AKG K3003 review: AKG K3003

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The Good Superb sound quality; Attractive, sturdy design; in-line remote acts as a hands-free headset.

The Bad Ridiculously high price.

The Bottom Line The AKG K3003s offer a stunning, balanced sound and a very sturdy, attractive design. They're easily among the best in-ear headphones we've heard but their horrendously high price tag means we can't recommend them.

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6.5 Overall

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Not all headphones are created equal. Some are designed as appalling bits of tat bundled with your phone that are akin to being whispered to by a laryngitis patient. Others, however, are built for the more discerning music fan, with accurate, distortion-free sound being the name of the game.

The AKG K3003s are in-ear headphones that reside in the latter camp. They offer a superbly balanced sound from a small, stylish and sturdy package.

They're available now from John Lewis, but will set you back the searingly expensive price of £1,000.

Design and build quality

You didn't misread that. These in-ear headphones cost a grand. That's a whole lot of Creme Eggs. For that sort of cash, you'd be absolutely right to expect beautiful design matched with superb build quality.

Thankfully, the K3003s don't disappoint. Each earbud has been machined out of a single piece of stainless steel, which makes them considerably more sturdy than headphones made with plastic shells. There are no joins to come apart and there's no way they can be accidentally flattened if you tread on them -- £1,000 is a lot of money to lose to an errant foot.

AKG K3003 case
Your wallet will be considerably slimmer than this AKG 3003 case you've just bought, meaning there's room in your pocket for both.

Even the thinner stem that actually goes into your ear is totally rigid and we're pretty sure the only way to break it would be to run it over with a steamroller. AKG has evidently gone to a lot of effort in creating these and rightfully makes a song and dance about them on its website. It's comforting to know that your hefty £1,000 investment isn't flimsy enough to fall apart after a few months of use.

Beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder, but there's no denying that these things look great. The steel buds have been given a brushed finish and the AKG logo has been laser-etched onto the outside. They have an understated appearance -- especially compared to the aggressive stylings of the Atomic Floyd SuperDarts -- but look undeniably premium.

They would sit well in ears travelling in the business class section of a transatlantic flight, giving off an air of opulence without bragging about it. Shame really -- if we'd paid a grand for headphones we'd want everyone to know about it.

The metal may look great but the buds are pretty heavy. You'll need to make sure the gel tips are the right size to ensure a secure fit. Even then you won't want to go jogging with them. They're much more suited to a luxurious ride to work, courtesy of your well-spoken chauffeur.

AKG K3003 cables
At £1,000, that works out at about £10 per centimetre of cord, so it's disappointing to see regular rubberised cabling towards the top.

The lower half of the cable is wrapped in fabric that makes it feel very strong. It also slides over itself very easily, which helps make it pretty tangle-free. If they do become knotted in your pockets, a few gentle tugs and they can be easily persuaded to come undone.

The fabric ends where it splits into two to go to your ears, so you're instead left with the more usual thin, rubber cabling. It doesn't feel any more flimsy than other headphones, but considering the whopping price tag, we'd have liked to have seen burlier cabling all the way up.

On the right channel cable is a three-button in-line remote made of more of that lovely brushed steel. The top and bottom control the volume and the central button pauses or skips tracks. Having those media controls right under your face can be extremely handy if you don't fancy fishing your phone out of your pocket to skip a track, but they only work with iPhones and some iPods. If you want to play with Spotify on your delicious new Samsung Galaxy Nexus, you're going to be disappointed.

The remote also doubles as a microphone, turning these pricey headphones into a similarly expensive hands-free headset. We took it for a walk around the roads of central London and found that it did a decent job of cancelling out the ambient noise of traffic and tourists. It's not perfect though, so expect to have to repeat yourself if a roaring truck or an ambulance passes by.

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