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KEF E-305 5.1 Surround Sound Review

Hardware Review Speaker Subwoofer Hardware

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#1 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted November 21 2013 - 01:40 PM

KEF E-305 5.1 HTIB Review

 

E305 5.1 Home Theater System By KEF

 

 
Introduction
I was first introduced to KEF Speakers at the dawn of the release of DVD by a neighbor who was both a huge audiophile and a laserdisk fan.  At the time I had just gotten my first 'real' job and was intent on building a home theater that would be capable enough to make the new format sing.  His set of KEFs was certainly drool worthy but clearly out of my league price wise, and auditioning their lower end speakers was a bit problematic in my area, ultimately I went with another brand but the experience left a lasting impression.  

When the opportunity presented itself to review a set of matched KEF 5.1 speakers here on HTF I leapt at the chance without knowing much about the product that would be sent.  I was a bit taken aback to arrive home one day to a modest sized package containing all 6 speakers, expecting to see something resembling the monstrous floor standing behemoths that my neighbor had prized.  Knowing the quality that KEF represents I took this as a challenge:  Could they really pack the full experience of a 5.1 setup into a box no bigger than an office safe?
 
Well, challenge accepted!  Rather than swapping them out for the full sized speakers in my family room or basement Home Theaters, I took the opportunity to piece together enough wire and a receiver to make this into a bedroom setup to replace the feeble output of the small flat panel in there.  A trip to Best Buy and a small order at Amazon later and I was ready to rock.
 

My cat Shultz helps me unbox the set.

10812666843_e0a398eb42_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4958 by Kadath, on Flickr



Shultz says "You can't expect to get room bursting sound out of this, can you?"

10812407036_ff31765849_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4916 by Kadath, on Flickr



His sister Simone approves

10812665053_a488095f78_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4932 by Kadath, on Flickr 



Seriously Sam, this is the best use of the box, don't you think?

10812404795_ceff3ce409_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4964 by Kadath, on Flickr 



But the speakers are packed well!

10812667983_554f8b751e_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4967 by Kadath, on Flickr



As is the sub and center channel

10812544134_0899a6b497_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4968 by Kadath, on Flickr

The Good:
One out of the very well assembled shipping carton the set was a total snap to put into service. I used two rolls of 50' speaker wire, popped some banana clips on one end to plug into my receiver and threaded the other ends into the appropriate poles of the push button clips on the speakers, put a simple RCA cable to the sub, powered the sub and we were off to the races. A quick run through Auddesy and we were ready to hear what they had to bring.



Paging Mork from the planet Orkk, your speakers are ready

10812544934_49bc39e415_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4972 by Kadath, on Flickr

Over the last two weeks I have really gotten to know the E-305 setup. I started with The Raid: Redemption and just about had to pick up my jaw off the floor at how thoroughly nuts my bedroom shook, and how clean and distinctly without annoying "boominess" it was doing so. To confirm this was no fluke I dug through my collection of "Ultimate bass scenes" Blurays which I have been assembling through the years and tossed a ton of favorites through the set. including the Jericho Missile from 'Iron Man', the Sonic Cannons from 'The Hulk', and my favorite, the ship versus ship battle in 'Master and Commander'. All left me giddy, giggling, and wondering just how I might fit a bigger panel in the bedroom down the road. A few rounds of Call of Duty: Ghosts from the PS3 confirmed that this set is the real deal and that big sound from smaller speakers is not something to sneer at any longer. Finally, I put it to the real test and ran a few hours of my favorite high bit rate MP3s through it and was able to enjoy sweet sounding full range music from all kinds of genres, finishing with a score of ultra low frequency bombs found on my "In Case Of Emergency, Break Bass"
http://navesink.net/...E-BreakBass.pdf

Did it deliver? Oh yes, I worried that I might start to peel paint if I pushed it too hard!
 
On the build quality front there are a few things to note. The first thing (other than the unusual egg shape!) is that the speakers are heavier than they look and despite their unique shape the matte paint on them makes them a LOT less likely to stand out in your room like a box shaped speaker might.



When set up the speakers blend into the background better than wood or black plastic would have.

10812669763_feded703e1_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4974 by Kadath, on Flickr


The integrated pedestals are sharp looking as well, with tight tolerances making them easy to adjust to the shape and direction you want them to have the speaker grills face, and then keep them there solidly.

10812408165_ee1f20cd2e_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4977 by Kadath, on Flickr

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13-KEF-Cats-4976 by Kadath, on Flickr

You would think the sub would stand out even more with its shape but I found it to do just the opposite. The graceful curves led me to to let it hide in the background rather than drawing attention like a potted plant or a piece of furniture. It too is tightly sealed and has zero flex, with just the barest minimum of controls on its underside and the simple RCA and power jacks.

The Bad: 
Honestly there is very little to complain about here. You can make a case that you could build a set of tower speakers and box sub for the same comparative price but that would miss the point of this set: Be small, be unobtrusive, fade into the room and let the sound do the talking. And while the sub has to be a bit bigger to move that much air around, it doesn't have to look like a boring box. This is a premium sound experience that has a premium price attached to it, and it lives up to the expectations that the price demands.

An RCA cable to connect the sub would have been a nice touch.

And there are only a handful of minor adjustments you can make to the set, all on the sub. You can power it off or let it do so by itself, and you can change its phase. You can't manually juice the sub's output up or down, you will need to rely on your receiver to make any such adjustments.
 
What's In The Box
4 E301 speakers
1 E301 Center speaker
1 E-2 Powered Sub and a power cable for it
Instruction Manuals and other paperwork
Extra large rubber feet
A small allen wrench



Not much in the way of accessories: an allen wrench, power cable for the sub and some extra larger rubber feet.

10812404905_c912b6af62_b.jpg
13-KEF-Cats-4966 by Kadath, on Flickr
 
Features
Model: E301/ E301c speakers:
Design: Two-way bass reflex
Drive units: Uni-Q driver array:
HF: 19mm (0.75in.) vented aluminium dome
MF: 115mm (4.25in.) aluminium
Frequency range (-6dB): 80Hz – 45kHz
Frequency response (±3dB): 90Hz - 33kHz
Crossover frequency: 2.7kHz
Amplifier requirements: 10 - 100W
Sensitivity (2.83V/ 1m): 86dB
Harmonic distortion: <1% 100Hz – 40kHz
2nd & 3rd harmonics: (90dB, 1m)
Maximum output (SPL): 109dB
Dimensions (H x W x D) (with grille and base) :
E301 260 x 136 x 159 mm (10.2 x 5.4 x 6.3 in.)
E301c 157 x 220 x 155 mm (6.2 x 8.7 x 6.1 in.)

Optional Floor stands are available and should you wish you can add 2 more E301s for a full complement of 7.1 speakers

Model: E-2
Design: Powered Subwoofer
LF Drive unit: 200mm (8in.)
Frequency range (-6dB): 33Hz – 280Hz
Amplifier: 250W built-in Class-D
Maximum output (SPL): 102dB
Low pass filter variable: Fixed 250Hz, 2nd-order
Low level signal inputs: RCA phono socket
Enclosure type: Sealed
Internal volume: 14.7Litres
Power requirements: 100 - 240VAC 50/60Hz
Power consumption: 250VA
Weight: 7.25kg (16lbs.)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 320 x 430 x 270mm (12.6 x 16.9 x 10.6 in.)

You can even add a second E-2 if your receiver allows it, and make a 5.2 or 7.2 setup!
 
Performance
I didn't feel the need to break out an SPL meter for this review, at 60% power through my receiver the speakers were able to fill my 20x20 room with sound to spare, with no recognizable distortion, tho I did have to dampen a few windows that were rattling with sympathetic vibrations. There is enough oomph in these guys to keep just about anyone happy.

Final thoughts
I fully admit to being skeptical at the start, I have always preferred to have real wood enclosures for my speakers in the past and while I have thoroughly enjoyed smaller speakers in my office that was a much tighter space to fill, and the mini sub attached to them was a plus it wasn't ever going to get the room shaking.

The E-305s deliver on all fronts, from music to movies and as someone who has invested considerable sums to get high end speakers in a dedicated theater I can even appreciate more just how much value is packed into the system. They are an easy recommendation for me and not just as a bedroom set either. These would find a home in all but the most demanding of Home Theater enthusiast's spaces, and as noted above can be easily expanded for 7 speaker setups and the number of subs doubled should you find it necessary to do so.

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#2 of 22 OFFLINE   Dave Upton

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Posted November 21 2013 - 02:51 PM

Very nice looking and performing set. Do you know the MSRP?

#3 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted November 21 2013 - 04:23 PM

Yep, it's $1199.

 

I originally had the KEF Direct link in the review and a neat video too, those musta gotten cut out.

KEF Direct:

http://www.kefdirect...305-system.html

 

Video:

 

You can buy them at Amazon here:

http://www.amazon.co...m/dp/B00CFEXGDM


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#4 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted November 22 2013 - 11:47 AM

Also, that video does a pretty good job showing the Uni-Q speaker tech.

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#5 of 22 OFFLINE   Type A

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Posted November 22 2013 - 01:06 PM

Solid review Sam.  Could the center channel speaker be vertically oriented on its stand just like the other four speakers?


JVC DLA-RS60U3D & DaLite High Power 106"
Paradigm Studio V.5 20 (5) & ADP590 (2)  
Hsu VTF-2 MK3 (2) & MBM-12 MK2 (2)

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#6 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted November 23 2013 - 02:14 PM

No, but sort of. It is center mounted on axis so that it only works in the standard orientation, tho the stands are removable. So if you could find a way to mount to something else they would sound fine, but the stand only works one way. I will add a pic of the undersides tomorrow and also see how hard the stands are to remove.

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#7 of 22 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted November 26 2013 - 04:09 AM

I was looking for a 5.1 speaker system for my bedroom HT.  The speakers I have now are just too big so I want to downsized the footprints without losing any sound quality.  I thought about this Paradigm product.  However, this KEF system is an alternative, but a couple of hundred dollars more in cost.  The speakers will be paired with my Onkyo TX-NR929 receiver.


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#8 of 22 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted December 02 2013 - 09:25 AM

Sam,

 

I'll have this 5.1 speaker system tomorrow.  I bought them in black.  Looking forward to trying these puppies out.  Thanks for your review as it was one of the factors that convinced me to try them out.


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#9 of 22 OFFLINE   Dave Upton

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Posted December 02 2013 - 10:10 AM

Robert,

Having heard these at CEDIA, I think you'll be very happy. While the Paradigm system is great, I do believe the KEFs have slightly better overall midrange and lusher treble.



#10 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted December 02 2013 - 11:51 AM

The only KEF I've ever had in my possession(beyond reselling them) were a set from 75-85(and that was guess) that were similar to the Wharfedale W60E(which I still have). I've never met a British speaker I didn't like...



#11 of 22 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted December 02 2013 - 12:27 PM

Robert,

Having heard these at CEDIA, I think you'll be very happy. While the Paradigm system is great, I do believe the KEFs have slightly better overall midrange and lusher treble.

Right, I figured they could handle a 12' x 14' bedroom pretty well, as my much more larger Polks were overkill as they were first bought to be my 5.1 speaker setup in my main HT before I upgraded to Paradigm Studios about four years ago. 


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#12 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted December 02 2013 - 12:39 PM

What part of Michigan?

Two for sale(and what?)?

 

My bedroom mains are Polk S6 that have seen better days(the rubber flap woofer surround I had to recently re-glue, who knows how long that will last...stupid overall cone surround design)...And to top it off. The plastic face of these speakers. One, all the screw holes are broken so it is held in with thin strips of velcro. The face vibrates if you are listening at anything ear splitting(like trying to play music over the shower...when you get out you hear buzzing from the cabinet).

 

If close for a drive...(not going to pay to ship anything as "big" as I want to replace the S6)



#13 of 22 OFFLINE   phycomp

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Posted January 25 2014 - 01:20 PM

Hi, I have the KEF E305 5.1 speakers in white finish, and have been really impressed with the performance over the past 9 months I've had them, the only issue so far is that the speakers tend to droop after a while on their pedestal table stands, and no amount of tightening the set screw seems to help. Has anyone else had this problem?



#14 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted January 27 2014 - 07:28 AM

Nope, mine have not drooped a bit!  I'd give KEF a call and see what they have to say.

 

What did you think, Crawdaddy?


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#15 of 22 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted January 27 2014 - 01:57 PM

Nope, mine have not drooped a bit!  I'd give KEF a call and see what they have to say.

 

What did you think, Crawdaddy?

Not really, once I got done playing with different positions and then tightening them up, I had no problem with them drooping down.


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#16 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted February 03 2014 - 06:55 AM

I meant what do you think overall of the system? 


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#17 of 22 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted February 03 2014 - 07:03 AM

I meant what do you think overall of the system? 

I am very satisfied with it.


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#18 of 22 OFFLINE   Bullitt1165

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Posted February 05 2014 - 09:54 PM

How would you guys compare the KEF E305 to the Definitive tech pro cinema 800? They are also $1199. Note, they are 50 watts more than the KEF's.



#19 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted May 12 2014 - 08:40 AM

Sorry Bullitt I have not heard those speakers!


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#20 of 22 OFFLINE   schan1269

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Posted May 12 2014 - 09:59 AM

How would you guys compare the KEF E305 to the Definitive tech pro cinema 800? They are also $1199. Note, they are 50 watts more than the KEF's.


Speakers don't have watts. The rating is, essentially, irrelevant.

The main difference, the pro 800 achieve 80hz and are slightly more efficient.

Meaning...

The Pro 800 needs less power (matters if you buy a bargain basement AVR).

And the crossover can be set at the "THX approved" 80hz.





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