In 1961 Raymond Cooke founded the KEF company, simply named after the place where it is based: Kent Engineering and Foundry. It is the beginning of a success story, as KEF celebrates its 60th anniversary as one of the world’s leading loudspeaker manufacturers.
It was in 1961 that Raymond Cooke founded KEF, a company that would serve to realise his ideas of a perfect loudspeaker system. At the time, Raymond Cooke was an engineer at the BBC, so he knew exactly what was required of a loudspeaker system when it came to accurate reproduction.
Raymond Cooke chose the village of Maidstone as the location for his new company, which he also used as the basis for the name…
KEF – Kent Engineering and Foundry
Rather than succumbing to the temptation to choose his own name for the company or to come up with an imaginative name, Raymond Cooke was sober and pragmatic and simply chose the county of Kent as his base and related this directly to what he, as an engineer, saw as the foundation of his work, namely technology-driven development and innovative concepts.
KEF itself describes its founder as a man driven by his love of music, but also by his unwillingness to compromise.
KEF’s primary goal from the very beginning, he says, was to fill rooms with music the way it was meant to be heard, to move people with truly authentic soundscapes. Excellence, that was what it was to strive for.
Technology-driven corporate philosophy
Looking at the history of KEF, it is clear that the DNA of the company’s founder has guided its development. It is clear that KEF is a technology-driven loudspeaker specialist that has played a major role in the development of the entire loudspeaker segment over the decades.
KEF clearly claims to be a pioneer in the field of audio technology, having done pioneering work over the years, especially when it comes to the use of state-of-the-art development solutions, innovative concepts and, last but not least, a wide variety of materials.
KEF, for example, was the first manufacturer to use computer simulations in the development of loudspeaker systems and to apply corresponding measurement methods to validate these findings in practice.
KEF Uni-Q, KEF Uni-Core and KEF Meta
These efforts led to exceptional concepts, such as the KEF Uni-Q chassis, which has been at the heart of many of the company’s products for years. The latest development, which can clearly be traced back to the development philosophy described above, is KEF Uni-Core technology.
When it comes to the use of innovative materials, KEF can point to the KEF Muon, for example, or the KEF Blade or KEF Blade 2, where the previous limits of conventional loudspeaker systems were clearly broken down and redefined by the use of unusual materials for the cabinets.
On the subject of innovative materials, we must also mention KEF’s latest development, KEF Metamaterial absorption technology, which is combined with the aforementioned KEF Uni-Q driver technology in the manufacturer’s latest solutions.
Unique design solutions
KEF was also one of the first loudspeaker manufacturers to recognise that loudspeaker systems are part of the modern lifestyle and must therefore be presented with correspondingly sophisticated design concepts.
KEF not only built up its own expertise in this area, but also secured the collaboration of leading experts who brought their unique perspectives to KEF’s product design. These include Ross Lovegrove, Michael Young, Sir Terence Conran, Eric Chan and Marcel Wanders.
The KEF Muon is clearly the absolute reference point, presenting itself as a mighty column of sound, a truly outstanding loudspeaker system in terms of design. The KEF Blade and KEF Blade 2 are also the benchmarks in this respect, and even compact KEF loudspeaker systems such as the KEF LS50 and its successors, or the LSX, are presented in an extremely elegant and unusual form. KEF EGGs are legendary in this respect, and even KEF’s latest personal audio devices, such as the KEF Muo Bluetooth speaker or the latest KEF Mu3 Noise Cancelling True Wireless In-ear Headphones, are inspired by the extraordinary design language of KEF’s reference loudspeaker systems.
Far more than just hi-fi speaker systems
This brings us to another point: like many other classic loudspeaker manufacturers, KEF has significantly expanded its product portfolio in recent years. In addition to the classic hi-fi loudspeaker systems, KEF is also devoting itself to subwoofers, built-in loudspeaker systems for custom installations, as well as headphones and Bluetooth speakers.
Active loudspeaker systems move more and more into focus
Another development of the market as a whole has been significantly influenced by KEF in recent years, namely active loudspeaker systems.
The KEF LS50 Wireless, in particular, was the beginning of a development that has now culminated in the KEF LS50 Wireless II. Active speaker systems that are designed to be a high-end hi-fi system in their own right, with streaming at the forefront, and an outstanding design that can be effortlessly integrated into any modern living environment.
Ambitious plans for the future
KEF sees the developments of recent months in particular as the dawn of a new era, with the aim of ensuring that more and more people recognise and benefit from the added value of good hearing.
For the anniversary year that is now beginning, KEF wants to launch nothing less than the most advanced products the company has ever developed. The next few months will therefore be extremely exciting, as it is promised that this will once again expand the boundaries of the listening experience both at home and on the move.
KEF initiates foundation
To ensure the future of unparalleled sound design, KEF will launch its Foundation to support the unsung heroes of the audio world through grants and scholarships to enable future generations to attend leading courses and provide grants for activities and initiatives that push the boundaries in audio.
The programme is aimed at the experts and pioneers who work behind the scenes to bring the magic of high-fidelity to life through innovative products and ideas. This includes acoustic engineers, sound technicians, sound mixers and designers in the fields of music, film and gaming.
Playlists for 60 years of KEF
In keeping with the 60th anniversary, KEF has now curated six playlists, which the manufacturer says will include iconic British music tracks, with each decade of the back 60 years being represented. These special playlists are to be available on Spotify, TIDAL and Apple Music for either download or streaming.
KEF Month 2021
Proclaiming this October as KEF Month is an obvious choice. For music fans, this means that they can win one of three prizes during this KEF Month 2021. KEF is offering a pair of KEF LS50 Wireless II plus a KEF KC62 subwoofer, a pair of KEF LS50 Wireless II and a pair of KEF Mu3 Noise Cancelling True Wireless earphones. Entrants simply need to tell KEF which of the six decades is their favourite period of music, which piece of music they think best reflects it and why.
The playlists mentioned, as well as information on how to enter the competition, can be found on a dedicated KEF website.
KEF Milestones – The 1960s
- KEF’s first loudspeaker, the three-way KEF K1, featured the innovative use of plastics that were thin but strong, allowing later speakers such as the KEF Celeste to be very compact.
- KEF Celeste was designed to be the first ultra-compact two-way loudspeaker system to offer true high-fidelity performance.
- KEF took on the exclusive manufacture of monitor speakers for the BBC.
- By the end of the decade, KEF had established itself as a leader in the audio industry, with commercial and critical success for its loudspeaker systems and drive units, which were adopted by numerous companies around the world in their own systems.
KEF Milestones – The 1970s
- KEF receives the first prestigious Queen’s Award for export success as the company becomes known beyond the UK.
- In 1973 KEF became the first loudspeaker manufacturer in the world to introduce the use of computers in the design and measurement of loudspeakers to achieve the highest levels of sound accuracy – the famous KEF Reference Series was born.
- This new approach to loudspeaker design was refined and led to the introduction of one of the most radical and sophisticated loudspeakers ever made: the KEF Reference Model 105 was developed in 1977.
KEF Milestones – The 1980s
- With the highly regarded KEF Reference Series, KEF maintained its reputation for excellence through a series of unprecedented technical advancements.
- In 1988 KEF developed and patented the world’s first loudspeaker driver that extended the optimum listening area so that everyone sitting in different parts of the room could experience the same natural, detailed sound – called the KEF Uni-Q driver.
- KEF Uni-Q became the building block of KEF’s signature sound and is now at the heart of almost all KEF speakers.
KEF Milestones – The 1990s
- In 1994, KEF was one of the first companies to launch a THX-approved home theatre system – a revolutionary subwoofer-satellite concept, as the manufacturer calls it.
- Founder Raymond Cooke OBE sadly passed away in 1995, but left the company with firm core principles encapsulated in its core values of “Quality, Honesty, Dedication and Innovation”.
KEF Milestones – The 2000s
- KEF has continued to develop the use of advanced acoustic, magnetic and mechanical modelling techniques in loudspeaker design, enabling a huge leap in acoustic accuracy that could not previously be achieved by other methods.
- The most remarkable loudspeaker to date, KEF Muon, was launched in 2007. In collaboration with leading industrial designer Ross Lovegrove, the KEF Muon was a triumph of combining form and function and incorporated acoustic breakthroughs from the KEF engineering team.
- The patented KEF Tangerine Waveguide – which remains an iconic design of the KEF Uni-Q driver – was developed to deliver an even purer, more balanced sound.
KEF Milestones – The 2010s
- The KEF Blade was launched in 2011 to create the ultimate loudspeaker without
loudspeaker without design or cost constraints – its precision KEF describes as unparalleled.
- To celebrate KEF’s 50th anniversary, a new KEF LS50 classic was developed with numerous technological breakthroughs, bringing the original studio monitor concept into living rooms and allowing everyone to experience great sound at home.
- In 2017, KEF introduced the first generation KEF LS50 Wireless – a complete, fully active music system that makes high-fidelity sound digital.
- In a decade of unprecedented innovation, KEF introduced a range of wireless products including KEF EGG Bluetooth speakers, KEF Muo portable speakers, KEF M-Series headphones and, in collaboration with Porsche Design, KEF Gravity One portable speakers, KEF Motion One headphones and KEF Space One headphones.
KEF Milestones – The 2020s
- Committed to “sound above all else”, KEF introduced what the manufacturer claims is the groundbreaking KEF Metamaterial Absorption Technology, or simply KEF MAT, in loudspeaker design, which the manufacturer claims eliminates 99% of unwanted frequencies.
- KEF MAT has enabled KEF to develop a new range of revolutionary products, including the KEF LS50 Meta and the KEF LS50 Wireless II, which offer unsurpassed purity of sound.
- The introduction of KEF Uni-Core technology in the KEF KC62 subwoofer in 2021 has redefined subwoofer design by reducing the size of the speaker cabinet by more than a third.
Getting to the point
When the English loudspeaker specialist KEF celebrates its 60th anniversary these days, it can look back on a decades-long success story. Founded by Raymond Cooke in Maidstone in 1961, KEF has been one of the most innovative manufacturers of loudspeaker systems from the very beginning, and has long played an important role in the field of personal audio devices. KEF’s products are distinguished in several ways, but first and foremost by technology-driven development and manufacturing, as well as outstanding design. Everything is intended to contribute to the goal set by company founder Raymond Cooke, namely to enable as many people as possible to listen to music in such a way that music moves and inspires.