Sony's £10,000 speakers headed for Europe?

If you're yearning for the very best in hi-fi, and happen to have £10K rattling around in your pocket, I have some good news for you. During an ear-ra

So why the crippling pricetag? Well, the ultra high-end Scan Speak drivers are set into Japanese Maple that's grown in Okaido - and only cut in November, when the chill makes the wood more solid. The cabinets are made from Finnish birch and the piano laquer is applied by a proper piano company. And each speaker arrives with a circle of extruded Maple that's signed by the engineer responsible.

But what you're really paying for is the listening experience, which is a million miles from what I'm used to these days. Like so many people, all the music I listen to is in compressed MP3 format, playing through my earphones or an iPod dock. I only realised what I was missing when I heard a pair of SS-AR1s connected (by cables thicker than a garden hose) to Sony's reference hi-fi equipment.

As is often the case with demos, I was subjected to anodyne vocal tracks and  noodling jazz (including a three-minute slap bass solo, the memory of which still makes my teeth ache and eardrums itch). But I also heard one of my favourite artists, Jeff Buckley, in a totally new light.

It might be impossible to justify the $8,000-per-speaker price, but if you get the chance to sit in front of a pair of SS-AR1s, take it. And take a CD you like, too.

Oh, and some good news for  credit crunch-afflicted audiophiles - the little brother of the AR1 will be available next year the knock-down price of just US$6000 per speaker.