Product of the Year - best standmounter £350-£700, Awards 2011. Deeply impressive in almost every respect, the Q300s represent an impressive return to form from KEFWrite your own review
- Imposing and good-looking
- good build
- tremendously detailed, dynamic and eloquent sonic performance
- Slightly thin high frequencies mean you must be sure to carefully system-match them
It's sobering to think, particularly for those of us who remember the launch of the originals, that these Q300 standmounters form part of KEF's eighth generation of Q Series loudspeakers.
This latest iteration sees some fundamental changes over the superseded range, the most obvious of which is the switch from elegantly curved cabinets to capacity-boosting but altogether more humdrum-looking straight-edged boxes.
But thanks to the appearance of the Uni-Q driver arrangement, it's obvious that these could only be a KEF design.
There's undoubtedly less drama to the look of the Q300s compared to, say, the outgoing, similarly proportioned but entirely more individual iQ30 standmounters.
The chromed strip running almost the entire width of the front baffle is a cheerfully retro flourish, and the new biwire speaker terminal arrangement is brilliant in its simplicity, but in other respects there's little to set the Q300s apart from the vinyl-wrapped (or, in this case, recycled wood-fibre-wrapped) herd.
These are generously proportioned speakers, slightly bigger in every direction than the B&W 685s they presumably aim to topple: it follows that they will require decent, dedicated speaker stands to give of their best.
They like room to breath
That they're happier out in a little free space is equally true, even though the front-ported configuration hints (falsely) at positional flexibility.
Suitably accommodated, though, and with a good few hours' running-in under their belts, the Q300s are persuasive in the extreme, and admirably talented in any number of areas.
The Decca recording of Lorin Maazel conducting the Cleveland Orchestra through Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, for instance, plays completely into the Q300s' hands.
The soundstage the KEFs produce is plenty big enough for a full-strength symphony orchestra, while focus and separation are such that each specific instrument is secure in its own space, while being smoothly integrated into the performance as a whole.
Great dynamic ability
The sort of dynamic variance only an enraged orchestra can generate is handled with unfussy competence: the sonic sweep from a whisper to a bellow is smoothly described by the KEFs – and with no particular section of the frequency range hogging the limelight.
The Q300s' ability to suddenly play much, much louder without hardening or becoming noticeably shouty sets them apart from their rivals.
A switch to the more corporeal pleasures of Underworld's Push Upstairs reveals the KEFs to be just as happy on the dancefloor as in the symphony hall.
They handle the martial rhythm well, punching into the bass notes with straight-edged alacrity and exiting equally promptly, while the pedal-to-the-metal tempo snaps along entirely naturally.
Eloquent and intimate
There's good tonal variation and texture to the low frequencies, to accompany their substance, and the journey from the bottom of the frequency range to the top is smooth and linear.
For all of their relatively refined, amply detailed and wholly unified presentation, the Q300s are more than willing to slum it in the scuzziest of nightclubs and dance the night away.
Yet another aspect of the Q300s' proficiency is revealed by a listen to Okkervil River's Lost Coastlines.
The KEFs demonstrate rare eloquence through the midrange, granting the vocal all the hesitancy and humanity it demands: detailed, urgent and intimate, the voice is first-person immediate and, as a result, the song is delivered in engaging and compelling fashion.
And, of course, this is in addition to the coherent soundstaging, impressive timing and vaulting dynamic prowess previously discussed.
A touch of treble diffidence
Only where treble reproduction is concerned do the KEFs appear anything less than utterly confident and composed. In fact, it may be a by-product of the Q300s' outstanding performance elsewhere that some slight tribulations with high frequencies are thrown into sharper relief.
Either way, there's a mild diffidence to their top-end tonality, a slightly thin, insubstantial quality that's diametrically opposed to the full-bodied assurance they demonstrate elsewhere.
That said, choose your partnering amplifier carefully, and they will perform admirably.
At this price, we'd say that if you can give the Q300s the breathing space they need – and your amplifier isn't actively provocative in the upper frequencies – these new KEFs are a compulsory audition: they're a seriously entertaining listen.