KEF Q-Series Home Theater Speaker System Page 2

The Short Form

Price $3,500 (AS TESTED) / kef.com / 732-683-2356
Snapshot
These upper-crust British speakers provide impeccable sound quality.
Plus

•Silky-smooth sound quality •Deluxe yet tasteful styling •Remote control for subwoofer •Biamplification options

Minus
•Sub could use a bit more low-end extension and output
Key Features
iQ9 •($600 each) Uni-Q driver with 6.5-in midrange and 0.75-in dome tweeter; (2) 6.5-in woofers; 37 in high; 36.5 lb iQ6c •($500) Uni-Q driver with 5.25-in midrange and 0.75-in dome tweeter; (2) 5.25-in woofers; 20 in wide; 19.5 lb iQ8ds •($600/pair); (2) Uni-Q drivers with 5.25-in midrange and 0.75-in dome tweeter, 7 in high; 11.5 lb PSW3500 •($1,200) 12-in woofer, sealed cabinet; 17.5 x 23.5 x 15.5 in; 49.5 lb •Finish: Black, apple, maple, walnut; subwoofer: black, apple, maple, silver
Test Bench
The iQ9 has wide directivity, but rough response above 250 Hz; ripples in the high frequencies are likely from the coaxial tweeter output reflecting up the midrange cone. The iQ6c shares similar character, while the iQ8ds has the attenuated highs common to surrounds. The sub has impressive 110 dB output at 62 Hz and does an honest 20 Hz at 80 dB with less than 10% distortion, but dynamic capability falls rapidly below 62 Hz. - Tom Nousaine Full Lab Results
For my test, I wrestled the towers to either side of my 50-inch Samsung DLP, placed the center speaker underneath, parked the sub along my front wall, and put the surrounds on each side of my listening spot. By incrementally pulling the towers back from the wall, I found the right spots for my room, about 15 inches out. Each tower also comes with two foam pads for plugging into one or both ports to decrease bass response, but after auditioning all the permutations, I decided not to use them (your mileage may vary).

MUSIC PERFORMANCE For truly critical listening, I turn to a small stack of "go-to" discs. I have carefully listened to these recordings hundreds of times on many systems and know exactly what they sound like. Any deviation is a defect in the playback system. One of my most trusted discs is Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia. To audition these KEFs, I listened to both stereo CD and multichannel DVD-Audio mixes.

"Speedway at Nazareth" is a deceptively simple song, opening with vocals, acoustic guitars, snare, and synth, and ending with a glorious Stratocaster solo. In the surround recording, the vocals are arrayed across the front. The KEF trio provided beautifully articulated vocals on this track, with absolutely realistic presence and clarity. The baritone lead and backup vocals were audible as distinctly recorded tracks - a sign of accurate midrange response. The burbling synth line in the iQ6c center was nicely integrated with the front panorama, demonstrating superior mid/low-end extension, and the duet between backup vocals and electric guitar was richly detailed.

For music playback, I usually prefer direct radiators in the surrounds over dipoles. But for this recording, and others that use surrounds conservatively, the iQ8ds were just fine. On "Silvertown Blues," the surrounds primarily carry front-channel information with delay and reverberation added, and the dipoles conveyed these layers with a terrific sense of ambience, placing the song in a halo of acoustic space.

"El Macho" has one of the best bass lines ever. It's taut and punchy and will instantly sound flabby or distorted on a less-than-stellar subwoofer. The KEFs reproduced it well, with precise attacks and excellent (and warm) tonality. The front towers contributed upper bass attack, the sub superbly handled everything below, and the transition between the two was seamless. The sub amp hung in as I cranked up the volume, with only minimal distortion at very loud levels. I selfishly wanted more bass extension (something that, realistically, only a larger cabinet can provide), but overall I was extremely pleased with the musicality of this sub.

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