|KEF Audio KHT 5005.2 5.1 On-wall Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers On-wall Loudspeakers|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Sunday, 01 April 2007|
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Music And Movies
For two-channel listening, I set my receiver to utilize the subwoofer and cued up disc one of Alchemy: Dire Straits Live (Warner Brothers). I truly appreciated the vast soundstage these little speakers made on “Once Upon a Time in the West.” The song starts out with a subtle background aura over the cheers of the crowd, with drums building in intensity. The soundstage was literally larger than my room. When the guitar and drums jumped in for the real start of the song, the guitar was smooth and clear, the bass drum deep and tight. I was treated to a rich sound not found in many full-sized speakers. The KEFs had smooth midrange and highs, and solid imaging to boot. While they sounded very good at low listening levels, a little more volume really opened up their sound and made them truly come to life. Moving on to “Love Over Gold,” Mark Knopfler’s vocal tone was rich, bass remained full while the keyboard and guitar were distinct but never harsh. The KEFs handled the quiet passages as easily as the loud, seeming to have limitless dynamic capability and amazing full-range sound. Subtle nuances were displayed with detail and distinction and the speakers seemed to simply disappear, leaving you alone with the music.
To test the KEFs on multi-channel audio, I went to some old school music and cued up Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare (Atlantic) on DVD-Audio. I bought this some time ago, but hadn’t had the chance to really sit down and listen to it thoroughly, so I was eager to hear how it would sound. The title track opens with a guitar, Alice’s subtle vocals and a calm bass line. All these elements were wonderfully reproduced. Vocals were clear, while the guitar had a smooth grace to it. The bass lines were deep with just a slight boom to them. When the rest of the band kicked in, the KEFs kept up and exceeded my expectations of such a small speaker system, handling the horns and the deep grooves that flow within the song. “Some Folks” comes on with a piano and the snapping of fingers. The piano simply surrounded me and the click of fingers was lively and fast. When Alice’s vocals joined in, they filled the room, never harsh or edgy. Bass was abundant and the subwoofer complimented the other speakers well. I was fully into the album by now, so when my favorite song “Cold Ethyl” came on, I cranked it up. Alice’s tribute to lifeless perversion rocks, so as the song progressed, I kept increasing the volume. The drums were powerful, while the guitar was in my face real and the cow bell stayed up front and rang true. I realized it was getting pretty loud, so to see just how loud it was, I got out my Radio Shack SPL meter and found I was running these speakers to 110 dB peaks. Sure, they got a little edgy at that extreme volume, but the fact that a small speaker system could produce this sound level is simply amazing to me. Even more surprising was the subwoofer’s ability to pump out the bass at this extreme level.
One of the first, and to my taste the worst, movies I used this system for was The Hills Have Eyes (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), a remake of an old suspense and gore film. The movie concerns a typical family that goes astray in the desert and gets attacked by nuclear irradiated mutants from an old government test site. While the movie offered nothing theatrically to me, its blend of subtle surround effects contrasting with intense explosions really put this system to the test. The KEFs easily handled everything this movie threw at them. Subtle sounds such as the falling of sand and small rocks were wonderfully reproduced. At one point, the crushing of a can in the right rear of the sound field was so real it caused me to jump to see if the dog had my drink. The subwoofer reproduced the explosions with power and depth and the dynamics were simply fabulous.
Into the Blue (Sony Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray was my next choice to test the KEF KHT 5005.2 system. This movie has a great medium to show off surround systems with all its underwater scenes and vast seascapes with boats, helicopters and planes flying about. The underwater sounds of creaking metal and bubbles created a soundstage larger than my room and gave the feel of being submerged in open water, with the sense of the vastness that situation affords. Planes and helicopters flew across the room with accuracy and transitioned wonderfully. The bass lines during the club scene were powerful, if only the slightest bit blurred. The KEFs had no problem whatsoever handling the dynamics of explosions, yet also clearly portrayed the subtle details found in the background. Voices were always clear and distinct.
I then moved onto Lady Vengeance (Tartan Video), the third film in a retribution trilogy by Korean director Park Chan-wook. The story is about Lee Guem-ja, a beautiful Korean girl wrongfully imprisoned for 13 years who gets out and seeks revenge on all who wronged her and her inmate friends. Like all films in this incredibly dark series, violence is extreme and the film filled with powerful, lofty music. The contrast of extremes was well produced by the KEFs. Strings filled the room, while angelic vocals hovered above me. The unearthly noises of the fight scenes had an eerie quality to them that added to the psychological gore of the movie. Subtle noises, such as the buzz of the fluorescent lighting and sounds coming from the neighboring apartments in the film, seemed utterly real.