Do you remember being a kid and walking past a toy-shop, pressing your nose against the glass and staring longingly at the most expensive LEGO set in the window?
That’s the memory and feeling that AKG’s K3003 earphones inspire in grown adults. Totally out of reach of Mr or Mrs Average thanks to a whopping £1,000 price tag, you can’t help but fantasize over what delights some extra cash would bring to your eardrums.
The justification for the steep asking price? A luxurious hand-crafted finish for starters, and some ridiculously precise audio engineering. They’re the first in-ear earphones to feature a three-way driver system, utilising a combination of one dynamic and two balanced armature drivers. In other words, there is a dedicated driver for low-to-mid ranges, a driver specifically for the wider mid ranges, and one for higher, sharper frequencies too. Each pair is numbered, adding to that smug feeling of exclusivity, with a stainless steel housing on the buds themselves, a tangle-free cable, in-line iOS remote and a smart leather case rounding off the package.
Well, almost rounding it off. The AKG K3003’s also allow for a little sound customisation in the shape of three interchangeable pairs of mechanical filters which screw into the headphones. The first is a standard reference pair, and the most natural sounding, the second a bass boosting set, and the last a pair that push treble frequencies.
We tried the AKG K3003’s last night at an exclusive launch event, trying out both the reference filters and the bass filters, but sadly not the treble filter. The results were impressive to say the least.
Though our testing session was brief, we managed to put the earphones through their paces with a number of musical styles and artists. From the soul of Amy Winehouse to the recent headline-hogging indie legends The Stone Roses, to the brass/bass funk of Curtis Mayfield to the icy-electro sounds of Crystal Castles and 80s sheen of The Human League, the K3003’s didn’t disappoint.
Using the reference filters, the balance of tones was remarkable. Winehouse’s “Love is a Losing Game” saw her voice smoulder at the mid levels, while the sting of the staccato guitars cut cleanly through the warm, sustained bass. Jumping to something completely different like the Human League’s “Open Your Heart” and the results were arguably even more impressive. After the first few bars of arpeggiated bass synths, the song positively exploded as the shimmering keys flew around the earphones with the vocal sitting at the fore. Listening to The Stone Roses brooding “I Wanna Be Adored”, and we were certain we were hearing guitar lines we never even knew were there before.
We then popped in the bass filters. We had been expecting an overwhelming, soggy jump in the low frequencies, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the filter instead softened and warmed the tone of the classical piece we were listening to (excuse our inability to name the score) and a few tracks from Daft Punk’s “Homework” album. The range of tones retained a comfortable balance, tastefully and subtly shifting the lower frequencies ever-so-slightly to the front.
So, are they worth £1,000? That’s not really the right question; are any headphones worth £1,000? Almost certainly not; come the inevitable nuclear zombie apocalypse it’s a good fallout shelter and 20 years worth of tinned food that will seem like a good investment, not reference-grade, audiophile ear-pieces.
But that’s not meant to undermine the luxurious allure of the AKG K3003 buds. They’re for people who buy £1,000 items like they’re buying a packet of crisps. And, to stretch the metaphor beyond its dubious limits, they’re the best sounding packet of crisps that money can buy.
If you demand the very, very best from your earphones, and have a catalogue of lossless music files to fawn over, the AKG K3003s make the perfect companion. Just make sure you really think it over before you re-mortgage your house to get them.
If you’ve got the cash, you can pick up the AKG K3003 earphones from Harrods and select John Lewis stores.
Scroll down for some more images.