The Sennheiser Orpheus 2? A First Look At The Sennheiser HE-1 (The New Orpheus)
Jan 6, 2016 at 9:02 PM Post #1,381 of 2,776
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Two trophies to honor the ultimate sound experience

Sennheiser’s ground-breaking Orpheus named CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honoree

 
Sennheiser has been named a CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honoree for its state-of-the-art Orpheus headphones. Just recently announced, the electrostatic headphone system has been honored in both the ‘Headphones’ Category and the ‘High Performance Home Audio-Video’ Category. Sennheiser’s Orpheus, which will be hand-crafted in Germany and available from mid-2016, impressed the jury with its combination of the most innovative technology with carefully selected materials and highest-quality craftsmanship. It is a masterpiece that has its price: the high-end headphones will cost around € 50,000. Products entered in the prestigious CES Innovation Awards program are judged by a preeminent panel of independent industrial designers, engineers and members of the trade media to honor outstanding design and engineering in cutting-edge consumer electronics products across 27 product categories.
 
  [size=inherit]“With the new Orpheus, Sennheiser has set out to push the boundaries of high end audio, making no compromise as we set out to create the best headphones in the world,” said Maurice Quarré, Director Business Segment Select & Audiophile at Sennheiser. “The new Orpheus is the successor to our 1990/1991 iconic Orpheus, which set the benchmark for that generation. The incredible critical response to the launch of the new Orpheus – epitomized by this honor from the CES Innovation Awards – is a recognition that Sennheiser is succeeding in shaping the future of the audio world.”[/size]
 
 
  “With the new Orpheus, Sennheiser has set out to push the boundaries of high end audio, making no compromise as we set out to create the best headphones in the world,” said Maurice Quarré, Director Business Segment Select & Audiophile at Sennheiser. “The new Orpheus is the successor to our 1990/1991 iconic Orpheus, which set the benchmark for that generation. The incredible critical response to the launch of the new Orpheus – epitomized by this honor from the CES Innovation Awards – is a recognition that Sennheiser is succeeding in shaping the future of the audio world.”
 
Officially announced in November 2015, the Orpheus surpasses every other existing headphone system by offering the ultimate in reproduction precision, with the lowest total harmonic distortion that has ever been measured in an audio reproduction system, exceptional spatiality and a frequency response that extends far beyond the range of human hearing ability.
 
To make this possible, a team of Sennheiser experts spent almost a decade continuously working against the limits of what is technically feasible – and once again created the best headphones in the world. The Orpheus uses an innovative amplifier concept that combines to perfection the advantages of a tube amplifier with those of a transistor amplifier.

 
“The advantage of tube amplifiers is their superior impulse processing,” said Axel Grell, Portfolio Manager Audiophile at Sennheiser. “However, one challenge is their sensitivity to structure-borne-noise. For this reason, the amplifier housing was crafted from Carrara marble and is freely suspended with the amplifier.”
 
 
  The decoupling of the tubes in combination with the damping properties of the marble has the effect of reducing structure-borne noise to an absolute minimum. The tubes themselves also have a high-quality patent-pending enclosure consisting of quartz-glass bulbs that perfectly shield them from their surroundings. The tube amplifier stage is followed by a patented ultra-high impulse amplifier stage that is directly integrated into the cups of the headphones. The result is impressive: a 200 percent rise in efficiency compared to other products.
 
Meticulous attention was paid to every detail of the material selection for the Orpheus in order to fully exploit the sound potential of the reference headphones. Each of the more than 6,000 individual components was carefully chosen, their acoustic characteristics were evaluated and finally the optimum combination was put together. In other examples of this uncompromising design ethos, Sennheiser used gold-vaporized ceramic electrodes and platinum-vaporized diaphragms to ensure the outstanding performance of the acoustic unit. 
 
About the CES Innovation Awards
The prestigious CES Innovation Awards are sponsored by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)TM, the producer of CES 2016, which runs January 6-9, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES is the global gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies, and have been recognizing achievements in product design and engineering since 1976. Entries are evaluated on their engineering, aesthetic and design qualities, intended use/function and user value, how the design and innovation of the product directly compares to other products in the marketplace and unique/novel features present. Products chosen as CES Innovation Honorees reflect innovative design and engineering in some of the most cutting edge tech products and services coming to market. They are featured on CESweb.org/Innovation.
 
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Jan 7, 2016 at 12:38 AM Post #1,383 of 2,776

chowmein83

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  If I drive to Las Vegas tomorrow what's my chances of getting to test these out?

 
I was just at CES, so I can answer this question. I think you have a good chance - the way it works is that there is a separate enclosed room set up at the Sennheiser booth. There will be a lady (and possibly a man) if it's the same people as today in front of the door to the enclosed room. Talk to them, and while they'll probably tell you that all of the reservation slots have already been filled, they'll probably be flexible and let you in if you wait a while.
 
Of course, I could just have been lucky. It did help that when I arrived to listen to it, Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity also came at the same time to listen to it (and Sennheiser's new 3D audio tech).
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 1:14 AM Post #1,384 of 2,776

chowmein83

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Hi everybody, I was extremely fortunate to be able to listen to both the new Orpheus HE1060 from Sennheiser and the new Shangri-La (from now on which I will refer to as SL because I don't want to keep typing the name out) headphone from Hifiman and at CES. I will also be doing some comparisons between the two headphones and the Hifiman HE1000, which I do own and am quite familiar with.
 
I was able to get some listening time in Sennheiser's specially prepared enclosed room at their booth at CES. Basically, Sennheiser set up a room that was somewhat sound-proofed from the outside and even had sound-absorbing foam inside the room to reduce the level of sounds that did come in. No, it wasn't entirely ideal (very occasionally the booth next door named Earthquake Subwoofers literally shook up the entire room), but turn the volume up and it was good enough to get some impressions on the new Orpheus.
 
The setup I listened the new Orpheus was through some kind of Marantz SACD player. If I am not mistaken, the SACD player was also doing the decoding (the digital-to-analog conversion) and sent the analog signals to be amplified by the marble amp and the actual units inside the Orpheus earcups.
 
I was only able to listen to the Eagles' Hotel California (not the live version, but the studio version) on SACD. I also was only able to listen to it for a few minutes, but it was a few minutes where I was trying to actively analyze the sound. I will admit that this may have had an effect on the impressions I am about to provide below.
 
Before I get into the sound, I want to say a few words on the new Orpheus' build quality and comfort. The thing is really well-built and feels like luxury. It's also not extremely heavy, so combined with its moderate clamp it feels quite comfortable on the head.
 
To spoil (almost) the entire sound story, the new Orpheus is probably the best headphone I have ever heard, alongside the new Hifiman SL.
 
To get into more specifics, first of all The new Orpheus has a tonality more like the HD800S (which I also heard at CES), but perhaps maybe slightly warmer. I would say that the new Orpheus' mids and treble are slightly less sharper than on the HD800 but also has harder-hitting bass. In comparison to the SL (which adopts a somewhat more HE1000 tonality), the new Orpheus does sound a bit cold. But only in comparison to the SL. IMO I think the SL has the more natural tonality, so that vocals and instruments sound more true to life than in the new Orpheus.
 
Secondly, the Orpheus has a pretty large soundstage, in terms of both width and depth. It is a bit smaller than the HD800 in terms of width, but I would say both are fairly similar in terms of depth. In comparison to the HE1000 and the SL (those two have fairly similar soundstage sizes, with perhaps the SL having a slightly wider soundstage), the new Orpheus is a bit smaller in terms of width but similar in terms of depth.However, I do prefer the soundstage of the SL and the HE1000 - to me, the HFM headphones sound more speaker-like while the new Orpheus sounds more headphone-like, kind of like the HD800. IMO the Hifiman headphones sound more natural. But this is not to say that the new Orpheus has a bad soundstage - in fact, it really is quite impressive compared to many high-end headphones out there..
 
As for separation, the new Orpheus is really quite good - pretty much better than anything out there, except for the SL which matches it and with perhaps the HD800 only very slightly lacking (or maybe even matching - I'm not sure). The new Orpheus surpasses the HE1000 here - instruments are simply separated more clearly. However, I believe some may actually prefer the HE1000 here over the new Orpheus and the SL, because while sounds aren't as cleanly delineated as in the two electrostats, some may think it sounds more organic and more like a cohesive whole. I am not saying that the new Orpheus and the SL have unnaturally good separation, but I feel the way that both handle this aspect is more like Sennheiser's HD800 (and even HD700) and less like the HE1000.
 
Imaging is excellent, no other way to describe it. I would say at least on Stax SR-009 level, if not better. I do think that the SL does match the new Orpheus in this aspect. However, I really feel that the HE1000 really isn't lacking at all here compared to the much more expensive headphones.
 
Bass on the new Orpheus hits hard and is extremely well-controlled. Honestly, the way the bass is presented is actually quite similar to the SL. Both have some really good punch and the bass on both never overstays its welcome. However, for my personal preferences I actually prefer the the bass of the HE1000, which to me probably hits slightly harder, is just as well-controlled, but more importantly gives me more of a sense of awe because it feels like the bass manages to permeate the entire soundstage evenly without having a identifiable central point. On the SL and the new Orpheus, the bass just hits and it seems to be in the center - doesn't give me the same sense of awe. I hope I explained that well. I don't know, maybe I just prefer planar bass.
 
(The above paragraph may seem very similar to a certain paragraph in my Hifiman SL imrpessions. That is because honestly, I really feel that the new Orpheus and SL handle bass in an extremely similar way.)
 
Mids and highs on the new Orpheus are sharp but not sibilant, which the HD800 original can be at times. I think the way they are presented is actually kind of similar to how it is in the HD800S (hence being slightly less sharp than on HD800 original). But they do sound a bit thinner in comparison to the SL, which is probably a consequence of the new Orpheus' overall frequency response.
 
As for detail levels, I think it's clear that the Orpheus retrieves more detail and deals with fast-paced music even better than the HE1000. The new Orpheus really does have that quickness to it that I have also experienced with other high-end electrostats, namely the Stax SR-009 and the Hifiman SL. Seriously, detail retrieval is extremely good on the new Orpheus - probably better than HD800 (itself a detail monster) and at least as good as Stax SR-009. In this respect I do feel that the new Orpheus is on par with the SL, which is also excellent in fishing out the details. However, once again, I really feel that the HE1000 is not that far behind, and perhaps is a different presentation in that the details are there but it doesn't throw it more in your face like I have found with the SL and the new Orpheus.
 
Overall, I feel that the new Orpheus and the SL are on par with each other in terms of sound quality. They do some things differently (the new Orpheus adopts a more HD800S tonality and a more headphone-like soundstage, while the SL adopts a somewhat more HE1000 tonality and a a more speaker-like soundstage), but overall I feel that which is better to the listener will be a matter of preference. However, I seriously feel that headphones like the HE1000 and the Stax SR-009 are not very far behind at all in terms of sound quality either. Sure, these new electrostats from Hifiman and Sennheiser are really better than everything else that has come before IMO, but it really isn't that big of a leap.
 
I do understand that I will probably be criticized for a number of factors, including the fact I wasn't able to listen to it for a very long time and that listening conditions weren't entirely ideal. But as Tyll Herstens said when I asked him about the headphone, if I wasn't entirely blown away by it, the Sennheiser has failed in their mission.
 
Well to me, Sennheiser has failed in blowing me away but they did not fail in making the world's best headphones (well maybe it shares this position with Hifiman's new electrostat). However, I probably am not the type of customer that Sennheiser is looking for in this product.
 
Hopefully people found this helpful and interesting! And thanks to the really nice staff at Sennheiser who accommodated my request to listen to the new Orpheus without prior reservation. I actually feel kind of bad writing this because of that.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 2:42 AM Post #1,385 of 2,776

Don Wolfberg

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How 
   
I was just at CES, so I can answer this question. I think you have a good chance - the way it works is that there is a separate enclosed room set up at the Sennheiser booth. There will be a lady (and possibly a man) if it's the same people as today in front of the door to the enclosed room. Talk to them, and while they'll probably tell you that all of the reservation slots have already been filled, they'll probably be flexible and let you in if you wait a while.
 
Of course, I could just have been lucky. It did help that when I arrived to listen to it, Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity also came at the same time to listen to it (and Sennheiser's new 3D audio tech).

How did it sound? What were you able to listen to and how much time did you get it?
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 3:28 AM Post #1,386 of 2,776

chowmein83

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  How 
How did it sound? What were you able to listen to and how much time did you get it?

 
My impressions of the sound are in the post right above yours.
biggrin.gif

 
I was only able to listen it to about 5 minutes (apparently I was shooed out the door since there was lots of other people who also wanted to listen) and I only was able to listen to one track - Hotel California (not the live version from Hell Freezes Over) by the Eagles on SACD.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 5:17 AM Post #1,387 of 2,776

Don Wolfberg

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My impressions of the sound are in the post right above yours.
biggrin.gif

 
I was only able to listen it to about 5 minutes (apparently I was shooed out the door since there was lots of other people who also wanted to listen) and I only was able to listen to one track - Hotel California (not the live version from Hell Freezes Over) by the Eagles on SACD.

What would you recommend I bring with me in case I get a chance to listen? What format/storage medium should the music be on?
 
Could I bring in a Beatles album on SACD?
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 10:55 AM Post #1,388 of 2,776

chowmein83

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What would you recommend I bring with me in case I get a chance to listen? What format/storage medium should the music be on?

Could I bring in a Beatles album on SACD?


I actually didn't mean you should bring anybody in with you to get a chance to try the new Orpheus. I was just making a light-hearted remark on why I may have gotten in. Just talk to the nice staff at Sennheiser and they'll probably try to get you in.

You can trying bringing in your own SACD, but unfortunately I doubt they'll let you play it. The listening experience is somewhat controlled.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 11:13 AM Post #1,389 of 2,776

icebear

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....  
I do understand that I will probably be criticized for a number of factors, including the fact I wasn't able to listen to it for a very long time and that listening conditions weren't entirely ideal. But as Tyll Herstens said when I asked him about the headphone, if I wasn't entirely blown away by it, the Sennheiser has failed in their mission.
 
Well to me, Sennheiser has failed in blowing me away but they did not fail in making the world's best headphones (well maybe it shares this position with Hifiman's new electrostat). However, I probably am not the type of customer that Sennheiser is looking for in this product.
 
Hopefully people found this helpful and interesting! And thanks to the really nice staff at Sennheiser who accommodated my request to listen to the new Orpheus without prior reservation. I actually feel kind of bad writing this because of that.

Thanks for sharing your impressions.
 
One (OK some) word(s) of caution though: If any piece of equipment is "blowing you away" in a short listening session, chances are that you won't be long term happy with it. Anything immediately impressive one way or another is putting emphasis on certain aspects, to excite, to stimulate. Like high contrast, sharpened, "vivid" settings in big ass TV stores. Impressive in comparison to the more well balanced rest on the wall but surely getting on your eyes/nerves long term.
 
For me high fi / esp. high end is about accurate reproduction of a musical performance, not about playing with some sliders (or other design tools) to excite. Really good equipment will not be artificially exciting during the first listen but it will give years of listening enjoyment. The "blowing you away" toy will maybe last 6 month before something new will come along blowing into another direction
wink.gif
. Just my $0.02.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 7:47 PM Post #1,390 of 2,776

ToroFiestaSol

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I think that you really must want to have an Orpheus 2/Shangri-La to buy it, because 40-50k puts you in super speaker system territory.
The best sound that I heard in my life was at a demo, in a custom treated and soundproofed room. If you are skilled/have friends who're engaged in construction, you can soundproof a 35 square meters room like the one I talk, for 5000€.
Hiring a professional acoustician and doing a custom treatment to a room of that dimensios costs, more or less, another 5.000€.
 
Custom treated room/soundproofed room: 10.000€
 
The speaker system was:
 
Piega Coax 30.2: 8500€
Devialet 400: 13000€
Melco N1Z: 8000€
Baetis Reference Server: 15000€
Vovox power cables & Piega Three speaker cables: 2000€
 
Total cost of the system, including the room:  56.500€
 
I've never heard the original Orpheus, the new Orpheus, any Stax or even the HD800, the best headphone that I've ever heard (and owned for 3 months) was the AKG K812, driven by my Audient ID22.
 
Okay, the speaker system was WAY MORE detailed than my K812, but with a sweet analogue tone. The best of the system was the holographic bigger than real life soundstage, filled up the entire room, wall to wall, floor to ceiling, front to back, it's impossible for a headphone to have that level of soundstage, the depth was astonishing, and the speakers were imaging with laser like precision. Another thing that is impossible for any headphone of the planet is that bass performance, with Devialet's SAM the lows extended to a real 19 hz and bass was lighting fast, with real physical impact and perfectly integrated with the Coaxial Ribbon midrange-tweeter of the Piegas.
Remember that we're talking of a pair of speakers that cost less than 10k but with a proper setup, if you go crazy you can spend way more than that and get even better results.
 
If I were rich I would buy the new Oprheus and Hifimans, but as a "logical buy" speakers are miles better at that price.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 8:25 PM Post #1,391 of 2,776

Sal1950

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  I think that you really must want to have an Orpheus 2/Shangri-La to buy it, because 40-50k puts you in super speaker system territory.

Super speaker yes, today's SOTA no. Today's SOTA speakers are running well past the Half a Million USD mark.  How deep are your pockets. LOL
IMHO when price IS an issue, headphones can deliver the best bang for the buck when it comes to inner detail and flat response-tonal reproduction.
But if cost is of NO issue the SOTA in music reproduction is via speakers. I still chuckle when folks write about soundstaging with headphones, sorry guys but cans just don't do soundstaging. Show me a set of cans that with produce a soundstage extending wall to wall l to r, and from about 5 feet in front of the listener extending to the rear wall.  NOT
 
Even staying well below the half mil mark speakers can deliver amazingly lifelike reproductions of musicians playing live in your listening room. I'll bet the system Paul McGowan of PS Audio put together with a 30 year old set of Infinity IRS V's will do space in a manner that we can lovers could only dream of.
 
Jan 7, 2016 at 8:50 PM Post #1,392 of 2,776

ToroFiestaSol

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  Super speaker yes, today's SOTA no. Today's SOTA speakers are running well past the Half a Million USD mark.  How deep are your pockets. LOL
IMHO when price IS an issue, headphones can deliver the best bang for the buck when it comes to inner detail and flat response-tonal reproduction.
But if cost is of NO issue the SOTA in music reproduction is via speakers. I still chuckle when folks write about soundstaging with headphones, sorry guys but cans just don't do soundstaging. Show me a set of cans that with produce a soundstage extending wall to wall l to r, and from about 5 feet in front of the listener extending to the rear wall.  NOT
 
Even staying well below the half mil mark speakers can deliver amazingly lifelike reproductions of musicians playing live in your listening room. I'll bet the system Paul McGowan of PS Audio put together with a 30 year old set of Infinity IRS V's will do space in a manner that we can lovers could only dream of.

 
Totally agree with you!
I know SOTA systems can costs several times more than the setup I've heard, but hey, I would be happy for my entire life if I could own that system :)
I'm investing in headphones because with neighbours and living in a flat, headphones are a better choice, plus 1-2k buys you a hell of a headphone setup, but if money is no objetct...speakers all the way!
 
Jan 8, 2016 at 12:41 AM Post #1,393 of 2,776

disastermouse

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Super speaker yes, today's SOTA no. Today's SOTA speakers are running well past the Half a Million USD mark.  How deep are your pockets. LOL
IMHO when price IS an issue, headphones can deliver the best bang for the buck when it comes to inner detail and flat response-tonal reproduction.
But if cost is of NO issue the SOTA in music reproduction is via speakers. I still chuckle when folks write about soundstaging with headphones, sorry guys but cans just don't do soundstaging. Show me a set of cans that with produce a soundstage extending wall to wall l to r, and from about 5 feet in front of the listener extending to the rear wall.  NOT

Even staying well below the half mil mark speakers can deliver amazingly lifelike reproductions of musicians playing live in your listening room. I'll bet the system Paul McGowan of PS Audio put together with a 30 year old set of Infinity IRS V's will do space in a manner that we can lovers could only dream of.

Get a Realizer and program it to an awesome system/room.
 
Jan 8, 2016 at 2:10 AM Post #1,394 of 2,776

Sal1950

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Get a Realizer and program it to an awesome system/room.

I'll take a pass on the DSP hockos pockos and what it may do to the sound of the rest of the system.
Admittedly running on my own bias here, never heard the magic machine,, have you?
 
Jan 8, 2016 at 2:13 AM Post #1,395 of 2,776

disastermouse

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  I'll take a pass on the DSP hockos pockos and what it may do to the sound of the rest of the system.
Admittedly running on my own bias here, never heard the magic machine,, have you?


No, I just find the concept and the reviews interesting. I had thought that at some point, I could gain enough material means to get a Blue Hawaii and a set of Stax SR-009 and be, effectively, definitely, done.
 
And now this. 
 
I will never be able to afford adequate speakers, although I have thought about saving up for a good amplifier and some mini-maggies someday.
 

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