Flagship Sennheiser HD 800: official launch

The official launch this month of Sennheiser's long-awaited new flagship – the £1,000 HD 800 – was so significant for the German specialist, that Prof. Dr. Jorg Sennheiser himself broke his silence by speaking to the UK press for the first time.

Joined by right-hand-man Volker Bartels, Sennheiser's President of manufacturing and logistics, TechRadar took the opportunity to talk to the man whose father started the whole thing off in 1945.

When Sennheiser first invented the commercial headphone in the 1970s it had a 100 per cent market share.

Things have now changed, so we pondered if Jorg had any plans to go beyond microphones and headphones?

"This is a question that pops up every once in a while," he said. "We first of all, produce the goods we know we're good at, we earn the money with the products we're good at, and then we check out if there's anything beyond that we could do. It has to be something special. Then we might jump on it."

A headphone amp strikes us as an obvious one – should we watch this space? "Er, yeah" replied Volker. "This a certainly an option that immediately comes to mind, there have been thoughts going on, we're not quite there, but this is certainly an idea we have in our mind."

How close to the Orpheus system?

With the HD 800 proudly taking flagship status in Sennheiser's comprehensive portfolio, TechRadar wanted to know just how close the £1,000 headphone gets to the legendary £10,000 Orpheus system – the company's statement product of old.

"It's hardly comparable" commented Volker, "It's a completely different technology and completely different sound". Jorg adds: "The Orpheus (was) technologically very demanding. There was the idea, like a drawing; membrane, electrode and off you go, but the problems came when we realised it didn't work like that (laughs). So we made it work!"

Sensing the pair's keenness to keep the two flagships separate, we wondered why the company had been out of the high end for so long. "New ideas and new technologies cannot be generated just like that!" said Jorg. Volker added, "And we stick to our claim, 'time for perfection' it takes time."

Around the time of the HD 800's launch at CES, Las Vegas, in January 2009, TechRadar caught wind of rumour surrounding a possible range of products built around the HD 800.

"We're not quite there" said Volker, "Of course, things like the innovation of this new transducer - the ring radiator – forms a perfect platform that we could explore with new and additional models below and above. However, we need to find out what the reaction of the market is to the HD 800."

At £1,000 a piece and in the global recession, we asked Jorg about the initial reaction to such an expensive newcomer.

"At this time, we have a full order book, which is nice, which is wonderful", he commented. "But we also know there is a certain channel-filling effect, that you sell to the stores and we need to get aware of how the market really reacts to this. (But) actually, it was more successful than we anticipated."