- Review Price: £500.00
- Compact 5.1-channel speaker system
- 200W powered subwoofer
- Two 50mm midrange drivers and a 19mm aluminium tweeter in each satellite
- Gloss-black finish
- Mount on tabletop, wall or optional floor stands
2011 has been a fantastic year for compact speaker systems, with Tannoy, Canton, Cambridge Audio, Jamo and Harman Kardon all delivering stunning sound quality at affordable prices. Well here’s yet another compact system bidding for your attention, this time from British manufacturer KEF – a company that wowed us last time out with its sublime T205 flat speaker system.
The KHT1505 is a more conventional system than the wall-mountable T205, with five identical tabletop satellites (HTS7001) and a powered subwoofer in the box. Its main benefit is that you get a complete speaker system in one go that delivers KEF’s famed sonic expertise without eating up much of your living space or budget.
But despite its affordable approach, KEF doesn’t appear to have cut any corners when it comes to build quality. The satellites’ rounded cabinets are finished in lustrous high gloss black, and just holding one tells you all you need to know – it’s hefty and robust, with no signs of fragility or hollowness in the die cast aluminium bodywork.
The satellites stand just 198mm high and 61mm deep, which is ideal for perching on shelves or AV racks. There aren’t many systems in this price bracket that can match the KEFs on build quality – the Cambridge Audio Minx is perhaps its nearest challenger.
The system comes with a large, bulky subwoofer that boasts impressive build quality. It’s finished in a classy black ash veneer, with a removable grille on the front hiding the 200mm driver and a selection of controls on the back to optimise bass performance.
Although you can’t see them thanks to the non-removable grille, each two-way, closed box satellite features two 50mm midrange drivers and a 19mm aluminium tweeter.
KEF claims a frequency response of 120Hz – 22kHz, which is more than wide enough to cover Blu-ray’s frequency spectrum, plus power handling is quoted at 10 – 100W, which is fine for most budget to midrange AV receivers.
One thing to note is that there’s no dedicated centre speaker, so we’re hoping the satellites’ twin midrange drivers have chops to convey dialogue loud and clear. The speakers can be mounted vertically or horizontally, with a rubber cradle in the box in case you want to place the centre sat lengthways on your TV stand. Alternatively, the satellites can be wall-mounted using the supplied brackets and rear screw holes, or attached to KEF’s optional HTS1001 floorstands, which come in black and will set you back £80 a pair.
On the back you’ll find springclip terminals, but not the plastic ones found on cheap all-in-one systems – these are a classier breed of metal speaker terminal, holding your cables in place with a deathlike grip. They’re housed in an open recess at the bottom, so unlike some of its compact speaker peers there are no access problems.
Inside the subwoofer lurks a 200W Class D amplifier, powering a 200mm front-firing bass driver with a frequency range of 29Hz – 140Hz. On the rear panel are two dials controlling bass level and crossover frequency, plus phase reversal and Bass Boost switches, the latter providing a boost of 6 or 12dB at the critical 40Hz mark to counter any problems with your room conditions. A single RCA input is provided for connection to your amplifier’s pre-out.
Say what you like about the Transformers movies, they provide a brilliant test of a system’s action handling prowess, and with Dark of the Moon in the tray the KEF KHT1505 delivers a performance that’s right up there with the very best in this price class.
From the get-go the KHT1505 demonstrates poise and potency. The war between the Autobots and Decepticons in the prologue is dynamite, with spaceships roaring around and pinging laser beams all over the wonderfully expansive soundstage, giving it an epic, spacious feel. Placement is precise and the tonally matched satellites ensure flawless interaction between channels.
It’s also capable of going up to the proverbial 11 when needed, keeping composure at volumes that might make lesser speakers sound harsh and bright. The scene in which Shockwave rips through a warehouse is a demonstration of the KEF’s faultless power, agility and imaging – the carnage is thrillingly handled but never taxing on the ears.
The subwoofer’s deft bass handling and tight fusion with the satellites is key to its success, lending a menacing level of punch to explosions without drawing undue attention to itself – no mean feat.
Despite the lack of a dedicated centre channel, the KEF’s dialogue handling is first rate, giving us no intelligibility problems. The depth of Optimus Prime’s voice during his narration is amazing, while human voices are distinctive and prominent.
The movie’s few moments of quiet reflection allow the KEF to demonstrate its excellent detail handling, filling out the room with subtle atmospheric noises. You’ll get even more insight and transparency by splashing out for the pricier T205s, but as £500 systems go they’re remarkably refined.
Your CDs are in safe hands too. The KHT1505’s robust reproduction of vocals, coupled with the agile bass and crisp detail, adds up to a musical performance guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Competition is absolutely fierce in the compact 5.1 speaker market right now, but the KEF KHT1505 holds its own with killer sound quality, unusually swanky build quality and a gorgeous, space-saving design.
The fast, nimble bass from the subwoofer is a real feather in the system’s cap, while excellent detail and dialogue handling – despite the presence of a dedicated subwoofer – contribute to an accomplished and hugely enjoyable sound.
If pushed, we’d have to say that the Tannoy TFX offers better value for money, conjuring up similarly impressive sound quality for about £100 less, but there are benefits to be had if you splash out on the KEF, namely superior build quality and a slightly more polished sound.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 9