I was lucky enough to attend my second CES this year. As I descended to the lower lever of the south hall, the Sennheiser booth immediately dominated the view. However, there was a booth within that booth. The outer displays featured lots of commercial products; wireless, bluetooth and sporting headphones. While interesting, I completely bypassed those and headed directly to a glass cage of pure audio bliss. It featured the new HDVD 600 & 800 headphone amps, HD 700 & 800 over the ear phones, the outrageously priced in-ears IE 800 and a strange looking, retro-styled tube amp powering a pair of luxurious-looking headphones they called the Orpheus.
In all honesty, I had no clue what those headphones were. My first thought was that it was just another gimmick, maybe rebranded HD 650s to look retro for some kind of lame anniversary, so I didn't even bother hurrying over to them. Hesitantly, I had put them on and my life will never be the same. My jaw dropped, my eyes opened wide and goosebumps of joy sprinted onto my skin.
I don't care what anyone says, the Orpheus is the best headphone I have ever heard, bar none. As bad as the listening conditions at CES were, one could still pick out an incredibly detailed sound, perfect soundstage, perfectly balanced mids and highs and a crystal clear bass. They were plugged in to a tube amp, that comes with the set, which was plugged into a turntable playing back a Stockfisch audiophile sampler LP. Once I put them on, I hogged them for so long a Sennheiser PR person had to come by and ask me if everything was OK. My ears didn't wanna part with the headphones at all.
I pulled out my phone to immediately place an order on a pair, hoping they would be priced at a step above HD 800. Boy, was I wrong! As vast majority of you already knows, only 300 pairs have been made and at launch in 1991, they sold for $12,000. If you can get them today, second-hand, they can run you for up to $30,000.
Having spoken to a Sennheiser rep, they wanted to see how people would react to them. It smelled like some kind of revival could be in the works but it was really hard to tell since the original Orpheus was produced at a loss to the company.
I don't know how rare it is to audition these in person but I'm going to guess, pretty rare. So if you get a chance, jump on it, the Orpheus set is simply astonishing.