It is with great pleasure that we take a close look at Richer Sounds’ newest addition, the KEF Q series…
As one of the UK’s hi-fi success stories, KEF have been pioneers of loudspeaker technology since they were founded in 1961. Their Q series speakers are in action at Richer Sounds, and today we’ll be looking at the two floorstanding options – the Q500 and Q700.
KEF have never settled for just throwing a couple of drive units in a box and calling it a day, they are well known for their innovative design touches. For example, the Uni-Q driver array comprises of a tweeter enclosed in a larger drive unit as part of one module. Coupled with the tweeter’s ventilation and the aluminium cone of the larger driver, this allows for clear highs and fast timing, but is much smoother to cross between the frequency responses of the two. Greater dispersion than a standard tweeter is found across all of the Q range with the Tangerine wave-guide, so the need to find a sweet-spot is lessened too.
Other than that, we’re looking at a 130mm drive unit on the Q500, and a 165mm drive unit in the Q700, with both models also providing two matching sized ABR speakers. These Auxillary Bass Radiators are designed to move with the bass drive unit, which allows for a greater low frequency response that really looks good as well. Speaking of which…
For all their clever acoustic design cues, KEF offer a relatively simple looking cabinet but this doesn’t disappoint. On their delightful plinths, the speakers look imperious and purposeful, and the drive units look great when the grilles are off. Around the back, bi-wiring banana terminals are provided, as well as the most sophisticated bridge tightening posts I’ve ever seen. Rather than latch two pieces of metal between top and bottom posts, KEF has hidden the posts internally, with two dials tightening the array from the outside. This was definitely one for us hi-fi geeks!
Metal-made drivers normally require a bit more running in than paper, so we left these going for a good few days before getting down to some critical listening. That said, they sounded good out of the box and things only improved from there, especially using the Roksan K3 series amplifier and CD in.
We used The Coral’s album The Curse of Love to put the speakers through their paces, this was probably an unfair test considering the album was actually recorded on an 8-track Tascam recorder. However, the Q500 made the most of the tracks, offering up real insight into the sounds on offer. James Skelly’s voice was strong and clear, and the great drumming of his brother Ian Skelly hit with real snap and punch throughout. Overall, they let me listen to music that I truly love, without showing up it’s relative lack of polish. The sweet-spot, as mentioned before, was definitely less important when using the Q500 speakers, although they did benefit from a bit of toe-ing in otherwise the sound was pleasingly cohesive.
Switching to the Q700 briefly on the same tracks gave expected results. Bass was fuller, the sound overall was delivered with more heft, and in a bigger room this would be much welcomed. Leaving the Q700 in place we switched to the more bass-prominent Gorillaz, Singles album. Right off the bat, Stylo gave the Q700 drivers a real work out – and they lapped it up! The midrange wasn’t over shadowed though, and Damon Albarn’s vocals didn’t sound glued on to another track. KEF definitely achieved the frequency balance they were aiming for.
Moving back to the Q500 showed the difference in bass substance between the two models, this is where it’s great to have a choice! The bass impact was still there, it was a just a tad leaner – and in a smaller room, this could be a big benefit. This led to some debate between my colleagues and I, with some favouring the out-and-out brute force of the Q700 while I enjoyed the leaner Q500. Again, it’s great that all parties have been catered for.
So then, KEF are back with a bang, and we’re very pleased to have them. If you’re in the market for new speakers, you’ve got to come try these in one of our stores demo rooms today!
Author – Chris, Liverpool store