The V720W hails from the same school of high-end soundbars as the Paradigm Soundscape, Monitor Audio ASB-2 and B&W Panorama 2, although it’s slightly more affordable. This system comprises the slim V700 soundbar and the V-20W subwoofer, although you can buy the V700 separately if you want to pair it with a different sub.
Being a dedicated speaker brand KEF has prioritised sound quality over jazzy features. The speaker technology is based on KEF’s T series of ultra-slim speakers (used by the T205 system) while the V-20W subwoofer is similarly well-specced and communicates with the soundbar wirelessly.
With a depth of just 53mm, the V700 is crying out to be mounted on the wall – all the fixtures you need to do so are in the box. But if you’d rather plonk it on a tabletop, KEF supplies a pair of stands that can be screwed onto the back. These can be adjusted so the bar tilts to your desired angle.
The soundbar’s design is low-key – it’s basically a black panel with mesh on the front and gloss-black panels at both ends (one of which houses the wireless sub transmitter). This understated design helps the bar blend in with its surroundings and makes it a good match for any black TV. It measures 1200mm wide by 160mm high, making it suitable for use with TVs of 47in and larger.
The V700’s excellent build quality comes as no surprise given the price. The all-metal bodywork is heavy and robust, exuding the sort of luxury we’ve come to expect from KEF’s speaker systems. Just make sure you have some hefty wall fixings.
Flip the V700 round and you’ll encounter a decent if unusual selection of sockets. We say unusual because the V700 sports a single ARC-enabled HDMI port, as opposed to the inputs and outputs you normally find on a soundbar.
This single HDMI port makes it easy to send audio from an ARC-compatible TV to the soundbar, but it means you can’t run external sources like Blu-ray decks and TV receivers through it – all signals have to come from your TV.
There’s also an optical digital input for those without ARC-enabled TVs, and a subwoofer output (which you won’t need with the wireless V-20W). Analogue, USB and Bluetooth connectivity would have been nice for the money, making it easier to stream tunes from portable devices, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
The subwoofer is compact and immensely stylish, sporting a gloss-black top panel and curved corners. On its rear panel you’ll find L/R phono inputs, volume and crossover frequency knobs, a switch to flip the phase and another to select from three Bass Boost modes (0dB, 6dB and 12dB). These give bass a kick at 65Hz to compensate for room conditions and listener preferences.
The V700’s speaker array includes four ultra-slim 4.5in bass drivers and a pair of 1in vented aluminium dome tweeters. The tweeters feature a tangerine waveguide that distributes sound across a wide angle so everyone in the room gets the same sound quality. It’s driven by a Class D amplifier which offers 2 x 50W power output.
There are two EQ modes for on-wall or tabletop placement, which can be selected using a switch on the back of the soundbar. The down-firing subwoofer boasts a 200W amplifier and an 8in long throw driver.
Otherwise the feature list is decidedly sparse – there’s no Dolby/DTS decoding, Bluetooth or fancy surround processing.
Setting up and using the V720W system is a little different from the norm. First off, if you’re using the wireless subwoofer you have to attach the supplied transmitter to one end of the soundbar by unscrewing and replacing the existing panel.
Even more unorthodox is the lack of a dedicated remote – volume, standby and mute are all controlled using your TV’s existing handset. That means you have to connect the soundbar to your TV via HDMI and enable CEC even if you’re piping audio via the optical connection, which some might find a tad inconvenient. With no front display panel on the soundbar, you’re reliant on your TV’s onscreen CEC displays to check the volume level.
But on the plus side it reduces coffee table clutter, ensures minimal disruption to your system and makes the V720W feel more like an extension of your TV’s speakers than a separate entity. It worked flawlessly with our Samsung set.
Optimising the subwoofer is easy thanks to the comprehensive controls on the back. It didn’t take long to integrate with the soundbar and after playing with the EQ modes we found the 0dB setting worked best – but experiment to find the right balance for your room.
We’ve reviewed several decent budget soundbars of late but the jump up in quality to a high-end model like the V720W is the sonic equivalent of seeing Blu-ray pictures after years of watching DVDs. The V720W’s potency, cohesion and sparkling clarity make for a thrilling listen.
What makes the KEF such an engaging performer is its forceful, attacking character. Movie effects are conveyed with aggression and purpose, and despite their inherent slimness KEF’s high-quality drivers sidestep the sonic flaws that blight many a low-cost soundbar. You can comfortably crank up the volume without noticing much in the way of brashness or distortion.
The soundbar musters decent bass on its own, but the high-calibre V-20W takes things to the next level. It follows the action with impressive agility, emitting punchy low frequencies that merge beautifully with the soundbar. This natural, cohesive output means you won’t be reaching for its volume dial every five minutes.
We tested the KEF with a variety of movies and it dazzled with them all – the frantic freeway scrap between the titular enemies in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is electrifying, with crashing cars and huge explosions filling the room; Pacific Rim’s huge battles are reproduced with outstanding scale and potency; while Beorn’s house in The Desolation of Smaug is alive with subtle ambience, buzzing insects and clear dialogue.
KEF’s hi-fi approach also pays dividends when listening to music, offering terrific clarity and imaging. Vocals sound natural and the subwoofer adds a solid, rhythmic foundation. It’s just a shame there’s no Bluetooth.
The V720W is light on features and a little unusual to set up, but justifies its price tag (and earns a Recommended badge) on the strength of its stellar audio performance.
Its forceful, dynamic and detailed sound makes movies sound thrilling, but with the sort of composure missing from cheaper soundbars. The superior subwoofer layers soundtracks with deep and seamlessly integrated bass.
Also impressive is the soundbar’s solid build and slim design, which looks great on the wall and leaves a minimal footprint on a TV stand. However, those hoping to run external kit through HDMI sockets or stream music via Bluetooth will be disappointed. You’ll also need a TV with HDMI CEC functionality to use it, ideally one with ARC.
Sensational sound quality is the star attraction of KEF’s slim soundbar, although Bluetooth and more HDMI sockets wouldn’t have gone amiss