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Some impressions on the Sennheiser Orpheus

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by jan meier, Jan 9, 2004.
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  1. Jan Meier Contributor
    Dear Headfellows,

    At the last IFA-show in Berlin the Sennheiser stand also showed one of the Orpheus headphone systems. Unfortunately the system wasn't connected and but when I discussed the system with one of the Sennheiser representatives he kindly offered to send me the unit just for a few weeks of fun.

    It thus happened that I had this noble system at my humble place during XMas-time and New Year's Eve. Not a bad way to spend the dark gloomy days!

    Only few of you will ever have been able to have a listen to the Orpheus so I thought it would be nice to share my impressions with you.

    [​IMG]

    The unit that I got is a rather old demo (Serial Nr. 0063) and is doing his duty on all the big HiFi shows in Europa, but at arrival it nonetheless looked gorgeous. The amplifier is heavy (13 kg!), looks like an altar of chrom-steel, and has an impeccable finishing. The headphone itself was much lighter then expected, extremely comfortable (large paddings) and the wood elements give it a truly classy look. The built quality was exquisit and it shows that no compromises were made in the materials used.

    The amp offers both digital and analog inputs but the built-in DA-converter has not been used. Given that this is a rather old design I didn't expect much of it and during more recent modifications of my CD-player I deactivated the digital output. Only the analog inputs were used.

    [​IMG]

    People might expect that sonically the Orpheus is like a very refined HD600 or HD650. However, at first hearing it becomes immediately apparent that this is not so. The HD600/HD650 have a deep and warm sound with a slightly recessed treble. The Orpheus is rather different.

    The Orpheus has a slightly forward and agressive treble and the bass, which is very tight and free of any distortion, shows a fabulous definition but also feels a little bit light. To be honest, as far as sonic balance is concerned I think there's more resemblance to a DT931/860 (at 120 Ohm) then to a HD600/650.

    The best of this headphone system is the midrange. Silky, smooth and extremely resolving. I know of people who don't like the CORDA amps that much, because these are "trimmed" for high resolution and because they prefer a more smooth sound. Well, if you're one of them, then don't try the Orpheus! You won't like it.
    This system will show you any imperfection in your source or in the recording. It's very unforgiving!

    In my opinion it's especially the treble where the Orpheus is less than perfect. The phone has this typical sissling character that I have heard with other electrostatic systems before and that is almost immediately noticed by everybody that listened to the system at my place. Within minutes (at different sessions) both my girlfriend Duveltje and my companion Harald asked me to connect an analoguer to the setup. The use of the analoguer didn't cure the problem though. It seems like the lower treble is also involved with this phenomenon. Almost needless to say that the phone tends to be a little bit sibilant.

    Soundstage of the Orpheus is very special. It's extremely broad and the acoustics of the recording location are very well heard. Strange enough I felt that the soundstage created was placed at the back of my head, a few centimeters behind the middle. That might be very personal though. No one else complained.

    With conventional headphones, with a relatively small driver, it always helps me to place the earcups a little bit to the front and below. The drivers thus do not radiate directly into my ears and soundstage becomes more natural and forward. The Orpheus though has a large radiating surface and the trick didn't help me with this system.

    I'm one of those people who can't really live with the extreme channel separation of headphones. The left-right panning of the sound of certain stereo recordings really annoys me. I guess I'm a crossfeed junk. Needless to say that I placed a crossfeed filter in between CD-player and amp to see whether I could improve the soundstage.

    The filter used indeed alleviated most of my problems. However, with a flat setting of the frequency response the lightness of the bass also became a little bit too apparent to my taste. Fortunately the filter allowed for small changes of bass and treble response that not only cured the bass but also reduced the sibilance. Total presentation simply became more relaxed and natural (to my ears that is!).

    You might feel from my comments that I don't like the sound of the Orpheus. Well, that's a mistake. Any flaws mentioned are generally much smaller than comparable flaws of more conventional headphones. Moreover, to me the Orpheus is a piece of Art where taste is (or should be) the all-important factor. I like van Gogh and Kadinsky, other people will prefer Rembrandt or Pollock. It's not the question which one is the better painter. The question is which one you like more.

    To my ears the Orpheus is the best headphone system I ever heard. However, sonically I feel it's not perfect.

    But who cares! I can't afford one for myself anyway.

    Happy listenings,

    Jan

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Taurui
    .... I can see my path now! Thank you!!
     
  3. john_jcb
    Thank you for your impressions Jan. It has been some time since I last heard one of these beauties and your comments brought back my memories of how much I liked it at the time.
     
  4. TrevorNetwork
    A very beautiful system. As always your impressions are a valued contribution to the forum. Thanks Jan!

    Trevor
     
  5. Trawlerman
    Great review Jan. Much appreciated.

    I get the feeling that as droolsome (is that a word?) as it looks on the screen, i'm sure it looks a million times better in the flesh as it were.

    It really is something for us all to aspire to. Such a pity that Sennheiser discontinued this beauty.
     
  6. Trawlerman
    Jan,

    Can I ask a question about the onboard DAC on the Orpheus if I may?

    I realise that the DAC would be around 10 years old now but surely it's not that bad in comparison with the average DAC fitted in a modern machine.

    Myself I use a Krell Studio DAC which is of the same age (around 10 yrs old) and although it's not state of the art anymore it sure puts in a good performance. Good enough that I have no immediate plans to upgrade any time soon.

    Prior to owning the Krell setup I used a Naim CD3.5/Flatcap and in direct comparison the Krell just destroyed the Naim in every respect yet the Krell was more than twice as old.

    Regards
    Mick
     
  7. Chefguru
    Quote:

    Originally posted by john_jcb
    Thank you for your impressions Jan. It has been some time since I last heard one of these beauties and your comments brought back my memories of how much I liked it at the time.




    I feel the same way. My desire for a orpheus has come back [​IMG]
     
  8. markl
    Thanks for the review Jan. It sure impressed me too, when I got to hear it all-too-briefly at the Headroom WOHT. I'm wondering if, given the age of the amp and amount of use it's probably had if the tubes might be on their last legs, maybe that is contributing to sibilance? [​IMG]
     
  9. jpelg
    Thanks for the impressions Jan. We don't hear to much about this setup, so it's nice when someone gets the chance.

    I can't help but shake my head though, when I hear a five-figure (over US$11,000) headphone/amp combo needs a crossfeed filter and an analoguer to sound better. I wonder if bypassing the internal DAC you eliminated a crucial part of the 'system' as a whole (despite the DAC's age), and that Sennheiser voiced it to be used together?
     
  10. Chefguru
    Quote:

    Originally posted by jpelg
    Thanks for the impressions Jan. We don't hear to much about this setup, so it's nice when someone gets the chance.

    I can't help but shake my head though, when I hear a five-figure (over US$11,000) headphone/amp combo needs a crossfeed filter and an analoguer to sound better. I wonder if bypassing the internal DAC you eliminated a crucial part of the 'system' as a whole (despite the DAC's age), and that Sennheiser voiced it to be used together?



    I think that the orpheus's hev90 amp is very weak. I've only heard the he90/hev90 and haven't heard the kgss or hybrid but from what I hear the he90 on a kgss( and hybrid) is much better. You can get the he90 solo for about 5000 and the kgss for 1500. So for 6500 the he90/kgss is actual a pretty good value, well for the best headphone in the world [​IMG].
     
  11. andrzejpw
    Quote:

    I realise that the DAC would be around 10 years old now but surely it's not that bad in comparison with the average DAC fitted in a modern machine.



    Although I haven't heard the orpheus's DAC (only through it's analog inputs), it really is suppossed to be quite atrocious.
     
  12. Canman Contributor
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Chefguru
    I think that the orpheus's hev90 amp is very weak. I've heard it the he90 ony any thing other then it but from what I hear the he90 on a kgss is much better. You canget the he90 solo for about 5000 and the kgss for 1500. So for 6500 the he90/kgss is actual a pretty good value, well for the best headphone in the world [​IMG].



    The HE90 / KGSS combo is indeed an exquisite pairing. Probably the most transparent combo I have had the pleasure of hearing.
     
  13. temhem
    Jan,

    Have you heard the R10?
     
  14. braillediver Contributor
    I woner what the Orpheus would sound like when used with a good Turntable?


    Mitch
     
  15. skullguise Contributor
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Jan Meier
    It thus happened that I had this noble system at my humble place during XMas-time and New Year's Eve. Not a bad way to spend the dark gloomy days!



    Wonderful review, and sounds like a great experience. But one question: do you REALLY see Christmas and New Years as "dark gloomy days" ? Is this just the weather there, or a psychological condition [​IMG]

    Sorry, had to ask.....
     
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