An extremely talented speaker: we can’t wait to see what the rest of the range has to offerWrite your own review
- Excellent build and finish
- expansive soundstage
- sweet highs
- expressive midrange
- Just a rare, slightly compromised low-end performance
With a new range usually comes new speaker technologies, and that’s the case here. The nine-model line-up calls on some of the design philosophy behind KEF’s state-of-the-art, £20,000 Blade speakers – for example, the 25mm aluminium dome tweeter is a vented design.
It sits in the centre of a new 13cm magnesium/aluminium alloy mid/bass driver, in KEF’s trademark Uni-Q driver arrangement. The tweeter boasts a 'tangerine' wave guide to promote better dispersion, while the mid/bass cone is reinforced with creases to help rigidity.
Inside the cabinet, special damping techniques have been used to prevent unwanted internal vibrations.
KEF R100: Build quality
With just the Uni-Q driver in the centre of the gloss-black cabinet it can take a little time to acclimatise to the looks, but the overall fit and finish certainly befits the £600 price tag.
Neat touches include magnetic speaker grilles, which keep the fascia hole-free.
And, instead of having binding post links on the outside of the speaker, they’re hidden on the inside: you engage and disengage them by rotating two knobs on the rear of each speaker.
Turn them one way to connect the two sets of speaker terminals, or theother should you want to biwire – there's no need for fiddly connecting links.
One of the benefits of KEF’s Uni-Q arrangement (see exploded diagram below) is that it encourages more consistent dispersion than a traditional driver arrangement.
KEF R100: Sound quality
And in the R100 this effect is immediately – and dramatically – obvious: the speakers present the listener with a wonderfully full and expansive soundstage.
In some instances, music is flung so wide and high that you’d almost swear there were extra speakers hidden away. Pumping out Skin by Grimes, the R100s are capable of imprerssive stereo imaging and a broad soundstage, bringing the track to life and placing voices and sounds very deliberately in the room.
And, there’s an impressive order and precision to the various elements of a track. There’s a fine sense of space, with the vocals and instruments clearly positioned and well-defined.
Integration between midrange and treble is seamless. The KEFs project Emelie Sandé’s Daddy in fine style.
KEF R100: Scale and authority
There’s also a great sense of scale and authority as the track switches from a relatively slow-paced intro before hitting a more vibrant, dynamic groove.
This shift in attack is communicated easily and explicitly and this translates well when switching to The Dark Knight OST. Highs are as sweet and delicate as we’ve heard from KEFs at this money.
For the most part, the KEFs deliver low notes with far more power and authority than you’d expect from a speaker of this size. There is a slight trade-off: with some tracks, bass notes can sound just a touch overblown.
Placing bungs inside helps lessen the effect, but then there’s a loss of scale and a shrunken soundstage.
In any case, it only happens rarely and it’s something that we’d be happy to live with, considering the KEFs’ admirable – and quite remarkable – strengths.
KEF R100: Verdict
If you want a speaker that sets the musical scene, the KEF R100s can do it like no other at this price. The scale and soundstage are of show-stopping proportions, which many rivals will really struggle to match.