German workmanship and engineering has always been associated with quality and luxury. They produce some of the world’s best cars, tools, porcelain, watches, glasses and electronics. Sennheiser is one of these German companies, a family business founded in 1945, that is famous for its high fidelity products, especially headphones and headsets.
In the 80’s the company decided to make the world’s best headphones, and after nearly 10 years development, in 1991, the company’s engineers presented the Orpheus. Sennheiser made 300 sets which sold for $16,000 each. Twentyfive years later, the company has introduced a new version of the legendary headphone; the same name but with state-of-the- art technology and a $55,000 price tag. For the price a customer should expect a lot, and gets a lot.
The amplifier has eight vacuum tube amplifiers combined with transistor amplifiers, built into a slab of italian marble. After turning it on you have to wait a moment until the tubes warm up, like old tube radios and TVs, very cool. The engineers explain the use of marble so “The decoupling of the tubes in combination with the damping properties of the marble has the effect of reducing structure-borne noise to an absolute minimum,”
The headphones are electrostatic and have amplifiers in the cups to compensate for the loss of signal caused by the cable, making it 200% more efficient than anything else available on the market. Naturally Sennheiser used gold wherever they could, silver cables, aluminium cups, “handmade ear pads of finest leather and a soft, allergen-free velour/microfibre construction”, and to round things up “each dial is milled from a single piece of brass before being plated with chrome.”
There is a lot of technical finesse put into the headphones, that not every potential customer might understand, and 55 grand is something that not every audiophile, capable of understanding, can afford. But I doubt anyone will challenge Sennheiser’s claim that the Orpheus is the best headphone in the world.