KEF Reference 201

Category: Speakers

I really, really wanted to like these speakers! The fit and finish is very nice, and the deal I could get on them was even nicer. I took a pair home to demo before buying them and I was both wowed and dissapointed.

These speakers were to replace a pair of Soliloquy 5.0s that I have had for about two years...and loved every minute I have spent listening to them. I have found the 5.0s to be one of the best values in the business, but since I am in the business, I can never seem to pass up a deal when its offered to me. I had the opportunity to purchase KEF speakers at a substantial discount and I figured that, while I love my Soliloquys, upgrading from $1000 monitors to $3500 monitors would greatly improve my listening experience. I also figured that since I have been enjoying many high-res recordings on SACD and DVD-A, the extended high frequency capabilities of the Hyper-Tweeter would allow me to take full advantage of the formats.

I started my listening with some jazz recordings and I was immediately impressed with the sound of cymbals and horns. I haven't heard a trumpet sound that lifelike through a pair of speakers since my years behind the recording console in a top-flight studio. Even though I was planning on listening to a couple of tracks, I found myself listening to the whole cd and grinning from ear to ear. I was running them with a Classe integrated amplifier and I can only imagine what these speakers are capeable of with some more sophisticated gear.

I found them to be very impressive in their ability to place an instument in space and present it in very realistic and detailed way. With percussion, horns, strings and woodwinds, these speakers shine...given the right recording. They are very transparent, however, and with not so great recordings, they tend to be a little fatiguing.

I have a pretty large collection of music and I listen to quite a bit of it, but always in heavy rotation are recordings with female vocals. I put one of my new favorite recordings (Alison Krauss' aptly titled "New Favorite") into my SACD player and was ready to be impressed. Unfortunatly, this is when my smile turned upside down. I am being honest in saying that these speakers sounded so incredibly bad playing a female voice that I checked all my connections and tried 3 more of my favorite famale recordings before I realized that it truly was the speakers that were the culprits.

I wish I could say that I kept on with the audition and listened to some male vocals and some rock and pop selections, but after hearing my favorite ladies sounding so horrific, I had to heft my Soliloquys back into place so that I could make sure that I hadn't lost my hearing. I neatly wrapped the reference 201s and returned them to the store the next day.

So for those who love music, these speakers can be a wonderful way to hear what a really good recording can sound like... as long as there are no women singing. I would love to hear if anyone else has given them a real evaluation and found them more pleasing with some different associated equipment...tubes maybe?

Equipment connected:

Classe CAP-151 Integrated Amplifier
Sony C555ES SACD Changer
Technics DVD-A10 DVD-Audio player
Sonic Frontiers SFP-1 Phono Preamp
Pro-Ject 6 Turntable
Clearaudio Aurum Beta-S Phono Catridge
Sony SA50ES Tuner
Monster Power HTS-5100 Line Conditioner

XLO Speaker Cables and Interconnects

I also just picked up a Definitive Technology SuperCube I and I am trying it out just to see how it does...So far, I actually like it.
Where you using your Sony's dac in your listening session?
I had found that many of the Sony dacs sound awful with Kefs for some reason.
How long did the speakers get to burn in?
Maybe they were just reproducing the hardness that can be in digital recordings.