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KEF America take loudspeakers on a colour run for CES 2016

  • ces2016Personality. KEF have it in spades. Their Blade Two floorstanding loudspeaker puts a quad of side-firing 6.5″ bass drivers (instead of the bigger bro’s 9″-ers) into a cabinet that registers two thirds of the original version’s internal volume. The front-firing Uni-Q driver in Blade One and Two are identical but pricing is not: US$32K for the Blade One, US$24K for the Blade Two. The latter is intended for less generous spaces and/or wallets.

    The Blade Two isn’t new but each time I hear a pair (almost always at shows) it feels like the first time. Like a virgin! Their simultaneous projection of scale and preserve of delicacy, even in a standard-sized Venetian Hotel suite, are precisely the qualities needed to maximise one’s consumption of by Nils Frahm’s “Says”; a cut that builds and builds and builds and BUILDS before falling away just prior to boiling point. Yet another reminder that these are the loudspeakers I would own if an unlimited budget were to present. Power ’em with a Devialet 800 for the most futuristic-looking rig this side of the international space station; hardware whose sound would surpass its striking looks but remain just the right side of show pony. Red finish on the Blade Two, Sir? You betcha!

    KEF America’s Dipin Sehdev explains how the Blade Two’s accompanying electronics at CES were chosen for their simplicity. “No crazy monos!”, he exclaims. Full swing in Vegas came from a Hegel H30 DAC (US$4500) and a Hegel H369 integrated amplifier (US$5700). The latter serves up 250wpc in Class A/B operation. Hegel returned the compliment on the floor above with KEF’s Reference One standmount their loudspeaker of choice.

    Then there are KEF’s personalities – the guys and gals that handle in-room demos. Johan Coorg once again wants to talk music before he wants to talk hardware; polite, pretty, pleasant, tip-toe-through-tulips music is very much NOT his thing. He digs – and therefore spins – music that’s big on both drama and soul.

    After Blade Two re-baptism, Dipin Sehdev demonstrates the KEF MUO (US$349) Bluetooth speaker’s party favours. Specifically, two features that I’d not been made aware of at December’s Tokyo e-earphone Potafesu. The MUO’s internal DSP will auto-adjust according to the MUO’s vertical or horizontal positioning, latter being where first (surface) reflections are more prominent. A pair of vertically positioned MUO can be paired for stereophony proper but lay one flat and they revert to fully synchronised dual mono. See/hear/here:

    The MUO is available in the following colours: Light Silver, Neptune Blue, Storm Grey, Sunset Orange and Horizon Gold.

    Finally, the LS50. Last year’s limited edition finishes on KEF’s runwaway success story underscore the company’s (cautious) sense of adventure when it comes to aesthetics. What’s surprising is that in anticpiating weaker sales of the red finish, KEF apparently manufactured fewer units, only for demand to outstrip supply by a wider margin than with the blue or grey, especially in the UK and USA. The lesson? For greater relevance in the broader market, hifi gear needs to arrive in bold/er colour options.

    Take a look around KEF America’s CES demo room – not a traditional box speaker or wood veneer in sight. Says it all really.

    Further information: KEF

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    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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