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 Orpheus exist today, and they typically fetch more than $US30,000 on Ebay.
I recently got to listen to a pair at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and it’s safe to say I’ve never heard music sound quite like this.
The listening experience is rather tough to describe, and I know audiophile headphone reviews can be tricky to detail without actually trying the headphones on for yourself, but let me just say these analogue headphones have a warmth that makes them sound truly one of a kind.
Songs were crystal clear, with both the highs and mids sounding so crisp and detailed that it almost felt like I had a miniature version of the band playing from within my ear canals. Bass was incredibly accurate but was far from the focus as the songs I listened to were mostly rock and folk.
I didn’t want to take the headphones off, and I was struck at the sheer amount of detail that exists in songs that you’d never hear with earbuds, Beats, or any of the other stylish headphones that sacrifice sonic fidelity for fashion, portability, or price.
The Orpheus is certainly a bulky setup — you couldn’t even move them from your desk — but their sound quality is truly out of this world.
Besides sounding fantastic, the Orpheus also have some rather unique features: You need to warm up the amp before you can listen, and there’s also a literal key that you need in order for the entire system to work.
And while headphone technology has continued to evolve since the Orpheus’ limited launch in 1991, the Orpheus is still a legendary benchmark for the quality of sound you can achieve when price is no object, and you can certainly hear the difference — I even came back for a second listen just to close my eyes and hear music at its finest, and I have a feeling I might stop by again tomorrow.
You can check out some more images of the Orpheus below.