Kef is REALLY popular in Europe but it seems they are dismissing the US market for some reason. Maybe they will head back this way in the near future.
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Some would say that they've diluted the brand by focusing at least their lower-end models to the home theater crowd (the Eggs, for example).
In addition, I get the sense that the Uni-Q concept was originally perceived as a bit of a gimick and backed up by mediocre reviews of the original implementations. However, their latest upper-end models (XQ and Ref lines) have been getting some good press.
Finally, as Aball has pointed out, Kef seems to have largely ignored the US market to focus on Europe.
I have very fond memories of building particleboard cabinets and soldering up crossovers for my collection of B139 woofers, B110 midranges and T27 tweeters. Kent Engineering and Foundry used to be at the top of the game as far as drivers available to the amateur speakerbuilding community.
I was very favorably impressed with the more recent KEF Maidstone speakers. Haven't heard any other KEF speakers recently, though.
The Maidstone's designer was Andrew Jones. Andrew has left KEF and gone to work for Pioneer where he designed the very well respected Model 1, which also uses a coaxial mid/tweet driver. I think that system is superb. So count me as an Andrew Jones fan.
I think it's not so much the company as the engineer that does the design work. I never would have expected Pioneer to build a truly first-rate high end loudspeaker, but they obviously found the right engineer.
IKef still makes decent speake but to my mind isn't competitive at higher price ranges as now there are so many very good speakers that adjusted for iflation are like old Kef 104.But don't count thme out.Anothr company that was respected and fell shjort for a while was Snell.Now they have some hevayweight speakers that are extremely competive.Go tak e listen to what you canb afford and see for yourslef if j\kef stands up or you'd rather anothr.Probably I;'d reccomend staying with speakers made for Brittish domestic market like Harbeth,Spendor,B&W etc since I find that speakers are first made to appeal to doemsrtic markets and then "world domination".I characterisze them as say compared to Amnericanb oir acandian speakers to nbbe leaner and more neutral and some folks ddon't like it some do.Other speaker in that vein is Audio Physic from Germany.
I have a pair of bi-wired KEF Reference 104/2s that I am very please with. I listened to the "Three Blind Mice" XRCD24 disc on my KEFs, then 10 minutes later to the disc on a pair of Wilson Sophias, then 15 minutes later again on my KEFs. I like the Sophias a lot, but the 104/2s stood up well in the comparison. In my audio system, frequencies below 80 Hz are shunted to a Velodyne HGS-15.
I also have four bi-wired Reference 102.2s that I think are excellent monitors.
Donbellphd, the fact that you are referring your 104/2's which were introduced in 1984 underscores my point exactly. And the 102/2's are 1990.
It seems that KEF is no longer a leader. And even if it's true that they are focusing their attention mostly on the European market, that fact alone wouldn't make them any less sought after by the rabid speakerholics here on the A'gon. Kefs are available here and the fact that they don't market aggressively would not keep anyone here away if they sounded as good or better than Wilson Sophias, Watt Puppies, Audio Physic, Magnepan, B&W, Von Schweikert, etc., etc..
I almost bought a demo pair of 104/2's in '92. I took em home for the weekend. Simply beautiful sounding speakers. I should have bought them, I would probably still have them now.
In an effort to save some cash, I bought a new pair of Q50's instead. Uggghhhh. They lasted about a week before I returned them. The original Uni-Q design was certainly not ready for prime time!
Of course by that time the 104/2's were gone.
My point, Studioray, was perhaps a bit off the mark. If you can find a pair of 104/2s, they can represent excellent value. I paid under $1500, including cost of shipping cross country from Manhatten to Santa Barbara. I listen to lots of speakers, but have heard nothing that has urged me to break out my checkbook. I concur with Jdcrox that the 104/2s are "simply beautiful sounding speakers." Mine are the later bi-wirable speakers.
It should be remembered that not all old KEF speakers were good.Todays KEFs are probably more consistent.Hi Fi World magazine has done group tests of speakers and have rated the KEFs very highly.The concept of mounting a tweeter in the middle of the bass/mid driver has great merit and the imaging/timing of these new KEFs is much better than old models,even if they may not be as tonally endearing.
I'm definitely an audio enthusiast, but I operate on a budget. I have fairly extensive experience with Kef's Q line of speakers. I'm not sure what makes one speaker brand "relevant", but I really like the Q and iQ speakers I've owned and heard. For what they cost I am very pleased with them.
Recently I had the chance to do a fairly extensive comparison between the Q.2 series built on the 4th generation Uni-Q array and the new iQ series built on the 6th generation array. It was clear to both me and my listening partner that the iQ series offered noticeable sonic improvements over the older Q series. In my mind this is significant because the old Q series was good for its price.
Now days we would believe that B&W are the only speaker brand made in england. This is due to the great promotion the brand has put on the media.
KEF is still on the market but may be they experimented the popularity of JBL and other american speakers made in the USA sold in the "USA" in the past.
And finally this is all about money..wheather we like it or not it´s just like this.
Try to hear the new maidstones and you will see that they still have strong arguments to sell their product, even if it is only in Europe.
I just picked up a pair of Kef reference 205's and a 204c thinking I was upgrading from my definitive bp 2002 and 2500cc. Granted, the def's have sub's built in but I am not at all impressed so far. Sure they look fantastic, but I kind of think they sound one dimensional (all treble) and are not musical at all. Perhaps there is more detail but cold and harsh and fatiguing. I'm trying to make this work though, I feel like a fool. I love the look. I keep playing the def techs and looking at the kef's wishing for the sound of the def techs and the look of the kef. I'm running a b&k 200 watt amp and anthem pre/pro. Perhaps this is a better match, or should I have known?
This will echo a lot of what's been said already, but the one pair of Kefs I owned, the Reference Threes, were terrific speakers. I replaced them with a pair of Von Schweikert VR4 HSE's, and the the VRs certainly have more dynamic range, the KEF's can't be beat for the seamlessness of the sound; the mid-range was especially impressive. I don't know about the new KEFs, but older stuff holds up remarkably well.
They are still relevant - thanks to eBay and Audiogon... I remember when I was a kid in college, early 80's, dreaming of owning a pair or 104/2s when I got that great job. Instead, I got married and got busy with life. After my divorce 3 years ago I finally got my first pair of KEFs for my apartment... some Crestas. And then a pair of 102/2's that are on stands in my bedroom. They are lovely. I don't know about their new speakers - I have never been overly impressed with what I've heard in the showrooms - but I still know I will eventually own some 104s, or something that sounds like the ones I heard 30 years ago. Hopefully they will have a KEF badge on them but, even if not, the sound is the thing. Whether they can still build speakers like the 104, KEF set the bar so they still are having a positive effect.
Back in the 1980s I was reading "Stereo Review" and "Audio" magazines the way young people read about exotic automobiles - I knew I couldn't afford this stuff but I loved music and dreaming cost me about a $1.75 at the newsstand. When I worked up the nerve to visit some audio shops to actually hear what I was reading about, I was mostly disappointed. What I was hearing didn't live up to the hype IMO. Then I heard the Kef 104.2s and, at the risk of sounding over dramatic, I now had a mission. So off to Radio Shack and a pair of LX5s I went (Did you expect a fairy tale). I'm happy for this thread and to find others have warm memories of the 104.2s. I still feel some regret that I never got to own them.
What many of us remember are not the speakers per se but the memories of our younger years... :) Going back to the speakers, KEF 104's belonged to the British family of sound, mainly "2 cubic feet" boxes. Directly or idirectly they all benefited from the research at BBC labs. IMHO the best representative of this group was Spendor BC1. Its direct successor Spendor SP1/2r was recently introduced.
However, at some point Harbeth overtook Spendor as the inheritor of that heritage, the extent of which is symbolized by the fact the that the son of Spendor founders moved to Harbeth. New companies like Proac also came along.
Another important point in this context is that when dollar was strong, the best speaker values often came from Britain, at least in this budget range. Now, with much weaker dollar, the best value may well lie with American speakers.
... To answer the original question...I don't know, because I don't know the numbers, but here in New York there aren't many dealers carrying their line anymore.
I followed Kef from the beginning almost. I still own a pair of 104ab. Many will disaGree with me but, maybe because to me they are the first love that never is fogotten, they are immensively musical. I never heard anything like them. They are, however by no means accurate or realistic, they sound just very musical and easy going to me.
also, I still have a pair of kef 107 which have a fantastic mid range. I remember when I got interested in the new kefs, then the
Model 4, I was disappointed that did
not sound better than the 107 and I passed on them. I never heard the never 2xx line and I can't comment on those but I used to own a center channel 200c with the tweeter in the center of the mid woofer. Frankly I wasn't impressed by it. It did not have the liquid sound of the earlier kefs, not even close. I like to add that I truly dislike the look of their new speakers...too pretenciuos in my opinion.
Marketing and promotion is the way to make something relevant these days. Maybe for whatever reason, KEF has not been doing too much in this respect. In any case, for those now in our 50s, KEF 104ab may be our first love that is never forgotten. Just now, yes, now, I am searching local Craigslist to see if someone is selling 104ab. After so many years, I am going back to my first love; that with oval passive bass.
I'd say KEF is very relavent. Just visit
to view their extensive product line. Their flagship Muon speaker retails for $140,000. A bit beyond the price range you quoted.
Maybe your question should be ....no longer popular?
They have revived the "Q" line with some success. I have a pair of their older Uni-Q 65's made in the UK. Very musical. I upgraded the crossovers and just love the soundstage. I understand some or all of the speakers are now made in Asia.
I've heard quite a few Kef set-up's here and there over the years, even sold some way back when at a chain stores some time ago. I've always found Kef's to be a nicely balanced sounding speaker across the board, at all levels, with a good even sound. While I haven't heard their high end offerings recently, I always remember them being good speakers for any given price range.
Yeah, maybe someone can update us here on any recent offerings we audiophiles should consider on the mid/upper to pricer end, cause, I lost count here in the US. yeah, I never hear much here, cause they probably don't market much over here either - which I suspect has a lot to do with it. Basically, no one sells them hard in my parts, anyway.
Is KEF no longer relevant? Only if you are tone deaf.
The new Reference Series in my opinion is one of the smoothest sounding most neutral and most realistic group of speakers I've ever listened to, with a sense of transparency and openness of sound rivaling electrostatics, but without some of the obvious problems associated with that driver technology. Their older reference series speakers still sound remarkably neutral and musical. I had a pair of 104.2's (which I picked up in the mid-80s) which I sold in order to get the Gallo 3.1 Reference. Although the Gallo is a very fine speaker, with some very interesting technical innovations, it does not have the upper midrange neutrality of the much older 104.2, with a discernible drop out in the presence region. Although this can be compensated for (using the Audyssey roommate equalization program), I overall found the result not as satisfying as some of the older KEF reference series technology, and certainly not as good sounding as the newer reference series, which are unfortunately way out of my price range.
Currently I have a pair of Reference 107's (purchased through Audiogon of course), which along with their amazing low end, have a typical Kef exceptional neutrality through the mid range, lacking only a state-of-the-art tweeter. If you compare the new Kef reference series to any corresponding B&W 800 series model, the Kef comes out on top consistently in any kind of head-to-head testing. It's a significantly more neutral sounding speaker system.
It's interesting that no one on this posting has mentioned the replacement for the Muon, namely the new Kef Blade series. It's got about the same absolutely stratospheric price, but by all accounts is not only their best speaker ever, but has to be in the finals of any competition for the best loudspeaker period. It has a number of very interesting design innovations, and a significantly revised and enhanced midrange/tweeter Uni-Q driver.
I recently heard a pair of the 102/2's with a subwoofer embarrass a $20,000 speaker. If you have negative conceptions about Kef, take some of your favorite materials and go have a listen to the new reference series. There is a reason why this series has been the most positively reviewed series in the history of this manufacturer. It's really an exceptional group of speakers.
i tend to agree with the OP--kef was a once revered brand that seems to have lost its panache. perhaps their made-in-china model isn't serving them well. i haven't heard its current ultra-reference stuff, but i have auditioned its xq and q series and thought they were somewhat lackluster and definitely inferior to their 80s and 90s offerings (i still have pair of their coda 70s, which hit way above their $300 pricetag). i have also owned the 104.2s, but for whatever reason never warmed up to 'em (lacking in low end extension and high end detail); their legendary status has always mystified me.
Part of the issue for Kef is simply brand proliferation. I owned the Kef Corelli in/around 1975. Kef, Celestion, and (then) Bowers & Wilkins were about the only Brit high end monitors widely available. Other highly regarded (non-Brit) imported speakers were fairly rare. US designs usually sounded quite different. If limited bass, mid-range centric accuracy was the tree you wanted to bark up, Kef was automatically on your short list.
When a million new brands came along, the company failed to maintain "share of mind" in an increasingly crowded marketplace. To some degree, it was the marketing types that screwed up, but that wasn't the whole story. In my experience the products have always been pretty good, but when the competition got a lot stiffer, they weren't quite good enough/distinctive enough to keep the market's attention.
To be fair, it's tough for any business to distinguish itself longterm in a rapidly evolving marketplace full of good, highly diverse choices. Maybe B&W is the exception, and Kef more the rule. I can't think of too many other brands (although there are a few) that have stayed on top since that time.
I always liked KEF speakers for the most part when I heard them and have wondered the same thing about why they are not talked about in these audio circles these days. They seem to target mainly the home theater markets these days is what I had gathered.
Also, I always liked the low fatigue KEF sound but it often was not the most exciting sound by US standards out there, so I assume that was part of it also.
I always found their more recent coincident driver designs interesting, but have never heard them.
They are ABSOLUTELY relevant! I've owned a pair of 102/2's since they were new and they've not only survived many upgrades but they also sound (to my ears) as good or better than most of the monitors i've listened to since then. I've also listened to their new reference 205/2 - unbelievable! I agree with the above post that said they combine the speed and imaging/transparency/neutrality of planars and stats yet have the dynamic slam of the best boxes out there. Their XQ line is also quite good.
There is an open argument about whether the new Revel series is superior to the new KEF reference series. There is little question that least in my judgment that they are right now the two best high-end lines in dynamic loudspeakers. Clearly, you won't be unhappy with either line of speakers. Obviously, planars and electrostatics have unique pluses in terms of the sense of transparency, and there is also the Orion system (designed by one of the original designers of the L-P fourth order crossover network used by most high-end speakers), but this system involves some rather large compromises because it is a bidirectional system, in terms of having the speakers 5 to 6 feet away from the rear wall at least.
The most interesting thing for me was to take a very careful look at the Stereophile review of the Kef 201/2 (http://stereophile.com/standloudspeakers/708kef/index4.html.) First of all, the on-axis response (averaged across a 30° window in front of the speaker) is probably (overall) the flattest curve that Stereophile has ever published. But just as important is looking at the off-axis performance, which is also the smoothest family of curves that I have ever seen (see figures 5/6 ). One of the things that most people don't appreciate is that if your off axis radiation patterns are also not relatively flat and smooth, on axis flatness truly isn't good enough. The off-axis behavior adds significant coloration. I believe if you look at the off axis curves of the Kef 201/2 and compare it even to the high-end Revel Ultima Salon 2 (available at http://stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/608revel/index5.html - see figures 6 and 7), you will see that the Kef 201/2 off-axis behavior is slightly superior (although admittedly Revel's off axis curve is also excellent, falling down only over about 10 K, which isn't terribly significant and losing points in my judgment for their less-than-great vertical dispersion patterns). Also take a look at the final graph in the 201/2 measurements, the so-called waterfall graph (Fig.9 KEF Reference 201/2, cumulative spectral-decay plot on tweeter axis at 50" (0.15ms risetime). It's about the smoothest decay from a tweeter that you'll ever see - virtually no ringing at all past 1 ms and not much ringing by the midrange driver either in its upper frequency domains. I've listened to the Kef 102/2 on multiple occasions, and I think it is simply the finest monitor (using the term loosely because it's actually rather large for a monitor) or small speaker that anyone has ever made. I listened head-to-head between this speaker (with a subwoofer) and a B&W 802D and also one of the Watt/Puppy systems, and I thought the Kef was significantly smoother and more neutral and simply more musical. I've also heard the 203/2 and the 205/2 but I've never heard the 207/2. The other floor standing systems also sound very close to the 201/2, obviously with a bit more bass.
An interesting question is whether the new Gallo 3.5 is going to force itself into the conversation (the very high-end elite dynamic loudspeakers conversation), at a much lower price point. The 3.1 (a pair of which I own and love), although glowingly reviewed, definitely has problems in the presence region around the crossover between the two midrange drivers and their quasi-planar tweeter. There is a definite and quite audible drop out of material in the so-called 'presence' region. The Gallo 3.1 also has major problems with vertical dispersion, although its horizontal dispersion is fairly good, again excepting some beaming by the midrange drivers around their relatively high crossover point. My understanding is that Gallo has addressed these problems, and the speaker is now going for about six grand (quite a price jump relative to the 3.1 going for less than three grand). With their proprietary subwoofer amp driving a second voice coil, the 3.1's get down to the 20 Hz range without any trouble, meaning that if the presence deficits can be corrected (and some of the various room correction programs on high-end receivers will mitigate this on the 3.1), this is a full range system without having to buy a separate subwoofer. However if I had my druthers, I'd still trade this for a 201/2 with a good subwoofer system. Just out of my price range unfortunately. My conclusion is that anybody who has not heard the reference series and who loves music owes it to themselves to take a listen. The only problem is you may go home to your existing speakers feeling a bit dismayed if you cannot afford them. (PS - the XQ series is not even remotely in the same ballpark as the reference series so my comments don't apply to that group of speakers which admittedly have some problems in terms of treble peaks)
For the price vs. performance, KEF is very relevant, and will become more relevant in coming months/years as more listeners become aware of their value. Especially in the price brackets their reference lines are in, not much can compete head to head, top to bottom..These days, when manufacturers are slapping on outsourced drivers, top-end parts, put them all together in a hand-crafted cabinets, tune them and then put them out in the market at prices far beyond what it will cost to buy a brand new BMWs, you will begin to wonder just what they are exactly charging you for..And then few years later, you find your speakers value drop vertically as they pump out new upgraded models..Just ridiculous how this market is eating up our wallets these days..and then there are manufacturers like KEFs, REVEL, Thiel who continue to drive up their technology, maintain product value, but won't charge you price of BMWs to get their top-end products. Believe me, they can charge twice as much, and most of us would still not complain, given the value they deliver..
6550c, The KEF reference ranges are all hand-built in England just to clarify...not that made in China is any indication that the product will be inferior. You will be surprised by how many high-end audio manufacturers build their products in China or manufacture parts in China then assemble in US so that can label their products "proudly made in US"..Made in X is becoming less relevant these days..You need to dig deeper and see where all the parts are coming from before they are assembled if that is an importance to you in decision making.
Similiar to polk and infinity in the 80s...KEF was the hi-end and produced some remarkable products during this tenure...and as others have stated...they remain primarly a UK market product...cant comment on their recent designs as they are harder to come by in the states....but reviews have been all over the map....doesnt help that they have Proac and SpENDOUR in their backyard as well....
We are funded by our parent Chinese company but every single item that comes from KEF is birthed and designed by engineers in the UK - our main office is in the same building its always been in!! No difference.
Peter Madsen, Dr. Andrew Watson, Mark Dodd - they've been there for 20+ years designing KEF and Celestion products.
Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13645_3-20023903-47.html#ixzz19PbG7Mog
I've read through most of the comments and find it all interesting. Here's what I'll tell you about my "KEF" experiences. The 104s were out of this world, but keep in mind that the CD had just come out, so you're comparing two different mediums, KEFs are great in the midrange, CDs not so much. Never owned the 104s BTW, listened to them a lot, I did have the 102s and loved them. Later, I did purchase a system that contained the Q65s. The bass was so good I got rid of my subwoofer. I then moved on to the reference 201/202c, with the hyper tweeter. This was the first KEF that I ever had that leaned to the bright side. That being said, you really had to watch your amp pairing, Bryston seems to be a really good match, I also have an old NAD and old PS audio that sound fantastic with these speakers. At the end of the day it's all about preferences and I love my KEFs. The next time I look for speakers they will be the first ones I check out.
Mountain-high is right, in fact I have auditioned some 23 different speakers from many different countries and prices up to $14k. Also quite a few were the much praised homegrown brands . I ended up buying the kef r900. I had no previous experience with this brand. Its was the sound quality that I based my decision on but I did like the idea that they build their own drivers and had been around for 50 years. So that said yes they are for real and I wouldn't care if they were made on mars. Bottom line they engineer and build good products at comparatively better prices. Best
I'm looking at a listing in Audiogon for a Reference 204C, so began looking for reviews and came across this thread. Since my earlier posts, I've replaced the 104/2s with a beautiful pair of rosewood 107/2s, one of the finest speakers I've ever heard. Wondering about the match of a 204C for the center speaker. I using 102s for surround and center now, but I have a couple of 102/2s sitting around, and I could try one of those for a center.