KEF E-305 5.1 HTIB Review
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.
Shultz says "You can't expect to get room bursting sound out of this, can you?"
His sister Simone approves
Seriously Sam, this is the best use of the box, don't you think?
But the speakers are packed well!
As is the sub and center channel
13-KEF-Cats-4968 by Kadath, on Flickr
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
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"
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.
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.
13-KEF-Cats-4977 by Kadath, on Flickr
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.
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.
13-KEF-Cats-4966 by Kadath, on Flickr
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
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!
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.
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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