As KEF celebrates its 50th Anniversary, I thought it would be interesting to look at the early association between KEF and The Absolute Sound. As one of the first loudspeaker companies to offer high-performance loudspeakers, it comes as no surprise that KEF enjoyed significant coverage in the pages of TAS in the early days of the magazine. That long-standing association continues to this day with products like the new KEF Blade loudspeaker that will be the subject of an upcoming review in TAS.
But let’s focus on the early history of KEF in TAS. A capsule review of the $350 KEF 104 loudspeaker, the first KEF to appear on US shores, appeared in Issue #8 (fall 1976) of TAS. HP described its sound as “. . .big, a touch fat, even a little romantic.”
In 1979, PHD provided a capsule review of the "new" KEF Model 105 loudspeaker. He highlighted its imaging performance: “Once the 105s have been properly set up, the imaging on large-scale orchestral music is nothing short of spectacular. The speakers actually seem to disappear.” He concluded that the KEF 105 was, “A magnificently constructed, beautiful looking, easy to set up, and easy-to listen-to speaker system.” (TAS #16)
In March/June 1981, DAW marveled at the performance of the KEF-101 Mini-Monitor. “In conclusion, if you have a need for the unique benefits that only a good M.monitor can provide, I urge you to give the KEF-101 a try. Experience what an intelligently conceived and beautifully executed M. monitor can do!” Dave Wilson was so enamoured with the performance attributes of mini-monitors, like the KEF-101, he started a loudspeaker company to produce them.
In the following issue of TAS (#23) in September, 1981, JWC focused on another mini-monitor from KEF, the 103.2, as the subject of “An Essay on Imaging.” He concluded that that it imaged “like a champ.”
In TAS #26 (June 1982), HP reviewed the KEF 105.4 and said, "I found the R 105.4 to be a fine loudspeaker, and to be a far better one than my former R 105.2s. It has excellent imaging, it produces a fine soundstage, and its overall integration is very good. Unlike the 105.2, there is no annoying touch of bass overhang, and the treble is much more musical. There is no hint that the woofer is following one path and the other drivers another.”
As these early reviews and capsules indicate, KEF loudspeakers have been particularly noteworthy for their imaging capabilities and in many models, their driver integration. My audition of the latest KEF flagship loudspeaker, the Blade, at the Munich High End Show suggests that KEF has pushed its superb imaging and wonderful coherence attributes to new levels. The Blade features the latest generation of Uni-Q technology, force cancelling 9" bass drivers (rigidly mounted back-to-back), and a beautifully tapered cabinet (from front-to-rear and from top to bottom) with discrete bass chambers. It's made from an inert and exceptionally rigid glass-reinforced composite. The sound, even under show conditions, was quite thrilling, with first-rate imaging, explosive dynamics, and extended yet controlled bass. This level of performance suggests that KEF will have many more anniversaries to celebrate.