A quick primer for non-audiophiles: Since 1990, Sennheiser's now legendary Orpheus integrated headphone and amp system has reigned supreme as the ultimate (and originally at $16,000, most expensive) personal audio listening station in the world. Many thought they'd never be dethroned. But after a quarter century, there's a new kid in town, because Sennheiser recently announced their successor, the new $55,000 Orpheus.
We've heard the original Orpheus (model HE 90) a couple of times. And while we weren't emotionally moved, it is definitely an impressive system in terms of the precise audio detail it's able to produce. According to our esteemed high-end audio colleagues at Head-Fi, this new system (model HE 1060) blows away the old one.
For sure, most people can't afford this, won't get a chance to hear it and wouldn't care if they did. It almost goes without saying that Orpheus isn't for everybody. But in a way, it is. Because this amazingly master-crafted electrostatic headphone and vacuum tube-based amplification system tests the boundaries of what's possible from a design and engineering perspective, in the same way as building aircrafts for human spaceflight. And maybe some day, the concepts and technology will trickle down into audio systems more accessible to us common folk.
In the meantime, for just a microscopic glimpse at what this new system can do, check out what happens when you hit the power button:
It sort of reminds us of how cassette decks used to slowly open in old boomboxes (before you were born). Of course, their bodies weren't extruded from fine sculptors' marble with chrome-plated brass knobs. But you get the point.
Photos by Sennheiser