In-Store (Best Buy) KEF R3 vs B&W 705 S2 Comparison

As my current speakers seem to be reaching their life's end. I'm considering a couple of JM Reynaud's (Bliss Jubilee and Cantabile Jubilee), but they're hard to actually get a pair to listen to where I'm at. The importer will send me a demo pair, but there's a wait to get one of the models I'm interested in.

In the meantime, I went to a Best Buy. As a Total Tech member, I thought I'd take advantage of what they might have to offer, as I have 60 days to return anything I purchase.

In the $2000-3000 range, I'm mot necessarily a fan of any of lines they carry in general, but I thought I'd look at the Kef R3, which get great reviews, and the B&W 705 S2, which are on sale in black at one particular location (but oddly, not all of their locations) for ~$2650 (retail $3300, although their original retail when they came out several years ago, interestingly, was $2500).

At first I listened to a store produced medley of video clips, but the salesperson had a Spotify-type app to give me some HD content I was familiar with.

I chose Patricia Barber's Café Blue.

Briefly, the R3 was more relaxed and remarkably open, but they didn't grab the rhythm, and were tonally rather gray and a bit thin. The instruments lacked body and harmonic complexity. I could hear the skin of the tom-tom, but not much resonance, even standing right in from of the left and right channel speakers. Best Buy's speaker array is set. They can't be taken down and put in the middle of the room, or even be moved to another spot on the back shelf wall so any speaker can be auditioned in the same place as another. As y'all know, placement is so important. The B&Ws were much closer together, while the KEFs were at the extreme left/right corners of the shelf.

In contrast, the 705 S2 presented instruments with much more precision and complexity. There was much greater separation. And with the tom-tom, I could hear the resonance as well as much greater decay. And cymbals shimmered and decayed with the harmonic complexity that sounded like real instruments.

But the 705's soundstage was smaller and there was some aspect of the whole presentation that seemed constrained. It was harder to relax while listening. In contrast, I felt more relaxed listening to the KEFs , but their tonality was very generic. When I was listening to an acoustic bass player go up and down the fretboard,  bend notes and play double-stops, the fattening of the notes and harmonics change; and those were conveyed by the 705 S2, and pretty much not at all by the R3.

There was no doubt that the 705 allowed the musicians' intentions to be more relatively conveyed. I just wonder how long I could listen to them without getting fatigued. We'll see. I took a pair home to try.

In general, while my experience with B&W is not extensive, most of the models I have listened to, aside from their VERY expensive ones (~$50,000) or their 600 series line, have come across as tonally fine, but musically somewhat inert or not that communicative, seeming stiff. It's like holding your breath for an extended period. There's a lack of "ahhhhhh". Interestingly, the 600 series and their top end series do a better job of giving music a generous fluidity (although the harmonic detail is also very generic with the 600 series). I listened to what I believe is the 703 or 704 floorstander. They were on sale for $1999 each, and I thought they both provided more detail than the 603 (but not as much as the 705 S2), but were more relaxed than the 705 S2. It was almost a happy medium for me, at least in their showroom. But as might be Best Buy, there was one individual speaker in one store about 30 miles west, and one individual speaker about 25 miles north.


Anyway, as I said above, I have taken home a pair of the 705 S2. Putting them on 22" stands (B&W makes dedicated 24" stands for this series, which allows them to be bolted to the speakers), so they're two inches lower than optimal, I have attached the bi-wired cables from the Pathos Classic Remix and I'll be breaking in these speakers this week. All speakers pretty much need a lot of break-in, as they sound stiff out of the box, so I'm not going to judge too quickly.


By the way, as I received the box from their storage area at Best Buy, I was disappointed to see that these were made in China. Not the worst thing in the world, but I prefer to support well-paid labor. The Pathos integrated is made in France, as are Reynaud speakers.


I worked for Magnolia for a short while and am very familiar with their speakers. In short, the B&W 700 series is ok but certainly nothing special. Personally I’d take the new LSA Signature 80 over the 705s any day, and they’re only $1300. Alternatively you could get a pair of Joseph Audio Prisms that are only a little more expensive but are in a completely different league performance wise than the 705s. If you really wanna knock it outta the park with a lights-out bargain and are open to buying used, here’s a nice pair of Joseph Audio Perspective floor standers for only $2600 (retail $7000) that’ll leave all the others in the dust…

My $0.02 FWIW, and best of luck in your search.

BTW, when I worked at Magnolia I routinely pulled the speakers out from the wall or off the shelf for customer demos.  You can’t make meaningful assessments of their speakers the way they have them set up — it’s absolutely ridiculous.  If you have other real audio dealers near you I’d highly recommend visiting them. 

The speakers in the link above do appear to be a screaming bargain.

Unfortunately, they are for pick up only in Irvine, CA, where I once lived.

The OP currently lists his address as Salem, MA, much closer to where I live now.



It was just sort of a lark, a fill-in, an experiment. It might be a month or so before I can get a pair of Reynauds to try. 


It's sonewhat limited pickings with regard to hearing speakers around here. There are a few shops, but only one speaker I have heard anywhere near my price range that I really liked, and that's the Sonus Faber Minima, and they're $4000, $5400 with their stands. I don't know an LSA dealer around me. 


@analogj I have never been to Fidelis Audio in Nashua, NH but I love looking at their website.  They sell many, many top brands and they have a pre-owned section where gear comes and goes also.  Only about an hour from Salem, MA.

NH does not have sales tax.

Yes, @jetter, that's who has the Minima. The Harbeth left me uninvolved. They have Fyne speakers, which were developed by originators of Tannoy. I tried the SF Sorrentos, and they didn't do anything for me. 

I just got home from a bike ride. These 705 S2 speakers have already changed. They have gotten more articulate in the lower end, and they've loosened a bit. 


I notice that the manual says to give them at least 15 hours for the mechanical aspects of the speakers to loosen up. And if they haven't been played a while, particularly if it's in a cool environment, they might need some playing to warming up. 


It remains to see/hear how truly an engaging experience they provide. 


Sometimes auditioning speakers at dealer showrooms is like buying a tv at a busy store. The one that is calibrated to be the most prominent might grab your attention and look better than others, but once you take it home it gets a bit too much of a good thing. My first audition of Harbeth was incidentally against B&W, although not at the same venue. I was super impressed with the presence, clarity, and vibrance of B&W and bought them on the spot. A few years later, I bought Harbeth and fell in love. What might come off as uninvolving during a short demo might mean you could listen to them much longer and make that emotional connection with your music that you didn’t think was possible. First impressions don’t mean much in this case.

Another brand that gives you a lot for your money is Fritz. I have their Carrera BE model in my second system and it’s fantastic. Fritz also provided a 30 day trial period. Hand made in the USA with premium parts and cabinets that are better than most commercial brands in the same price bracket. He sells direct so you know where the money is going.

+1 Fritz.

If you want to go big-box, Crutchfield has a 60-day return policy, and of late have been adding to their repertoire of good speakers.

Usually an issue with buying online is having to pay for shipping back to the retailer of not happy.