KEF R100s are the reigning heavyweight champions – our current Award-winners – and they have no intention of giving up their title, despite some fierce rivalry from the Monitor Audio Silver 6 AV12.
MORE: Awards 2014 - Best speaker packages
So what’s what? The KEF R100 5.1 is made up of two pairs of R100 standmounters at the corners, a R200c centre channel and R400b subwoofer.
The absence of floorstanders in the set-up will delight those with limited space, although it means the possibility of forking out roughly £200 per pair of stands.
KEF’s hallmark Uni-Q drivers are at the heart of the speakers – the offbeat configuration comprises a 25mm aluminium dome tweeter sat at the centre of a 13cm aluminium alloy mid/bass driver.
The Uni-Q’s main strengths are that it delivers more consistent dispersion than traditional driver layouts and helps overall driver integration too.
This latest iteration borrows from the company’s high-end Blade design and features an improved waveguide over the tweeter and creases on the mid/bass (for improved rigidity) to push performance even further.
With drive units resembling car alloys, the R100s have a slick, bold design and the quality finish you’d expect for the price. Coated with just as attractive high-gloss piano white or black, rosewood or walnut veneers, the cabinets are sturdy.
It’s a clean design too, with magnetic grilles meaning no need for unattractive fascia holes. It seems KEF has thought of everything: you find terminals at the rear of the speaker with screws to link/unlink for single- or bi-wiring.
The centre speaker is a three-way design with the Uni-Q tweeter/driver sandwiched between twin 13cm bass drivers. The subwoofer has two side-firing 23cm drivers powered by twin 250W Class D amps.
And the effect is astounding. We’ve watched J J Abrams’ Star Trek a few dozen times, but played through this system the movie felt fresh and exciting all over again.
The first thing you’ll notice is the incredible scale of this package. That tweeter is a key ingredient to the sound. The vented design aims to disperse the higher frequencies evenly across the room, which results in a wide and unified soundfield.
The KEFs are relatively compact, but deliver heaps of easy dynamics that fill our generously sized listening room.
Play the Romulan attack scene and you’ll be amazed at the system’s ability to convey the movement of such large objects moving in the vastness of space to such a impressive degree.
It’s not just show-stopping explosions that get all the attention. It’s an immersive experience no matter what the scene: every sound effect can be easily tracked across a spacious and detailed soundstage.
Integration is stunning across the front channels, with all three working as if a single entity. Dialogue is crisp and clear, with a startling directness.
Switching to music, with Stevie Wonder’s Live At Last concert Blu-ray, the KEF is inspirational: again the centre speaker conveys the vocals with style, while the surround channels deliver atmosphere from the crowd without drowning out the on-stage ensemble.
The compact sub is a key element, delivering precision and punch to all sorts of impactful effects. More impressively, it maintains that steady hum of the ship’s engines without ever being obtrusive.
We’re struggling to find any fault with this system: the fact that you’ll need to spend extra money on quality speaker stands is the only thing that comes to mind, and that just goes to show how impressive this KEF speaker package really is.
Is it worth every penny of its asking price? Without a doubt.
Updated on 07.05.14
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