Hi-fi Corner: Behold the most expensive headphones in the world

senneheiser reveals 55000 orpheus headphones sennheiser 3 manual
When it comes to high-end audio, hyperbole is the marketing department’s prime directive. But when Sennheiser claims it has made “the best headphones in the world,” the company is dead serious. And although we’ve seen nothing more than a short glimpse of these sparkling cups of of sonic glory, on specs alone, we’re inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. Introducing the Sennheiser Orpheus.

Named after the original Orpheus HE90 (which carried a $16,000 price tag back in the ’90s) the new Orpheus are a second coming of sorts, bundled with a hand-crafted amplification setup designed to complete a sonic system that surpasses everything that has come before it. The price for this outstanding engineering achievement: approximately $55,000. To put that into perspective, you’d have to purchase two of these top-tier WA 234 Mono headphone amps from Woo Audio, along with a pair of the Abyss 1266 Deluxe headphones — and then throw in a gently used Kia Optima — just to get close.

So what do you get for that staggeringly opulent sum? Enough features to knock the wind out of your average audiophile, positioning the Orpheus less as a pair of headphones and amp, and more as a totally new kind of listening system.

The Orpheus are assembled from over 6,000 individual components, from their ivory stand of Carrara marble, to gold vaporized ceramic electrodes, and plush leather cushions. The headphones boast electrostatic drivers, lauded for their stark clarity and lightning-fast transient response. The system’s power is produced in two stages, the first of which is a hybrid transistor/tube amp with 8 quartz-glass vacuum tubes that pop up from their marble base automatically when switched on. The marble stand is a nice aesthetic touch, but also allows for decoupling of the tubes to reduce structure-born noise.

Related: KEF’s stylish M400 bring bass with balance

The second amplification stage is built directly into each of the Orpheus’ earpieces, and takes the form of a patented “ultra-high impulse” amplifier system, aimed at circumventing any power loss that might occur on the way from the amplifier to the headphones via cabling. Sennheiser Portfolio Manager Audiophile Axel Grell claims that in traditional amplification systems of this sort, only about a third of the power generated is actually used to create sound.

“Our approach was therefore to amplify the alternating voltage to high voltages not at the beginning of the cable but at the point where it is really required,” said Grell, “directly at the gold-vaporised ceramic electrodes in the headphones themselves.” The company claims that puts the distance between power and driver at less than a centimeter. In order to prevent distortion, the amplification actually transitions from Class A power, to Class AB at certain frequencies, a distinction that leads Sennheiser  to call its system a “Cool Class A amplifier.”

The frequency range of the drivers, which measure a mere 2.4 micrometers thick, is claimed to extend from 8Hz-100kHz — eons beyond the human ear’s capacity to recognize sound. Sennheiser claims this allows for all sounds that do fall in the audible zone (from 20Hz to around 20kHz) to be virtually distortion free — total harmonic distortion is listed at .01 percent at 100 dB. The cables themselves are built from an eight-wire collection of oxygen-free copper coated with silver to provide optimum electrical conductivity, and sheathed in an insulating layer to ensure noise isolation.

Connection options for the Orpheus system includes both balanced and unbalanced sockets, a S/PDIF Optical input, and a USB port. Digital to Analog audio conversion is handled via an ESS Sabre ES9018 chip, with a total of eight internal DACs (four per channel) at a top resolution of 32bit/384kHz. The system also supports DSD signals, including 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz.

The Orpheus will launch in mid-2016 with a batch of 6,000, all hand-crafted in Germany (they ought to be at their staggering price point). Having designed the system for the highest performance possible in the genre, Sennheiser is confident that the outrageous price will translate to a sonic experience that is unparalleled.

“No other sound reproduction system in the world is able to deceive our senses like the Orpheus. It creates the absolutely perfect illusion of being directly immersed in the sound,” said Daniel Sennheiser.

We’ll be listening to the headphones at a special event next week in LA, so we’ll find out if that is indeed true soon enough.

This post first appeared in our “brother site” Digital Trends.

Travel

What to Do in Mexico City: 33 Best Restaurants, Bars, Shops, and Destinations

CDMX is a vibrant metropolis filled with some of the best museums, eateries, and hotels in the world.
Auto

The HoverSurf Hoverbike Is a Real-Life, Star Wars-Esque Speeder Bike

If you've ever wanted to fly around your local park terrorizing neighborhood soccer moms, your time has come thanks to the Hoversurf Hoverbike.
Travel

The 4 Most Incredible Lighthouse Hotels in the U.S.

If you're a salty maritime soul at heart, staying at these lighthouse hotels will feel like coming home.
Food & Drink

Def Leppard’s Got Their Own Beer Now

No foolin’ — you’re going to need more than a photograph of this new brew from Elysian Brewing Company.
Food & Drink

The Best Playlist to Enjoy While Day Drinking

Next time you plan on day drinking, put on this Spotify playlist and ride the wave.
Living

What You Need to Create the Ultimate Man Cave for Music Lovers

Immerse yourself in sound and style with these products perfect for your own personal listening room.
Music

New Music Preview: Kamasi Washington, Neko Case, and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

June has plenty of new album releases in store, but there are three particular records coming out this month that we can’t wait to hear.
Music

Best Road Trip Songs: Hit Play Then Hit the Gas

Ah, the open road! It beckons us to cast aside responsibility, embrace the unknown, jump in the car, and just go. Take this mixtape with you.
Food & Drink

Sink Your Teeth Into the Best Summer Barbecue Playlist

Take your cookout from genetically modified slumping to organic, farm-to-table bumping.
Outdoors

Cut the Cord with the Best Wireless Headphones for Running

It's easier to get in the zone with your favorite tunes when you don't have to worry about pesky wires.
Music

How Bose Sleepbuds ‘Non-headphones’ Promise a Better Night’s Sleep

Replace snoring partners or screaming babies with soothing sounds to help you fall (and stay) asleep.
Music

The Best Funk Songs for Getting Down

From roller rinks to velvet lounges, funk is the grout between the tiles of life that keeps our bathtub all sparkly, scrubba-dub-dub fun.