KEF T305 Speaker System Page 2
Short of one that magically sticks on the wall, I can’t imagine a speaker that mounts any easier than the T301 (or T301c). It’s either two screws secured in the wall for the keyhole mounts or four for the wall brackets, and you’re done. Because the speaker terminals are in a recessed pocket and the wire inserts into the holes parallel to the back of the cabinet, the speaker fits absolutely snug against the wall. The recessed pocket for the speaker wire extends all the way to the bottom of the speaker, so the wires can be run on the wall instead of in the wall if need be. That’s a nice touch. I mounted the front left and right T301 and the T301c on the wall around my Samsung plasma HDTV and used the shelf stands for the surround T301 pair, setting them on narrow ledges near the back of the room.
Battle Hymn of the Public
One of the first characteristics of the KEF system that stands out is the subtle clarity inherent in the speakers. Caught up in the hoopla of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, I decided to rent the movie Glory on Blu-ray. Even though it’s not the greatest of soundtracks, several things stood out. During the battle at James Island, South Carolina, the T301 speakers excelled at creating an enveloping soundfield of shouts, explosions, and bullets flying in all directions. The system was equally adept at isolating individual shots and voices during all the mayhem. Near the end of the movie, during the assault on Fort Wagner, the sound of the sand being blown into the air by the cannon explosions and then falling down all around the room was unnervingly real. At the end of the movie, as the camera pans across the body-strewn beach and the soft beauty of the musical score and the accompanying vocals swell hauntingly, the KEF system elicited the kind of emotion that you gladly pay full-ticket price in the movie theater to experience.
While not as carnage-filled, How to Train Your Dragon absolutely benefited from the speakers’ ability to articulate dialogue clearly, especially during scenes in the great dining hall where the ambient echoes and sibilant-heavy accents could make it difficult to understand everything being said. In fact, details of all sorts were so well defined that they almost begged to be noticed, as is the case when Hiccup initially approaches the downed dragon. First there are the pinpoint chirps of birds in the background, then the dragon’s snuffy exhale, which is finally followed by low-volume bagpipe music that underscores the scene as Hiccup cuts the dragon loose. The system created these details effortlessly.
While the T-2 can’t extract the sheetrock screws from your walls, it stands out in terms of integration with the T301 speakers. Certainly, it’s important for a sub to create the underpinnings of realistic explosions from cannons and the like, as the T-2 did with Glory. But it’s just as vital and more impressive for a sub to be able to blend in and operate as one with each of the other speakers in the system. This is something that the T-2 does exceedingly well. For example, in a scene soon after the initial dragon fight training, Hiccup enters the dining hall through a large door in the left rear. As the perspective in the scene changes and the low rumble of the door along with the higher-pitched noises from the hinges shifts from the left surround to the left front speaker, the only thing that changes sonically is the location of the sound—not its character.
Based on the system’s ability to re-create subtle details, it’s not surprising that it handles music with as much care as it does movies. The orchestral music in Glory showed this to be true, but it treated plain old two-channel music just as well. After hearing Florence + the Machine during an appearance on a recent episode of The Colbert Report, I decided to give the Lungs release a try. As with the fine details present in the movie soundtracks, the T301 speakers were effortless and almost serene in reproducing the main vocals as well as the highs of the tambourine slaps while clearly delineating the background vocals on “Dog Days Are Over.” The drums, which for a time are the only instrument playing near the end of the song, were snappy and full.
Fat Was Then, Thin Is Now
I’m not saying I’d like to turn back the clock, but I was never terribly bothered by the room-dominating size of large speakers and the hulking presence of old-style big-screen TVs. Fat was then, however, and thin is now. If the flat-HDTV tail has got to wag the sound system pooch, the least we can do is make sure man’s best audio friend is the purest breed available. It certainly isn’t easy mixing style with substance, but KEF has done an admirable job of not letting the speaker’s form factor take precedence over the sound. The T301 and T301c speakers are especially attractive, and small details combine to give them an elegant, stylish appearance. However, KEF’s real achievement is the crafting of a speaker system that’s worth owning without regard to its physical application—and doing it for $2,000. Flat-panel HDTV or not, on the wall or on stands, this KEF system easily holds its own sonically against less stylish but equivalently priced systems that I’ve heard. In fact, the system has such a perfect price/performance combination that I wouldn’t be surprised if people start choosing flat-panel HDTVs to match the KEF speakers rather than the other way around. And that’s a tail I’ll be glad to tell.