Review: Kef Reference Model One Speaker
I just picked these up (for $250 plus some sweat equity) from a neighbor who didn't want to hassle with shipping, plugged 'em into a modest bedroom system and have been unexpectedly pleased. The R1s were KEF's early 90s replacement for the much-venerated 104.2s and are, in my view, a superior speaker in every respect.
I owned the 104.2s for a time and, frankly, didn't get the hype--they're pleasant enough, but to my ears sounded excessively laid back, lacking in high-end sizzle and low end extension.
In contrast, the R1s (which, I believe were in the first series to use KEF's Uni-Q midrange/HF driver technology)are much more "modern" sounding--more detailed and much more forward than the 104.2s. The pricipal attribute of the Uni-Q driver is wide dispersion--these speakers have a HUGE soundstage, with no discernible sweet spot; they sound room-filling and non-directional from virtually anywhere in the room. (Curiously, KEF's current Uni-Q designs like the XQ series sound rather boxy and congested to me. Go figure). As a corollary, imaging is not as sharp as more conventional dynamic designs. Because they're so immersive, they're great speakers for HT. Judging from the fair-to-middlin' gear I'm using with 'em, they're unfussy about electronics. They do need to be placed away from the walls.
The big surprise with the R1s is bass quality. KEF lists their low end extension as only 55Hz, which, subjectively, sounds excessively conservative. The R1s actually produce real, deep bass which, for lack of better terms, sounds thick and rich. The bass is not, however, very tight and can sound "wobbly" with certain material. I paired the R!s with my modest Mirage sub not because they need to go deeper, but because the sub better controls the low end and prevents occassional boominess. Build quality is solid; they're relatively sleek and svelte, with nice curving baffles; WAF is high.
Compared to my twice-the-price Revel F32s, the KEFs have a slightly harsher midrange and less seamless integration between midrange and lowend. However the KEFs actually sound bigger, throw a larger soundstage and seem to have more bottom end; rock sounds rockier on the KEFs. I imagine that the larger multi-driver models in KEFs same Reference series would sound bigger still.
For whatever reason, this series hasn't acquired the same cachet as KEF's earlier releases, and as a consequence you'll find 'em listed at bargain basement prices. These won't challenge Wilsons or Dunlavys for audiophile sainthood, but at their used prices they're quite a bargain for a very solid speaker.
parasound hca 1200a power amp
denon avr-3300 preamp
integra 5.5 dvp
integra cdc 3.1 cdp
mirage f150 sub
black rhodium speaker cables/audioquest jade and monster ics