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Sennheiser’s new glorious €50,000 Orpheus headphones

Sennheiser’s original Orpheus headphones are somewhat of a legend in the headphones world. Launched back in the early 90s, the Orpheus was born out of Sennheiser’s challenge to its engineers to create the best possible headphones. The sky was the limit when it came to price. Unsurprisingly, then, Orpheus HE90 and its accompanying HEV-90 tube amplifier set you back £16,000. Only 300 were ever made, so they became a collector’s item. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them selling for twice that price nowadays. Sennheiser has been celebrating its 70th anniversary and teased a successor to the Orpheus1 as part of festivities a few weeks ago. Today, 25 years on from the original launch, I got to listen to the new Orpheus and boy did they not disappoint.

The amplifier is crafted from Carrara marble, the same material supposedly used by Michelangelo for his famous sculptures. The amplifier houses platinum-vaporized, 2.4 micrometer diaphragms and the headphones will support a staggering frequency range of 8Hz to 100,000kHz, which is well beyond the human ear’s capabilities. Axel Grell, Sennheiser Product Manager Audiophile, said the frequency range was the equivalent of combining a bat with an elephant. Needless to say, nothing from your music should get lost.

There’s actually a second ultra-high impulse amplifier stage integrated into the cups of the headphones. Sennheiser says this brings a 200% rise in efficiency as most of the amplifier power is typically lost in the cable. Our approach was, therefore, to amplify the alternating voltage to high voltages not at the beginning of the cable but at the point where it is really required directly at the gold-vaporised ceramic electrodes in the headphones themselves.

All in all, there are 6,000 individual components inside the amplifier and headphones. Axel said that Sennheiser expects to be able to manufacture 250 Orpheus headphone and amplifiers a year. Interestingly, the plan isn’t to stop at 250 so there won’t be the limited numbers like the original Orpheus.

Video of Sennheiser Orpheus powering on action

The listening experience begins with turning the amplifier on by pressing the volume dial. This engages an incredibly elegant powering on action that sees the tubes raise out of the amplifier, the control dials extend out and the headphones’ case open. It’s a sight to behold and adds a degree of luxury to the listening experience. Having said that, if you can afford the ‘ 50,000 price I’m sure you’re not lacking in luxury elsewhere in life. Still, it’s a wonderful spectacle.

The headphones themselves feel heavy when you first pick them up, but any initial fears about comfort are dissuaded once you put them on. The circumaural pads are incredibly comfortable and you don’t feel the weight on top of your head. The one word you can use for describing the listening experience is ‘comfort’. This extends to wearing them as well as the sound signature itself.

I listened to some Gregory Porter and the best way to describe the sound was comfortable. I could easily lose myself to Porter’s sultry tones for his track ‘Moanin’. No distortion, no discomfort, no harshness or brightness. Just lots of refined transparency to the sound, while I was carried off on a cloud of comfort. I was only listening to a CD, so not a high-resolution audio file or anything that really pushed the Orpheus’ capabilities. But still, it sounded wonderful. I only had 20 minutes with the headphones, so more time is needed, especially with more of my familiar test tracks, but I could have happily sat there the rest of the day enveloped in the Orpheus’ sound. When the session came to an end I actually felt disappointed.

The only possible detractor I had from the Orpheus was its cable management. The headphone cable is heavy duty, braided cable that will let you get to a comfortable listening position, which is great. But there’s no real cable management for when the headphones are put back in their display case. You sort of just bunch them up at the front haphazardly. Considering there’s so much attention to detail and elegance elsewhere, it seemed like an oversight. There was certainly room to make the headphone case larger to accommodate the cable in a more attractive way. Axel Grell said there was likely an engineering reason for it.

In the end, as with anything ‘audiophile’-related, there’s the law of diminishing gains. If you can afford to even consider these, chances are you’re not going to be disappointed.

References

  1. ^ teased a successor to the Orpheus (www.expertreviews.co.uk)

Samsung and 4 Things You Need to Know From the Mobile World Congress

The Mobile World Congress begins today, but that didn’t stop some of the biggest technology companies in the world from showing off their new devices in Barcelona over the weekend.

With 1,900 exhibitors, most of the big-name companies are wrapping up their press events, clearing the way for the exhibition floor to take the spotlight the rest of the week.

Here’s a wrap-up of some of the biggest hits from the weekend.

Samsung1 Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge

Samsung stole the show with a futuristic presentation on Sunday showing off its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones — both living up to the company’s new rallying cry of “relentless innovation.”

Both devices have ditched the plastic backing of previous Galaxy phones, replacing it with durable Gorilla2 Glass for a sleeker appearance. Aside from the new look, the technological advancements in the phone are also noteworthy.

Both phones are outfitted with wireless charging, making power cords obsolete. In just 10 minutes, Samsung says the devices can get enough charge for four hours of everyday use.

Following the success of Apple3 Pay, Samsung also said its new devices would be equipped with Samsung Pay, a contact-less payment system.

When the new Galaxy phones go on sale in April, users can also expect a sharper than ever camera that Samsung claims outperforms the iPhone4 6, as well as the ability to launch the camera in less than a second.

HTC One5 M9

HTC showed off its latest flagship phone, the One M9, which looks strikingly similar to its predecessor.

The sleek smartphone has an all-metal body and a 20 megappixel camera with a sapphire cover lens.

While it may look like more of the same, HTC said users can expect “more customizable options” that will allow them to change the look and feel of their phone.

HTC Grip

Following a recent partnership with sports retailer Under Armor, HTC unveiled the Grip, a fitness band that works with the clothing company’s Record app for iOS and Android6.

The waterproof band is designed to move with athletes and can take workout metrics, including speed and distance, allowing the wearer to track their progress.

It also lets the wearer take messages and easily skip through their music while on the go.

Mozilla7 OS Expands

When is the last time you heard news about a flip phone?

Standing in stark contrast to the glamorous Galaxy S6 phones, Mozilla announced plans to bring its operating system to flip phones and slider phones, working with several big telecommunications partners.

In doing son, Mozilla also hopes to entice more developers to create apps for its operating system.

Ikea’s Smart Furniture

Ikea unveiled its “Home Smart” collection of wireless charging furniture, including bedside tables, lamps and desks.

A + sign on the furniture indicates the area where users should place their devices that need power — negating the need for cable clutter and looking for your phone charger.

While the integration of wireless charging and furniture could make some lives easier, it is important to note that there are currently two dueling standards, PMA and Qi.

Ikea has chosen to work with Wireless Power Consortium, integrating their Qi standard into the furniture, meaning it won’t directly work with an iPhone.

References

  1. ^ Samsung (abcnews.go.com)
  2. ^ Gorilla (abcnews.go.com)
  3. ^ Apple (abcnews.go.com)
  4. ^ iPhone (abcnews.go.com)
  5. ^ HTC One (abcnews.go.com)
  6. ^ Android (abcnews.go.com)
  7. ^ Mozilla (abcnews.go.com)

Mobile World Congress 2015: Samsung Galaxy S6 and What Else to Expect

Smartphone fanatics rejoice: The Mobile World Congress gets underway in Barcelona next week where some of the biggest technology companies are expected to show off the next wave of innovative devices.

While the event doesn’t officially begin until Monday, Samsung1 is starting the festivities one day early when it live streams its Galaxy Unpacked event at 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday, during which it is expected to announce at least one, if not two, new smartphones.

Samsung hasn’t said what is on the agenda. However, the South Korean2 tech giant has been dropping hints along the way about what to expect from an anticipated Galaxy S6.

The anticipated smartphone has been expected to take on the curved design that Samsung unveiled with the Galaxy Note Edge.

Photos posted online by Samsung and T-Mobile also suggest the “next big thing” will trade in its plastic backing for an all-metal frame.

“Samsung has to hit a home run to stem their precipitous share losses, particularly on the premium phone range,” Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategies told ABC News.

Samsung recently acquired mobile wallet LoopPay, a competitor to Apple3 Pay, something Moorhead expects will be referenced on Sunday. However, he said he doesn’t “see it being integrated immediately but very soon afterwards.”

Also expect Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC to compete on Sunday with Samsung when it holds a press event showing off what many believe will be its One M9 device, a follow-up to the One M8 released last year.

“I’m expecting a new premium phablet product with updated specifications and new industrial design,” Moorhead said.

While it’s a wildcard, it’s also possible that HTC could share new insights on how their partnership with Under Armour4 will bring meld technology and fitness.

Aside from product announcements, the Mobile World Congress is known for hosting talks with some of the biggest players in the technology industry.

Fresh off a vote to preserve net neutrality5 in the United States, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission6, is scheduled to deliver a speech. Also on the agenda this year are Facebook7 CEO Mark Zuckerberg8 and Sundar Pichai, Google’s head of Android9, Chrome and Apps.

With 1,900 exhibitors, most of the big-name companies will hold press events on Sunday and Monday, clearing the way for the exhibition floor to take the spotlight the rest of the week.

“We could see some surprises with some wearables that we haven t seen before,” Moorhead said. “I would expect them to follow along the lines of what Apple has done — things that look more like a watch than a cross between a watch and a smartphone.”

Apple is known for doing its own thing.

The company won’t be at the event but is instead readying to host a mystery presentation in San Francisco on March 9 where it’s expected the iPhone10 maker will show off even more features of its Apple Watch, which is set to debut in April.

References

  1. ^ Samsung (abcnews.go.com)
  2. ^ South Korean (abcnews.go.com)
  3. ^ Apple (abcnews.go.com)
  4. ^ Under Armour (abcnews.go.com)
  5. ^ net neutrality (abcnews.go.com)
  6. ^ Federal Communications Commission (abcnews.go.com)
  7. ^ Facebook (abcnews.go.com)
  8. ^ Mark Zuckerberg (abcnews.go.com)
  9. ^ Android (abcnews.go.com)
  10. ^ iPhone (abcnews.go.com)