Help me choose - KEF Reference 200 Series vs. new KEF XQ Series for Home Theater

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by Rich:Fi, May 15, 2003.

  1. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    My system will be used primarily for home theater (85%). I plan on using a Pioneer Elite VSX-49TXi receiver (130 watts per channel over 7 channels at 8 ohms) which I expect will do everything I want. I figure I can always add amps or go to components later if I desire. I currently have a 10” Velodyne subwoofer that I will use until the budget allows an upgrade. The room size is about 23’ wide by 31’ long. I will be using a little more than half of the area for our home theater (14’ x 31’) with the sofa about 12’ back from the HDTV (hopefully a hot new 55” to 80” LCOS display next spring).

    My wife and I have listened to a wide range of speakers and really love the sound and imaging of the KEFs. Sorry B&W fans, the sound just didn’t fit our particular tastes though we checked out both the 800 and CDM NT series. I believe this is a one-time, 20+ year shot at buying speakers since we have three young children to raise and educate. With that theory in mind, I think we’ll be best served by buying the best speakers we can possibly afford as we can always upgrade other components later as our budget allows. As we all know, a wholesale change of speakers for a 5.1 or 7.1 HT setup is horrendously expensive to do at once if you are concerned with timbre matching.

    As for the speakers, here are my contemplated options:

    Code:
     OPTION #1
     Qty Model MSRP Street Used
     4 Reference 201 7,000 5,498 3,600
     4 KEF Stands 990 856 856
     1 Reference 202c 2,000 1,588 1,040
     ----- ----- ----- 
     TOTAL 9,990 7,942 5,496
     
     OPTION #2
     Qty Model MSRP Street Used
     2 Reference 203 5,000 3,949 2,600
     2 Reference 201 3,500 2,749 1,800
     2 KEF Stands 495 428 428
     1 Reference 202c 2,000 1,588 1,040
     ------ ----- -----
     TOTAL 10,995 8,714 5,868
     
     OPTION #3
     Qty Model MSRP Street Used
     2 XQ5 3,000 2,445 N/A
     2 XQ3 2,000 1,545 N/A
     2 KEF Stands 495 428 N/A
     1 XQ2c 1,450 1,250 N/A
     ----- ----- -----
     TOTAL 6,945 5,668 N/A
     
     OPTION #4
     Qty Model MSRP Street Used
     4 XQ3 4,000 3,090 N/A
     2 KEF Stands 990 856 N/A
     1 XQ2c 1,450 1,250 N/A
     ----- ----- -----
     TOTAL 6,440 5,196 N/A
     


    As you can see, the used prices of Options #1 and #2 for KEF Reference Series speakers compares favorably with the street price of the new KEF XQ series to make my decision more challenging. While I would prefer either Option #2 or #3 in order to get the 203 or XQ5 floorstanders, our concern is the ability to fit the larger speakers into the décor of our next home. While floorstanders would work great in our current dedicated HT area, I’d hate to seem them not work out in our next home. The advantage to going with four Reference 201 speakers now is that if it worked out in the future, I could add 203s to the front for an awesome 7.1 setup. Alternatively, I could also do four XQ3s now and add a pair of XQ5s later.

    So far, we haven’t been able to demo the KEF Reference Series against the XQ series in the same room. My wife and I feel we can’t go wrong either way assuming that we can find the used Reference series speakers over time. My wife also prefers the look of the Reference series – an always important issue.

    Now to my most important question – which option would you choose and more importantly – why?

    Thanks much!

    Rich
     
  2. KrishnaP

    KrishnaP Extra

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    I am actually considering KEF XQ series myself but there is no dealer around Washington DC who has them in store to listen. I will be driving down south around 100 miles just to listen and see XQ1's this weekend and I hope my trip will be well worth.

    I will go with your Option 3 but with a change. I will replace XQ3 & KEF stands with XQ5 or stick with XQ3 but get different speaker stands that cost half that cost. I may even consider XQ1 for surrounds as my budget is kind'a tight even with street prices.

    I myself have few questions on XQ series and hope you can answer them for me.

    1. Are those street prices from authorized dealer?
    2. How is the build quality and style of XQ series? Are they too like Q-series? Did u get to see all colors?
    3. If you listened to Vienna Acoustics Beethoven's, how do you compare them with those.

    I will be using my speakers 90% of the time for Home theater and 10% for music. I am looking for speakers that sound great while my wife likes their looks. So far, she liked KEF XQ(from pictures), Vienna Acoustics(Beechwood), and Sonus Faber Grand Piano's.
     
  3. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    KrishnaP,

    I think your suggested change to Option 3 makes very good sense. The KEF stands are very expensive as compared to other brands that look nice and serve the same function. If you have the room, it makes much more sense to go with 4 XQ5s rather than 2 XQ5s and 2 XQ3s on speaker stands. I noticed I had an error on option 3 in that I only included the price of one stand. If you add the price of two stands, the difference in price between all 4 XQ5s and 2 XQ5s and 2 XQ3s on stands is virtually nothing!

    I loved the XQ5s. They look nice and sound great. If space issues weren't a consideration I think 4 of them would be the best choice. While 4 would work now given our space, our concern is that in a future home they might not whereas we think we would have an easier time finding space for the bookshelf speakers with or without their matching stands.

    Though I have now listened to the Reference Series 201, 203 and 205, I cannot say definitively how they compare against the XQ5 as I was never able to listen to them all in the same room side-by-side. Nevertheless, my wife and I loved the full sound of the XQ5 and particularly its imaging. They blew the KEF Q series completely out of the water in my opinion (we did listen to the XQ5 vs. the Q7).

    The XQ5 we listened to was in Silver finish, which while attractive, does not match our home decor. I have not yet seen it in person in any other finish. If we were to buy any XQ series speaker, I'm guessing it would be in either Maple or possibly Graphite.

    Without taking anything away from what I believe is a beautiful design and appearance of the XQ Series, my wife really loved the Cherry real wood veneer finish of the KEF Reference series. She thought the maple on the XQ series might be a bit too light in color. Sad as it may be, the WAF (wife acceptance factor) is a big part of the equation. While I'm sure we'd be completely happy with the sound of the XQ series, we may try to find used Reference series speakers more for the aesthetics than for any real or perceived difference in sound quality.

    The street prices I listed are from Elegant Audio Video which can be found on the web. You will have to call them for prices on the Reference or XQ series. In any event, their prices may help you negotiate better prices locally if they don't work out for you. I got the approximate used prices by watching trends on Audiogon.com - the high-end used audio marketplace.

    I definitely liked the build quality and style of the XQ series as you can probably tell. I didn't go over them with a fine-tooth comb since I'm not quite ready to buy yet but my initial thoughts are that they are a definite step up from the Q series.

    No, I have not been able to hear either the Vienna Acoustics Beethoven's nor the Sonus Faber Grand Pianos.

    My intended use will be similar to yours - primarily for Home Theatre use. While several audio stores have recommended the Velodyne HGS-18 sub or the Sunfire subs for our application, I'm pretty certain I will go with one of the SVS subwoofers. Their new model, the SVS Model PB2-Plus seems like a real winner. The best thing is that they appear to have awesome customer service from everything I've read and products that are priced affordably.

    I hope you'll take the time to make an extensive post on your audition experience of the XQ series speakers. I'm sure you will find them very pleasing, especially for home theater. It is definitely worth the drive to check them out so you won't ever have to wonder whether or not you made the right choice. I look forward to reading your thoughts about the XQs.
     
  4. KrishnaP

    KrishnaP Extra

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    Thanks Rich for the information. I will sure let you know about my opinion about XQ series when I audition them over the weekend. I've been listening to a certain chapter in LOTR with various speakers to judge with sounds best to me.

    I called KEFUSA to check about elegantaudiovideo and few other websites like authentichometheater.com. They are not authorized dealers and I would be careful about buying from them as they come with no warranty. I've been checking Audiogon.com almost daily to see if some used XQs show up. No luck so far. I can afford not to have warranty on used speakers for the savings they offer over new ones.

    Our family room decor will be contemporary, so any KEF colors should go well. I personally prefer graphite's.
     
  5. Philip____S

    Philip____S Stunt Coordinator

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    I was at a local dealer this morning and was able to compare the Reference line to the XQ line with the same room, same processor, same track, etc. I listened to the following combinations:

    201 + 202c
    201 + XQ2c
    XQ3 + XQ2c

    XQ1s were used for the rear surrounds in all combos.

    The order listed is my order of preference, but the performance difference for an all Ref line vs. all XQ line was not that much. There was a kind of smoothness (not exactly the right word) in the Ref line not in the XQ line. The real difference for me was hearing glass shatter and hit concrete, it just sounded better with the Refs. To put this in perspective, you're comparing a $1750 speaker to a $1000, so there should be a difference. I know it wasn't a 75% improvement, but it was better. I think I will audition the following combo next:

    2x 201 front
    202c center
    2x Kef Egg surround
    2x Kef Egg back surround

    This combo will save me a bit of money on the rears that I can use for a more expensive front setup. I'm only really interested in movie performance, not music. The dealer told me he just installed this setup for someone else. I did listen to the Eggs (in a 5.1 setup) and they sounded great, so I'd be interested to see how they mix with the 201s. I figure the Eggs are good for the back because they won't be doing that much work (compared to the center).
     
  6. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    Your proposed setup with the Eggs in for the 4 surround speakers sounds interesting! What did the dealer say about the similar setup he installed for someone else? The nice thing about having Eggs in the back is that you can always upgrade to more 201s as your budget allows. Please make a post about what you think about this setup when you get a chance.

    You're right about the comparison between the 201 and the XQ3 - better - but not by 75%. That's the thing about going to Reference level type equipment, you pay substantially more for a slight to modest improvement.
     
  7. Philip____S

    Philip____S Stunt Coordinator

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    The dealer said the 201s and Eggs sounded pretty good according to the customer, which is why I'm interested. It's hard to justify great speakers in back because they don't do that much. Granted, they give you the whole surround feel, but it seemed as though the center is the critical piece and everything just kind of goes along for the ride. This is obviously an over simplification, but the Eggs sounded better than XQ1s for the rears imo. It was amazing how much sound came from a little speaker. I'm moving next week so I won't be able to audition this setup for a few weeks, but the goal is to scrap the current setup in the move and install something new in the next loft. I'm currently working on a platform for tiered seating which will also determine what I audition as it will dictate how much room I have for 7.1 vs. 5.1

    BTW, do you plan on purchasing in store or on the internet? In store seems to be 25% more expensive which turns out to be a lot of money. I'm not convinced the warranty is necessary, but it's a big purchase not to have one.
     
  8. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    At this point, if I go for the KEF Reference series, I plan to buy used equipment at Audiogon or elsewhere. If I go with the XQ series, I will check out internet prices for negotiating power and more than likely buy locally. I'm assuming the sales tax vs. the shipping costs will equal themselves out.
     
  9. KrishnaP

    KrishnaP Extra

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    Well, over the weekend I drove over 80 miles to audition KEF XQ series speakers and was not fortunate enough to listen to them as much as I wanted. The store which is open only on weekends is being closed early at 1 pm due to some personal reasons and I had about 20 minutes to check them out. They had only 2 XQ1s which were hooked up as fronts and they used Verity Fidelio hooked up as center with no rear speakers. I went there hoping to try out LOTR DVD and an Indian movie DVD that has great DTS music track. I only had chance to try out the Indian DVD in that short time.

    First, I was very very impressed with the quality and style of KEF XQ speakers(maple finish). They instantly got my wife's acceptence. They were very very heavy for bookshelves and were placed on KEF XQ series speaker stands which were just as good. We both thought that they easily the best looking speakers who looked at so far with the exception of Sonus Faber's.

    I am no audiophile but I can tell when speakers sound great. I've been enjoying my Paradigm MiniMonitors for over 6+ years now. I have friends who have similar priced speakers from NHT(SB2) and B&W(cost little more) and I can easily tell Paradigms sounded better to my ears. So, I am very familiar with the sound quality of Paradigms and my judgements will be relative to them when I try any speakers.

    Since I had only 20 minutes to check them out, I directly selected music tracks from the DVD and within seconds I could justify my desire to upgrade. The clarity and imaging from the side speakers was very clear and smooth and even my wife liked it instantly. She used the words 'music is very crisp and clear' when I asked about her opinion. Unfortunately, the center channel is a Verity Fidelio and it almost stole the show. I frankly never heard about those speakers before. I asked the guy to hook them up(Verity was the original setup for that room). Before he did that he mentioned the price and I told him not to bother with the change. They are out of my league. 20 minutes is over too fast but I think we felt KEF XQs1 sounded good enough to qualify for our next upgrade.

    Since I have time till September, I will try to find a way to listen to all XQ5 setup for a home theater with matching center channel. Vienna Acoustics Beethoven's is still at the top of my list compared to XQ1s. But the finish and style of XQs is more to our room style and liking and we want to try XQ5s to see how it compares to Beethoven's. The amps and processors driving the speakers were ADCOMs.

    When I asked for the prices and discount, he put the price sheet in front of me. They looked too good to be true and I instantly decided to buy XQ5s, KEF Sub, and the matching center channel knowing he messed up the prices BIG TIME! He soon pulled it and said I am sorry, I shouldn't have shown you this and he showed another one which are EXACTLY 45% more than the first one. The first one had the dealer costs. He offered 10% discount but I didn't want to spend that kind'a money without trying out the exact setup I am interested to buy.

    So, I will take my time to try out other speakers before I decide on anything. If someone offers me 25% discount on their MSRP, I will grab them without second thought. Anyone knows, if they cost less in UK? I tried to bid on used KEF Reference 205s on Ebay recently and was outbid. But, i got couple of e-mails from sellers in UK offering 205s for close to 4K or less for brand new ones. Can they be really that much cheaper in UK or are they someone trying to take me for a ride? I didn't bother replying to them as all of them asked for a wire transfer of funds before they can ship.
     
  10. Philip____S

    Philip____S Stunt Coordinator

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    Was this dealer really willing to come down in price? The shop I went to would not move, even if I went with 4 201s and a 202c. He said Kef won't let them discount, which makes me lean toward a less convenient dealer or an internet purchase.
     
  11. KrishnaP

    KrishnaP Extra

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    This dealer mentioned that if I make a purchase of multiple products like buying even a $10 dollar cable along with any price range speakers will automatically qualify me for 10% off discount. In Washington DC(entire suburbs), no dealer had XQs for auditioning nor were they willing to get any unless I buy them. It will be strange if they don't discount since they didn't give the customer an oppurtunity to audition them.

    I am seriously thinking about used Reference series at Audiogon or better yet, if I can find used XQ5s.
     
  12. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    Krishna,

    Thank you for the very nice review. It is too bad you had to drive over 100 miles and only end up with 20 minutes of listening time.

    I really wish you had the chance to listen to the fuller sounding XQ5 and XQ3. I'm surprised they had only the XQ1 for you to audition. Considering you liked the sound of the XQ1, I'm sure you'll love the XQ5 and XQ3.

    Yes, the XQ series is very nice looking. The Reference series is also very nice. Both seem to have a very high wife acceptance factor. I found it interesting that you brought your wife along for listening as well as I have done the same thing. My wife also very much enjoyed the sound of the KEF Reference and XQ series speakers - much better than anything else we have listened to together.

    I'll bet the color ran out of your face when you got offered the first price list! Can you imagine if you could have got those prices? I heard of a guy who had a similar thing happen with a Denon 5803 and they actually honored the price. At this point, I haven't entered serious negotiation with any local dealer regarding pricing so I'm not sure how much they will move on price. When I get to that point I plan to call all or e-mail all KEF dealers within 200 miles for pricing to see if any will budge. I would sure hope to get better than a 10% discount as one dealer right off the bat gave me a 10% discount on a purchase of an entire system including KEFs.

    I hope to call KEF America this week to ask about the distribution of the XQ series to the dealers. While it hasn't been difficult to find either the Reference or Q series, it seems that only one dealer in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area currently carries the XQ line. This dealer also carries the Q series but no Reference speakers. I think the XQ series is a great mid-range product line and I'm curious as to why more dealers don't carry it.

    As far as ordering from Europe, I'm not sure what that would all involve. It's possible there may be other taxes or tariffs that could be charged that you may currently be unaware of. Also, what would the shipping charges be? I'd be a little worried about shipping by boat due to concerns about damage from moisture / humidity. Perhaps you could check with a friend on deployment overseas with the Armed Forces. I remember years ago friends of mine in the military routinely brought equipment back home from Europe at great prices.

    I haven't yet seen any used XQ speakers on Ebay, Audiogon, etc. I think given they were just introduced in the US that it may be a year or two before you will be able to find them used. The 201, 203, 205 Reference series has been available for a couple years and I see a few trickle to the used market every once in a while. If you find a good source for used KEFs, please let me know.
     
  13. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    Philip,

    I think your dealer is feeding you a typical salesman line of BS. I'm sure KEF would like to have dealers maintain the established retail price to the best of their ability but they truly can't control what a dealer does. A dealer needs to make money but they don't have to make a killing on every sale.

    Considering you are a serious buyer offering to purchase around $10,000 worth of speakers, I can't believe the salesperson wouldn't budge. I would recommend going to KEFs web site and looking for other dealers. Be sure to ask about customer appreciation sales and events. A local Audio King (Ultimate Electronics subsidiary) sales mentioned they have a special customer appreciation sales for past customers. I think he mentioned that I could get a 15 to 20% discount on a setup just like the one you are trying to buy.

    Another strategy would be to ask other dealers about a discount on their "demos". Demos give the dealer any easy out as far as discounting - no one needs to know how long they were used as demos - 1 hour or 1 year - either way you will get a better price.

    I look forward to hearing as to whether you have any luck with the strategies. Good luck and please make a post regarding what happens with your buying process and also about how your new system sounds at home.
     
  14. Philip____S

    Philip____S Stunt Coordinator

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    I haven't had the chance to listen to any more combos as my moving plans have changed. I did speak to Kef America on the phone today for a little while. It was a pretty good conversation and I learned the following:

    1. Kef Ref series don't mix well with Eggs according to Kef. Even though they are both Uni-Q they are different enough that they recommend not mixing them. The same goes for Q series. They said mixing Ref and XQ wasn't a bad idea though.
    2. 300 watts per channel is basically too much for Ref 201s or 202c. 200 watts per channel is more than enough.
    3. 200 watts per channel is on the high side for XQs, and maybe even a little too high. 150 watts per channel is more than enough, and 125 watts per channel might be best.
    4. 100 watts per channel should be sufficient for Q series and Eggs. 300 or 200 watts is way too much for either line.
    5. Bi-wiring is not worth the effort, but passive bi-amping is a good idea if you can do it, especially for Refs (tri-amping actually). If you are going to bi- or tri-amp 100 watts per channel is sufficient.
    6. When mixing lines be careful of watts per channel, as a 200 watt per channel amp that is good for Refs will not work for Eggs. If you did this, you'd need two separate amps.

    I am going to try and arrange the following auditions to make my final choice:

    Ref 201
    Ref 202c
    XQ 1

    XQ3
    XQ2c
    XQ1

    Ref 201
    Ref 202c
    Eggs

    I will try the last combo even though Kef says no just to see how it sounds, as the Eggs did sound good by themselves.
     
  15. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    Philip,

    Thanks for the info! The matching info is particularly helpful. I'll be getting KEF 203s later this week. I hope to get my 202c soon. At this point, I don't have a great receiver or amp to drive them but that will change soon.

    I'm interested to hear how your auditions turn out. I'll probably post at the end of June or early July as to how the 203s sound with whatever receiver or components I end up with.

    Rich
     
  16. Philip____S

    Philip____S Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm in the process of a full audio upgrade so I'm picking a pre/pro and amp at the same time. The pre/pro amd amp decision is tied to the speaker decision for me. If I get Refs in front I'm leaning toward a B&K Ref 50, maybe the Anthem AVM20 but there have been so many problems with it. If I go with XQs I might get the Atlantic Tech P2000. I know it is more than the Outlaw but the Outlaw is too ugly for me as it will be in a very visible location. $400 extra for the good looks is worth it to me. Anyway, I'm headed to the speaker store Friday and hopefully will be ordering everything next week.
     
  17. KrishnaP

    KrishnaP Extra

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    I am waiting to know your opinions as I will probably getting KEF XQ5s come September. I will be upgrading my entire HT including TV and HT furniture as we move into a new house. At avsforum I read lot of discussion about Rockets and how good they are. Even though I am not overly enthusastic about them, I wonder why no other Audio discussion boards talk about them much.

    Please let me also know the best price you are able to get on XQs. I am thinking about XQ5s in the front and XQ1s in the rear. Later I can move them to sides and probably get XQ5s for rear surrounds as well.
     
  18. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    Philip,

    Even though I may at some point upgrade to something similar to the Anthem AVM20, I decided to go with the Pioneer 49TXi for now. I decided to invest the money that I didn't spend on the Anthem (or similar) to make the upgrade from the XQ series to the Reference series. I figured I'd never have buyer's remorse by going this route as you can't go wrong with what to me is the best speaker for my tastes and budget.

    I look forward to finding out what you decide to do next week.

    Rich
     
  19. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    Krishna,

    I think your plan sounds very good. I'm sure you'll be pleased with the XQ5s and XQ1s. I think the toughest thing will be waiting until September to enjoy them!

    I called KEF America this past week and they said the XQs should begin showing up in more locations throught the US soon.

    I'll post the results of my in-home use of my new KEF 203s as soon as I get my new 49TXi.

    Rich
     
  20. Rich:Fi

    Rich:Fi Agent

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    I just got KEF 203s for my fronts, 201s for the rears and a 202c center channel. I'm waiting on a SVS PB2-Plus for my sub. I am using a KEF PSW4000 sub in the meantime.

    I think the sound is fabulous for both music and home theater. The imaging from these speakers is incredible! My wife and I are very pleased. Another feature (second to the great sound) is that these speakers look very attractive - no boxy look to them.

    I also got the Pioneer 49TXi, Pioneer DV-47Ai, Samsung HLN617W 61" DLP TV, Samsung SIR-T165 tuner. I'm thrilled with all of these items!
     

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