KEF Reference 1 Monitors

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by mds, Apr 11, 2017.

  1. mds

    mds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    I listened to the KEF Reference 1 stand mounted speakers today while dropping off my CD player to be repaired. These speakers were impressive. I had previously listened to a pair of Harbeth Super 5HL Plus which sounded great but I prefer the KEF over the Harbeth sound. The Harbeth were a little too soft :hide: and not detailed enough for my taste. The KEF on the other hand were very detailed but not too razor sharp. The tweeter and mid range were all in control, no ear bleeding here and I was listening to CDs and they sounded wonderful. The sound was extremely clear, detailed, fast and dynamic. For a 6 1/2 inch woofer these went down to 40Hz very nicely before they began to head south. They had a very rich and realistic sound. You could tell when nylon strings were used, and could hear the hollow body of an acoustic guitar and the shimmer of cymbals. Drums were real sounding with all the correct dynamics, and quickness required to make them in the room believable. The sound stage was fantastic right to left and up and down. The sound stage felt large, a little larger than life, but not too much so. Depth wasn't as good as I had hoped but there was some. The speakers did disappear and the sound stage extended well past the speakers position in the room. I found myself just listening and enjoying the music and not really hearing anything that bothered me. The speakers played well at normal volumes and could play extremely loud with no distortion or blurring of the individual performers when increasing the volume to levels much higher than I would ever want to listen for any extended period. I was very impressed with the build quality, they were Gloss Rosewood. The speakers were not inexpensive and you would need to throw in extra change, yuk, yuk change :biglaugh:, for the stands. I think the ones KEF offers are $1,500, but not sure. If you have a moderate sized room and want a pair of beautiful speakers whose footprint wouldn't be too intrusive this would be a great choice. They come with two lengths of rear port tubes to tune the bass depending on your room and more particularly how close to the front wall the speakers need to be placed in front of. I listened with them well into the room and was very impressed with the bass, I did not ask about which tube was in the unit, but from what I understand the closer to the wall they sit then the need for a longer tube??? so if this theory is correct I would then assume the short tube was used. The Uni-Q or whatever they call their tweeter / mid range driver arrangement looks great but sounds even better. I believe it is one reason the sound stage was so impressive and why individual performers had their place solidly pinpointed within that sound stage. If you are in the market for a 3-way stand mount speaker in the $7,500 range then I would recommend these to be added to your short list to audition.
     
    bluemooze, russk, head_unit and 4 others like this.
  2. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Location:
    Westfield, IN USA
    Just for the heck of it you should've compared them to the LS50. That would've been interesting.

    Maybe when you pick up your Turnadot.:righton:
     
    wgb113 and Manimal like this.
  3. mds

    mds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    I will, they are in different rooms, but I do not think the difference will be subtle. The REF 1 is a much bigger box and is a three way. The LS50 is a ported two way and looks tiny in comparison. This is not to say the LS50 does not sound great, just that the two are in different classes and cost arenas ($7,500 vs $1,500). The stand for the REF 1 is the cost of the LS50, does this make sense, absolutely not. Seems there is a lot of money to be made in stands and equipment racks. I cannot imagine the mark ups on Audio equipment in general, be it speakers, amps or accessories such as stands, racks and cables.
     
    timind likes this.
  4. Claude

    Claude Forum Resident

    Location:
    Luxembourg
    Non-included accessories from the main product manufacturer are often overpriced, be it with audio components, cars, etc. It's away of compensating narrow profit margins on the main product.

    But I'm sure you can get decent stands for half the price.
     
    Tawaun A Williams and head_unit like this.
  5. Diskhound

    Diskhound Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    I had a pair of Reference 1's in my system for about 10 months (with their custom stands). I agree with the OP's review. They are an excellent monitor. I would just add three things. 1) IMO they would really need very, very powerful, high quality solid state amplification to sing their best. I personally think they should have been rated as 4 ohm speakers not 8 ohm and the minimum amplification should be way higher than 50 watts. Think 250 watts at 4 ohm as a minimum. 2) You don't need to ensure the tweeters are ear high. From my listening position 9 feet away there was no difference in the tonality of the music when I was standing or seated! It was amazing. 3) While these speakers were pretty versatile and could play unbelievably loud without breaking-up, I would say they were best suited to vocal and acoustic music at moderate levels when they could be spooky good.
     
    ribonucleic, timind and mds like this.
  6. mds

    mds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    From what I was told by the dealer, they need a quality amp to push them to their peak performance so this also reinforces what you are saying. I think they dip down to 3 ohms at one point so rating them at 8 ohms does seems silly. I would also call them a 4 ohm speaker as you stated. I have 75 watt tube mono-blocks and was told by the dealer that they would drive them easily. My room is only 11 feet wide by 15 feet deep. I would definitely want to audition them at home with my set up prior to buying based on what you are saying about them being power hungry. Thanks for the tip.
     
  7. Diskhound

    Diskhound Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    Please report back! What the heck do I know! I would be very interested in how they would sound with 75 watt tube monoblocks. That's a lot of power and I have no doubt you could drive them. Whether it would be optimal or not is a question only you will be able to answer. Your room is quite a bit smaller than mine so that could make all the difference. In my room I personally did not think my Modwright KWA 100 SE had an optimum amount of power for them. I wanted more power (current) at low and moderate listening levels. There are test results attached to the Soundstage Hi-Fi review which are quite interesting. Apparently, they are only 84 db sensitive and they don't just dip down to 3 ohm, they are 3 ohm between 40 and 250 +HZ. Right around 2K HZ the impedance jumps to 20 ohm.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
  8. mds

    mds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    I am taking all you have to say very seriously. It does have me concerned, those are beautiful sounding and looking speakers that cost a lot of dollars therefore I need to be sure they are perfectly matched with what I presently own. I have no intentions on rebuilding my system around new speakers. With the KEF's potential for a power hungry appetite I am going to also audition a pair of Devore O93, which I have never heard so I do not know how close the two are in sound. I know I was really impressed with the KEF Ref 1 but have the power reservation. The Devore is far from power hungry but will it sound as good as the KEF I do not know until I audition them, hopefully sometime in May. Thank you for your insight.
     
  9. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    noticed the REF 3 in your profile, very nice!
    i'm considering the 1s- seems like they would be a perfect candidate for bi-amping with a very low woofer to mid crossover of 350Hz.
    A beefy amp for the woofers and a refined amp for the midrange/tweeter. Should work very well.
     
    mds likes this.
  10. mds

    mds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    The 1s are a beautiful sounding speaker and on some recordings I prefer their sound over the 3s. I played Todd's Rhino/Bearsville AWATS the other day and actually preferred the way the CD sounded on the 1s than the 3s. The fuller bass on the 3s didn't allow the upper mid and upper trebles to shine as nicely as they did on the 1s where the bass doesn't extend as low nor as full. Yes different CD player and amplifiers used with each but I think it was more the speakers than the associated equipment. The bottom line is they both sound great! Buy them and you will be very happy.
     
  11. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Canada
    hmm, I thought you bought the ref 1 mds... I'm kinda scared to compare the SHL5+ to the REF 1. I have a feeling the Kef Ref series are something special.

    Anyone compared side by side the SHL5+ to the REF 1?
     
  12. meanoldman

    meanoldman Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Park, CO
    Why listen to anything other than a pair of EPI 100v's?
     
  13. mds

    mds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    I did buy the Reference 1s and liked them so much I then made the mistake of listening to the Reference 3s and decided I needed them for that extra depth and fullness on the bottom end. I wanted this purchase to be my last for speakers and I believe it will be. I did compare, but not side by side, the Harbeth SHL5+ with the Reference 1s and preferred the Reference 1s. I liked the KEF sound better but more importantly I felt they were a more flexible speaker in terms of positioning them in my room and with my tube equipment. The mid range and upper end is just spot on and the sound stage both Reference speakers produce is wonderful.
     
  14. Echoes Myron

    Echoes Myron Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Nice review. I was thinking about these but wasn't able to audition locally.

    Instead went with the B&W 805 D3 and have been very happy...speakers for life.

    I really like (love actually) my LS50's, so still want to hear the Ref 1 someday.
     
  15. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    currently i have the harbeth c7es3 and love them but on many recordings the lossy cabinet sound makes them sound washed out and dsrker than i would like. the shl5+ would be brighter and more transparent but still may have too much cabinet resonance warmth, which is aewsome if you like piano recordings.
    i upgraded to my harbeths from the ls50s and miss the KEF sound but in a larger format, nothing in the R series did the job either. The REF 1s may be the answer, but the SHL5s are tempting. As sre Spendor D series.
     
  16. JoshM

    JoshM Forum Resident

    I have the Ref 1s and have thought about upgrading to the 3s. Currently, I have an SVS subwoofer to round out the bottom end of the Ref 1s.

    I had the LS50s before and compared them to the Ref 1s in my system. The difference was...not subtle. Not even the same league. The small mid-bass bump the LS50s have became incredibly apparent in comparison to the Ref 1s, and the Ref 1s’ detail retrieval and imaging blows away the LS50s’.
     
    Echoes Myron, mds and avanti1960 like this.
  17. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    suggest more power to bring out the bass, you could add a nad power amp and drive the woofers bi amp. i did this and used a nad c272, 150 watts per channel on some psb speakers with 6 in woofers and the bass was shocking.
     
    mds likes this.
  18. mds

    mds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    I have the Ref 1s and tried them with two SVS subs but preferred them alone. Yes I drew out a bit more deep bass but the purity of the Ref 1 alone was missed and I didn't miss the deeper bass once I removed the subs. I may have liked the subs better if I spent time with equipment measuring and setting them up as opposed to just using my ears but they still go plenty low by themselves. The Ref 3s are another story, they need no help in any area, just love them. Still there are times that the simplicity and charm of the smaller Ref 1 is enjoyed equally to the bigger brother.

    I have no problem driving either with lower powered tube amplifiers, but connect them through the 4 ohm tap. The Ref 1s are being driven with a 35 watt per channel integrated tube amp and the Ref 3s with a pair of 75 watt tube mono blocks. No issue with either being under powered as long as I used the 4 ohm tap. I can drive them both extrmely loud with more than enough umph. Yes they both drop down slightly below 4 ohms but the tube amps with large, heavy transformers just laugh at the drop. I liked both better than the Harbeth 5hl plus that I auditioned prior to purchasing the Reference 1. The Harbeth was beautiful sounding but not as well rounded or as detailed as the KEF. I was very close to buying the Harbeth but glad I didn't.
     
    ribonucleic and Echoes Myron like this.
  19. pdxway

    pdxway Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Curious, did you audition the Paradigm Persona B, which is $7K a pair, similar price to the KEF Ref 1?
     
  20. mds

    mds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    I didn't audition this speaker, but the speaker does look very nice based on a quick read of a review and a quick look over of it's spec sheet.

    The models I auditioned were; Audio Note AN-E/SPe HE, Harbeth Super HL5plus, Joseph Audio Pulsar, Vivid V1.5, Focal Electra 1028 Be, Sonus Faber Olympica I, Devore O93, and KEF Reference 1. All the auditions were with tube equipment that had power ratings similar to what I would be using at home. I tried to set the auditions up in rooms sized close to the room I would be using them in, but this was not always possible. I narrowed my choice down to the Devore and the KEF and was fortunate that I could audition them at home. Ultimately I picked the KEF Reference Series as the superior of these two. Very content and having had them for many months now am still convinced that these are my final speakers.
     
    Echoes Myron and pdxway like this.
  21. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    the JA Pulsars are as of now the second best speakers I have ever heard (behind a set of Magico towers). The fact that you preferred the KEF REFs is quite a statement.
     
    wwright and Joe Spivey like this.
  22. mds

    mds Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    I just listened to the Joseph Audio Pearl 3 speakers and these are one of the best speakers I have heard to date, however their price tag is just above $30K so I will enjoy from afar. The Pulsar model was very beautiful sounding indeed, but yes I did prefer the Reference 1 over them. I felt the Reference 1 had more heft behind them giving them a fuller sound.
     
  23. rbp

    rbp Forum Resident

    I had the opportunity of hearing the Kef Reference 1 speakers at an audio show over 12 months ago and couldn't believe how wonderful they sounded - they were being driven by mono blocks (cannot remember make) and the realistic sound effortlessly filled the room.
    At the same show I also heard the Harbeth Super 5HL Plus and was totally underwhelmed - they sounded boxy to me (first time I had heard Harbeth speakers).
    The Kefs were easily the best sounding speakers at the show for me.
     
    mds likes this.
  24. Joe Spivey

    Joe Spivey Your friendly neighborhood Spivey-Man

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Looking forward to hearing the KEF Ref 1 at some point. There is a NIB pair on the 'gon at the moment for a good price.

    As for the JA Pulsars, those are truly awesome speakers that I have heard.
     
  25. fritz eichelberger

    fritz eichelberger Member

    Location:
    tampa, fl
    I've recently purchased the Kef Reference 1 & Rotel RAP 1580 AVR. Looking to add a power amp and upgrade the Rotel Power cord. Can you share which Power Amp you chose for the Kefs? So many great option but trying to get ideas from other Kef owners. Thanks in advance for any assistance.
     
    winston1156 and Echoes Myron like this.

Share This Page