Surround Sound Speaker Systems

Kef IQ Series Speakers and HTBSE-W Wireless Subwoofer


In Use

My first experience with KEF speakers was about 20 years, listening to an early version of the Uni-Q system. The two things I remembered about those earlier KEF's were the clear trebles and the wide sweet spot they produced. It's funny how certain attributes get hard-wired into a company's DNA, because my first impression of the new iQ Series were the clear upper end and good off-axis response from the Uni-Q drivers.

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Music Hall (Blu-ray) is considered a reference audio recording. The Dolby TrueHD mix of Crash Into Me, with nothing but twin acoustic guitars and Dave Matthew's vocal, is a great piece that emphasizes a speakers' midrange and treble response, and was right in the KEF's wheelhouse. Guitar picks strumming and breaths into the microphone were all there, right out front. The flip-side was that lower quality recordings, especially highly compressed modern music, came across as somewhat bright and fatiguing on the iQ 90's. I generally dislike the phrase "unforgiving" when describing a speaker's upper-end response because it's an inherently subjective description, but it seemed appropriate in this case.

The iQ 60C center channel speaker did a fine job with the South African-accented English in District 9. District 9 is part sci-fi, part social allegory, and part action-adventure, so it also gave the iQ 30 surrounds and HTB2SE-W a good workout. The iQ 30's, being monopole speakers, did a surprisingly good job of conveying ambience without calling attention to their location. Likewise, the HTB2SE-W created a good low-end jolt when the scene called for it, but never seemed boomy or overbearing.