Thursday, October 31, 2013

ToneAudio Cranks Through the KEF R300 Bookshelf

"The R300 puts Gustavsen’s piano squarely between the speakers in a very deep space, keeping the recording well organized amongst the rest of the players. The brushwork on drums emphasizes the low distortion of the Uni-Q driver—there is some real magic going on in this small cabinet."

Full-line speaker manufacturers, like Focal, B&W and the brand featured in this review, often deliver the most bang for the buck in the middle of their product ranges. These products may not have the ultimate performance of the flagship, but they don’t cut corners either, as can often be the case with entry-level models. And while KEF has been garnering a lot of justified praise on its specialty speaker models, like the Blade and the LS50, the potential buyer looking for a relative audio bargain would do well to investigate the KEF R Series.

There’s some fine stuff happening in this range, folks.

The R300 is the larger of the two bookshelf models in the R Series. And unlike its smaller sibling, the two-way R100, the R300 is a three-way bookshelf, which is not the most common of layouts for a stand-mounted speaker. It is interesting to note that the smallest speaker in KEF’s Reference Series, the 201/2, is also a three-way stand-mounted model. I’ve heard the Reference 201/2 on a number of occasions and have always been really impressed with its honest presentation of music. I’m here to tell you that the R300 gets within a stone’s throw of the 201/2, doing so at a much more reasonable price; the R300s cost $1,800 per pair, compared to $6,000 for the 201/2s.

Technology and Performance

Unlike KEF’s former middle range, the XQ Series, which were great sounding and gorgeous to boot, these R Series products won’t win any beauty contests. They are simple-looking boxes, albeit ones that are superbly finished and constructed. The review pair of R300s arrives in a nice black-gloss finish. (Rosewood and walnut veneers are also available.) The beauty of this range is in the technology and performance. Some nice touches with this line include the magnetically attached grilles and the strapless bi-wire capability, which makes for easy bi-wiring and lets you forget about losing the gold-plated brass strap usually supplied with speakers in this price category.

The R300 features yet another generation of KEF’s Uni-Q driver, which is central to most KEF products, giving them their signature coherent sound. For those unfamiliar with the Uni-Q, it is KEF’s way of making the midrange and treble drivers into a point-source radiator—the often sought-after but rarely attained ideal for a lot of speaker manufacturers. This generation Uni-Q benefits from the same technology in KEF’s flagship Blade speakers. The midrange cone is made from an aluminum-magnesium composite, which makes for much-desired lightness and stiffness. Ribs across the surface of the driver cone minimize resonance, while the surrounding material provides further dampening. The tweeter, which is made from the same material, is rear vented to reduce backward pressure, minimize distortion and increase power handling. KEF’s tangerine wave guide fits over the tweeter diaphragm to further control the already wide dispersion characteristics, particularly those at the highest frequencies. (cont.)

READ the full review here