Recently a mastering engineer for a world-famous recording studio in NYC came to audition the KEF LS50s ($1,500). He was in the market for about a $2,000 pair of speakers and he knew the LS50s are contenders where space is tight. When we were done with the LS50s–which he liked very much–we agreed to play the KEF Blades a bit, just for fun. It turned out to be a long listen, far longer than we spent on the LS50s. He didn’t want to stop.
Yet again, I found myself wishing that I could get more people in that listening chair because, yet again, here was another music lover laughing in amazement to music he already knew like the back of his hand. So, if you haven’t yet had the thrill of being awestruck by the Blades, come get your goosebumps, laughter of disbelief, or your new best stereo experience–maybe all 3.
If you already heard the Blades and you didn’t have this reaction–that happened to me in a venue whose name I’ll keep to myself–you heard them at the wrong place.
Roy Gregory of The Absolute Sound has more to say on the KEF Blades at http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/kef-blade-loudspeaker-hi-fi/. Here’s an excerpt:
These speakers drive a simple four beat bar with the impact and purpose of a jack hammer, but they’re equally comfortable unraveling complex be-bop rhythms or bringing a simple voice and guitar track to almost spookily realistic life. Notes are defined by pitch and placement. The KEFs’ spatial coherence rests in their mastery of the temporal domain; they don’t just show you where the musicians were sat, they preserve the precise impact of that layout on the arrival time of what each one plays.
So often, the true test of a hi-fi system comes down to whether it allows you access to great musical performances, or does it diminish the drama and artistic achievement. When you listen to du Pre playing the Elgar Cello Concerto, it should be an emotional and heartfelt performance; when you listen to Elvis Costello, you should get the edge and attitude in the lyrics, qualities underpinned in the playing; and when you listen to Narcisco Yepes you should marvel at the controlled intensity of his playing. The Blades are truly transparent to the musical performance, but they are also transparent to the driving system.
By now it should be apparent that the KEFs perform well above their price point. Just be aware that as well as sounding like a £50K speaker, you need to treat them like one too, especially when it comes to partnering electronics. At last year’s RMAF, KEF demoed the Blade with Parasound Halo mono-blocs, to considerable effect. Despite their (comparatively) modest price, these amps are long on quality and even longer on power – the perfect recipe for sonic success with the KEFs.
What don’t the KEFs do? Well, as I’ve already stated, they don’t recreate the full, recorded acoustic. But in almost all other respects they are remarkably accomplished. If they miss anything, it’s the last ounce of instrumental texture, but again, that really is only available from speakers that cost many times the KEFs’ price. Above all, their performance is so coherent and well balanced, that their sound is almost inherently satisfying. They are dynamic and rhythmically involving, communicative and capable of considerable musical subtlety.
In an industry faced with indifference, where too many of the opportunities we get to impress, end with a “How much?!?” or a “So what?” – and that’s before we reach the realms of “You’ve got to be joking!” – the KEF Blade genuinely delivers. These speakers wear their heart well and truly on their beautifully tailored sleeve. There’s no such thing as the universal product, and speaker manufacturers know that you can’t please all the people all the time. Nevertheless I think the Blade is a phenomenal speaker system and definitely one that I could happily live with. You might not agree. Listen to the KEF Blade and you might not fall in love – but I can’t believe you won’t be impressed.
I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love. Here’s some specs:
Type: Three-way, coincident source loudspeaker system
Driver Complement: 1x 1″ aluminium dome, 1x 5″ Li-Mg-Al alloy midrange with LCP rib reinforcement, 4 x 9″ aluminium bass units in force cancelling pairs
Bandwidth: DH Audio and Home Theater’s demo room has the Blades at 25hz +/- 3db. KEF states 40Hz – 35kHz ±3dB, 28Hz – 45 kHz ±6dB
Maximum Output: 117dB
Impedance: 4 Ohms nominal (3.2 Ohms minimum)
Dimensions (WxHxD): 14.3″ x 62.5″ x 21.2″
Weight: 126lbs ea.
Price: $32,000 per pair
Call (973) 428-9800 to schedule a demo.
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