CES 2012: $1,300 earphones -- how does that sound?
How much is good sound worth to you? $1,300?
Well, then Harman Audio has a pair of earphones just for you. The AKG K3003 high-performance three-way in-ear headphones were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Why would anyone need such pricey sound?
Ask Chris Dragon. He represents the target audience for this product.
Dragon is not only Harman's director of marketing; he qualifies as a bonafide audiophile. He owns about 20 pairs of headphones himself. He plays guitar -- and has 16 of them with two more custom-made on the way. As a musician since childhood, he has a love of good sound.
In fact, he said, in a company of about 11,000 employees, there are many musicians in the bunch.
"We wanted to deliver best in-ear product out there. AKG -- that's kind of the DNA of the company," Dragon said. "We like to build the best in class."
In addition to producing pristine sound, they are "tunable," meaning you can tweak the bass or the high-frequency sound. They come with a neutral diaphragm in place, and you can swap it out for either bass boost or high frequency. This swap isn't for thick thumbs or clumsy hands. The diaphragms are small and slip out of your fingers easily.
They also have controls integrated for Apple products.
Obviously, these aren't for everyone. You're not going to find them at Target or Best Buy. Launched in November, only 125 of them have been made so far. (The serial number etched in the one on display was 0125.) Each of the K3003 earphones are handmade in Vienna. Dragon said he expects that they will sell in the thousands.
So what does $1,300 worth of audio sound like?
Well, we still don't know. (I'm not chancing expensing those bad boys.) But Dragon answers as a guitarist might: You get the sense of being confined, but you don't feel like you're in a room the size of your head.
"When I finally laid my hands on a pair, I put on three pieces music," he said. "You won't believe me, but I heard nuances in these that I could only pick up before" on large speakers with sound that fills a room.
The "original price" listed on the site is $1,499. Sound like a bargain?
-- Michelle Maltais in Las Vegas