But these fine cans pail in comparison to a new pair of headphones that promise to be the most expensive in the world.
After some 25 years of recuperation, the audiophile division at Sennheiser has finally revamped and reissued its famous limited-edition Orpheus headphones. But this next generation slice of aural gratification comes at quite a cost -– some £30,000.
Available from next year, the new Orpheus combine an set of electrostatic headphones with a valve pre-amp and DAC covered in Carrara marble, producing a phenomenal claimed 8Hz to 100KHz frequency response.
This actually is beyond what human ears are capable of hearing, and to give you some idea of the range on offer, elephants can only just feel sounds around the super-low 8Hz range, while bats will be able to pick up the 100,000Hz top end (in fact, they can hear up to 200,000Hz).
The use of marble is significant as it provides less distortion for the valves, which are extremely sensitive. Marble, it turns out, is a great natural damping material. “The properties of the marble optimally protect the amplifier’s core, and its unique structure turns each Orpheus into an individual work of art,” said Maurice Quarré, director of Select & Audiophile at Sennheiser.
The company started working on this second version of the iconic headphones some 10 years ago, but this hard work has paid off as it has produced a piece of technology with a supposed total harmonic distortion of only 0.01 percent. If this holds true, it gives the Orpheus the lowest distortion measured in a sound reproduction system, ever.
Some 6,000 components make up each Orpheus, and it takes an entire day to assemble each unit -– therefore, while the run will not be limited unlike the previous model, Sennheiser is unable to make more than 250 a year.
However, Orpheus’s party trick becomes apparent when you turn it on. The controls on the front and the valves on the top of the amp slowly emerge from the Italian marble, then finally the glass lid covering the head gear lifts to release the headphones themselves.
“He’s sleeping, then when you push the button you wake him,” as Manuel Ricke, product manager for Audiophile at Sennheiser, somewhat romantically puts it. Regardless, it looks amazing every time the sequence occurs.
WIRED settled in with a copy of Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and Aqualung by Jethro Tull – something of a personal favourite that my father almost played incessantly when I was growing up.
It is not hard for a set of quality headphones to produce arresting sound from the opening strains of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, but it was when WIRED got stuck into Cheap Day Return and Mother Goose from Tull’s Aqualung that the Orpheus really started to show its quality. The flute and kick drum layers standing out like I had not heard before as the track moved from classical folk to distorted guitar.
The Orpheus is a truly superb piece of kit, and a thing of beauty, though sadly WIRED could not bring itself to part with 30 grand for it, it must be said -– but then Sennheiser are clearly not aiming this at Joe Public, the Orpheus is meant for pure audiophiles, who think nothing of spending £250,000 for a set of Wilson Audio speakers.
If, once they are out next year, you get your hands on a pair to borrow for a spell, however, WIRED suggests you do so with zeal. And Jethro Tull.