Loudspeakers are a necessary evil. The best, most advanced, and costliest examples will produce 100 times the distortion and a dozen times the frequency response error of the lowliest off-brand receiver. Yet it's kind of hard to listen to music without them.
Like so many British (and, for that matter, American) ür-audio brands, KEF — originally Kent Engineering & Foundry — had its roots in the post- WWII technology boom. In KEF’s case, it grew inside a Quonset hut on the grounds of the aforementioned foundry. A half-century down the road the Kentish maker is still there (in Kent, not in the metal shed!), still focused on its core competency (loudspeakers), and still producing wholly excellent designs.
Photos by Tony Cordoza For half a century, British speaker maker B&W has been very successful following a strategy of incrementally improving its designs year after year. Building on solid foundations is hard to argue with.
High-tech wonders like the DVD and Dolby Digital get much of the credit, but the home theater revolution owes just as much to a more mundane development: compact, affordable subwoofer/ satellite speaker systems.
Sony's new flagship receiver is a brute. It's got as many or more features, channels, HDMI jacks, and control options as any competitor I can think of, along with a snazzy new rotation of onscreen menus. The STR-DA5800ES is also the latest to join the 4K brigade, being able to pass-through, and upscale to, the possible-future Ultra HD video format. More on this in a year. Or two.