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Excellent, but doesn't justify the price tag.

A Review On: Sennheiser Orpheus HE-90

Sennheiser Orpheus HE-90

Rated # 204 in Over-Ear
See all 2 reviews
Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $29,028.00
uchihaitachi
Posted · Updated · 20377 Views · 29 Comments

Pros: Warmth, Clarity & Spontaneity

Cons: Price

The Orpheus sounds fantastic. It is full of detail and clarity with a very flat frequency response. It also caresses the music, in that the music's presentation is very warm. The soundstage is excellent and instrumental timbre is very well replicated. These are my subjective listening experiences.

However, I believe the money would be better spent on speakers. I own a pair of Focal speakers that outperform the Orpheus at two thirds of the price. 

 

In a blind test which I performed on ten fellow classical musicians, which included the HD800, HD650 and LCD-3, the Orpheus did not outperform these counterparts to a significant level. In fact, a lot of them preferred the LCD-3 and HD650 over the Orpheus and the HD800. After the blind tests, I revealed all the headphones (the participants were blindfolded at first) and asked them to try these models again. As expected, the Orpheus gained unanimous approval after the visual stimuli. 

 

These experiences show that the high-end headphones often have negligible difference in sound quality; and that these differences get wildly blown out of proportion when visual stimuli is present. 

 

All in all, the Orpheus sounds great, but does it really trump the other high-end headphones at a comparatively cheaper price range (around the HD800 level)? I believe the answer is a definite no. 

 

As people have kept on asking, (I used the Beyerdynamic A1 as the amp). Used several power amps as well coupled with ESP100 adaptor just to see how it would turn out. (Most of these gear belong to my father, and it was done ad-hoc).

 

 

Sounds like you forgot to mention a lot of things. Like how you connected the 009 to the Orpheus amp, or how it's hardly optimal for driving an 009. A Beredynamic A1 huh. Let me know where I can buy this amp it sounds very interesting! There's a bunch more hurdles I was faced with when doing these blind tests but you should definitely answer these questions first.
 
I seem to be unable to add more comments?! As I said, there were many variables I couldn't control for. Sennheiser offers an adaptor for other headphone connections for the Orpheus amp. However, as I said, I used the A1 for all the others. And to those of who you ie Maxvla who is needlessly offensive, you should see how the ESP P100 is created. It's quite a simple resistor based adaptor so one can use serious power amps with your headphones with little or no risk.

29 Comments:

The blind test you performed is amazing. It gives the proof that the expectation bias has a strong effect (people changed their opinion, after knowing which headphone was tested) . Few people have the courage to do it, and especially with headphones that are so much expensive.
You should let me borrow these...
Oh expectation bias and placebo are very well documented in audio. A lot of higher end products tend to under-perform severely. But obviously, head-fi censors A/B tests and blind test discussions to the science of sound forums.... But it really annoys thinking that people will be led astray by hype reviews that seem to exist everywhere.
Blind test with headphones that all fit obviously different. No faith in that test at all.
Well, that is an inevitable compromise. Any sort of test with headphones will have to a degree fit issues. There is no way around that.
The compromise is still significantly less compared to IEM or CIEM tests.
Very awesome. The HE90 really isn't worth its massive pricetag.
I would, however question the ears you used to do this test. The average person will like the bassier, intimate headphones more than headphones like the HE-90 and HD800, which focus on detail and presentation. The HD800 and HE90 also lack impact, which is a major part of getting you involved in the music and is a deal breaker for some people when a headphone is lacking in that department.
@Maxvla and suddenly the fact that headphones fit differently makes them incomparable? I fail to see the logic behind your statement.
It's not blind if you know what you are wearing...
You don't... The participants don't know what each headphone feels like. That is obviously controlled for.
I would, however question the ears you used to do this test. The average person will like the bassier, intimate headphones more than headphones like the HE-90 and HD800, which focus on detail and presentation. The HD800 and HE90 also lack impact, which is a major part of getting you involved in the music and is a deal breaker for some people when a headphone is lacking in that department.
This is why I used Classical musicians. A lot of the music that was played were complex orchestral music, and I requested they pick their preference based on which headphone is the most realistic in reproduction and true to the recording. Other pieces included solo cello, solo violin etc and I requested that they pick based on timbre reproduction. Especially for solo violin pieces (Bach Chaconne droool), the bassier and wow element tends to get removed from the judgement process.
I have compared my Senn HE60 and Stax SR007 MK1 at different times.
If I do a comparison hwere I swap the headphones back and forth, I find the HE60 far more appealing.
If I pack the HE60 away it takes about 3 songs for the Stax to reveal it's timbre and detail to it's fullest extent.
I have no doubt that the Stax is the better headphone, it's just that I find the Senn HE60 more addictive to listen to.
I truly believe this phenomenon is a trap to watch out for when comparing different headphones.
You should take a picture of your setup with the Orpheus and these other phones. I want some visual stimuli.
The comparisons are not for a short duration. Of course, there is the addictive quality of the Orpheus but I am using seasoned musicians to tell me which headphone sounds truest to the recording followed by what signature do you prefer.
Again we are going to need a picture of the setup. What amps were used for the LCD-3/HD800s? Were all these driven by the same source (how did you manage to accomplish that???) How was the test conducted? How is it a blind test if they can feel the difference between the headphones?
The amp section of the Orpheus, Goldmund Telos 5000 and the
Onkyo PA-MC5500 Power Amp. Both, among the best amps out there specifications wise. In one of my past display pictures will be the basement studio room where I did the tests and that is the source I used. The one in the centre, I don't remember what it is called.
I currently have exams and am going back to Seoul in a few weeks time I will upload the pictures then. I am in London atm.
Again, the blind test has its limitations, but the participants didn't know what feels like what and swapping the order of headphones around will make it even more difficult to know. But Yes I did this on an ad-hoc basis and of course there are limitations to the variables I can control. The amp/source I used belong to my father. With regards to the source, I will need to ask my father. Sorry about the lack of pictures at present, I don't have a nice camera and the only things I take photos of tend to be big large speakers.
You drove the LCD-3 and HD800 from power amps? Anyways since you can't take some pictures can you share your method of blind testing with us?

You see I bought two 009's some time ago to do a blind test on a selection of electrostatic amps. I would love to hear how you performed your test and learn from your methods.
This is why I used Classical musicians. A lot of the music that was played were complex orchestral music, and I requested they pick their preference based on which headphone is the most realistic in reproduction and true to the recording. Other pieces included solo cello, solo violin etc and I requested that they pick based on timbre reproduction. Especially for solo violin pieces (Bach Chaconne droool), the bassier and wow element tends to get removed from the judgement process.
Well then, that makes much more sense. Though it's impossible to have a completely unbiased test, I feel this is the closest you're going to get to it. Well done.
You drove the LCD-3 and HD800 from power amps? Anyways since you can't take some pictures can you share your method of blind testing with us?

No I used the Beredynamic A1 (sorry I forgot to mention) and the Orpheus headphone amp for all the headphones. But to satiate my need for pointless tinkering, I paired the headphones with the power amps ESP P100 just to see how it would turn out (and it was fine). More of a pointless electronics tinkering exercise.
Sounds like the whole thing is BS.
Sounds like you forgot to mention a lot of things. Like how you connected the 009 to the Orpheus amp, or how it's hardly optimal for driving an 009. A Beredynamic A1 huh. Let me know where I can buy this amp it sounds very interesting! There's a bunch more hurdles I was faced with when doing these blind tests but you should definitely answer these questions first.
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