I've auditioned both of these systems myself and I think they were both very good, but the KEF had the edge at higher volumes and just seemed to have a bit more muscle. However, I slightly preferred the movie performance of the Tannoys, as I could discern a lot more detail in the backgrounds of movie soundtracks - theyre more delicate performers, if you like, although they still couldnt match the slam of the KEFs in explosive action scenes. I know movie sound isn't youre priority, but I thought it would be interesting to mention this.
This is entirely subjective but I must say I prefer the aesthetics of the newer KEFs. In the 'Style Speaker Package Supertest' in Januarys edition of WHF, the Arcam MUSO system was said to have the best music performance. This is a slightly more expensive proposition however I think it is definitely worth your consideration if your budget could stretch to it (£1200) although I have not listened to it personally.
i have not heard the tannoy's but i have the kef 3005se package with a pioneer vsx lx60 amp and it is awesome , for both movies and music ! plenty of muscle and detail in both formats. so if you plump for them i doubt youll be dissapointed, im not and i am pretty criticle with my sound.
I have had the same problem, to tell the diff between both the Tannoy Arena (w/o stands) / KEF KHT3005.1 is hard work! the Tannoys appear to be better made, heavier...but everyone above so far is saying the KEF KHT3005.1 is the one to go for..
I agree with the comments on the extra detail the Tannoy's provide. There are sounds I didn't hear on the other speakers I did a demo of.
In terms of music, I thought the Tannoys were miles ahead. Anything with a decent bit of base just did not cut it on the KEFs. The low frequencies just couldn't keep up, and there was no punch for proper basslines. It wasn't just due to the sub either, as I tried the 3005SEs again with the PV1 sub, and the Arena was still better. Detail again was also better.
In terms of loudness, all my demos were loud, at least at some point, and the Arenas didn't seem to suffer any particular issues in comparison ot other speakers.
Although everyone likes an individual sound, so it's not just about detail and stuff, myself I can't really see how the 3005Se could be seen as on a par with the Arena.
In terms of recommendations from magazines, it's worth remembering that the Arena was in the same bracket as the MT-30 when what hi-fi reviewed it in 2005, and it got 5 stars along with the MT-30. The MT-30 pipped it in terms of winning, but I've also demod that, and found it had significant weakness against the Arena. I don't think anyone would bother comparing the 3005SEs against the MT-30, and for me it's a similar situation.
There's another Arena thread on here somewhere, where someone compares the Arena favourably ot his old hi fi system for music.
I myself started off thinking the 3005SE would do me, then was disappointed. After trying the 5005s and MT-30, and still not being convinced, I was delighted to find the Arena outstripped them for a similar price to the 3005SE, (with stands). Having said that, if you can't tell the difference yourself, then you may as well go for the one you like the look of best, and/or is cheapest.
However, I never tried the monitor audio speakers or Arcams that are supposed to be good for music though, so they may suit you, though are more conventionally styled.
Hope this helps. I've had the Arenas for a couple of months, and am not disappointed, but I'm not some sort of zealot. It's just that from the demoing I've done, they don't seem to get a fair crack of the whip.