• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

KEF Reference 1 META Bookshelf Speaker Review by Erin's Audio Corner

thewas

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
4,472
Likes
10,026

DSC03306.JPG


CEA2034 -- Kef Reference 1 Meta (Short Port).png
CEA2034 -- Kef Reference 1 Meta (Long Port).png
Early Reflections.png
Estimated In-Room Response (long port).png
Estimated In-Room Response.png
SPL Horizontal.png
SPL Vertical.png
Kef Reference 1 Meta (Short Port) Horizontal Contour Plot (Normalized).png
Kef Reference 1 Meta (Short Port) Vertical Contour Plot (Normalized).png
Kef Reference 1 Meta_360_Horizontal_Polar.png
Kef Reference 1 Meta_360_Vertical_Polar.png
Kef Reference 1 Meta FR_Linearity.png
Kef Reference 1 Meta Impedance.png
Kef Reference 1 Meta (Short Port) Group Delay.png
Kef Reference 1 Meta Step Response.png
Kef Reference 1 Meta Harmonic Distortion (86dB @ 1m).png
Kef Reference 1 Meta Harmonic Distortion (96dB @ 1m).png
Kef Reference 1 Meta_Compression.png

Parting / Random Thoughts (of Erin)​

As stated in the Foreword, this written review is purposely a cliff’s notes version. No order; just some random notes from my listening. For details about the performance (objectively and subjectively) please watch the YouTube video. But a few notes:

  • All listening was done in my home theater (I have a video on this here) as well as my living room (large open floor plan). Power was the Parasound HINT6.
  • On-axis is surprisingly nice (expected a bit of a rise as other Kef speakers have shown in the EIR). I initially had them turned off-axis expecting the sound to be too treble heavy on-axis. Instead what I found was that the HF was too subdued. Putting the speakers practically directly on-axis was much better to me and balanced out the tonality as well as the soundstage.
  • Extremely neutral. Nothing at all calls attention to itself. The cymbals and hi-hats are sharp and detailed but never shrill and there is no 5-8kHz harshness that I often hear from speakers that target that “detailed” sound (and often sound very shrill).
  • One of the most 3-D soundstages I have heard to date (only beat thus far by a set of $13k monitors using a concentric driver). And to me, this is the feature that needs to be recognized. This speaker is very EQ’able so if you don’t like the highs on a song, you can tweak it to your liking. Midrange, bass, etc. But you can never correct for a speaker’s radiation pattern. In other words, you can’t make a speaker have such a 3-D soundstage if it doesn’t already have it. This speaker does. And that’s the selling point to me.
  • Short port option is my favorite for sure. The speakers are away from the walls in my home theater quite a bit. The long port doesn’t sound right. But moving downstairs to my living room and putting the speakers next to the wall, the long port does seem to help keep the bass sound more balanced. Make sure to try both.
  • Details in the soundstage just pop out all over the place with complex music (such as Boz Skaggs’ “Lowdown”). Phil Collins’ “I Don’t Care Anymore” has snares that travel the soundstage from left to right and it sounds fantastic on these speakers.
  • The Cars “Magic” has a right side hi-hat that stands out from the soundstage while the “click clock” is back and to the left, giving it a 3-D sound field that is right in front of you at some points and deep with other parts of the mix.
  • Really good low-level dynamics; great with low level listening of more bass heavy music (where high output is bass limited).
  • Non-fatiguing. I listened for an hour at 75dB or so and never felt earache. I did have one session where I listened at this average level and used EQ to boost the lower bass up and just sat back and enjoyed it.
  • Can get dangerously loud due to extremely low midrange distortion. Though, at about 98dB at 3.5 meters the bass starts to sound “flat”, as if I was reaching the limits of the woofers. Still, that’s an average SPL of 98dB and it’s not really sane to listen to those kind of levels for anything other than a quick “stress test” as I did here.
  • Bobby McFerrin “Don’t Worry Be Happy” starts with low vocal on left that stays parked but you can almost visualize it moving - Matrix style. :) Left snap is dynamic.
  • Turning speaker off-axis about 10° provides a bit wider soundstage with no obvious detriment to the focus of images in the soundstage. Though, the HF is lost and may need to be boosted a bit (depending on your preference). I would encourage you to play around with the aiming though don’t be surprised if you find you like directly on-axis.
  • Good, solid kick in Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence”.
  • My only gripe here is that the radiation pattern isn’t quite as wide as I’d like it to be. Though, at about ±50° it is wider than the R3 (~±40°) according to the data and I didn’t find any serious complaints to be had.
Notice how around 3kHz the DI flattens out. Normally, with a flat on-axis speaker, I’d have a problem with this as it would result in a shelved up top end (bright sounding) with a wider radiation pattern - and, I would personally put this right on the edge of “narrow/wide”, using ±50° as my mark). However, it’s interesting to note that the on-axis response is slightly tilted downward by about 1dB from around 3kHz to 10kHz. I believe this combination is what is causing such a smooth in-room response and the speakers not coming across as “bright” to my ears, even when listening directly on-axis.

Awesome speakers. Subwoofer is optional. For most music and at reasonable volume, with the F3 of about 45Hz and the in-room response extending lower, you might be OK without a subwoofer. But if you tend to listen at high levels (or are just very far away) then a subwoofer might be necessary. Hard for me to say for sure as this is more of a preference/personal thing and these speakers do a good job of getting reasonably low so I can’t say the subwoofer is a “must” like I do with other speakers with a much higher roll off point.
 
Last edited:

TheBatsEar

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 16, 2020
Messages
1,714
Likes
2,651
Location
Germany
:D:oops::p:)
 

TheBatsEar

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 16, 2020
Messages
1,714
Likes
2,651
Location
Germany
Measurements start at 19:43 in the video.
 

amper42

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 21, 2020
Messages
1,172
Likes
1,548
$9K speaker. It would be interesting to see KEF Ref1 Meta compared side by side to Dutch & Dutch 8c.

 
Joined
Apr 14, 2022
Messages
92
Likes
86
Looking at the dynamics test, it seems like this coax driver has a bit more output than the previous model in the tweeter range (see Erin's R5 review).
If that truly is the case, then these should represent quite the improvement over the previous models, and may actually work for home theater where you ideally target 105db @ LP. It may also help subjective impressions, as I found KEF drivers so lack the oomph of more dynamically-capable speakers of a similar size.
(I do find that the limited dynamics of the KEF drivers colors my subjective impressions, despite me not listening at crazy levels. They just can't handle music as well as a horn speaker).
 
OP
thewas

thewas

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
4,472
Likes
10,026
Best looking and best performing standmount passive loudspeaker of today, in my humble opinion.
Didn't want to write that in the initial post as I don't want it to be seen as fanboyism, but I tend to agree.
 
Last edited:

3125b

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
May 18, 2020
Messages
971
Likes
1,530
Location
Northern Germany
Especially their coaxials are just great.
 

Ciobi69

Active Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2022
Messages
137
Likes
65
Looking at the dynamics test, it seems like this coax driver has a bit more output than the previous model in the tweeter range (see Erin's R5 review).
If that truly is the case, then these should represent quite the improvement over the previous models, and may actually work for home theater where you ideally target 105db @ LP. It may also help subjective impressions, as I found KEF drivers so lack the oomph of more dynamically-capable speakers of a similar size.
(I do find that the limited dynamics of the KEF drivers colors my subjective impressions, despite me not listening at crazy levels. They just can't handle music as well as a horn speaker).
I would deviate on active for that kind of price,9k it's a lot of money considering you have to add the amplifier, they are beautiful to the eye indeed but really expensive
 

ROOSKIE

Major Contributor
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
Messages
1,355
Likes
2,348
Location
Minneapolis
Best looking and best performing standmount passive loudspeaker of today, in my humble opinion.
I think they look great, especially in person.

How they sound is something I have yet to experience. The shop had them out in the middle of the sales floor and they did not sound especially great that way but nothing would have.

So far I have appreciated and basically liked the KEF speakers I have tried at home but never loved - nor kept them, nor missed them when gone at all. (Q100,Q150,Q350,R3) Would the Reference 1 be different???
 

Arnas

Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2020
Messages
65
Likes
81
I would deviate on active for that kind of price,9k it's a lot of money considering you have to add the amplifier, they are beautiful to the eye indeed but really expensive
Yes but These speakers will last decades while there are tons of reports for Active speakers failures around the net.
Sending your precious speakers thousands miles away just because electronics failed inside it is a hassle.
 

Ciobi69

Active Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2022
Messages
137
Likes
65
Yes but These speakers will last decades while there are tons of reports for Active speakers failures around the net.
Sending your precious speakers thousands miles away just because electronics failed inside it is a hassle.
Yep that is true too
 

Vacceo

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 9, 2022
Messages
1,154
Likes
1,091
Is the twitter and mid coaxial array the same as the R series or a newer incarnation?
 

Vacceo

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 9, 2022
Messages
1,154
Likes
1,091
We can only hope that the next incarnation of the R series shares them along the metamaterial. I´m saying this because I cannot afford the Reference series and I really, really hope the next incarnation of the R series can compete in SPL and dynamic range with the Perlisten R series.
 

ROOSKIE

Major Contributor
Joined
Feb 27, 2020
Messages
1,355
Likes
2,348
Location
Minneapolis
Interesting subjective take.
Especially as he compares to the R3 which I owned.
Never once found the R3's bright in my space, even on bright tracks they resolved with less brightness then other systems.
In my experience they were a were a bit to buttoned, reserved and mellow, never quite able to pull a 007.
Could be room issues-mfctr deviations or taste who knows but I always find subjective takes interesting.
My actual in room "curve" did not quite match the PIR and did not level off, it was very smooth, of course that PIR/my actual in room MMM, doesn't really mean much of anything.

Anyway despite not loving the R3's I deff want to hear these bad boys and see if they do in fact have some dynamic prowess.
We can only hope that the next incarnation of the R series shares them along the metamaterial. I´m saying this because I cannot afford the Reference series and I really, really hope the next incarnation of the R series can compete in SPL and dynamic range with the Perlisten R series.
Don't think the META will help much with dynamics.
The R3's are not dynamic speakers. Very average in that regard. Clean, buttoned sound but little excitement.
It was one of the major reasons I did not keep them, that and the smallish sweet spot and smallish soundstage.
They could play very loudly with low distortion when High Passed. That part was covered well. I do go loud and the R3's stayed very clean sounding and unstressed. If not high passed the speakers got a little dirty down low, I deff recommend a 70-80hrz HP if you like content with bass and you want some natural sounding SPL.

Anyway I could see someone finding the R3's 5/5stars and someone else like me being very non-plussed. (For me they hit about 3/5 stars.)
 
Joined
Apr 14, 2022
Messages
92
Likes
86
I would deviate on active for that kind of price,9k it's a lot of money considering you have to add the amplifier, they are beautiful to the eye indeed but really expensive
That is true, and I personally would agree that active would probably be better value for this price. However, there are circumstances where someone may want a passive speaker. Especially for home theater, having a passive speaker can make cable runs far simpler, as active speakers need signal and power, whereas passive speakers only need the amplified signal.
And whole-home audio systems where the amp rack is located centrally, with speakers placed around the house. (That's what a friend is doing in their new house, distributed speakers, with Q950s in the livingroom...)
But yeah, for the price KEF is charging, these aren't really great value compared to the r3 or LS50. For 9k you are solidly in Genelec or JBL 708p + big subs territory.
 
OP
thewas

thewas

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
4,472
Likes
10,026
But yeah, for the price KEF is charging, these aren't really great value compared to the r3 or LS50.
Yes, they are a "premium series" product where you pay a high sucharge for the design, cabinet materials, image/statuts, hand assembly in UK, small production batches etc. In such series the price is also more dictated by the market prices (also of the competition) than just of the costs, for example if it would be much cheaper than its competitors many people and unfortunately also today's audiophile press would consciously or subconsciously place/grade it to a lower class, this is unfortunately how the market works.
 

Vacceo

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 9, 2022
Messages
1,154
Likes
1,091
Interesting subjective take.
Especially as he compares to the R3 which I owned.
Never once found the R3's bright in my space, even on bright tracks they resolved with less brightness then other systems.
In my experience they were a were a bit to buttoned, reserved and mellow, never quite able to pull a 007.
Could be room issues-mfctr deviations or taste who knows but I always find subjective takes interesting.
My actual in room "curve" did not quite match the PIR and did not level off, it was very smooth, of course that PIR/my actual in room MMM, doesn't really mean much of anything.

Anyway despite not loving the R3's I deff want to hear these bad boys and see if they do in fact have some dynamic prowess.

Don't think the META will help much with dynamics.
The R3's are not dynamic speakers. Very average in that regard. Clean, buttoned sound but little excitement.
It was one of the major reasons I did not keep them, that and the smallish sweet spot and smallish soundstage.
They could play very loudly with low distortion when High Passed. That part was covered well. I do go loud and the R3's stayed very clean sounding and unstressed. If not high passed the speakers got a little dirty down low, I deff recommend a 70-80hrz HP if you like content with bass and you want some natural sounding SPL.

Anyway I could see someone finding the R3's 5/5stars and someone else like me being very non-plussed. (For me they hit about 3/5 stars.)
Considering I have been using Kef speakers for a couple decades, yet with the limitations you have pointed out, what would you go for? That is, a very well controlled directivity, excellent linearity and on top of that, dynamic range.
 
Top Bottom