KEF R700 Loudspeaker Review 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Written by Andre Marc   
Friday, 07 March 2014

U.K. speaker legends KEF have been front and center lately with cutting edge products like the flagship Blade and the 50th anniversary stand-mounted LS50. At $1500, the LS50 is a remarkable bargain for those with limited space. It certainly deserved much of the accolades the audio press bestowed upon it.

KEF has an extensive, and impressive, array of product lines. The Uni-Q coaxial driver is at the heart of most of the designs, and rightly so. It is a remarkable driver that can be used in a variety of implementations. The LS50 is unique in that the Uni-Q was the only driver, which may have been the key to its magic.

KEF R700Other speakers in the KEF product take a different path. The KEF R Series of speakers are maybe the sweet spot, flanked by the top of the line Flagship and Reference products, and the more modest Q and C lines. The R Series includes the two way, stand-mounted R100 and R300 models, and the floorstanding R500, R700, and R900. The R line also features some home theater specific products. The subject of this review is the R700, which retails for $3600 a pair. It is sold direct from KEF and through an extensive dealer network.

The R700, as noted, is designed around a Uni-Q driver coaxial array. It's a 1" vented aluminum dome tweeter inside a 5" aluminum midrange driver. There are two 6.5" aluminum bass drivers for low end support that allow the speakers to mine territory down to 42 Hz. The speakers are outfitted with two ports around back, but KEF supplies a set of foam plugs for each speaker for use depending on setup. What differentiates this from the smaller R500 and larger R900 is largely bass output, cabinet and woofer size, and efficiency. R700s are a cinch to drive, rated with published specifications of 89 dB and 8 Ohms impedance.

Around back, very high quality binding posts allow for bi-wiring or bi-amping. A simple turn of a knob allows you to connect or disconnect the LF and HF posts. I single-wired the speakers with a pair of Transparent MM2 Super speaker cables. The speakers are shipped with a user installable set of heavy metal plinth like feet that accommodate spikes. This allows for very stable placement either on carpet or flooring.

The R700 is a stunning speaker visually, especially the supplied gloss white review sample. Other finishes include piano black, rosewood, and walnut. At 57 Lbs each, the R700s are immaculately finished and built. I have rarely encountered floor standers at this price point with this kind of luxurious feel and attention to detail.

 

Set Up & Listening

I used the R700 in two separate rooms and systems -- first driven by my Audio Research VS55 50 watt tube amp, and then by a Plinius Hautonga (review forthcoming) 200-watt solid state integrated amp. Sources were the Marantz SA-14S1 SACD player and DAC, and the SIM audio Neo 380D DAC and streamer. As with the LS50, I gave the R700s a good week of break-in to allow the drivers to loosen up. I was also told there was some break-in done at the factory.

Prior to break-in, the midrange was a bit congested, and rough, but this changed completely after about 25 hours of continuous play. After a few days of experimenting with toe in and positioning, I was quite taken with the driver integration and the excellent coherence exhibited across the sonic spectrum. The R700s were effortlessly dynamic, with musical contrasts rendered with lifelike verve.

KEF R700The 2013 remaster of Van Morrison’s monumental Moondance album -- available in 192 Khz, 24 bit quality on a deluxe edition Blu-Ray disc or from HDTracks.com -- sounded extraordinary. Morrison’s vocals, the horn arrangements, and the overall organic feel of the recording came through the R700s very nicely. Bass lines were rendered with excellent clarity and definition.

I decided to test the R700 with well-recorded acoustic music. First up: a variety of John Renbourn albums from his fruitful mid 1970’s period. His acoustic guitar playing is second to none, and on such works as A Maid In Bedlam, Sir John Alot, and The Enchanted Garden, his guitar's natural tones were very pure. The tasteful arrangements -- which included flute, percussion and sublime vocals from Jacqui McShee and others -- came through as a cohesive whole.

Orchestral works provided perhaps the clearest picture of the R700s' strengths. On such pieces as Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, the soundstage filled the room deep and wide, with the orchestra spread realistically across a virtual plane.

On higher resolution material from HDTracks.com, like the Eagles 192 Khz remastered catalog, the R700 easily spotlights the superiority of these files over their CD counterparts. This also applied to the recently remastered America and Black Sabbath albums. The R700 also did a great job of allowing me to hear any changes downstream in the system, like DAC or cable swaps, and especially the differences between various power conditioning products.



As good as the R700s sounded with tubes in a medium room, they sounded even better In slightly larger room with the Plinius Hautonga integrated amp. The speakers were even more impressive, dynamically and with respect to soundstaging, when given more room to breathe. By the way, in both rooms I preferred the speakers with the foam port plugs installed. Without them, bass was a bit boomy; with the plugs, bass notes were nimble and controlled. This may not be the case in larger rooms, and your mileage may vary.

The R700 can also produce sound pressure levels (SPLs) that will overload virtually any room with no strain at all. The advanced driver material and well-designed cabinet, I am sure, contribute to this. On the flip side, at whisper quiet volumes, the soundstage retains its integrity and all the music remains intact. It is not often one encounters a speaker that plays well at both ends.

KEF R700Any sonic grievances? I really was hard pressed to come up with any. Perhaps far more expensive speakers offer a hint more refinement and delicacy on top, and a smidgen more articulation in the bass, but that is comparison to top tier speakers like KEF’s own Reference line or even its flagship Blade. The R700s cover so many bases and do so many things well, I would be very surprised if, after a proper audition with high quality amplification, sources, and cables, the most astute listeners would be anything other than impressed. I personally heard very few compromises in this fairly priced speaker.

Conclusion

KEF has clearly been flying high as of late, with the Blade and LS50 dazzling listeners world wide. While this is most welcomed by KEF, their R line is a bit overlooked, which is a shame, since the R700 is a very good speaker and a high value product. I mentioned how attractive the speakers were in the gloss white. They became quite a conversation piece. Form and function in one package.

Not only do the R700s make terrific stereo speakers, but they would also be fantastic as part of a 5.1 surround sound system, with an R-series center channel and sub. If I could afford it, I would buy four R700s for the front and rear channels.  Maybe one day. With a good multi channel amplifier this would be a heavenly set up.

The KEF R700s perform best in a medium or larger size space, and are amplifier friendly. If you can accommodate them, and crave a coherent, well-integrated sound, they must be heard.  Another excellent achievement by the KEF design team. An audition for those shopping for a floorstander in the $3000 to 4000 range is highly recommended.




Specifications


KEF R700 -- $3600 a pair
www.kefdirect.com

•    Design: Three-way bass reflex
•    Drive units Uni-Q driver array:
•    HF: 25mm (1in.) vented aluminium dome
•    MF: 125mm (5in.) aluminium
•    Bass units: LF: 2 x 165mm (6.5in.) aluminium
•    Frequency range (-6dB): 37Hz - 45kHz
•    Sensitivity (2.83V/1m): 89dB
•    Nominal impedance: 8Ω (min. 3.2Ω)
•    Weight: 25.9kg (57lbs.)
•    Dimension (H x W x D) (with grille and terminal): 42.1 x 8.3 x 13.6 in.
•    Dimension (H x W x D) (with grille, terminal & plinth): 44.1 x 13.0 x 14.5 in.


Review System 1


CD Transport: Marantz SA-14S1 SACD player
Server: Squeezebox Touch
DAC/Server:  SIM Neo 308D
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Channel Islands Audio PLC-1 MkII
Amplifier: Audio Research  VS 55 CLONES Audio 25I
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids, Darwin Ascension (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Audioquest, Forest, WireWorld Ultraviolet, DH Labs USB(USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Marantz CD5003
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch via Ethernet to
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity A90
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600, Plinius Hautonga
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Darwin Cables Silver IC, Kimber Hero HB,  DH Labs White Lightning (IC),QED Transparent MusicWave (Speaker),PS Audio (AC), Mojo Audio (AC), DH Labs TosLink, Audioquest Forest USB, Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold, KECES XPS








Like this article? Bookmark and share with any of the sites below.
Digg!Reddit!Del.icio.us!Google!StumbleUpon!Yahoo!Free social bookmarking plugins and extensions for Joomla! websites!
 
Joomla SEF URLs by Artio