KEF C5 review

We could talk at length about the C5s’ lack of outright dynamic heft, or their rudimentary grasp of timing. But our advice is simple: don’t spend £400 Tested at £400.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

KEF has produced some stonking £400 floorstanders. These aren’t them


  • +

    Substantial low frequency presence


  • -

    Pretty much everything else

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You might be forgiven for thinking that there are two companies called KEF operating right now.

The first is the company that turns out hugely accomplished, Award-winning designs like the KHT2005.3 and KHT3005SE multichannel packages. The other KEF is the company that has delivered these C5 floorstanders.

Unrefined build and sound

We're not actually suggesting that KEF can't be bothered, you understand, just trying to articulate our mystification. Compare any of KEF's (many) well-regarded products to these overpriced, underperforming units and we're sure you'll feel as confused as we do.

In terms of perceived build, quality of materials and standard of finish, these C5s lag some way behind KEF's identically priced (and far more accomplished) iQ5SEs that we've enjoyed as recently as our October 2008 issue.

The C5s' sound is equally unpolished. From the complexity of Radiohead's Bodysnatchers to the high-sheen good taste of Paul Simon's Rene & Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War, they come up short where refinement, precision and dynamics are concerned.

Voices lack character and animation

That metal-dome tweeter is a blunt instrument that's short on detail, and the two 13cm drivers below it fail to invest voices (or the rest of the midrange, for that matter) with any character or animation – never has Thom Yorke sounded so matter-of-fact.

There's certainly more low frequency presence here than the two-star KEF C3 standmounters we reviewed last month, but there's only a little extra discipline and rigour to bass notes.

We could talk at length about the C5s' lack of outright dynamic heft, or their rudimentary grasp of timing, but you get the point. Don't spend £400 on the C5s – try to find some KEF iQ5SEs instead.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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