It is a speaker series that the English specialist KEF describes as a class of its own, the KEF THE REFERENCE Series. The name stands for exactly what you can expect here, namely a reference solution and thus sound in the highest precision. This is now ensured in the latest generation, among other things, the KEF Metamaterial Absorption Technology.
The KEF THE REFERENCE Series has a long tradition at the English speaker manufacturer KEF, this product line has been in the program of the company from Maidstone in Kent since 1973. The special feature of this product line is already evident from the name, because the English have set themselves the goal of realizing nothing less than a reference solution, so that the latest technology is always incorporated into these speaker systems.
And since KEF sees itself first and foremost as a technology-driven company and a pioneer in the use of the latest simulation, analysis and measurement methods, you can always expect the finest systems here. Quite rightly, the company claims to have repeatedly set new standards with this product series over the decades, and this should also apply to the now presented latest generation of KEF THE REFERENCE Series, which for the first time features the revolutionary KEF Metamaterial Absorption Technology, also known simply as KEF MAT.
KEF THE REFERENCE Series – A new evolutionary stage
KEF calls the new generation of KEF THE REFERENCE Series a new evolutionary step, once again following the principle of combining the most advanced technology with inspiring design.
But the focus is clearly, as already mentioned, the KEF Metamaterial Absorption Technology, which now enters the KEF THE REFERENCE Series.
KEF MAT – Revolutionary Sound Absorption
In fact, the KEF Metamaterial Absorption Technology is a very exciting design feature, which the British company introduced for the first time with the latest, now current generation KEF LS50 Meta.
What initially sounds quite abstract, is ultimately an extremely ingenious trick of the engineers, because based on a crucial component, the quality of the entire speaker system is raised to a whole new level of quality.
This technology was developed in cooperation with the Acoustic Metamaterials Group and relies on a very special material that takes the form of a flat disc. This is engraved with an intricate labyrinth-like pattern consisting of countless channels, each of which absorbs a specific frequency. The combination of numerous channels results in almost the entire frequency spectrum being absorbed by 99 percent, which is why the manufacturer also calls it an acoustic black hole.
This disc made of metamaterial with a specially developed structure sits behind the driver in practice so that it eliminates vagrant sound and thus guarantees a particularly accurate reproduction free of coloration and distortion.
KEF Uni-Q 12th generation chassis with KEF MAT.
The English loudspeaker specialists implemented the KEF MAT in the 12th generation of their KEF Uni-Q chassis, and this in turn is now found in the new KEF THE REFERENCE Series.
This special driver concept combines a midrange driver and a tweeter in one chassis, whereby it is a so-called coaxial chassis, so the two drivers have a common acoustic center and thus follow the ideal of a point source.
First, of course, the engineers had to adapt the chassis for the new KEF THE REFERENCE Series in such a way that the KEF Metamaterial Absorption Technology fits at all, but the 12th generation features some innovations that go beyond this implementation. For example, the manufacturer cites the optimization of the cavity shape and the strategic placement of two rings of porous material, effectively damping resonances and imperfections, and significantly improving detail and clarity.
A new low-distortion midrange motor design uses a copper ring embedded in the motor gap to minimize inductance and variation of inductance with coil positioning. This is said to lower midrange distortion and reduce thermal compression, resulting in improved efficiency.
The entire KEF Uni-Q chassis arrangement is designed to be fully decoupled, the manufacturer states, to prevent unwanted vibrations from distorting the sound. A new, flexible decoupling chassis was developed to reduce vibrations and prevent sound coloration. It ensures that vibrations generated by the midrange and tweeter motors are not transmitted to the speaker cabinet.
A driver surround, also improved, allows for greater excursion but without causing diffraction, and extends the midrange frequency range. In addition, the contours of the dome, midrange and surround were optimized on the computer, thereby ensuring a perfectly smooth transition to the cabinet.
Of course, the KEF Uni-Q driver in the 12th generation also features the KEF Tangerine Waveguide Technology to optimally control the airflow and thus achieve a wide, even radiation for a natural sound field.
The result of all these efforts is that the speaker systems of the new generation of KEF THE REFERENCE Series with an even more transparent, lifelike and thus convincing even for the highest demands sound image.
Accurate bass imaging
Contributing to this, of course, is the fact that the new KEF THE REFERENCE Series models have undergone bass improvements, as the drivers have of course been perfectly tuned for the new KEF Uni-Q chassis to complement them down low.
KEF states that the woofers also benefit from a massive vented magnet array, a large aluminum voice coil and an exceptionally light and stiff aluminum cone to deliver superior dynamics, power handling and liveliness.
An essential point in this context is of course also an optimized bass reflex system, which is used in the KEF THE REFERENCE Series.
One relies here on the so-called KEF Flexible Port Technology, which reduces port resonances, and offers an easy tuning to the listening area. Thus, there are two port versions of different lengths, which allow the user to adapt the sound to his room.
In addition, the bulge and profile of each port have been calculated using Computational Fluid Dynamics to avoid flow noise that could distort the sound.
Along with the new/improved drivers, it was of course necessary to lend a hand with the crossover. For example, KEF states that the new KEF THE REFERENCE features an improved crossover design to fine-tune the signal path for maximum clarity.
Especially elaborately designed housing
The KEF THE REFERENCE Series is also distinguished by another important feature, namely the particularly elaborately designed and handcrafted housings.
Thus, already during the development, meticulous attention is paid to ensuring that really every detail meets the high requirements for sound quality, so that the housing is designed using finite element analysis to actually achieve the ideal shape and the optimal bracing geometry to minimize secondary radiation from the sides, while, according to KEF; relied on Constrained Layer Damping to convert the remaining vibrations into heat.
This process is so complex because KEF is also careful to achieve the slimmest, most elegant form possible, which is essential for integration into any modern living environment.
Wide range of applications – Five models
The models of KEF THE REFERENCE Series are equally designed for HiFi and Home Cinema, in both cases targeting users with the highest demands who do not want to make any compromises, according to the promise of the English.
This means that the product line is very broadly positioned, so both floorstanding and bookshelf speaker systems are available here, as well as matching center speakers. In fact, KEF offers five models within the new KEF THE REFERENCE Series: the KEF REFERENCE 1 Meta bookshelf speaker system, the KEF REFERENCE 3 Meta and KEF REFERENCE 5 Meta floorstanding speaker systems, and the KEF REFERENCE 2 Meta and KEF REFERENCE 4 Meta center speakers.
KEF REFERENCE 1 Meta
The KEF REFERENCE 1 Meta is the most compact model of the series, a so-called bookshelf speaker system, but already designed as a three-way bass reflex system and therefore, in addition to the KEF Uni-Q chassis with 25 mm aluminum dome and MAT and a 125 mm aluminum center tone driver, has a 165 mm bass driver, whose membrane is also made of aluminum. The short bass port here is designed for 40 to 45 Hz, while the long bass port is designed for 37 to 45 Hz. The speaker system can cover a frequency range between 45 Hz and 35 kHz, with the crossover acting at 450 Hz and 2.1 kHz. With an impedance of 4 ohms and an efficiency of 85 dB, the manufacturer recommends amplifiers rated between 50 and 200 watts and specifies a sound pressure of 111 dB. The system measures 440 x 205 x 422 m and thus brings it to a proud 18.2 kg.
KEF REFERENCE 3 Meta
The KEF REFERENCE 3 Meta is the first floorstanding loudspeaker system in the product range, designed as a three-way bass reflex system. In terms of drivers, it is almost similar to the shelf speaker system just mentioned, but in addition to the KEF Uni-Q chassis with 25 mm aluminum dome with MAT and midrange driver with 125 mm aluminum cone, two 165 mm bass drivers with aluminum cone are used. The short port is shown here with 38 to 45 Hz, the long one with 35 to 45 Hz, the frequency response is found with 43 Hz to 35 kHz in the data sheet, whereby the crossover also starts here at 450 Hz and 2.1 kHz, respectively. With an impedance of 4 ohms and an efficiency of 86 dB, this speaker system is suitable for amplifiers with a power between 50 and 300 watts and delivers a maximum sound level of 113.5 dB.
KEF REFERENCE 5 Meta
The KEF REFERENCE 5 Meta represents the flagship of the new KEF THE REFERENCE Series with KEF META Technology, whereby it is also ultimately a three-way bass reflex system. However, the developers here rely on the combination of 25 mm aluminum dome with MAT, a midrange driver with 125 mm aluminum diaphragm and no less than four bass drivers, each of which has an aluminum diaphragm with 165 mm diameter. Here, the manufacturer lists a frequency between 35 and 45 Hz for the short port, 32 to 45 Hz for the long, indicates as frequency range 40 Hz up to 35 kHz, with the crossover once more at 450 Hz as well as 2.1 kHz. The impedance is the obligatory 4 ohms, the sensitivity 88 dB and with amplifiers with a power between 50 and 400 watts, the KEF REFERENCE 5 Meta can develop a maximum sound level of 116 dB. 60.2 kg it weighs and measures 1,350 x 205 x 462 mm.
KEF REFERENCE 2 Meta
As a closed three-way system, the center speaker KEF REFERENCE 2 Meta is designed, here the familiar configuration consisting of a KEF Uni-Q and thus a 25 mm tweeter with aluminum dome and MAT and the midrange driver with 125 mm aluminum diaphragm. Flanking this KEF Uni-Q driver are two bass drivers with 165 mm aluminum cones. Designed for amplifiers with power between 50 and 300 watts, the KEF REFERENCE 2 Meta has an impedance of 4 ohms and a sensitivity of 86 dB, delivers a maximum sound pressure of 113.5 dm and can map a frequency range between 80 Hz and 35 kHz. According to the spec sheet, the dimensions are 205 x 630 x 335 mm and it weighs 22.8 kg.
KEF REFERENCE 4 Meta
The second center speaker in the product line is considerably more powerful, the new KEF REFERENCE 4 Meta, which is also not designed as a closed system, but again as a three-way bass reflex system. The 25 mm aluminum dome tweeter with MAT and the midrange driver with 125 mm aluminum diaphragm in the form of the KEF Uni-Q chassis is flanked here by no less than four bass drivers with 165 mm aluminum diaphragm each. These are supported by rearward-firing bass reflex ports, with the short port designed for 43 to 45 Hz, and the long port for 40 to 45 Hz. The KEF REFERENCE 4 Meta can reproduce a frequency range between 48 Hz and 35 kHz, with crossover frequencies at 450 Hz and 2.1 kHz. With an impedance of 4 ohms and a sensitivity of 88 dB, this speaker can unleash a maximum sound pressure of up to 116 dB with amplifiers ranging from 50 to 400 watts. This speaker weighs in at a whopping 45.2 kg with dimensions of 205 x 1,090 x 463 mm.
Prices and availability
The new models of the current generation of KEF THE REFERENCE Series should already be available in stores these days, according to the manufacturer. The carefully crafted housings are optionally finished in noble high gloss or detailed, coordinated wood veneers, so that the customer has the choice between a total of five variants. Specifically, there are a combination of three cabinet finishes and five colors to choose from for the KEF Uni-Q drivers, namely Satin Walnut/Silver, High-Gloss White/Blue, High-Gloss White/Champagne, High-Gloss Black/Grey and High-Gloss Black/Copper.
It should also be mentioned that KEF offers the KEF S-RF1 stand, which is available as an accessory for the KEF REFERENCE 1 Meta.
Incidentally, the optional KEF THE REFERENCE Series front panel set is also available for each model, and this too should be mentioned here for the sake of completeness.
The series opens with the KEF REFERENCE 1 META at a price of € 9.000,-, followed by the KEF REFERENCE 3 META for € 13.500,-. For the KEF REFERENCE 5 META you have to budget € 20.000,-. The KEF REFERENCE 2 META and KEF REFERENCE 4 META center speakers are available for € 5.500,- and € 7.500,-, respectively.
The stand for the KEF REFERENCE 1 META comes in at € 1.200,- in the form of the KEF S-RF1.
It should also be mentioned that a matching subwoofer is offered in the form of the KEF REF 8b, which is listed with a recommended retail price of € 7.500,-.
Getting to the point
Since its launch, KEF THE REFERENCE Series has consistently set new standards, they say, because it is designed to live up to its name and reproduce music exactly as it was produced. Over the decades, the product series has always been developed further to realize outstanding solutions for the highest precision based on the respective state of the art. Now, another such evolution is on the horizon, as KEF Metamaterial Absorption Technology is being used for the first time in KEF THE REFERENCE Series. Considering the increase in quality that this technology has already brought to other models from the renowned English loudspeaker specialist KEF, one can be very curious about what the new KEF REFERENCE 1 META bookshelf loudspeaker system, the KEF REFERENCE 3 META floorstanding loudspeaker system, the flagship of the series KEF REFERENCE 5 META, and last but not least the two new center speakers KEF REFERENCE 2 META and KEF REFERENCE 4 META are capable of.
|PRODUCT||KEF THE REFERENCE SERIES|
|Price||KEF REFERENCE 1 META € 9.000,-|
KEF REFERENCE 3 META € 13.500,-
KEF REFERENCE 5 META € 20.000,-
KEF REFERENCE 2 META € 5.500,-
KEF REFERENCE 4 META € 7.500,-
KEF S-RF1 Pedestal € 1.200,-
KEF REF 8b Subwoofer € 7.500,-