By Dr. Panagiotis Karavitis
If you were to think of the most expensive headphone system, what would be your guess? The mighty STAX 009? The recently launched Abyss AB-1266? Think again.
A couple of decades back, Sennheiser requested from the house team of engineers to create the ultimate headphone system. And they did. It was the Orpheus HE-90, and came along with matching tube amplifier, the HEV-90 for a grand total of 13.000$ in 1994 money. As only 300 were made, today is classified under unobtainium territory and the rare times that one goes for sale on eBay, it hits the 30K$ mark with ease.
During the show I had the chance to give it a listen! Dr. Burkhardt Schwabe, designer of Acoustic Arts headphone amplifiers had one on display. Not only but the source was a Nagra R2R playing an original master tape of Oscar Peterson’s “Girl Talk”.
The reason that Dr. Schwabe had the Orpheus on display was very simple. He knew I was coming and that I desperately wanted to hear this exquisite system ....
Truth is, the good Dr. is convinced his EternalArts headphone amplifiers are so good that can take all the pressure coming from the highest regarded combo of all time. And he has all the rights to believe so. An A-B comparison between the HD-800 connected to the lunch box shaped HKV OTL amp and the HE-90 showed a difference in character, with the 90 being warmer (honey like) and the 800 being somewhat flatter despite the HKV being a tube amp. Both sounded very open with wide frequency extension but the 90 projected voices a tad forward and gave them a bigger body.
EternalArts products are not distributed in the States, prices in Europe range from 2.000 to 3.500 euros approximately.