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Should I replace my KEF 105.1's?

Don105

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Hello all,

New member here, though I've been reading through posts here recently to gather the wisdom of this group, as I'm considering revamping my gear. Its been really educational to find some objective measurements of speakers and amps and discussions of how to (or how not to) reconcile the "quality" of what we hear with these measurements.

I have a set of the original KEF 105's, purchased in 1978. These have travelled with me for many years as we moved cities and houses, and I've really enjoyed them. However, they are now 43 years old and I would think that there must be better speakers on the market by now. I don't think there is anything actually wrong with them, but I'm looking for some advice on a possible upgrade.

I've currently got a Sony STR-DN1040 AVR which is working fine as an amp but needs to be replaced as the on-screen display electronics are completely shot, so i have no way to use the calibration system. So I'm also in the market for an AVR. But please lets treat that as a separate subject and focus on the speakers. Lets assume I get something like the Denon X6700H or 4700H, and some reasonable surround and center speakers. But my main interest right now is stereo music reproduction on the main speakers, from CD and Vinyl sources. I have a Thorens TD126MKII turntable and a decent Audio Technica cartridge, and a Sony subwoofer for movies.

My musical tastes are diverse, so jazz, rock, classical piano, symphonic music, etc.

My listening room unfortunately has lots of windows and speaker placement is a bit difficult. I know I'll need to put in some curtains, as there is almost no wall space to mount damping materials on. I'll attach some photos.

I've listened to the following speakers to date, in a couple of (very different) showrooms:
- B&W 702's
- KEF R11's
- Martin Logan 60xTi
- Sonus Faber (Floorstanding, about the size of the B&Ws, sorry not sure what model)

I plan to listen to the KEF R7's and the R5's with a subwoofer.

I've not found a dealer nearby that stocks Monitor Audio, Vandersteen, or Revel but in reading through reviews here, these brands seem of interest.

TBH I've not heard a monumental difference between these speakers and my 105's, but I've not been able to A/B them and I'm really, really, really bad at time-displaced comparisons, plus the various room acoustics, amp differences, etc make this kind of pointless. I'm negotiating with the local Magnolia store to let me bring my speakers in so I can do just that. Same room, same amp...

That all being said, does anyone have any suggestions on what i should listen to that would likely perform significantly better than my vintage 105's, and not bankrupt me?

thanks for any suggestions.

Don
 

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Jim Matthews

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The 105.1 is a fine design.
Amortized, they've provided 43 years of service at $? per year.

Not a bad return.

****

Modern full range designs have the benefit of new materials, extensive consumer research and advanced modeling to generate improved fidelity at lower cost. Something like the JBL HFI -3600 is a notable example.

There is a set available right here, in the ASR classifieds.

Is it a handmade, individually tuned, bespoke state of the 1970s audio art?

No - it's better.
 

BrokenEnglishGuy

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i have the R7 in a small room, but i like how coherent across the bass/mids/highs for his size they are, sounds very coherent for being a floorstander to my ears

Maybe the R7 its enough for Bass without the sub, listen them first if you can. R3 measure very well.
 

YSC

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From the look of your room it seems like something coaxial will sound more coherent and similar across the listening positions, so if you wanna go the amp and passive route I think the kefs would be a great choice if you don’t want to go active, but I do think a sub maybe more valuable to you as you start buying the old ones 43 years ago, which I suppose isn’t the day you’re born (I am now 36 and listening test show I can only clearly hear 17khz but once at 18khz it’s complete silence) so at your age I assume anything pass 14-15khz doesn’t matter anymore and good bass is more important

trouble is that it seems there’s not much option to place the sub if you only wanted to use a single sub beside blocking the furnace which it seems to be used?
 

Frgirard

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Hello all,
I don't think there is anything actually wrong with them, but I'm looking for some advice on a possible upgrade.
Don

Wait for them to break down

TBH I've not heard a monumental difference between these speakers and my 105's, but I've not been able to A/B them and I'm really, really, really bad at time-displaced comparisons, plus the various room acoustics, amp differences, etc make this kind of pointless. I'm negotiating with the local Magnolia store to let me bring my speakers in so I can do just that. Same room, same amp...
Don

Same room, same time and in MONO. If not, the best is to buy by weight, the shape, the fashion, the discount or on the available measured data

thanks for any suggestions.
Don

Keep your kef. there are what is measured, what is heared and the ROOM, the ROOM will spoil the party, the ROOM the audiopphile black hole.
 

Mart68

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I would also advise keeping the KEFS. They may not be state of the art anymore but they are still up there.

I'd spend the money on some proper amplification that will have complete control of them. Krell, Neurochrome, something like that.
 

DSJR

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Only issue really today is age. Didn't HiFi News test a vintage pair a few years ago and found the speaker had drifted off spec a bit?

Having said that, these were a major if not 'ear-charming' achievement back then and if they suit the room sonically, do you really need to change them unless it's really itchy feet? I'd suggest to forget many of the makes you've suggested as they're 'bing boxes' more than state of the art transducers to me. I'd say they're quite and easily capable of reproducing improvements in source and amp tech.

My admittedly limited experience of the brand suggests high-end Revel is arguably where you should be looking and maybe Dynaudio Confidence if you're more European based. Both seem to have a similar kind of 'cool handed' approach (almost ice-cold if my experiences of the Dynaudio's is valid), rather than the perhaps slightly more 'friendly' tones of a Harbeth 40.2-XD (I loved the 40.1 when I heard them a few years back).

KEF at the time had invested a huge amount of money in their R&D and testing side and it's stood them in pretty good stead ever since, with a few side-steps along the way (decoupling the main drivers from the box was a short lived and dire sounding if not measuring step in the follow-up models to yours and the Uni-Q needed some work when launched, although tonal balance trends led for a while before the current ranges). I hope you don't end up going backwards in choosing a potential replacement.

I've not mentioned modern active models. Can any of our favourites be considered looks wise (I'm taking performance as a given here)? This might allow a AV processor/preamp perhaps?
 

YSC

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http://teribil-audio.com/2013/02/kef-105-measurements/

Just did a quick search, these babies are incredible good considering their age! if I were you maybe it's time to send them for some recap in the cross over and continue to use them, or if the Gear Acquisition Syndrome kicks in, recap and see if the surrounds need some fixing and give them to your childs or some youngsters who can cheer about it and let them shine through
 

NTK

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Dr. Floyd Toole used the KEF 105.2 (sorry, not 105.1) as an example in his book and in the CIRMMT lecture. He used it to illustrate the problem of not paying attention to directivity. The part on the 105.2 starts at ~27:50 (loudspeaker identity revealed at ~29:00). So there are significant advancements in the understanding of loudspeaker design requirements since the 105.1/2 were released. KEF looks like it has fully embraced the learnings from Dr. Toole's research, and the spinorama measurements of their current offerings (e.g. R3) are top notch.

 
OP
D

Don105

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Thanks all for the thoughtful replies, particularly to NTK for posting the video of Dr. Toole. That is incredibly informative and helpful, and the icing on the cake is that I have both a bachelor's and master's degree in engineering from McGill University :). Seems unlikely, but it would be great if there were Spinorama measurements of the off-axis performance of the original KEF 105's...

Smaller speakers will be easier to place in my room, i think, so given the info I've gathered I'll probably look more seriously at models like the KEF R3 and R5 which have smooth on-axis and very good off-axis response, both vertical and horizontal. I've not looked at more recent discussions of subwoofer placement but last i heard (about 10 years ago) you could put them pretty much anywhere, since sounds below around 60 Hz are non-directional? As for amplification, I need to do more research into Class A/B/D/G etc, and some A/B testing with my chosen speakers (which could still be my 105's :)).
 

Frgirard

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That's a common mistake. The ear can more or less differentiate between direct and reflected sound, so you still need anechoically flat direct sound.
Have you read what i wrote? Not. You need to cut the automatic answer.
 

redshift

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Only issue really today is age. Didn't HiFi News test a vintage pair a few years ago and found the speaker had drifted off spec a bit?

Having said that, these were a major if not 'ear-charming' achievement back then and if they suit the room sonically, do you really need to change them unless it's really itchy feet? I'd suggest to forget many of the makes you've suggested as they're 'bing boxes' more than state of the art transducers to me. I'd say they're quite and easily capable of reproducing improvements in source and amp tech.

My admittedly limited experience of the brand suggests high-end Revel is arguably where you should be looking and maybe Dynaudio Confidence if you're more European based. Both seem to have a similar kind of 'cool handed' approach (almost ice-cold if my experiences of the Dynaudio's is valid), rather than the perhaps slightly more 'friendly' tones of a Harbeth 40.2-XD (I loved the 40.1 when I heard them a few years back).

KEF at the time had invested a huge amount of money in their R&D and testing side and it's stood them in pretty good stead ever since, with a few side-steps along the way (decoupling the main drivers from the box was a short lived and dire sounding if not measuring step in the follow-up models to yours and the Uni-Q needed some work when launched, although tonal balance trends led for a while before the current ranges). I hope you don't end up going backwards in choosing a potential replacement.

I've not mentioned modern active models. Can any of our favourites be considered looks wise (I'm taking performance as a given here)? This might allow a AV processor/preamp perhaps?

Looks like keepers.

Get new/modern drivers with less dist, biamp/triamp the speaker and play with xover settings with your DSP.

Perhaps add a microphone to measure an averaged FR in the listening area.

That sounds like a fun project.
 
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Jim Matthews

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ob1

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Hi Don105,
Welcome to ASR! I concur with Jim Matthews and NTK, amongst others.

I hardly ever post on ASR, for I feel I lack the scientific knowledge. For once, I thought I would chime in, since I live in Montreal, not so far from Mc Gill's and have been a 104.2 owner for a few years.

If I were you, I would :
1. Buy Floyd Toole's Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms, Third Edition. I feel it is the best investment I have ever made in my whole life with all things audio related.
2. Buy or borrow a Umik-1 USB microphone (about 100$US shipped), get REW and start measuring your in-room frequency response at your listening position. This shoud help you determine if your Kefs are still up to specs or if you should have them repaired or go for new speakers and/or subwoofer.
2.a Try room correction equalization with REW or software like Dirac, Acourate. Of note, the learning curve is steep, but I feel the efforts are really worth it. Moreover, for integrating room correction eq in your current setup, with CDs and turntable, hardware will also be needed, see miniDSP offerings, for instance.
3. Buying new speakers like Kef R7 is likely to show some improvements, but I would expect somewhat small changes, not night and day differences. This is highly subjective, I am just sharing my experience. Why? Your speakers' specs show they have very reasonable bass extension (38 Hz +- 2 dB) and Toole's findings tend to show low frequencies are a big part of one enjoyment : "bass performance accounts for about 30% of the factor weighting in subjective evaluations." I personally believe you will have difficulties finding speakers with better bass extension than the 105.1, thus you may find your new speakers may be lacking in that regards, that is unless you consider adding a subwoofer. That is not to say only bass matters, but I would keep this in mind.
4. Should you decide to go for new speakers, I would try and stick with brands that show good spinorama measurements, like Kef, Revel, JBL and the likes.

I am hoping this will give some tools to determine what should be your next move.
 

redshift

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Hi Don105,
Welcome to ASR! I concur with Jim Matthews and NTK, amongst others.

I hardly ever post on ASR, for I feel I lack the scientific knowledge. For once, I thought I would chime in, since I live in Montreal, not so far from Mc Gill's and have been a 104.2 owner for a few years.

If I were you, I would :
1. Buy Floyd Toole's Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms, Third Edition. I feel it is the best investment I have ever made in my whole life with all things audio related.
2. Buy or borrow a Umik-1 USB microphone (about 100$US shipped), get REW and start measuring your in-room frequency response at your listening position. This shoud help you determine if your Kefs are still up to specs or if you should have them repaired or go for new speakers and/or subwoofer.
2.a Try room correction equalization with REW or software like Dirac, Acourate. Of note, the learning curve is steep, but I feel the efforts are really worth it. Moreover, for integrating room correction eq in your current setup, with CDs and turntable, hardware will also be needed, see miniDSP offerings, for instance.
3. Buying new speakers like Kef R7 is likely to show some improvements, but I would expect somewhat small changes, not night and day differences. This is highly subjective, I am just sharing my experience. Why? Your speakers' specs show they have very reasonable bass extension (38 Hz +- 2 dB) and Toole's findings tend to show low frequencies are a big part of one enjoyment : "bass performance accounts for about 30% of the factor weighting in subjective evaluations." I personally believe you will have difficulties finding speakers with better bass extension than the 105.1, thus you may find your new speakers may be lacking in that regards, that is unless you consider adding a subwoofer. That is not to say only bass matters, but I would keep this in mind.
4. Should you decide to go for new speakers, I would try and stick with brands that show good spinorama measurements, like Kef, Revel, JBL and the likes.

I am hoping this will give some tools to determine what should be your next move.

I agree, however; I’d probably consider shopping for modern drivers with less distortion and upgrade the speaker.

Even with a relatively flat FR in the listening position, distortion will gotcha if you compare with a newer speaker I suppose.
 

Doodski

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@Don105 those KEF 105 speakers should sell well for a decent price if they are operational and don't have crumbling cracked driver suspensions etc etc. Could provide a nice down payment on some new speakers. :D I provided KEF warranty service for some years and anything KEF Reference has a loyal customer following and that helps resell value and speed of sale.
 

redshift

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@Don105 those KEF 105 speakers should sell well for a decent price if they are operational and don't have crumbling cracked driver suspensions etc etc. Could provide a nice down payment on some new speakers. :D I provided KEF warranty service for some years and anything KEF Reference has a loyal customer following and that helps resell value and speed of sale.

It is likely also a good reason for not flipping those speakers.
 

Doodski

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It is likely also a good reason for not flipping those speakers.
Yes, a very good reason. If they made it this far and are still operational there is no telling how many more decades they will be around pumping out good tunes.
 
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