Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Sennheiser Orpheus has blown my mind!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Sennheiser Orpheus has blown my mind!

post #1 of 80
Thread Starter 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #2 of 80

Orpheus was more of a statement, rather than a profit move. Back in the day STAX electrostats were dominant by a mile, so Sennheiser poured its money into developing the HE90 (Orpheus) to basically show that they as an audio brand are not inferior. Other statement products from the old days include legends like AKG K1000, Sony R10 and Qualia 010, STAX Omega, etc.

 

It's a shame, because those days are long gone. Nowadays mostly only boutique audiophile companies bother to push the boundaries with very few exceptions. Although the rapid growth of headphone audiophile hobby in recent few years may very well finally grab the attention of larger headphone / audio companies yet again.


Edited by jerg - 1/13/13 at 7:32pm
post #3 of 80

I remember the release of the Orpheus headphones and amplifier very well. It was a marketing exercise and it worked a treat for Sennheiser. The amount of press coverage they got was great advertising.

 

At the time I thought they were going to release a much cheaper, but still expensive electrostatic after the Orpheus.

post #4 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

I remember the release of the Orpheus headphones and amplifier very well. It was a marketing exercise and it worked a treat for Sennheiser. The amount of press coverage they got was great advertising.

 

At the time I thought they were going to release a much cheaper, but still expensive electrostatic after the Orpheus.

HE60, you mean?

post #5 of 80
well these days there are a few options out there that get you in the orpheus ballpark. the orpheus is Good, but honestly there are other phones id choose over them these days.

Neil
post #6 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by neilvg View Post

well these days there are a few options out there that get you in the orpheus ballpark. the orpheus is Good, but honestly there are other phones id choose over them these days.

Neil

I know you owned a HE90 in the past and sold it, how would you describe its sound relative to other major 'stats / ortho players?

post #7 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by neilvg View Post

well these days there are a few options out there that get you in the orpheus ballpark. the orpheus is Good, but honestly there are other phones id choose over them these days.

Neil

Your HE90 rig has forever etched its sound into my brain.  Thanks so much for sharing it at those meets.

post #8 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by jerg View Post

HE60, you mean?

 

Gosh yes :)

 

I just googled "Sennheiser HE60" and seeing the pics the memory of it has returned.

 

How could I have forgotten? :)

 
post #9 of 80
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by neilvg View Post

well these days there are a few options out there that get you in the orpheus ballpark. the orpheus is Good, but honestly there are other phones id choose over them these days.

Neil

Can you please be a bit more specific? If I was so impressed by the Orpheus, I'm nothIng but curious to hear something that is better yet...
post #10 of 80

Here's something to know -- the support and repair at Senn in the U.S. (Connecticut) is phenomenal.  They still repair the HE90/HEV90 and HE60 -- and say they always will, as long as the parts hold out (pretty good supply, they say, but they will not sell parts alone, which is why jacks for these are tricky to find).  I found a used HE60 on eBay in horrible condition -- dog chewed, smelled of smoke, the worst.

 

Senn made them brand new for a very reasonable price.  I paired with a used Stax 717 and a used HE60-to-Stax adapter, and the rig is unbelievable.  The bias voltage spec of the HE60 is close enought to Stax to make the Stax amp viable.

 

Senn also repaired the Orpheus I scored from a dealer a while back -- a cosmetically damaged demo unit that the dealer had "lost" in the backroom for years.  Genuine, #241.  Senn made it perfect.

 

I have tired the HE90 with other amps built for it that you find at CanJam but have not liked it.  It seems to only work with the HEV90.  Kerry is building a BHSE with a special Orpheus output, so I will test that when he is done.

 

When you are in the mood for a euphonic experience, to let a large ensemble wash over you (Symphonies, Choral works, Opera, well-miked live rock concerts), there is nothing, nothing in the world like Orpehus.  We have demonstrated this at every mini-meet we've ever had in NJ with high-end gear and golden ears (not me).  When you want to listen deeply to a female vocalist, or an intimate jazz group, BHSE + Stax 007 or 009 beat it.

 

I don't use either for studio-recorded album rock.  Just IMHO.

 

You would be well advised to watch for used HE60's ... there is no better purchase.

post #11 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by jerg View Post

I know you owned a HE90 in the past and sold it, how would you describe its sound relative to other major 'stats / ortho players?

 

If you haven't read the battle of the flagships article/magazine here at headfi, definitely look into that.  I generally like and agree with what is written in there.  It's hard to give a blanket statement or go through exhaustive explanations as compared to the others.  I will say the following - The Orpheus is not interested in linearity, or even representing what is on the disc in what is conventionally thought of to be as accurate.  There are definitely many headphones and monitors that go for/attempt that sort of reproduction.   The Orpheus, like a nice pour of wine or scotch, is meant to enhance - and in doing so, it creates its own world (with a very large head-stage).  Its main goal is sonic euphony, and like very high end speakers, it tends to work with some kinds of music/production styles better than others (such as speakers designed for classical, or jazz or even esoteric German speakers designed for modern electronica).  While, I believe the HE90 to be more versatile than this, it follows a similar trajectory.  It projects a diffuse sound-field which gives you a wide and deep feel, with a sense of articulation but without the bright/harsh/overly detailed edges that a direct and vivid picture can yield - in a way, it can be kind of likened to film or dare I say, analog tape (but technically, nothing like either obviously).  The bass response, while extended, selectively emphasizes (and also leaves out) certain frequencies which tend to enhance most playback material without creating either too much boomy-ness or an overly tight sound.  The upper-midrange follows its own rules too, especially in the frequencies most humans are sensitive to (mid/upper-midrange voicing in general is not necessarily forward but still detailed - almost slightly scooped sounding compared to darker headphones like the 002 and its related brethren).  

 

I've described this headphone and various rigs I've heard it in many times, and I've owned two Orpheus systems and 3 HE90's.  I'd like to use an example from the pro audio world to try to convey what the Orpheus is like:  The Neumann U47 microphone is considered to be one of the premier workhorse vocal and recording mics in the industry.  It's an expensive vintage tube microphone that costs upwards of 10K these days.  When you get the microphone properly setup in front of a good vocalist, what most people who tend to hear it for the first time seem to think is - 'wow... how remarkably UNremarkable!'.  Now while this may not sound like it relates to the HE90, it actually does.  The Orpheus doesn't jump out in any category or do anything so well that it unbalances the rest of the presentation.  A good microphone like the U47 is the same.  It is meant to fit into a mix while emphasizing the emotional quality of a performance - but almost magically, it doesn't do this by drawing undo attention to itself.  Rather, just like a good musician or songwriter who seeks to 'get out of the way' so the music can flow through, similarly, these top tier reproduction devices (and a musician is a reproduction device for the thought-forms that serve to manifest a potential piece music), tend to 'get out of the way' and promote the INability for our minds to give way to over-analysis.  

 

In other words, we just accept what we hear, it sounds 'right', and we don't think about it but enjoy.  The fun comes in snapping out of it and trying to nit-pick what it is they are doing. At the end of the day, most of it comes down to tone, speed (transient response), depth of field, and overal textural dynamics and detail (microdynamics).  The HE90 does this well, but all in a grand attempt to serve it's philosophical ideal: ultimate euphony.  

 

I went for a more abstract feel, but hopefully I imparted something.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kramer5150 View Post

Your HE90 rig has forever etched its sound into my brain.  Thanks so much for sharing it at those meets.

 

Hey man thanks a lot!  I enjoyed and actually miss coming to meets.  It's been a while and I hope to do so again.  ;)

 

Neil


Edited by neilvg - 1/13/13 at 10:42pm
post #12 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by neilvg View Post

 

If you haven't read the battle of the flagships article/magazine here at headfi, definitely look into that.  I generally like and agree with what is written in there.  It's hard to give a blanket statement or go through exhaustive explanations as compared to the others.  I will say the following - The Orpheus is not interested in linearity, or even representing what is on the disc in what is conventionally thought of to be as accurate.  There are definitely many headphones and monitors that go for/attempt that sort of reproduction.   The Orpheus, like a nice pour of wine or scotch, is meant to enhance - and in doing so, it creates its own world (with a very large head-stage).  Its main goal is sonic euphony, and like very high end speakers, it tends to work with some kinds of music/production styles better than others (such as speakers designed for classical, or jazz or even esoteric German speakers designed for modern electronica).  While, I believe the HE90 to be more versatile than this, it follows a similar trajectory.  It projects a diffuse sound-field which gives you a wide and deep feel, with a sense of articulation but without the bright/harsh/overly detailed edges that a direct and vivid picture can yield - in a way, it can be kind of likened to film or dare I say, analog tape (but technically, nothing like either obviously).  The bass response, while extended, selectively emphasizes (and also leaves out) certain frequencies which tend to enhance most playback material without creating either too much boomy-ness or an overly tight sound.  The upper-midrange follows its own rules too, especially in the frequencies most humans are sensitive to (mid/upper-midrange voicing in general is not necessarily forward but still detailed - almost slightly scooped sounding compared to darker headphones like the 002 and its related brethren).  

 

I've described this headphone and various rigs I've heard it in many times, and I've owned two Orpheus systems and 3 HE90's.  I'd like to use an example from the pro audio world to try to convey what the Orpheus is like:  The Neumann U47 microphone is considered to be one of the premier workhorse vocal and recording mics in the industry.  It's an expensive vintage tube microphone that costs upwards of 10K these days.  When you get the microphone properly setup in front of a good vocalist, what most people who tend to hear it for the first time seem to think is - 'wow... how remarkably UNremarkable!'.  Now while this may not sound like it relates to the HE90, it actually does.  The Orpheus doesn't jump out in any category or do anything so well that it unbalances the rest of the presentation.  A good microphone like the U47 is the same.  It is meant to fit into a mix while emphasizing the emotional quality of a performance - but almost magically, it doesn't do this by drawing undo attention to itself.  Rather, just like a good musician or songwriter who seeks to 'get out of the way' so the music can flow through, similarly, these top tier reproduction devices (and a musician is a reproduction device for the thought-forms that serve to manifest a potential piece music), tend to 'get out of the way' and promote the INability for our minds to give way to over-analysis.  

 

In other words, we just accept what we hear, it sounds 'right', and we don't think about it but enjoy.  The fun comes in snapping out of it and trying to nit-pick what it is they are doing. At the end of the day, most of it comes down to tone, speed (transient response), depth of field, and overal textural dynamics and detail (microdynamics).  The HE90 does this well, but all in a grand attempt to serve it's philosophical ideal: ultimate euphony.  

 

I went for a more abstract feel, but hopefully I imparted something.

 

 

Hey man thanks a lot!  I enjoyed and actually miss coming to meets.  It's been a while and I hope to do so again.  ;)

 

Neil

Thanks a lot for the description. Yeah from purrin's measurements the Orpheus does indeed seem to be very neutral on the grand scale, yet subtly coloured in very controlled ways on the upper end of the frequency spectrum. It's almost as though Sennheiser engineers were able to achieve near-perfect flat neutrality response, and THEN imposed the colourations.

 

 

It's interesting how it is one of the very few 'stats with a linear bass extension down to sub-bass (the other being HE Jade which is an Orpheus clone).

 


Edited by jerg - 1/13/13 at 11:36pm
post #13 of 80

Sennheiser makes legendary headphones..whats new? 

post #14 of 80
Quote:
Originally Posted by XxDobermanxX View Post

Sennheiser made legendary headphones..whats new? 

FTFY. HD800 is a good summit-fi dynamic headphone but that is about it. Senn's Orpheus was the ultimate, still is considered so by many even after it was discontinued for so many years.

post #15 of 80
now lets wait for a topic of the guy who prefers s500 over this. biggrin.gif
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphones (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Sennheiser Orpheus has blown my mind!