Longtime British loudspeaker company KEF always has made sure it has models to fit almost any audiophile’s budget, from simple, compact monitors to large, sophisticated statement designs.
These days, though, KEF appears to be going to especially heroic lengths to cover all the corners of what has become a diverse, nontraditional market. Visitors to its lower-level room at AXPONA 2016 could glimpse this strategy even before they walked in the door, as the company filled a table outside with headphones and portable Bluetooth speakers — all the better to snag teens and millennials who might be attending their first audio show.
Inside, KEF was showing additional Bluetooth and entry-level bookshelf models, along with more ambitious products, such as a version of the company’s contemporary Blade flagships.
“We want to turn people into lifelong customers,” KEF brand development executive Jonan Coorg told me.
I saw plenty of interest in the newfangled stuff, with younger showgoers carefully testing the various headphone models for sound quality (something that’s hard to do at your average Apple Store), and eyeing the bright metallic red, gold and silver portable Bluetooth models ($349 each).
The room also stayed busy inside with reps demoing various models, including the small but mighty KEF Reference One ($8,000 a pair). These standmounts produced a surprisingly full sound, laying down a thumping bassline on “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and also making a good accounting of themselves on an organ track.
Also heard was the company’s Blade Two ($24,000 a pair), a smaller version of the original sculpted statement speaker. The floorstanding Blade Two seemed to offer a high degree of its big brother’s excellent, focused sound, while being tailored for smaller rooms.
Both speakers were driven by a system that included Parasound’s JC1 monoblocks ($4,500 each) and JC-2 preamp ($4,500). A Chord Mojo DAC ($600) sounded smooth, especially for the money, and cable was by Straightwire.
You can expect more innovation from 54-year-old KEF as well.
“I wouldn’t be surprised in a few years if all of our speakers — even the Blades — were offered in wireless,” Coorg said as we stood outside by the “lifestyle” product display. Clearly, this is one high-end company that’s committed to creating trends rather than just groaning about them.