Harman’s AKG K3003: The world’s best “reference class” earphones?

I’ve spent a lot of money on earphones over the years. I blame Apple. I was perfectly happy nodding away with my white iPod specials until I walked into the Regent Street Apple Store and found a massive range that I’ve never heard of before. In particular, I was thoroughly impressed by the range of Shure in-ear ones — the price points were, from memory, £69, £199 and then £299. Something like that. I didn’t need any further prompting — I bought the £299 ones. Obviously.

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And they were gorgeous. About a billion miles away from the ‘Fisher Price’ style free ones you got with the iPod. And so my expensive habit for headphones began.

More recently I’ve been experimenting with some Etymotic ones and finally, after my friend Tom bought me some RHAs, I have settled there.

I think, however, the search may have ended with the release a few months ago of the AKG K3003 earphones from Harman. That’s them pictured above and the first thing that sets them apart from the competition is the price: These are retailing for £1,000 in Harrods or you can pick them up from AKG directly.

The next thing that makes them special is they’re hand-crafted. (I’d hope so, for £1,000.) And they’re 100% quality-tested after final assembly. Plus, as you might expect, the materials and the engineering are simply exquisite. Here’s how AKG describe them:

Building on AKG’s decades of breakthroughs in audio technology, we’ve combined know-how with premium materials to produce our K3003 reference class 3-way earphones. Each earphone housing is chiseled from one piece of brushed stainless steel, while our specially refined cable materials allow for tangle-free handling. The K3003 earphones come with a genuine leather carrying case individually molded to protect them wherever you go.

And now here’s the AKG Youtube video showing how they’re made:

Right then, that’s me sold.

These are, it seems, the equivalent to buying a Bentley Continental GT. The price point is certainly eye-catching, however I wonder just what the difference is between say, the £29.95 RHA MA-350 earphones and these AKG K3003s. Could I — as a non-audio professional — tell the difference? I suspect that this is more or less irrelevant, though.

I delight in owning and using quality equipment. I really enjoyed using the Shures and Etymotics — and the audio felt better. I suspect that using these AKGs, I’d have a brilliant experience! And although the £1,000 price tag sounds quite a lot, I’ve probably spent that in the last 3-4 years on earphones if I add up all the Etymotic/Shures I’ve bought.

These AKGs are definitely going into my Chap Who Has Everything category here on The Pursuit of Quality. What’s your view? Have you got a recommendation for excellent earphones? And could you see yourself spending £1,000 on a pair?

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