- Written by Piero Gabucci
- Published on 03 April 2008
Now used in the diverse KEF line, the heart of the Reference line is the Uni-Q driver array. Specifically called "Project Austin" for the Reference Series, the Uni-Q design means the high frequency and mid drivers share the same axis, in-line or "co-axial" and further aligns their acoustic centers on the same plane thereby "co-planar".
As mentioned, Uni-Q array has been the staple of most KEF speakers over the years with many modifications and iterations. The premise is the precision between the tweeter and midrange driver acting in unison, delivering high frequency and midrange to your ear in perfect time. This time-alignment is said to deliver more natural and realistic imaging.
The Uni-Q proprietary driver array design arrangement is with a 1" titanium tweeter centered on a 6 ½" midrange driver where a wider dispersion is also achieved with a shallower cone design.
So much is said about Uni-Q it would be remiss to mention two additional 8" woofer drivers each individually front ported by a very large opening about 3" at the throat. By individual, it's clear that each driver is ideally volumetrically enclosed. Birch plywood does the trick and also provides extensive bracing and damping.
Placement is a bit forgiving – especially with the wide dispersion from the Uni-Q array, that toeing the speaker yielded very little difference, but I did it anyway, just habit I suppose. The manual recommends placing them about 3 feet from each sidewall and as little as 9 inches from the back wall. Critical for stereo imaging though is the distance between the speakers, as I ended up with about 6 feet between, a minimum really.
For amplification, I used the MA6300 - 100wpc McIntosh integrated which turned out to be a wonderful marriage. Also used were a Marantz turntable and a McCormack UDP-1 universal player. Cables were Wireworld and Goertz, and all plugged into a Torus Power conditioner.
I was fortunate enough to attend the live recording of Stereophile's "Attention Screen" at Merkin Hall in Manhattan, and shortly after a CD release was available. Although during the performance I had mixed feelings about whether I liked the concert, I bought the CD nonetheless as it offered a good reference for reviews.
Attention Screen is comprised of four musicians that play spontaneous and un-composed music with a freedom to create differently for each performance - where they begin and where they end is unknown. Piano, drums, guitar, and bass guitar blend and dialogue off and with each other. Each piece is generally quite long lasting from 10 to 13 minutes.
What I did find amazing was the trust amongst the members as each improvised and allowed the others to explore in true abstract fashion. The recording is excellent and each instrument is cleanly defined, articulate, and spatially "correct".
The KEF 205/2 made easy use of the music – drum lines snapped, the electric guitar was sharp and forward, and the piano pulled it all together just as it occurred during the live performance. A true sense of "liveness" was eloquently evident throughout the six tracks.
Although not quite brutes, the 205/2's offer such delicate texture and airiness as I experienced with the SACD of Anne-Sophie Mutter's violin on Beethoven's Spring & Kreutzer Sonatas. Accompanied by Lambert Orkis on piano, the duet is intimate and rich. Although I put it in specifically for the violin, the piano impressed me with warmth and yet crisp detail.
The midrange challenge came by way of The Beatles Love CD, ironic as it was through the 205/2's experienced at CES that I heard this rendition for the first time. At the show as it was at home, the first track "Because" was/is immediately engaging – voices are shaped and the stillness between breaths is palpable.
Track 4, "Eleanor Rigby" transitioning to "Julia" and onto "I am the Walrus" is emphasized through the 205/2 with true spaciousness and dimension. Layers of voices deep and far, or close and upfront, are delineated cleanly.
The guitar introduction "Blackbird" is so remarkably rendered on the 205/2, I would have sworn it was being played right next to me! Truly, that sweet and that perfect! I would have enjoyed more than just the fraction they included. Paul's voice going into "Yesterday" almost makes up for it with simple clarity.
Nirvana for me is detail – scratching my head, I pulled out an XRCD sampler CD, Super Sounds II and played the opening track, Bernstein leading the London Festival Orchestra with the "Magnificent Seven" where the attack and timing are dead on.
An excerpt of Mozart's "Divertimento in D, K. 136" played by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the Fields with Sir Neville Mariner, is full-bodied with a deep and wide soundstage.
Looking for powerful and extended bass, I played a new CD, Pipes of Rhode Island. This is an eclectic compilation of performances from organists from Rhode Island in various venues. Nowhere else can bass be produced than in a great stone hall that echos through the chambers and engulfs you! The 8" drivers in the KEF 205/2's offered such texture and depth that I felt it in my chest.
Bigger is still better, period - at least when it comes to two-channel systems. Believe me I've heard many fine sounding monitors (with and without a separate subwoofer) auditioned at shows and in my own listening room. Several reviewed I've purchased or wanted to badly, yet like the preverbal big fish I throw them back to wait for the one that's just too amazing to return.
The 205/2's delighted me – these are big brooding speakers, and I expected a full bottom end which was plentiful, correct, and clean. But it was that upper range sparkle that really affected me - graceful and warm at times, yet sharp and edgy other. The true nature of this speaker is its ability to play loud, or subtle, or quiet, always expressive and musical.
KEF has made this review easy on me - the 205/2's are simply superb, truly earning their title of Reference!