In 1990, Sennheiser brought out a pair of headphones called the Orpheus HE90 that were the result of an R&D mission to create “the best headphones ever made”. This avant-garde piece of technology became iconic, though at the time only 300 were made for £12,000 each – now, of course, they change hands on eBay for more than twice that amount.

You are reading World’s Most Expensive Headphones.

Now, after 25 years, the Audiophile division at Sennheiser has finally revamped and reissued its famous high-end Orpheus headphones. But this new aural slice of gratification comes in at £30,000 – making these probably the most expensive headphones in the world.

Available from next year, the new Orpheus combines a set of electrostatic headphones with a valve pre-amp and DAC cloaked in Italian Carrara marble.

The use of marble is significant as it results in less distortion for the valves, which are extremely sensitive. “The properties of the marble optimally protect the amplifier’s core, and its unique structure turns each Orpheus into an individual work of art,” says Maurice Quarré, director of Select & Audiophile at Sennheiser. Thankfully, the performance matches the stunning looks, too, with the Orpheus producing a phenomenal claimed 8Hz to 100KHz frequency response.

This is in fact beyond what human ears are capable of hearing, and to give you some idea of the range on offer, elephants can register sounds around that very low 8Hz range, while bats will be able to pick up that 100,000Hz top end.

You are reading World’s Most Expensive Headphones.

Orpheus also boasts a total harmonic distortion of just 0.01 percent, which means it claims the lowest distortion ever measured in a sound system. In total, some 6,000 components combine to fashion an Orpheus, and it takes a whole day to assemble each one. Unlike last time, the good news is there will be no limited run for this version. However, Sennheiser says it is physically unable to make more than 250 a year, so supply will still be limited by this constraint.

However, Orpheus’s pièce de résistance is the performance delivered before you even listen to any music. For when you turn it on, the controls on the front and the valves on the top of the amp rise from the marble, then the glass lid covering the headphones lifts to give access the headphones themselves. It is like something out of a sci-fi film, and very theatrical.

“He’s sleeping, then when you push the button you wake him,” as Manuel Ricke, product manager for Audiophile at Sennheiser, romantically puts it. Regardless, it continues to please every time the sequence occurs, the final flourish to what are perhaps the most exceptional headphones in creation.



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