Originally Posted by wnmnkh
Sennheiser HE-90, as far as I know, made about only around 500 units as well, and cost more than twice of Edition 5, but they sound truly fantastic and by many means really ahead of time. As far as I heard, due to extensive amount of R&D on electrostatic drivers and headphones themselves, they were actually not profitable, but a lot of meaningful stuffs came out that mattered for rest of us (i.e using same housing on HD580, then HD600 and then HD650).
Sony R10, now by today's standard it's just very, very good headphones, but when it came out, the sound was simply stunning as a closed-back headphones and it was very first headphones that used organic-material units that were later used on CD3000 and other lesser headphones.
So far, in headphone world, companies usually introduce things that at least bring some kinds of innovation. Even AKG's K812 brings some good departure from their traditional headphones (i.e tesla driver).
Now, look at the Ultrasone. I realized something was very wrong with this company when they were releasing a another new 'flagship' called Edition 9 when Edition 7 came out just mere 6 months ago, with mostly boasting cosmetic improvements.
From 2006 (when I finally bothered to register this forum) to 2013, Ultrasone, to this date, released total of SIX 'flagships': 7, 9, 8, 10, 12, and 5, and that's not counting all of the variations of special versions of Edition 8.. It's actually far worse than what AKG did to K701. If their sound have been improved and/or their product quality have been improved, I would not whine so much about this company.
Sure, companies exist to make money and I have no illusion of 'generous' company, but Ultrasone really pushes corporate ethics to the limit, and probably one of contributors on the cause audiophile industry lost young audience with all of nonsense and overpriced stuffs.
There are some ways to introduce 'luxury' without being unethical. Sennheiser provides custom color HD800 via Colorwave, Beyer features MANUFAKTUR, while not making a new, expensive flagship per nearly every year.
I know where you're coming from, and the argument isn't without validity, but one needs to keep in mind that the market can accommodate different desires and, subsequently, different expectations. The Edition 5 may be priced similarly to other headphones like the SR-009, the Abyss, and a second-hand R10, but at the end of the day I feel it caters to a different niche mentality entirely. All of the above mentioned headphones could be classified as "luxury," but then both a Lamborghini and a yacht could both be classified as luxury transportation. The items are analogous, but not synonymous. They cater to different whims.
When someone buys an Orpheus or an R10, they are buying an object that represents an almost Fitzcarraldo-esque fidelity to an extreme vision. Both are instances where the respective companies jettisoned all the bean counters and made something without compromise to the best of their abilities at the time. They tap into the same kind of mentality that surround Tidal or Magico speaker systems costing six figures, only on a much smaller scale. They are still very much statement pieces in that sense, but as you are aware they proved to be highly unprofitable at the time. However just as an artist gains recognition only after he or she dies, a very profitable second-hand industry has grown up around these headphones, as folks will often flip them for personal gain because these products now have a certain legendary status in this hobby. Now when folks buy these headphones, they are very much buying into prestige.
Sound does play a role in this to an extent, as the R10 and HE90 are both exquisite tools for musical reproduction. However I would argue that they are still very much overrated if one wants to be doggedly practical about these things; if one is going to insist on head-fier's arithmetic, then I think it would be highly unlikely that the R10 is five times as capable as the HD800 in any particular respect. At the end of the day though, attempts to assign price tags to these sorts of things become a little absurd. The R10 (I'll use as an example again, as I own one) is able to render strings in a uniquely emotional way, and for me that experience makes owning them "worth it." Now if someone else finds the R10 "worth it" because they happen to love the provocatively shaped zelkova wood cups, or if they feel that way because they feel special for owning a piece of head-fi history, then who am I to judge this?
The Edition series of headphones have always been marketed under two dimensions first and foremost: presentation of luxurious materials and collectibility. Unlike the R10 and HE90 whose scarcity was a function of non-sustainability, the Edition series is obviously a case of forced scarcity as they're limited from the outset. Audio-Technica does the same thing with their wooden headphones and anniversary models, only on a more subdued scale. The Edition models target a very specific kind of collector's mentality, and when you judge them from a pure fidelity standpoint they don't hold up to similarly priced competitors often times. However the masochist in me still thinks they sound enjoyable in their own way; Ultrasone are pretty forthcoming in acknowledging they're tuned with a very specific coloration, and models like the Edition 8 and 10 actually seem to appeal to Japanese tastes more.
The Edition 5 is almost sold out now. Of the 400 or so people who have purchased them, I'd like to think most aren't expecting the next word in fidelity, or a reinvention of closed back transducers. If people want to enjoy the Edition 5 because it's a ridiculously expensive and exclusive item, or if they want to admire the wood and leather, I wont sit here and begrudge them this. I imagine some of those folks will be businessmen who will listen to them for a few minutes and then stick them in the closet until a high profile client needs a gift. Others are probably collectors who are well aware of Ultrasone's M.O. by this point. I don't think Ultrasone is "tricking" anyone with the Edition 5.
Admittedly it bugs me when people want to act holier than thou just because 555 people want to buy an expensive item because they like the way it looks or it solicits a particular emotion that isn't tied to the perception of music's rational enjoyment. Different markets exist for different whims---and there's obviously a demand for stuff like the Edition 5---but for those who want a more 'serious' tool for music reproduction, Ultrasone makes the Signature Pro that costs significantly less and has a [relatively] more linear tonal balance. It's more competitive with a different, less exclusive luxury market which includes stuff like the T5 and TH600. The Edition models on the other hand are collectible objects in and of themselves, plain and simple; the name "Edition" signifies this clearly, as does their annual release schedule. The Edition 9 was actually a lower priced non-limited version of the Edition 7 that used less expensive materials and packaging, made as an alternative to those who didn't want to pay as much but still wanted to collect them.
I'm actually rather indifferent toward Ultrasone as a company, and I happen to feel a lot of what they do is ridiculous, but I feel it has its place in the landscape of our hobby provided folks acknowledge the impetus behind it. Someone buying an HD800 is probably not going to be sharing the same specific qualifiers and expectations as the guy buying an Orpheus, who in turn is going to differ from the one buying an Edition 5. All three of them are "luxury headphones," but all three of them cater to different mentalities that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. At the end of the day however all three are looking to derive pleasure from their respective purchases in one way or another. Often times I think we just like to feel personally victimized by some industry boogyman, as railing against perceived injustices (regarding a headphone we have no intention of buying) gives us a sense of fulfillment. We can play the part of an expert or crusader for justice. Or we can feel validated by thinking our desires are justifiable and reasonable.
Lastly, I don't think Colorware is officially part of Sennheiser. I think they have a contract to provide the service to their products.