AXPONA 2012: KEF, Ayre, Oracle, Audience
At RMAF, one of my lingering disappointments was that I completely missed the one day that KEF was showing off the new Blade loudspeakers. One lousy day, and then they were gone. And I missed them. I was inconsolable. I wept. I railed. I gnashed my teeth. I generally behaved like a creature from Where The Wild Things Are. Not my finest moment.
The fact that they’d be here at AXPONA for the whole show was one of the deciding factors for me on whether or not I’d buy the ticket to come down, if the truth be told. I really wanted to hear the new $30k full range speakers.
And I’m happy to report that I did. And they were great. Okay. I feel better now.
This is truly a handsome speaker, and in fact, may be the best looking speaker that I can think of off the top of my head. Finished here in a lustrous piano black that practically glowed in the dimly lit demo room, the KEF profile is unique (to me at least) and is terrifically sexy. This is also, by pure coincidence, the only room where I ran across more than one actual couple that were actually listening to the music. One woman — I’m not making this up — actually leaned over to her husband and said, “Huh, that’s not ugly at all.” There you go, boys. WAF approval!
As you probably know, the Blade runs with a fancy coaxial driver (see the top pic again) for both mids and treble. It’s really fast, very clear and clean. But it is never, ever, etched. Or grainy, either, for that matter. Smooth and sweet. I was happy. And to judge from the reverent crowd that were continuously piling into the room, I wasn’t the only one.
One thing that never quite worked out for me was image-lock. On each of my four trips through, I actually elbowed, nudged, and outright shoved people out of the sweet spot (something I wasn’t able to do in either the Carver room or the Scaena room, disappointingly — those folks were in those seats like ticks on dog). But the imaging never hit pinpoint. I blame this partly on the room and partly on the setup, but some time I’d really like to get that nailed down. Why? Because the speakers, otherwise, sound amazing.
Dynamics were huge, due in no small part to the excellence of the accompanying electronics. Image height and depth were excellent, just a tad diffuse, and bass response was fast and tight, if not cavernously powerful. I think this last is a side-firing-woofer-thing, myself, which never seem to have the outright slam of a forward-firing (or even a down-firing) setup, even though tonally and tunefully, the design might be better. I just miss the thwackitude.
The vinyl front end, which was running non-stop on each of my visits, consisted of a $7,700 Oracle Delphi Mk. VI turntable, with an SME tonearm and Oracle cartridge (I think the set was offered for $13k).
The electronics were all Ayre. A $10k DX-5 for spinning discs sat lonely and forgotten in favor of a $2500 Ayre P-5xe phono stage. Both connected into
my the magnificent $19k Ayre KX-R which in turn fed into my a pair of scrumptious $19k Ayre MX-R monoblocks.
Audience had the cabling and power distribution duties. I think hunks of granite are optional, and available for a nominal fee.