In 1990, Sennheiser engineers set out to create the best headphones in the world.
The result was the legendary Sennheiser Orpheus, a pair of $US16,000 audiophile headphones so sophisticated they even came with their own tube amplifier that looked like something taken from a mad scientist’s lab.
Only 300 pair of the original Orpheus exist today (and they typically fetch more than $US30,000 on Ebay), but on Tuesday Sennheiser announced the successor to the Orpheus, which you’ll be able to buy this year for around $US55,000.
That staggering price tag also means that the Orpheus will remain the most expensive headphones in the world.
So what’s changed since the original headphones were crafted more than 20 years ago?
One thing that hasn’t changed is what Sennheiser wants these headphones to represent: the pinnacle of headphone technology and sound engineering, a no-expense-spared benchmark to measure all other audiophile headphones by. Sennheiser says its team has been working on the new Orpheus for “almost a decade,” and each pair will be hand-crafted in Germany.
Like the original headphones, the new Orpheus are not designed for portability, they’re designed to sit on your desk like a piece of art. The originals featured a tube amplifier constructed out of wood, metal, and glass, complete with a key to turn them on and warm up the vacuum tubes. Sennheiser has gone for a more modern aesthetic for the new model, opting for a marble transistor amplifier that also “combines to perfection the advantages of a tube amplifier.” Sennheiser says it used marble shipped from Carrara, Italy, home to the same marble that Michelangelo used.
Each of the amplifier’s controls are created using a single piece of brass, and once you turn the headphones on, the quartz glass vacuum tubes rise up from the marble enclosure and emit their characteristic glow.
And while the design of the headphones themselves hearkens back to the original Orpheus, the new version loses the wooden accents in favour of a modern colour scheme that’s not unlike Sennheiser’s popular HD 800, though it retains the characteristic, oval-shaped metallic grill.
“It is able to deceive our senses in a completely unique way, creating the perfect illusion of being directly immersed in the sound,” Sennheiser CEO Daniel Sennheiser said of the new Orpheus.
You can see more photos of the new Sennheiser Orpheus headphones below.