New KEF ref line

Steve Padua

Auditioning
Joined
Apr 16, 2002
Messages
7
Has anyone heard the new reference line from KEF?
I have been listening to the new q7's with Q1's as surround and they are very good for the $. The ref line are expensive, but I presume sounding very accurate ala' B$W.
The smallest floor model Ref 203 is $3500.
My local dealer says they are way backordered from the factory, so will not be able to get one for "awhile".
The Q's are made in China like the Diva's. The refs back in England. Just wondering on their sound...No B$W dealers nearby...If I get the Q's I just might be up that upgrade path in the near future, and maybe I can avoid this.
Steve
 

Martice

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 20, 2001
Messages
1,077
Hi Steve. I heard the 201's at a local dealer for 3-4 hours with my own demo material. It was these speakers that first off made me reexamine my room and my choice of speakers. Meaning that my PSB Goldi's were very good but I could do better in terms of musical playback.
The sound of the 201's is wonderful. I listened to this source material when I heard the speakers:
George Duke - After Hours
Norah Jones - Come Away with Me
Chesky's sampler - Starring Rebecca Pigeon
(On my second visit)
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Dianne Reeves - Tribute to Sarah Vaughn
Acoustic Heaven - compilation
How do they sound? Well with Norah Jones (vocalist) her album is recorded in a way that leaves her slightly raspy voice out there for all to hear, to like or to love it for what it is. The 201's had no problem revealing every nuance of her speech techniques and heavy breathe between her spaced out but never empty songs. The 201's were very 'detailed' (we'll visit that word again later on) and competent in delivering the goods on Norah's voice. The same can be said for Dianne Reeves and her vocals that are recorded differently and also has a different quality than Norah's. Norahs is slightly raspy and Dianne's is sweet honey and regardless which one was playing the 201's gave it to you in spades.
To get a reference of full body music, I chose George Dukes's 'After Hours' CD. Whew!! What a piece of work and by George(pun intended) I think he's got it on this album. Smooth liquid jazz with lush lowend and chords to match but with excellent seperation between the instruments and never sounding muddy. I was able to really appreciate how much musical effort was put into this recording before but with the 201's it was like going from a 27" TV to large screen TV. Every thing is spelled out for you so much clearer. What stood out while playing the "From Dusk till Dawn" track was that the thump from the kick drum was 'tight' and kept the pace and bounce going from the beginning of the song. The second track titled "Sweet Dreams" is heavy on the bass and accompanied by a free fingered George Duke on the piano. The wrong speakers would fail to properly show how the two musicians play together as well as off of each other. The lowest octaves obviously aren't retrieved by this bookshelf version of the Reference model but it was able to capture all but the lowest octaves at normal listening levels without sounding muddy. Depending on what you listen too will determine how bad you need a sub and for some music types (acoustic and Vocal) you may go without a sub indefinitely. The 201's easily displayed a level of performance that forced me to come to grips on a point that I will make shortly. The speakers also had the ability to totally disappear and the soundstage was also very huge.
Any negatives? Well I thought that sometimes the 201's reminded me of my father in that he never left out any details when discussing anything or giving orders to my brother and me. No loop holes or small print here!!
With the 201's, I sometimes got the sense that the music was a little less musical because of the 201's revealing nature and detail. They tended to keep showing me new aspects of my music that I clearly didn't notice before but after a while I was saying "OK OK OK, I just want to put my brain on cruise and chill". Ear fatigue? (Hmmm... I scratch my chin) Nope, Far from it. However, if you consider yourself a critical listener then give these speakers a try because they have a lot to tell you and will not leave out any detail in regards to what's on your source material. I also took into consideration that the associated gear (Bryston gear in particular) could've had a hand in the overall sound and presentation of the speaker. Especially because some consider the BP20 and Bryston amps detailed in nature so the KEF's could just be revealing the nature of the associated equipment.
Would I buy them? If I had the money, yes I would. However for $3,000 I wouldn't do so without hearing some other offerings by competing companies. With the 201's, it's not if they are good speakers or not, but more about how much are you willing to pay to get the scoop, the whole scoop and nothing but the scoop without leaving out any of the details.
Associated Equipment:
Bryston BP-20 -Pre amp
Bryston 4B - Power amp
Harmonic Technology - Pro Silway's
Monster M2.4-bi-wired -Speaker Cable
Marantz SA-14 SACD player
Additional notes:
-Room Size (unmeasured) 24 X 17 x 9
-Acoustic wall treatments were used as well as bass traps in each corner.
-Speakers were placed (unmeasured) 4-5 feet from the back wall and were the same for the side walls.
-Speakers did not share the same wall with any other speakers.
I hope I have been of some help to you and encourage you to hear these speakers. It was after hearing these speakers that reopened my eyes to bookshelf speakers and the performance that comes along with a very good quality speaker of it's size.
 

Evan S

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2001
Messages
2,210
Martice, great review. If you could sum up these speakers in a single word, would you describe them as forward, or laid back in nature. Do you know what kind of tweeter they use? Titanium, or soft/silk dome? I am very interested in these simply because they are so damn beautiful, but at $3,000 a pair, that's pricey if you wanted to also use them for dual music/HT applications. Did you listen to these for HT and if so what are your thoughts?
 

Martice

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 20, 2001
Messages
1,077
If you could sum up these speakers in a single word, would you describe them as forward, or laid back in nature.
In one word? Honest! Yeah, honest as "Old Abe".

In one discriptive word? If I had to choose one of the two (forward or laid back) I would have to say slightly forward but not in an unbalanced way.
If I had to choose my own discriptive term I would call them 'outspoken but balanced'. The window of information was just so wide that you have to pay attention to what's going on.... All of the time!!!
In comparison to my PSB Goldi's, the difference wasn't subtle. The slightly warm midrange of the PSB's (which I found pleasant) was totally different than what I experienced with the 201's. The 201's have no real tonal character. They were very much like looking through a clear glass window that you had to touch to make sure it was there.
To probably give you a little more meat to chew on, I've had many preamps and sources running with my PSB's. Gear like Sonic Frontier Line 1 tube preamp, the Adcom GFP-750 preamp, Acurus RL-ll, Aragon 24K(I really enjoyed the Aragon) along with CD players like the Sony XA 20es, Denon 1650Ar, Acurus ACD-11, which all ran through a MSB link DAC (modified)when I had them in my system. I've kept my cabling stable(Harmonic Tech Prosilways 1&2's, DH Labs Q-10's) as well as my amplification(my trusty old B&K Ref4420 2-channel amp)through all of the changing. I say all of this to say that regardless of what equipment that I had in my home, I've never heard a bookshelf perform as well as the 201's in the 4 hours that I spent with them.
I've also owned Paradigm Ref 100's before the PSB Goldi's and neither threw up a more convincing picture than the KEF 201's.
*** The room could have had an effect on the performance on both my speakers and the KEF's but even at extremely low levels, it was absolutely stunning how these speakers performed in regards to clarity, soundstage, pace and most of all DETAIL!! Being slightly 'analytical' MAY be the only thing that may keep me or some who like a more 'easy' and 'forgiving' speaker.
I don't know what type of tweeter it has but I'd bet my bottom dollar it's not a soft dome.
No I didn't listen to them for HT but if you did, I could only imagine how real the movies would sound with these babies. They didn't seem to lack in dynamics when I listened to them. However, you know and I know that the real test is when they are sitting in your room and in your system.
KEF 201's
 

Steve Padua

Auditioning
Joined
Apr 16, 2002
Messages
7
Martice,

Thanks for lending me your ear. I have listened to the psb

silvers recently and I understand its nice mid range. And it can get better? The psb stratus' were on my list till I heard the K$F's, at least the Q's.

yes...I will have to listen to more speakers. I plan to be in Denver next week for the "Lion King" and I plan to re listen to the paradigm ref 100's and B$W nautilus 804's, BTW the B$W 804's are priced near the 201 and are just as beatiful and a floor stander...have you compared the two?

Steve
 

Martice

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 20, 2001
Messages
1,077
Unfortunately, I have not heard the B&W's so I couldn't give you my assessment of the two. In the case of the 201's, I think they would be on my list of speakers to seriously consider if I had the cash.

My only regret is that I didn't hear them with tube gear.

I think I would've fallen over and croaked if the performance was anything near that of what the solid state performance was through the 201's.
 

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