- Review Price: £699.00
KEF blew us away last year with the original version of the KHT2005.3, which punched above its weight with the sort of scintillating sound performance you’d expect from a more expensive system.
To widen the appeal of this 5.1 package even further, KEF has given it a subtle refresh for 2009 by replacing the KUBE-2 subwoofer (itself a new addition last time) with the more affordable KUBE-1 – hence the K1 part of the model number. In theory this should make it a more affordable option, but with the same suggested retail price as the original (and similar online prices) it really comes down to which subwoofer you prefer.
Both are similar in appearance but there are some differences in spec that could make all the difference to performance. The KUBE-1 features a built-in 150W class-D amplifier with a maximum output of 108dB, whereas the KUBE-2 offers 200W with 112dB output. KUBE-1 dips down to a frequency of 38Hz, compared with KUBE-2’s 35Hz, and from a physical perspective the KUBE-1 is slightly smaller and uses smaller long-throw/bass reflex drivers (200mm compared with 250mm).
KUBE-1 is also one of the most attractive subwoofers we’ve seen. Cute and compact, it won’t take up much floor space, plus its gloss-black top section and cloth covered sides turn a plain black box into a work of art. Build quality is also impressive – you’ll find rubber feet on the bottom to minimise vibration and the sealed cabinet is strong and sturdy.
The rest of the speaker line-up comprises four HTS2001.3 speakers for the fronts and rears and an HTC2001.3 centre channel, which look every bit as stunning as we remember. Dressed in a fashionable gloss-black finish with a distinctive ‘egg’ shape, these bookshelf style speakers are effortlessly elegant, and in your hands you can feel their exceptional build quality straight away.
Also pleasing is the multi-directional base that lets you tilt and turn each speaker to achieve the most precise surround soundstage. They can also be wall-mounted or placed on optional stands.
Inside each satellite speaker is a cast aluminium enclosure, which houses KEF’s celebrated 100mm Uni-Q driver array and 19mm metal dome tweeters. If you’re not familiar with Uni-Q, it places the tweeter in the middle of the bass/midrange cone and fires out a single stream of sound that can be heard from anywhere in the room without the need for you to sit in the ‘sweet spot’.
Each one is magnetically shielded and handles up to 100W of power, while on the back are silver-plated binding posts that feel firm and robust.
Performance-wise, we got the ball rolling with ”Cloverfield” on Blu-ray, and anyone who’s heard this chaotic, expansive Dolby TrueHD soundtrack in action will know that it’s a great test for any sound system – one which the KEF passes with flying colours.
During the opening party scenes, the flurry of chatter and background music envelops you, with half-heard effects like clinking glasses and footsteps making crisp cameos from the rear channels, while the warm, natural-sounding dialogue remains prominent.
But when the monster first makes his presence known, the system takes the dramatic dynamic shift in its stride and delivers the blast with floor-shaking force.
In the following few chapters, the system maintains these remarkable levels of energy and power, which makes for a gripping listen – the Statue of Liberty’s head careers down the street with terse, crunching blows; the Empire State Building topples with a solid rumble, and when the monster smashes up the bridge, the system orchestrates the chaos brilliantly.
As the action hots up, the KEFs continue to dazzle. The Army’s cacophony of rocket launchers, gunfire and yelling builds up to an immense wall of sound that we simply couldn’t believe is being created by a sub-£1,000 system.
The moments of quietness between the action gives the subwoofer a rest and gives the sats a chance to display their prowess. As the group sits in the subway, the clearly conveyed background effects maintain the impending sense of doom, while echoes and ambience are deftly handled as they walk down the tunnel.
There are more strings to the system’s bow. The tonally matched sats integrate beautifully and hand over deep bass duties to the agile sub with all the well-drilled smoothness of the Jamaican relay team, while top-end frequencies are delivered without a hint of hardness.
We’re also impressed by the sats’ power-handling capabilities – pushed really hard with the Denon AVR-2310, there are no signs that the speakers are straining or losing their grip on the high-frequencies. This, combined with the expansive rears, allows the KEFs to easily fill the room despite their diminutive dimensions.
With music it’s much the same story. The system perfectly conveys the euphoria in Coldplay’s ”Life In Technicolor ii” through the sats’ inherent dynamism and detail. There’s a very appealing balance across the sonic frequencies that makes the sound warm and cohesive.
We were highly impressed by the original version of the KHT2005.3 system and our opinion hasn’t changed a bit, even with the addition of a less potent subwoofer. It delivers a virtuoso performance with both movies and music, showing a level of sophistication and sonic dexterity that belies its £700 price tag.
Some might not see the point of launching this new system when the KUBE-2 package is already so effective – particularly as there’s very little difference in price between the two – but whichever one you choose you won’t be disappointed.
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.