AKG K3003

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  1. Audioscope
    5.0/5,
    "Phenomenal sound. Makes other good IEMs sound low-fi. My reference IEM."
    Pros - Expansive soundstage, extremely articulate and detailed, musical, lightweight and non-obstrusive
    Cons - Cables not detacheable, bass may be lacking for some
    I must admit, the AKG K3003 was not something that I ever wanted to purchase when they first came out.  At $1,600 CAD ($1,200 USD), they were probably the most expensive IEMs available at the time. 
     
    In a world where you could buy custom IEMs for less money and have more drivers, I (like many others) dismissed these initially.  A pair of JH Audio JH13 was much more appealing to me at the time, although I had never bought one (more on that later).
     
    Enter 2015, when the price of the K3003 could be found for about half of MSRP.  The K3003 thread here on Head-fi, combined with the more accessible MSRP had really gotten my attention, and so I finally bought a K3003i (same IEM, but with the inline iphone mic./cable) because the original K3003 was not much discounted.
     
    In the Box:
    Once unboxed, the K3003i looks and feels expensive, dispelling some of my initial thoughts about this being a massively overpriced/marked up product.  Included are three sets of "filters" that could be swapped out to alter the characteristic of the sound.  There is one for "reference", one for "extra bass", and one for "extra treble".  An inline adapter for the iPhone-ready 3.5mm terminal to a standard terminal was included, as well as an airline headphone adapter and a high quality leather pouch. 
     

    The box of the AKG K3003i
     

    Contents inside the box.  (Original clear silicone tips not shown)
     
     
    What is Special about this IEM, and why does it matter?
    In my daily work, I am an engineer and also a fine art and portrait photographer.  However, I will refrain from presenting too many technical details that may not be relevant to most people.
    The K3003i is a special because it features a hybrid driver system with one dynamic driver and two balanced armature (BA) driver per side.  In AKG's own words, the dynamic driver is used for distortion free lows (bass), while the two BA drivers are used primarily for accurate mids and for sparkling highs.  Most conventional IEMs feature dynamic drivers, whereas offerings from Shure, Noble Audio, and most custom IEMs feature BA drivers.  
     

    Literature with cutaway diagram showing placement of the dynamic driver and 2x BA drivers
     
    Coincidentally, I have experienced both types of IEMs and the strengths of each.  
     
    Dynamic driver IEMs are probably less expensive to make.  Typically, dynamic driver IEMs have a nice, coherent sound with the ability to produce sufficient bass, but may be lacking in articulation and detail.  In my opinnion, they are well-suited for vocals and drums, but not so much for instrumentals where you want to hear everything sparkle in the background.  
    Some dynamic driver IEMs I have are: Sony EX1000, JVC FX850, and just about every other inexpensive IEM out there I have listened to.
     
    BA driver IEMs, on the other hand, are a much newer technology.  BA drivers are alot smaller and are used in things like hearing aids.  The strengths of BA drivers is exactly the inverse of the dynamic drivers.  That is, BA drivers excel at playing back fast paced music, such as dance, instrumentals, etc., without a hint of incoherency.  The problem with BA drivers is that they often sound shrill and lacking body, similar to what your speakers would sound like if it was missing a woofer or subwoofer.  This is also part of the reason why most BA IEMs use multiple drivers in their design.
    BA driver IEMs I have, or previously owned included the JH Roxanne, Fischer Audio DBA-02, Audeo PFE111, Sony XBA3, and Earsonics SM3.
     
    Essentially, the goal of the K3003i was to create an IEM that combines the strengths of both dynamic driver and BA driver technology.  This is not a new concept necessarily.  In fact, AKG also tried a hybrid-driver setup in the 70s with the K340 Electrosat-Dynamic Headphones, which I have, and mostly enjoy.  The K340 combines electrostatic drivers with dynamic drivers for the same reason that BA drivers are paired with dynamic drivers in the K3003i. 
     
    The K340 is very rich and full sounding, detailed, and has good bass impact.  Where the K340 falls short is its ability to handle fast-paced music, where it may sound a bit muffled or incoherent as the dynamic drivers could not keep up with the speed of the electrostat drivers.  If we use a photography example, this would be simliar to a picture of people on the street, where the speeding cars are blurry, but the pedestrians are in sharp focus. A technically perfect photograph would be one where both the cars and the people in the picture are in sharp focus for us to see, and this is the challenge that the K3003i needs to address.
     

    AKG K340 Electrostat-Dynamic Headphone, circa 1970s
     

    Illustration showing the hybrid driver system of the AKG K340
     
    Sound:
     
    Fortunately, there are no incoherency issues in the sound of the K3003i.  That is, both the pedestrians and the cars in this photograph are in sharp focus all the time.  AKG has successfully solved this engineering problem.
     
    But, how does it sound?  To be perfectly honest, my ears did not understand the sound from the K3003i in the beginning.  They sounded very, very detailed with an expansive soundstage, but somewhat anemic and lacking in bass compared to all other IEMs I have tried.  I almost returned these for something else.  However, I stuck with these for long enough to try them with different DAPs and music and finally understood what the problem was.  All IEMs I have listened to up to now were very much coloured, non-articulate, and have much more bass.  These are the important points to understand.    
    Let me explain.  The K3003i has a neutral presentation and doesn't add too much to the sound.  Additionally, although these IEMs are easy to drive from any portable device, they prefer a slightly warm sounding source.  In this way, the K3003i is similar to headphones like the HD800, which do not offer much of an enjoyable listening experience when paired with most cold-sounding amps due to its overly-analytical nature.  The K3003i is far more forgiving of the source music bitrate than the HD800, and far less analytical in that regard.  
     
    Once I swapped the included tips to a set that was more fitting with a better seal, the bass quantity and impact became just right.  It was perfect in a way that the rest of the music does not become overshadowed or overwhelmed.  This solved the bass problem.  
     
    Next, I compared these to my other IEMs: my previous favourite Sony EX1000, the JVC FX850, and the very expensive JH Roxanne.  A comparison with other high-end IEMs is a big part of the journey to understanding and enjoying the K3003i.
     
    Bass:
    All these IEMs provided more bass quantity (but not quality) compared to the K3003i.  In particular, with a slight exception for the JH Roxanne, everything else sounded plain muddy in their bass.
    There is more bass quantity in the JH Roxanne, but it is defnitely coloured and less articulate.
     
    Tonality:
    After doing many back to back comparisons, I also realized that the K3003i presents a tonally perfect presentation of the music.  This simply means that a pluck of a guitar string does not sound like a plucking an elastic band, and that foot drums do not sound like a bouncing basketball.  In this regard, all the tested IEMs failed except for the K3003i.  You may not realize this until you do the comparison yourself, but the K3003i is perfect here.  
     
    Soundstage: 
    The soundstage of the K3003i was very expansive, and immediately reminds me of the soundstage of my HD800.  In reality, the soundstage is closer to my T1, but for an IEM, this is the widest soundstage I have ever heard.
    -From best to worst: 1) K3003i, 2) JH Roxanne, 3)Sony EX1000/JVC FX850
    Yes, this beats my JH Roxanne custom IEMs.
     
    Vocals:
    In terms of vocals, the Sony EX1000 was my favourite because of it being very warm sounding, especially for female vocals.  However, the K3003i's wide soundstage and tonal accuracy makes the vocals sound very convincing and even more enjoyable vs. the EX1000's approach of colouring the presentation to make the vocals standout. The K3003i also has a certain depth and extension in the vocals that are not present in the EX1000.  The only reason I still have the EX1000 is for purely nostalgic reasons now.  
     
    Instrumentals:
    The AKG K3003i wins here with no contest.  Being the most tonally accurate and also the most articulate IEM in this group, the AKG presents instrumentals in a very musical yet detailed way that is every bit as good as my T1, but on a smaller scale.
     
    A Note on Changing Filters:
    Although three sets of filters are included to increase the treble, bass, or for "reference" sound, I found that I preferred the "reference" filter the most.  The other two filters are not as refined, and alot of Head-fiers echo the same sentiments too.
     

    The "Reference" filter removed.  This is a simple threaded design.
     
    *Other Comparisons
    At some point in time, I owned the Shure SE846 together with the AKG K3003i, and have also listened to my friend's Sennheiser IE800 extensively.  These are three IEMs that alot of people will compare, and fortunately, I was able to do some of my own back to back comparisons between them.
     
    SE846
    The true strength of the SE846 is its very delicious sounding sub-bass, which is both very articulate and impactful, and feels like a real subwoofer in some ways without clouding up the rest of the presentation.  I did not enjoy the very confined and small soundstage of the SE846, and once again the tonality was not accurate and fairly coloured.  It was a unique and fun IEM, but clearly outclassed by the K3003i in all areas except for a textured, impactful bass output.
     
    IE800
    Best described as organic-sounding and musical.  The soundstage is also very large in this IEM, but not as large as the K3003i.  Like most Sennheisers, the IE800 is warm sounding and easy to listen to, but has less detail retrieval and clarity compared to the K3003i.  On the other hand, the bass on the IE800 may be a little better than the K3003i, but not by leaps and bounds.
     
    Final Comments:
    It took some understanding and comparisons for me to appreciate and fully enjoy the K3003i, but it was well worth it as this is now my favourite IEM.  The AKG is lightweight, easy to wear, and sounds as close to an IEM version of my HD800 as possible (without the overbearing sibiliance or shrillness associated with the HD800).  The fact that the AKG manages to trump my JH Roxanne (discarded) speaks volumes about the perception and the reality of high end equipment from large, established companies vs. smaller, emerging outfits that are only popular within niche circles.
     
    When you buy the AKG, you are not buying it for the number of drivers it has, nor any special bells and whistles.  The K3003i is a meticulously engineered IEM that is phenomenal to listen to.  It is a true reference IEM in which its sonic qualities represents the best that I have experienced, while remaining fun and musical all the same.  The K3003i is so spectacular that it makes my Sony EX1000 and JVC FX850 sound like walmart specials, with the JH Roxanne sounding just average.  I have had these AKGs for over a year and also had many other IEMs and headphones come and go.  For home listening, I have a T1, HD800, and Koss ESP/950, as well as a set of Sehring S700SE boutique speakers. When I just want to enjoy the music without using my speakers, I often choose the Koss or these K3003i.  Yes, I use the K3003i even at home because it is that much of a treat. For the low price of admission of the K3003i today, you really owe it to yourself to try one of these out with a sufficiently good DAP. 
     
    Happy listening!
  2. sanjeewasam
    4.5/5,
    "Excellent reference IEM-similar signature to HD800"
    Pros - very natural- if you like HD800 then this is it as IEM
    Cons - To get the best out you need to pair with better
    I had K3003i with a custom cable. I bough it used and the cable had been replaced and the seller assured not sound different to original
     
    I loved it. I used it with Fiio X3 2nd Gen. I liked the sound- very flat, great mids, highs and tight base. When compared to AKG K812 with Mojo I could not hear much difference. I thought K3003 was flatter sounding and tad more clearer that K812. 
     
    When I connected K3003i to Mojo only I noted what I was missing with Fiio X3. It is much better overall with Mojo direct
     
    I sold my K3003 (which I regret now) and the later bought HD800. My first listen reminded me one thing. How similar K3003 and HD800. Both have no body- dead flat and dead honest. Mids-Highs run wild for bad recordings or not paired with correct gear
    dudinacas likes this.
  3. bosiemoncrieff
    4.0/5,
    "At 76% off MSRP, good value"
    Pros - transparency, portability
    Cons - in-line remote is a delicate flower, MSRP, isolation, clinical
    Aperatif: 
    Let's get this out of the way first. The MSRP is a joke. $1299? Ha! Thankfully, on the secondhand market, prices have plummeted below $500, and I got mine on ebay (less warranty, less case, less the two other "sound filters"—I'm not sure which I got, but I think it's 'reference') for $312 including $5 shipping. AKG seems to have admitted this, putting them on permanent sale for $999, and amazon has them for a little over $700.
     
    At $300 secondhand, they're about what my QC25 cost, and although they lack the noise attenuation that ANC brings, I am amid my own internal crisis about whether I like ANC and whether to drop the cash for the PXC 550 or, more significantly, the N90Q. Suffice it to say that although they are not so isolating as Bose (or many other IEMs), they suit coffee shops in a way that HD800—or indeed LCD-XC, TH900, K872, Flow C, or MDR-R10—never will. They are reasonably comfortable, though as with all IEMs that seal the ear canal, you can't use them when chewing. I also find that when I take calls with them, my voice sounds reverberant in the way that it does when I have my fingers in my ears.
     
    The cable is fragile and irreplaceable. Ditto the in-line remote. One wrong tug and you get intermittency. Judicious use of 2.5mm headphone jacks might have yielded a more durable product. As it is, I think AKG is targeting the wealthy among us who can afford $1299 without thinking too much of it. I wish I had the other silicone tips, as the ones that I have are a liiiiitle big for my ear canals at a very long clip, though again for $312 I'm not complaining seriously about missing accessories. 
     
    Entree: 
     
    Perhaps the highest compliment one can pay an IEM—indeed, a reference monitor of any kind—is comparison to HD800. K3003i is certainly worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as HD800. As regards SQ, they are inferior in almost every way—though I find bass is more impactful—but not by margins that anyone would find embarrassing. The soundstage (shocker!) is smaller, but it is not mediocre. The tonality is neutral if a bit clinical, and perfect for classical music, my preferred genre, and perfectly fine for the handful of pop music I will tolerate—bad romance, call me maybe, i really like you, let me love you, roar, rise, etc. Treble is not rolled off and the bass is deep and crisp.
     
    HD600, the closest headphone I own in price to what I paid for K3003i, is softer (a critic would say blurrier), and requires an amp (and 4-pin XLR) to sound their best. I got my K3003i for maybe $70 more, and while Bimby/Mjolnir 2 softens the sound slightly, the change is minute. K3003 may change as you change their filters (I didn't receive filters from the janky ebay sale), but in the current filter (which I assume is 'reference'), to my ears, they get maybe 70% of the way to HD800, with most of the deficit being soundstage. Circumaural headphones—and HD800 more than nearly all—can fool the ear more easily than IEMs. Miniaturization is ridiculously punishing, and to pack the majority of HD800's performance into their petite industrial design, and not to require an amplifier makes the technical achievement all the more stunning.
     
    The sound can be unforgiving, and perhaps the treble could have used further tuning. Gidon Kramer playing the Kreutzer Sonata has its harsh moments, though had I been ten inches from the violin, I think the experience would have been similarly uncomfortable. Lynn Harrell on the third cello sonata is pleasanter, not least for my own preference for that instrument. While I can't say that the piano had the slam of the Fostex TH900 or LCD-4, it had solidity and weight—these are reference cans after all. The mids are nicely flat, and there is good detail retrieval; though it is clearly outclassed by HD800, it delivers exceptional performance and is not embarrassed by the comparison. 
     
    My ultimate stress test for any pair of headphones is the Solti Ring. Imaging is above average, and at the very top of the pack for an IEM, though (as it's another dimension of soundstage) not competitive with HD800 or K1000. Instruments are indeed a notch less transparent than my top-flight open back flagships, a pinch more distant and veiled. But I repeat: IEMs perform with two hands tied behind their back, and K3003 perform admirably given their physical limitations; IE800, from the makers of HD800, are no better, and (IMHO) worse. Despite all of this though, orchestral colors were handled with aplomb. Brass had its appropriate sheen, depth, and impact; strings soared during O hehrstes wunder and were palpably torn across by their bows during the stormy Walküre prelude to act 1 and Siegfried prelude to act 3. Timpani rumble deliciously but not excessively. Tenor James King was more transparent than Birgit Nilsson; she seemed a bit distant. Wolfgang Windgassen was less immediate (forward?) than on K1000 but K1000 is a magical beast—the forging scene seemed slightly to overwhelm the tenor as it does less on other cans (caveat about herculean demands of the role). But my taste for tilted treble may make my assessment unreliable. Really like Erda. She and Hans Hotter do an excellent duet in Siegfried. Oboes have their utterly lifelike nasality. The triangle is sparkly and wonderful. Immolation Scene comes together very well. Woodwinds, brass, strings, soprano—all coherent and weighty.
     
    Dolce:
     
    IEMs do not have physics on their side. 56mm transducers can do things that IEMs cannot hope to. Despite this, the double balanced armature plus dynamic driver design of K3003i has to be considered a success. Performance approaches that of top flight open back headphones. While it decisively does not equal them, it is a very, very good substitute when you're on the go. Though isolation is mediocre-to-average, and while I might in the future prefer the PXC 550 or N90Q, these are infinitely more stylish and portable. 
     
    If you can find them for ~$300, they are very much worth the expense. If they're any more than $500, feel confident in your decision to skip them.
    proedros, FLTWS and Cinder like this.
  4. salla45
    5.0/5,
    "Truly excellent; a laser etched, yet involving, insight into the music"
    Pros - Real reference transducers. Very rewarding and involving. Completely addictive and immersive. Clarity, separation, dynamics and response all excellent
    Cons - Nothing worth mentioning
    (edited note - for some reason I am giving these 10/10 for Audio Quality, but they are appearing as one notch less. Not sure why!)
     
    Introduction
     
    To begin, would like to explain a little about my self and what makes me "tick" as regards audio equipment.
     
    First off, I am no head-fier. I have enjoyed audio reproduction for the last 30 years or so, and specifically enjoy an out-of-the-box soundstage experience with conventional loudspeakers; kit which just disappears and leaves the music behind.
     
    I purchase audio equipment for the sole purpose of listening to music, music, music. That's all, not for looks, not for caché or impression, or for boom and tizz. For musical involvement.  First and foremost I am a music addict, literally; I just get such a buzz from listening to great musicians playing well together and give thanks that I am living now, in this time, to be able to enjoy so much excellent recorded material in near perfect clarity with relatively low cost equipment.
     
    I have currently a pair of Kef X300A active speakers and run them with an assortment of several thousand albums of all genres ripped in flac or HD/SACD.
     
    Recently have I found that family lifestyle was not really allowing me to listen "pubicly" so I started investigating the smaller end of the spectrum, and specifically the world of universal IEM's.
     
    My first foray into the genre was an unheard of investment in a pair of Grado GR10's earlier this year quickly followed by a Fiio X3ii and E12 amp (to run the Grados and also a pair of ageing but still entirely worthy Sennheiser HD600's).
     
    I was very pleased with the sound of both with my new "rig", and loved the midrange of the Grados but soon the lure of something with more extension at both ends was just too much and I pulled the trigger on a pair of AKG's flagship model, the K3003's. I should add, this was after much prevarication and reading around, reviews, etc! I almost went for the SE846's from Shure, but was nagged by a feeling the apparent rolled of top end would be a constant source of regret had I gone for them.
     
    So after a week or so of almost complete immersion into the world of these "designed in Austria" beauties, I can safely say they have blown me away and bathe me in addictive and involving sound which just "works". 
     
    I am not going to describe the gear very much, nor their ergonomics, or aesthetics or what you get or don't get in the box. Nothing matters for me apart from how the sound and the fact that they can be worn for extended periods without discomfort or fatigue. With this in mind I should say that the back edges are a little sharp and take a little while to get used to. I did have some mild discomfort to begin with but now my ears have become used to them and I feel no discomfort.
     
    Why am I reviewing them? Simply because I find them to allow me to connect with the music more than any other piece of audio equipment I have ever owned or heard and I felt that they deserved a fresh review in light of recent price revisions
     
    I purchased the AKG's for a decent price of 800 CHF (around 850 usd or 550 gbp) and this was for the non-i version, ie without the remote and mic. Also with 2 years' guarantee.
     
    So... it's a far cry from the 1000 gbp original price or 1300usd or whatnot, and I feel at the price I paid, they are a bit of a bargain.
     
    I also think they have been marketed by AKG in such a way as to make them seem a frivolously chic frippery. a "lifestyle" item intending for rich playboys, to go with a nice pair of cufflinks or tiepin. Ie not worthy of audiophile consideration. I am hoping to redress this somewhat :)
     
    Now onto the important stuff...
     
    How do they sound
     
    I should mention that I use the K3003's with the Fiio X3ii / E12 combo and listen to a range of CD Flac rips and HD Tracks and SACD ISO and DFF or DSD files.
     
    Where to begin?
     
    Overall these are stunning. A masterpiece of engineering, offering more musical insight than I have ever hitherto had the pleasure of experiencing.
     
    The AKG K3003's allow me to enjoy, wherever I may be, a seemingly holographic portrayal of all genres of music.
     
    When I first listened to these, I focused on the bass , or the treble, picking out frequencies which were new to my ears in well-established recordings, and being stunned initially by their discrete abilities in this regard, but over time I have become more and more appreciative of the way the whole performance is portrayed. It's very easy to become lost in the soundscape, it's so detailed and rich and immersive. The wall of the interface of music reproduction simply melts away so easily and leaves you to just bathe in the performances. 
     
    To this end, I find the effect most stunning with well recorded ensemble pieces, rather than heavily processed or electronic tracks. That's not to say that these latter styles don't sound good (great, even), it's just that the effect, the illusion, of real human interplay is so heightened by the AKG's that genuinely virtuosic performances by ensembles at the top of their game just makes them entirely irresistible and addictive.
     
    One note I had made when listening over the past week include that they make most albums very listenable and engaging; that there is a sound signature to albums of which I was not acutely aware until listening to various albums with these. Once I got used to the bright clear sound signature of these AKG's themselves, I was able to assimilate the signatures of the albums was listening to quite rapidly, and I could get on with the business of listening to the album on it's own strengths and weaknesses.
     
    So, rather than being turned off an album for this and that reason and moving on to the next to try (a regular, normal occurrence when listening to audio with me, at least), I am just transfixed often enough with what is currently playing so I listen to a whole whole track or album, relishing each note, feeling the direct connection with the musicians, their passion, their energy, their life. This occurs with most genres and recordings. And give them better source material, they simply perform even better. This is no mean feat for any equipment,as far as I am concerned. I am notoriously flighty when it comes to listening. Always seeking nirvana, the next buzz, or what-have-you, so to have some kind of stable and consistently excellent platform to listen to music on its own merits is refreshing to say the least.
     
    Another note I made was that dynamically, the K3003's handle well the ebb and flow of music, especially notable with well recorded classical material and prog-rock, where crescendos are handled effortlessly and naturally.
     
    To sum up... Man, these are something else! They are pure transducers of a high order offering a window onto the sound like nothing else I have experienced. However, they don't sound cold or clinically analytical. just pure. I keep testing them out, thinking, "when is the bubble going to burst, when am I going to wake up or come to my senses?" but they just keep on making sublime music. And wherever and whenever I want, completely discretely. Absolutely stunning.  
     
    One thing I would say, is that these are pretty addictive. I have had to consciously and reluctantly climb out of listening experiences, musical moments, when other things have demanded my attention. It's another world in here.
     
    Specific Examples - Musical Notes (I could go on forever, but here's a few...)
     
    Blues-Rock - Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Soul To Soul - Say What! (MFSL SACD DFF)
     
    Great test this. Can easily sound congested, but the AKG's deconstructed this beautifully, revealing a full 3d soundscape, with all instruments in define spaces. Easy to follow bassline and "comping" keyboards and percussion behind SRV's soaring lead. Fantastic. Giving me chills as I write this.
     
    Blues-Rock/Southern Rock/Jam Band - Allman Brothers - Eat A Peach - Mountain Jam (MFSL SACD DFF) (1st 15 mins or so)
     
    Now, this is a blast! OK, here goes... Deconstruction. In defined spaces in the soundstage: Bass, Berry Oakley clearly defined rickenbacker by the sound of it (correction- It's a Fender Jazz Bass). Really clean and clear, in mid foreground, slightly to the right. Lead guitar on right, Duane Allman. Left hand side rhythm/2nd lead, Dickey Betts. Far right and left double drummers Jai Johannson and Butch Trucks. And in the background (unless leading) Gregg on organ. My goodness this is incredible. I've never heard these guy gel so well! & I've listened to this 1000 times. Really so stunning, the bass ripping through it all, but tying perfectly to the drumming, allowing a canvas on which the guitars and keyboards can soar. 
     
    Classical - Beethoven Symph no 3 - Eroica - Marriner - AAM - (1983 or something?) CD Rip
     
    This is a very well recorded version of the 3rd, and performances are spot-on. I have listened to this for the last 25 years or so and it's sounding super via the AKG's. Smooth, detailed, holographic. I can clearly hear individual groups of instruments and interplay between them. No stridency whatsoever, just smooth and clear. Dynamic peaks handled extremely well. Music flows naturally. Phones disappear, leaving soundstage.
     
    Electronic - Tangerine Dream - Poland (Title track)
     
    I have always loved this track, since the late 80's when I first heard it. It's one of my favourite all time Tangerine Dream tracks. It has a visceral energy, dynamic, stunning bass, and atmosphere and it's an amazingly well recorded live album. With the AKG's it's portrayed very well indeed. Holographic soundstage, great air between instruments. Tight bass line. The textures of the sounds are very layered and interesting. Beautiful rendition, stunning. Giving me chills again, as I write. The dynamics and tension are captured so well. It's alive!! There's one part of the track around 6 mins in where a sort of rasping sound moves from l-r and then the piece takes off again into a soaring electronic climax. All handled beautifully and clearly. Am enjoying interplay more than ever here.
     
    Acoustic - Punk/Folk - Frank Turner - I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous CD Rip
     
    Got into FT in recent years, went to see him live a couple of times locally. Great times. I Knew Prufrock is a super track about coming of age. Here it sound better than ever. It has a slow buildup to a rousing finish, with much detail and complexity along the way. A great test for any system and can easily sound irritating with lesser systems. Here, with the AKG's it's sounding great. Holographic (that word again) acoustic guitar sound, crystal clear. Vocals nicely presented. Visceral energy builds up proportionally as the track moves forward. All very good. As the full crescendo comes on, it almost loses it, and it probably should sound like it should, but it doesn't and maintains composure, surety.
     
    Prog -  Rock - Genesis - Selling England By The Pound - Dancing With The Moonlit Knight SACD DFF
     
    This album was one of the early pinnacle masterpieces from the Prog Rock masters. The opening track is a stunner. Everyone is on top form and the recording production is 2nd to none. Here, with the K3003's, it's superb. Crystal clear definition of instruments in their own spaces, Gabriel's vocals are stunning, very lifelike indeed. Nothing to fault; interplay is superb, sounds like a jazz fusion outfit at the top of their game. One realises what a great drummer Phil Collins was.  So uncongested. Incredible, given the complexity of the music, like each instrument is laser etched.
     
    Rock - Jazz - Steely Dan - Aja (Title Track)  SACD ISO
     
    Possibly the finest track from arguably the finest album of the 70's. Becker and Fagen were notorious for their ruthless and laborious approach to album creation, hiring the best musicians of the day to play certain parts of each track and then editing them to perfection with all the finest cuts. Aja features a drum and sax solo from Steve Gadd and Wayne Shorter respectively and it's a real epic, swooping and soaring often in startling directions. The AKG's handle the piece with reverence, neutrally, allowing the virtuosic perfomances to shine through. Notably, percussive cymbals are shining through with a delicacy I haven't heard before. Really adding to the experience. Beautiful.
     
    Rock - Metal - Iron Maiden - Rock In Rio - Blood Brothers - CD Rip
     
    Love this track, and not more so than on the Rock In Rio album. Handled superbly by the AKG's, deconstructs the soundstage very well. I was expecting this to sound irritating and compressed somewhat, but was completely surprised. The soundstage was pushed back nicely, and dynamics handled well, with the swelling and power of the occasion coming over well. Turning on the bass boost feature of the Fiio E12 amp, helped to give some oomph to the proceedings. Guitar solo really nicely defined with great interplay with percussion.  Again, giving me chills :)

    vaibhavp and Dany1 like this.
  5. jamesyuchn
    4.5/5,
    "Very impressive IEM"
    Pros - Beautifully crafted, natural signature, wide soundstage, balanced sound
    Cons - cable not detachable
    This is the best IEM among all my gears! The sound is balanced and natural. A big CON is about its undetachable cable... I think switching to balanced output will make it sound even better, but simply cannot try it unless cutting the cable, which will be a hard choice :frowning2:
  6. GUO XIAOZHOU
    4.5/5,
    "Sound from Heaven."
    Pros - Beautifully crafted; outstanding isolation and comfort; easy to drive; natural signature.
    Cons - cable are not detachable.
    AKG K3003 is an important milestone in the development of IEM. It’s the first universal fit IEM that successfully combines dynamic driver and balance armature technology together. After owning them for 3 years, K3003 never fail to move me.
     
    K3003 is hand crafted in Vienna with the highest standard of precision engineering. Its main component is made out of one single piece of stainless steel, this ensure an outstanding durability of the earphone. It terminate in an 3.5mm mini jack with rose gold plating. The build quality of K3003 is a 10/10.
     
    Since K3003 is a combination of two different audio technology, I want to talk about each one of them briefly.
     
    First of all, AKG K3003 contains 2 balance armature drivers in the housing: 1 tweeter and 1 full-range. Most people tempt to believe that balance armature earphones generally deliver a cold sound with great amount of detail, but actually this isn’t the case for every models. Shure SE530 is a typical example of a warm sounding balance armature earphone. On the other hand, the clarity of the earphones is actually depends on the number of drivers and the performance of each individual driver. In the case of K3003, the 2 balance armatures combination generates an unbelievable clarity that can even compete with some of the flagship Custom IEM on the market right now. From this aspect, K3003 sounds really similar to the K702. The only different is, the details on K3003 is under better control, not too define, not muddy at all, just right.
     
    Other than the 2 balance armatures, there’s also 1 dynamic driver inside K3003. That dynamic driver is for the bass. In fact, at the very beginning, I was concern that the penetration of dynamic and balance armature wouldn’t work, but AKG proved that I’m wrong. They work together perfectly, result in a perfectly natural sound signature with outstanding soundstage performance (greatest width and depth I ever heard from a universal-fit IEM). All instrument and vocal now sound more heartwarming, When they finally comes together in one piece, language seems so powerless to describe the experience, it all comes down to one word: Heaven.
     
    All of conclusion from above are all my impression with K3003 and iPod classic alone, without using any amplifier. K3003 is the kind of headphone that you have to listen it yourself to understand how amazing it is. A lot of people thinks K3003 is too pricey, but for me, when it comes to buying K3003, only 2 questions are require: Do I like it? Can I afford one? For IEM like K3003, price is nothing more than a number.
     
    I believe that music creates miracle, K3003 did it.
     
     
    Tracks use for review:
     
    1. Evangelion Simphony 2 -Partita III fur Violin Solo in E No 3.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    2. Kaori Kobayashi - Sunshine.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    3. Mozart - Requiem in D minor.
     
    [​IMG]
     
    4. Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance Original Soundtrack - "Mellow 2009" (2EM18).
     
    [​IMG]
     
    5. Thanatos (If i Can't be Yours).
     
    [​IMG] 
  7. skfktkwjs
    4.5/5,
    "One Great sound"
    Pros - Overall sound, clarity, Very wide stage, fun yet balanced sound .
    Cons - price, none detachable cable, cable above Y split, carrying case is bit small to fit it in, isolation is not as good as other IEM
    .
  8. LeloHeven
    5.0/5,
    "Great IEM"
    Pros - natural tune, full of detail, beautiful crafted
    Cons - a little overprice
    Treble: a little bit piercing, especially on IPC. However, if connet this with the Hifiman player like HM-602, HM-603 or HM-801, the treble would be bright but not piercing.
     
    Mid: clean and natural. Some might say it's lack of warmth, but with a warmth sound music player, the mid will be warm and full of emotion.
     
    Bass: when I bought this, I thought this IEM lack of bass. After run for longer than 700 hours. It has much better perfomance on bass, especially the depth of the bass.
     
    Soundstage: the only word to discribe the soundstage of this IEM is UNBELIEVEABLE. I just can't imaging an IEM can have this range of soundstage. 
     
    Imaging: Amazing, just like the perfomance on the soundstage. I can clearly feel the different locations of all the music instrument.
     
    Vocal: very natural, slightly forward. clearly seperated to the accompany. clear and bright, might feel lack of warmth with some player.
     
    Comfort: I have to say, the K3003 is very comfort for me, but not for the guys who have narrow ear canal.
     
    Isolation: the isolation of this IEM is not that good, but still better than many IEM, after use the Comply foam tips, the isolation getting better.
     
    About the dynamic and balanced armature units: I have to say, the K3003 is the best hybrid headphone I've ever heard. I think the coherency is quite good.
  9. ricoc82
    4.5/5,
    "The best universal IEM I have heard so far."
    Pros - overall sound quality, transparency, imaging, sound stage
    Cons - price, sound quality is critical to your gear
    Gears used: HiSoundAudio Studio V, iRiver AK100
     
    Tracks used: SoundProLab Absolute Sampler Album
                        Kamikazee's Maharot
                        Mary Stallings, Sunny
                        All in Lossless CD Quality 44khz/16bit
     
    Value:
    I think this is a great value for an IEM, to have this kind of sound quality yet very portable to carry around is just amazing. If you can save up to buy these they are definitely worth it.
     
    Audio Quality:
    I am not very technical so I'll just share you in a way that I can.
    Transparency:
    I think this is where the K3003 shine the most, It was able to provide layers and separation in all notes, not too many IEMs can do that specially at the low frequencies, other IEMs tend to sound distorted when a set of bass level instruments are produced simultaneously, with the K3003 the lows from drums, bass guitar, and rhythm guitar are significantly heard separately. The mids and highs are like that as well.
     
    Imaging:
    The presentation is simply amazing, you can close your eyes and imagine where the band is playing whether the music was produce to sound as if you were in a bar with a small stage or a large concert stadium.
     
    Soundstage:
    The largest I've heard on any universal IEM.
     
    Sound Signature:
    Very very very natural, very similar to Beyerdynamic T1 which is my favorite full sized headphones. Everything you will hear in K3003 is very real, the drum hits are just unbelievable, the guitar strings sound as if you're the one playing them, you can even hear the singer's lips open. I am not exaggerating this.
     
    Bass:
    Great but its just a couple notch to becoming excellent I just want a little more punch and a little more bass extension but very little.
     
    Mids:
    Great, maybe excellent if we are only comparing with IEM.
     
    Highs:
    Excellent, the most pleasurable highs I have heard, very clear but not fatiguing.
     
    Comfort:
    I guess if I can pin point a problem it will be the comfort, well its not actually uncomfortable but you get the feeling that the IEM is losing its grip inside after awhile but not really.
     
    Isolation:
    4 stars because of the comfort problem that I mentioned, this is with comparison to Westone silicon tips that locks up instantly without any effort.
     
    Overall:
    This is the best universal IEM that I have heard so far. I may come bias since I have not heard other expensive earphones available in the market other than the Sennheiser IE 800 and Westone 4R. I am very familiar with the headphones Beyerdynamic T1 and Sennheiser HD 800. Sure there are a lot of portable gear setups that can surpass the sound quality that you can get from a mere set of earphones and a dap, but hey its a mere set of earphones and a dap!
     
     
     
     
     
  10. Kunlun
    2.5/5,
    "An Enjoyable, But Flawed Earphone Not Worth The Price"
    Pros - Great Tuning--These Are Fun To Listen To, Good Detail In the Midrange And Treble
    Cons - Incoherency Between The Drivers Is Noticeable, Harsh treble with best detailed filter, detail loss with others, High price, Reliability is a concern
    Short Review: All observations made with the high pass filters. Naturally I listened with each of the three filters, but the high pass was my preference.
     
    Pros:
    I really liked the tuning of these. With the K3003, you get an approximation of a neutral sound in terms of a good balance between treble, midrange and bass and the filter system gives you a means of adjusting this balance (at a cost of slightly loss of detail with the non-reference filters). What's great is that the sound is still very fun. I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly why, but these were great to listen to. I think the combination of the brightness of the treble with the full bass give the fun of a more v-shaped sound, but I didn't find the midrange recessed. Add that to the nice detail in the midrange and treble, and you've got a tuning that lets you sit up an really listen to your music while still rocking out.
     
    Cons:
    The main issue for me was the incoherency between the drivers. You can certainly tell the difference between the sound characteristics of the dynamic driver for the bass and the balanced armature drivers for the midrange and treble. I'm not sure why AKG used this particular dynamic driver, but it's markedly less detailed and has a slower decay than the armatures. It's not terrible, but it's a serious flaw in an earphone with a huge pricetag. I often listen to music where the bass, midrange and treble are equally balanced, string quartets are an example. Another is renaissance polyphony where the bass, tenor, alto and soprano singers must be balanced. The bass voices were less detailed and crisp than the sopranos with the k3003. I imagine there will be music where this issue is less noticeable, but if you listen, you'll hear the discontinuity in the earphone.
     
    EDIT: After writing the review, I've come across a graph which may help: The CSD graph in this post perfectly sums up the issue with the k3003. You can see very clearly that the decay in the bass from the dynamic driver is way, way, way longer than in the rest of the frequency range as produced by the armature drivers.
     
    The treble will definitely be a bit harsh for some using the high pass filters, but using the other filters takes a bit away from the detail resolution. It's a trade off that I don't want to make at $1,400.
     
    Some found issues with isolation, I thought it was average. Others have reported fit issues, I didn't have any, but certainly it's always possible and one can carefully try different brands of eartips. The standard tips worked for me so I didn't explore that.
     
    Reliability is a serious concern as well. The stress relief on the pair I used for this review was showing signs of wear after only a few months.