KEF - best of their history?

jaxwired

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Always like KEF speakers but I feel like they lost their way since 2000. Not to mention the huge price jump that occurred in their ref line post 2000. And I really like the look and sound of their classic speakers better. Just my opinion. There new speakers don't have the great bass of old KEF's. I'm curious what others think. When did KEF peak? Best KEFs ever?
 

chebby

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jaxwired said:
Best KEFs ever?

Out of any that I was ever able to afford... KEF 103.2

Heard them a few times in the 1980s and almost bought them with a Quad 44/FM4/405 system from my dealer. (Used but mint/boxed and with a 1 year guarantee from an elderly customer of his who was selling everything to go and live in care.)
 

CnoEvil

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I only partly agree.

I used to own IQ9, which (imo) when correctly partnered, sounded transparent, neutral, clean and powerful, with a properly controlled bass. It also had a good overall dynamic range for an £800 speaker. It was a good choice for a mix of AV and 2 channel duties.

I never got on with the XQ range, unless on the end of Valve amplification.

The latest Reference range is in a completely different league (to lower models), and as you may know, I own the 205/2. IMO The Ref range are the best (at the money), for speakers that are needed for dual duties. They were a big step up from the Mk 1 version, which I didn't like.

Compared to the Reference series of the past, they are more accurate, detailed and neutral (without tipping into bright), with a bass that appears less, but is tighter, more tuneful and better controlled. With an impedance dropping to 3.2 Ohms, they still needs a very competent amp, with lots of current.

With their new Q series, I'm not so convinced by these passive ABRs, which should have been consigned to the past (just my view).

I think the current Ref range are better than those from the past, but that's subjective. The best Kefs are the Muons (which I have heard), followed by the Blades (which I haven't).

If the new R series is good, then they are probably reaching their peak now.

Cno
 

Frank Harvey

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There are any number of speakers that could be touted as KEF's best ever.

I do agree there was a change for KEF around the turn of the century, good and bad. They released the KHT range, starting with the 2005, and while sub/sat systems weren't a new idea, pretty much kick started the whole lifestyle speaker market. This was one of the major turning points for KEF. Around the same time, there were a couple of ranges I wasn't too personally keen on. I never got on with the original XQ series, finding them too soft and warm, and really didn't like the top mounted 'hypertweeter'. Following on from the awesome Reference range which included the Model 4.2's, KEF radically revamped their Reference series and did away with the coupled cavity, force cancelling internal bass drivers for a more conventional design, but with sculpted cabinets. This new sound wasn't as warm and bass rich as the previous ones, and many didn't like the change, including myself, but as with the previous series, the following Mark II Reference provided a huge step forward, with major changes, but unfortunately with a major price increase as well. The older Reference may have had more bass, but the more recent Reference has a tighter, more accurate bass. Despite this change, and the price increase needed to implement changes to improve the early 200 series, it hasn't stopped the Reference range being one of our most successful speaker ranges in recent years.

I originally got into KEF because of the technology behind them, and fell in love with the 104/2's in the very early 90's. The coupled cavity, force cancelling bass drivers provided the most potent bass I've ever heard from a cabinet of that size, and the d'Appolito HF/MF arrangement on the front of the cabinet producing great imaging, without the issues many speakers had because of a single HF and single MF arrangement - you could say that the d'Appolito arrangement could be seen as the nearest thing to the UniQ idea with conventional drivers. Since then, I've gone on to own 1.2's, 4.2's, 104/2's, 105/3's, 201/2's, 207/2's, and now the Blades, which are far and away THE best speaker I've ever heard in my life. Again, this was another speaker that drew me in because of the technology behind it, and once that is understood, it's then possible to appreciate the 'cabinet free' music that is produced in a totally effortless manner.

So although the 104/2 and the Model 4.2 will always be special to me (along with the KEF based Jim Rogers JR149 loudspeaker from the 70's), the Blade has to be the best ever KEF loudspeaker. Im sure if Raymond Cooke were alive today, he'd be extremely proud of what the design team have done in producing one of the most stunning sounding (as well as looking) loudspeakers ever built.

Any company that is always trying to push boundaries and try new things will always have a patchy history. To never produce a duff model or range would be a complete fluke. The Q series was quite an achievement, and the new R series is a phenomenal achievement (as you're all about to find out), and with other products coming, I think the coming 12 months - the year of KEF's 50th anniversary - are going to belong to KEF.

But that's just my personal opinion :D
 

CnoEvil

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David, not having heard the Blades, I assumed (due to the price difference) that they would not be as good as the Muons. Do I gather from your post, that you rate them (Blades) more highly....if so, in what way.

Cheers

Cno
 

Frank Harvey

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I think opinion would be divided on that. From what I've heard of the two, I'd prefer the Blades. As I said in my other post, I was drawn to the Blades by their technology and design. The Muon is a completely different speaker, and to me is more of a statement than a technological advancement.

The cost of a speaker is irrelevant, it's performance that counts. The Muons retail for around £140,000, and the Blades for £20,000. Does this mean they can't be as good s the Muon? After all, the original Concept Blades would've cost far more than £20,000....

:)
 
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I owned a pair of kef q35's back in the year 2000, great speakers for the money, i am thinking about buying a pair of the new q100's, the new range seem's to be a return to form for kef.
 

Cypher

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I heard several kef speakers and was never impressed. I had the Q100 for a while and sold them after 6 weeks.It was tiresome to listen to them and the bass was not tight enough.
 

CnoEvil

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FrankHarveyHiFi said:
I think opinion would be divided on that. From what I've heard of the two, I'd prefer the Blades. As I said in my other post, I was drawn to the Blades by their technology and design. The Muon is a completely different speaker, and to me is more of a statement than a technological advancement. The cost of a speaker is irrelevant, it's performance that counts. The Muons retail for around £140,000, and the Blades for £20,000. Does this mean they can't be as good s the Muon? After all, the original Concept Blades would've cost far more than £20,000.... :)

You would have had a great career as a politician. ;) :)
 

TheHomeCinemaCentre

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CnoEvil said:
David, not having heard the Blades, I assumed (due to the price difference) that they would not be as good as the Muons. Do I gather from your post, that you rate them (Blades) more highly....if so, in what way. Cheers Cno

We had a set of Muon's in store for several months and I would rate the Blades as a superior speaker. The Muon's look like nothing else and are a serious statement but the Blades stand out sound wise. Everybody who heard the Muon's commented on the size, the appearance but no one ever real enthused about the performance. On the other hand the customers who have listened to the Blades keep grabbing more CD's to play.
 

CnoEvil

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TheHomeCinemaCentre said:
We had a set of Muon's in store for several months and I would rate the Blades as a superior speaker. The Muon's look like nothing else and are a serious statement but the Blades stand out sound wise. Everybody who heard the Muon's commented on the size, the appearance but no one ever real enthused about the performance. On the other hand the customers who have listened to the Blades keep grabbing more CD's to play.

Thanks Nick.

It actually bears out what I thought when I heard them.....I put it down to being in a room that was far from ideal (and maybe amplification that needed to be more in line with the cost of the speakers).

I must try and get a listen to these Blades then.
 

Frank Harvey

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Andrew Everard said:
I was referring to the continuous promotion, not the lack of political ambition.

Just answering the OP's subject :)

I look at every individual's situation independently, and recommend what I feel suits, whichever manufacturer that may be. Yes, I have a soft spot for KEF for many reasons, but that isn't the reason I would recommend them for everyone. In fact, I don't recommend them for everyone :)

I'd love to be a politician. I wouldn't be like by other politicians because of my honest nature and tackling serious issues that affect people, rather than making money for the government and making better for fellow politicians. Scum, the lot of them.
 

Frank Harvey

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CnoEvil said:
Thanks Nick. It actually bears out what I thought when I heard them.....I put it down to being in a room that was far from ideal (and maybe amplification that needed to be more in line with the cost of the speakers). I must try and get a listen to these Blades then.

You'll find that the Blades are quite room friendly, despite their size. We could never get the 207's to work in our main demo room, they needed the larger 5m x 5m demo room on our middle floor, but the Blades worked straight out of the box in our main room, and just settled in more and more as they were running in. Placement is room dependent, but they work really well in our 3.5m x 5m demo room (guessing).
 
I think KEF are a great British brand, and I have owned their classic B139 in a pair of Nightingale NM1 speakers, and currently have a KEF 5.1 system. And my Dad still uses some Codas I bought him years ago, that have never let him down.

That said, I've rarely been wowed by KEFs, though I realise that is a generalisation. More often than not, I've preferred a rival.

I did hear the Blades at their launch, and penned a brief 'review' here:

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/kef-blades-first-outing

I'm pleased that David has got them working to his liking (and his customer's!), and as it's almost impossible for most of us to make serious comparisons at this level, I can only hope they do well, despite any misgivings of my own. As with many makes, the real value is at the lower end, and I think the Q300 are testimony to that.
 

CnoEvil

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nopiano said:
That said, I've rarely been wowed by KEFs, though I realise that is a generalisation. More often than not, I've preferred a rival.

The Reference range, (like ATC and hi-end Focal), shine a spotlight on what's upstream. If like me, you find a lot of CDs suffer from digitalitis and most SS amps (AB & D) sound too bright and edgey (Lavardin being an exception), then this is passed on in all its glory.

I find that Class A / Valves ameliorates this. FWIW I find the Reference range just on the smoother side of absolute neutral, as compared to Focal which (imo) go fractionally the other way.

Speakers like Proac, Sonus Faber and Spendor tackle the problem from the other end. If my setup was only used for 2 channel, it would have SF on the end of the 35i.
 

csq2

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I love my IQ90s, IQ60C and IQ30s for HT setup. Clear, dynamic, and excellent 3D imaging. The speakers look highend with their curved cabinets. The new Q series look like a stripped down version of the original IQ series. Kef probably cut costs by going for boxy cabinets instead of curved ones. The bass is heavier and louder on the new Q series but it is too overpowering for my tastes and lacks refinement. The best of their history ended after the IQ series IMO. Now they're more of a mainstream brand like Bose with their T series.
 
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My thoughts exactly. I like the look of my IQ7s and wouldn't replace them with anything as square and boxy as the Q series (besides, I don't think the new Q are better). I'm not saying boxy is ugly per se, but the older models just have a more subtle presence. Bonus points for having a curved top, so that guests don't place their drinks on the speaker. The square and boxy design is good when you can place your speakers against a wall, like most Dali standmounts, but otherwise it just shows a lack of imagination -- and seeing the Muon and Blade series, they do have lots of it :)

I once had the pleasure of listening to a pair of 80's Kef Reference 104s (I think). They sounded great even with modest kit (entry-level NAD), but really shone with a Rega Mira. I don't know if it was because of age or design, but the top end was incredibly detailed and smooth. Characteristics that people usually ascribe to valve amps...
 

Rethep

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104 aB definitely! My 1st professional hifi speaker after the Wharfedale Denton-2, which every teenager loved in those times. Kept them till 1988 when they were replaced by Magnepan's, which only stayed for 3 years, to be replaced with my present Epos ES-11's for the past 21 years. No doubt to say i lost contact with KEF, but still makes me think of those happy years, then!
 

SSM

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jaxwired said:
There new speakers don't have the great bass of old KEF's. I'm curious what others think. When did KEF peak? Best KEFs ever?

Owned just two KEFs: the second being the Q Compact which is just okay. My first KEF was also my first hifi speaker ever - the iconic Coda 7 and a giant-killer in its time (1995). At one point during peak sales, KEF took out ads proclaiming the Coda outsold its nearest competitor by an impressive margin (6 for every 1 iirc). The Coda 7 got me started on this hifi hobby, it sounded so much better than the ones on the Kenwood/Sony/Pioneer minis I've had. Fond memories. My brother had the Coda 8 - also lovely.

I tried to stay with KEF after the Coda 7 but I always found another brand that sounded better for whichever new price level I sought to buy. I find the metal tweeters on the ever-evolving Q range too hard for my tastes. I briefly considered the Concerto 1 and 2 but chose a Castle floorstander instead.

I'm sure KEF's price-no-object offerings sound the business, but the tweeters on their mainstream ranges need more fine-tuning. Entry-level alternatives from Dynaudio sound much sweeter on top.

The current Q floorstanders look fantastic and I'd like to have a listen someday. But that 'aggressive'-looking tangerine-shaped clawed metal tweeter scares me...
smiley-tongue-out.gif


SS
 

Frank Harvey

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SSM said:
The current Q floorstanders look fantastic and I'd like to have a listen someday. But that 'aggressive'-looking tangerine-shaped clawed metal tweeter scares me...

Don't worry, the UniQ has changed a few times since then, and the new one is massively different. Yes, the high level of detail is still there, but they're much sweeter now, and far less 'aggressive'. The main reason for their perceived aggressiveness was that they generally had a lean sounding bass, which brings the midrange and treble forward more. This balance has now changed, so much so that I don't recall anyone who has ever heard them instore not liking them. The Q and the R are really quite different, and are a major step forward for KEF, and for UniQ.
 

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