system, and really loved it — but did find the bass more "polite" than I usually prefer. Here, Warwick has tweaked the stator design and used higher-grade materials for bass that's deeper, yet that stays realistic and won't distort at higher volumes.
Snug, well-padded fit
Another area of improvement for the Bravura headphones is comfort. Electrostatic headphone drivers must be positioned next to your ears in a certain way to sound their best — similar to how crucial it is to be in the "sweet spot" for electrostatic speakers. So Warwick designs their headphones to fit securely and stay put, maintaining proper alignment with your ears.
While the previous generation Sonoma M1 'phones clamped a little too much for some people's liking, the Bravura sports a slightly more flexible yet sturdy headband. The earcups have better grip thanks to the Cabretta leather ear pads — a soft material often used to make professional golf gloves. It's a snug fit, but I didn't feel excessive pressure and could enjoy the headphones for entire work shifts.
The Sonoma M1 offers a USB connection, along with other digital and analog options.
Several ways to connect
The Sonoma M1 connected directly to my laptop via the included USB cable. From there, I could stream lossless high-res tracks via Qobuz. There is also a coaxial digital input, along with unbalanced RCA analog inputs and a 3.5mm miniplug on the back panel.
Makes all your digital music sound better
Two ESS Sabre DAC chips run in dual-mono mode to squeeze out lots of musical detail from digital audio sources — including Spotify®, Apple Music®, and YouTube. The DACs will decode high-resolution PCM-based music files up to 32-bit/384Hz resolution, and DSD files up to 11.2 MHz.
Warwick also applies 64-bit digital signal processing (DSP) to achieve their desired tuning. Again, it's all about optimizing everything for the strengths of the amp and headphone drivers. In this case, the desired frequency response closely matches a pair of "flat" loudspeakers in a room.
- Featured in our article: Best audiophile headphones for 2023
- complete premium electrostatic headphone system for focused listening
- "closed" system includes:
- Bravura electrostatic headphones
- Sonoma M1 headphone amplifier/energizer with built-in digital-to-analog converter
- custom-built AC power cable, USB-A to USB-B cable, and headphone cable
- designed, built, and tested by hand in Warwick's Nuneaton, UK headquarters
- headphone and amp are designed to work together as a set, and not separately
Bravura electrostatic headphones:
- open-back design offers spacious, transparent sound
- electrostatic drivers offer exceptional resolution with low distortion
- light, robust injected magnesium earcups with intricate pattern for optimal airflow and acoustic dampening
- Cabretta leather ear pads and hand-stitched leather headband lining
- holds headphones in place for a secure, comfortable fit
- frequency response: 10-60,000 Hz
- weight: 14.2 oz.
- Warwick's High-Precision Electrostatic Laminate (HPEL) audio transducer
- extra-large, lightweight diaphragm moves swiftly within electrostatic field
- single metal stator in each driver for purer sound and lighter overall weight
- delivers over-sized soundstage with pinpoint stereo imaging
- new stator design for deep, realistic bass response
- drivers are assembled by hand and carefully matched
Sonoma M1 amp/energizer/DAC:
- high-voltage energizer for powering the electrostatic headphones
- discrete single-ended, high-bias class-A output
- compact, machined-aluminum chassis
- dual ESS Sabre 32-bit/384kHz digital-to-analog converters for precise playback of digital sources
- dual-monaural design to eliminate interference between right and left channels
- supported audio files: PCM and DXD up to 32-bit/384kHz; DSD up to DSD128
- custom-designed 64-bit digital signal processing (DSP) tuned to a flat frequency response
- premium AKM 32-bit/384kHz analog-to-digital converter prepares incoming analog signals for custom DSP
- 7-1/2"W x 2-1/4"H x 11-1/2"D
- weight: 5.4 lbs.
- 1 USB Type-B input (cable included)
- coaxial S/PDIF digital input
- analog RCA stereo input
- 3.5mm stereo minijack
- proprietary pro-bias electrostatic headphone plug
General info and accessories:
- 6-1/2-foot detachable custom-fabricated low-capacitance headphone cable terminated by proprietary plug
- lightweight design with reduced microphonics
- high-precision digital volume dial
- tactile switches for power and source selection
- warranty: 1 year
What's in the box:
- The Bravura M1 Electrostatic Headphone System includes two individually-packaged components:
- The Bravura headphone box includes:
- Over-ear electrostatic headphones (black)
- 79" Audio cable (two 4-pin LEMO connectors on the headphone end and an 8-pin connector on the amplifier end)
- Quick Start Guide
- The Sonoma M1 amplifier box includes:
- Sonoma M1 DAC/Headphone Amplifier/Energizer (black)
- Power Supply with attached DC output cord (locking DC connector)
- AC power cord (IEC 3-prong US plug)
- USB cable (Type A USB on one end and Type B USB on other end)
- Quick Start Guide
Customer reviews for Warwick Acoustics Bravura Headphone System
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More details on the Warwick Acoustics Bravura Headphone System
Features & specs
|Earcup Width x Height|
|Mic For Taking Calls||No|
|Voice Assistant Access|
|Frequency Response||10-60k Hz|
|Parts Warranty||2 Years|
|Labor Warranty||2 Years|
Overview: The Warwick Acoustics Bravura M1 Electrostatic Headphone System consists of the Bravura electrostatic over-ear headphones and the Sonoma M1 DAC/headphone amplfier/energizer. The headphones and amplifier are designed to work together, exclusively, to provide an extraordinary listening experience. The headphones include a custom 2-meter (78") cable, while the headphone amplifier comes with a power supply and USB cable (Type A to Type B). The Bravura headphones and Sonoma amplifier are packaged separately, and sold together as a package.
Note: The Bravura M1 Electrostatic Headphone System comes in silver and this special Black Edition.
Bravura Headphones: The Bravura Electrostatic Headphones were designed from the ground up, and are optimized for playing today's high-resolution music formats. From the award-winning HPEL Transducers to the premium materials, Bravura Electrostatic Headphones are beautifully crafted for performance and sound quality.
HPEL Transducers: The headphones are equipped with Warwick Acoustics-designed High-Precision Electrostatic Laminate (HPEL) audio transducers. Originally designed for the Sonoma M1 headphones, Bravura's handmade HPEL transducers feature a new stator design and advanced materials that deliver super low distortion, wider bandwidth, and increased SPL. Each pair of transducers are individually matched for transparency and consistency. Each transducer has an effective diaphragm area of 3570 square millimeters.
Materials: The Bravura headphones feature premium materials for both comfort and performance. The ear cups are made of lightweight injection-molded magnesium for strength and acoustics. The ear cup cushions are handmade from fine Cabretta top-grain sheepskin leather. The headband's inner band is made from fine stitched leather.
Cable: Bravura's 2-meter (79") cable is manufactured for optimal signal transfer between the amplifier and the transducers. The Atlas ultra-low capacitance cable is made with silver-plated OFHC copper with foamed PE insulation and strengthened with Kevlar between the inner cores. The outside of the cable features a high quality woven Moplen braiding that resists wear and tear, yet feels soft and looks luxurious. The outer braiding is highly resistant to mechanical noise that might be picked up through the cable and introduced into the headphone. The cable is equipped with self-latching LEMO connectors at both ear cups and the amplifier. The 8-conductor cable is polarized, with 4-pin connectors for the left and right channels. The cable plugs into the amplifier with a round 8-pin connector, which has a red alignment dot for easy connection to the amplfier.
- Design: Open-back; Over-ear
- Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 60 kHz
- Weight: 14.1 ounces (w/o cable)
Sonoma M1 Amplifier: The Bravura M1 Electrostatic Headphone System includes the Sonoma M1 amplifier. Electrostatic transducers like the HPEL requires a high-voltage drive amplifier. The M1 is a high-performance, single-ended, discrete FET Class-A amplifier, with very low distortion and a wide bandwidth. The M1 amplifier is specifically designed and optimized for the HPEL electrostatic transducer. The amplifier has a significant drive signal with a maximum amplitude of 145 volts (RMS), along with 1350 V DC of bias. In addition to driving and energizing the tranducers, the Sonoma M1 has a high-quality digital-to-analog converter (DAC) for playing your favorite digital music files.
Outer Case: The Sonoma M1 amplifier is precision-manufactured for performance and low noise. The U-shaped base and side walls are CNC-machined from a solid billet of high-purity Aluminum 6063 into 5/16" thick walls. The 5/16" thick top plate, along with the bottom plate are vented with a special 3D-wave pattern to dissipate heat. The end plates are more substantial at 1/2" thick each, to accommodate the input and output connectors, the switches and the rotary volume control. The logos and labels are laser-etched into the metal to prevent fading or wearing. The M1 chassis is electrically conductive, and acts as a shield to EMI and RFI interference.
DAC: The Sonoma M1 is equipped with the 32-bit/384kHz ESS Sabre Reference Digital-to-Analog Converter that can deliver true high-resolution audio performance. Two stereo DAC chips are configured into a special mono mode for each channel. The resulting signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the DAC is 129dB.
ADC: Because the M1 amplifier has analog inputs, the incoming analog signals must first be converted to digital in order to process the signal to the target frequency response. For that, the amplifier is equipped with a multi-channel 32-bit/384kHz AKM Premium ADC chip (analog-to-digital converter). Separate channels are used for the low-level (3.5mm) input and the high-level (RCA) inputs, providing two independent, fully-optimized signal paths, and allowing the ADC to achieve the full dynamic range. The ADC has a super-quiet SNR of over 120dB.
Signal Processing: The audio signals are processed using a high-performance, multi-core 64-bit fixed-point XMOS processor.
USB Cable: The USB cable (Type A-to-Type B) included with the Sonoma M1 amplifier was developed and optimized to be used with the amp. Designed by Straight Wire, Inc., the cable has gold-plated connectors and a silver-plated data path. The cable supports all of the Hi-Res digital audio formats without compromise.
Power Supply: The Sonoma M1 amplifier has a precision-designed, two-part power supply that is optimized for superior audio performance. The amp comes with a custom Universal Power Supply that accepts U.S. (~120V) and international (~240V) input voltages. It is designed for stable, clean power, and to prevent noise from entering the signal path. The first part of the power supply is a custom-designed, universal voltage, outboard switch-mode unit, that is capable of delivering about 3-1/2 times the maximum power needs of the amplifier, so there's no head room issues. The unit uses a fixed frequency switcher that operates out of the audio band (> 85kHz) to prevent noise. The second part is a custom, high-quality shielded DC output cable with a large ferrite core filter to reduce EMI (electro-magnetic interference). The DC cable has the same braided cover as the headphone cable. It connects to the amplifier through a fitted, high-performance Switchcraft locking DC power connector. Inside the amplifier, the digital and analog sections are protected by isolated power stages and low-noise, high-current Analog Devices linear power regulators.
- Digital Inputs:
- USB: USB 2.0 Type B; accepts digital audio formats up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD (DSD 64/DSD 128) via DoP
- Coaxial: S/PDIF (RCA); accepts digital audio formats up to 24-bit/192kHz PCM
- Analog Inputs:
- Stereo RCA (high level): 2.1V (RMS)
- 3.5mm (low level): 850mV (RMS)
- Digital-to-Analog Conversion: 32-bit/384kHz, dual mono
- Analog-to-Digital Conversion: 32-bit/384kHz, multi-channel
- Signal Processing: 64-bit (double-precision) fixed-point
- Distortion + Noise: < 0.05%
- Bandwidth: 65 kHz
- Power Supply:
- Input: 90-264 Volts; 50/60Hz
- Output: 24V DC, 60VA, fixed frequency, Class B-compliant SMPS
- Internal: fully isolated, ultra-noise linear regulation
- Dimensions: Width 7.48", Height 2.24", Depth 11.42"
- Weight: 5.4 pounds