I often get asked the question, who has the best headphones? My answer is always, what do you want to listen to and on what device.
I personally believe that headphones are a personal thing, the shape, the comfort and the quality are all critical components which is why Sennheiser is seriously out there when it comes to constantly producing the best headphones in the world.
This is no accident, this is a Company who stick to their knitting, by no venturing too far away from their core capability which is making headphones and recording microphones, this is also a Company that big artists swear by when performing before a live audience with their Sennheiser radio microphones.
Click to enlarge
|These are without doubt a very special pair of headphones.|
Sennheiser is 70 this year, and the company has chosen to celebrate by revealing a brand new Orpheus pair of headphones that cost a mere $70,000.
The first Orpheus launched in 1991, as an attempt to push the boundaries of sense and possibility.
What Sennheiser has now released in small quantities is a reference electrostatic headphone, valve amp which is a combination of wood, glass and metal.
Sennheiser has spent nearly 10 years developing its successor, and the final product is quite something.
I was recently presented with the opportunity to experience the Sennheiser Orpheus HE1060 headphones.
I first saw these headphones at CES 2016 but it was not till I visited a Darlinghurst terrace where I got to listen to the Orpheus HE1060 headphones in the comfort of a lounge chair.
And even if you can afford them at a mere $70K, I doubt they’ll ever be that easy to get hold of. Sennheiser can only make 250 a year thanks to the painstaking way they’re put together.
First off, the Sennheiser Orpheus HE1060 aren’t really a pair of headphones.
The pair of headphones I listened to were attached to a slab of marble that houses both a pre-amp and power amp.
And before you have the idea of plugging them into a smartphone, tablet or the odd digital source you can’t, these need to be plugged into a serious source.
As well as the amp section being finished with real marble, the valves and control knobs silently open up in sequence as you turn the set on.
The level of engineering here is a bit mad. But then a Sennheiser Orpheus set was never going to be remotely ordinary.
Look at the headset in isolation and it seems far more conventional, though. The look is an awful lot like the original Orpheus HE90, with a far less outlandish look than the budget Sennheiser HD800.
As with any pair of electrostatic headphones, the Sennheiser Orpheus HE1060 are fairly heavy.
However, the padding is superb. Thick, and squishy with a head-hugging feel, it makes the weight a non-issue.
Loads of thought has gone into this too. The ear pads use a mix of leather and a micro fibre blend, making sure that the leathery bits don’t touch your skin.
The HE1060 shells are made of machined aluminium, but with a texture that adds a level of softness.
Just like the HE90 and almost all of Sennheiser’s top-end sets, the Sennheiser Orpheus HE1060 are totally open-backed. There’s zero isolation. But if you can afford this pair you probably live in a pretty nice house with double brick walls.
There are no major flaws in the Sennheiser Orpheus HE1060’s sound. It is simply awesome.
The texture and realistic ‘weight’ of the mid-range gives vocals an authenticity you just don’t hear often, the bass is effortless and powerful. The treble is natural and precise. It has the detail of headphones with a trebly emphasis, without having any obvious focus in that area.
Instrument separation is terrific and compared to much of the HD range, the presentation is much more up-front. It’s not dark or flat-sounding like some of the mid-level Sennheiser open-back sets.
I listened to some jazz and classical music through the Sennheiser Orpheus HE1060.
The most obvious win is how good they are at maintaining a sense of airiness and coherence at the lowest registers. It’s remarkable stuff.
If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’re a bit of a headphone nerd. And for that crowd the big question here is how this pair compares to the old Orpheus from way back in 1991, and Sennheiser’s more conventional HD800.
The answer is that the HE1060 are fairly similar to the HE90.
Ultimately, the Sennheiser Orpheus HE1060 are absolutely Orpheus reborn.
This is an electrostatic set, which uses a very large 2.4 micron thick driver where the HD800 has dynamic drivers. Those are ‘normal’ drivers.
Contrary to what you might assume, the HD800 actually have a significantly larger sound stage, and will seem more obviously ‘epic’ at first listen. I’ve never heard an electrostatic headphone that’s managed to rival the ginormous scale of the HD800. They also have much more a sense of delivering micro-detail than the HE1060.
However, the Sennheiser Orpheus are much more ‘real’ sounding, and much more honey-glazed, without any of the sugary softness that often comes with. The HE1060 are much better, but they are also very different, offering a different kind of thrill.
Best headphones in the world? Certainly.
Sennheiser has gone all-out with these headphones. Ironically the benchmark is a prior model of the same headphones from the same German Company.
To own the title of producing the ‘best headphones in the world’ is befitting a Company like Sennheiser whose pedigree goes back a long way to the days when pure audio engineering was in it’s infancy.
Ultra-fine control and ultra-low distortion mean these are headphones you should definitely experience if you get the chance. The best way to experience these superb headphones is to check your local Sennheiser site to find which specialist dealers are stocking the43 HE1060, they will be few and far between.
The one little ray of light is that the Sennheiser Orpheus HE1060 aren’t going to sell as a deliberately limited edition like the HE90.
However, with Sennheiser’s production capability limited to 250 units a year, it’s a rare beast by its very nature.