Berlin’s IFA isn’t the only September product-launch platform available to the hi-fi world. British loudspeaker manufacturer KEF is using this weekend’s CEDIA event in San Diego to pull the covers off a new R-Series.
The new range isn’t a point release but a ‘nuts-n-bolts’ re-design. Think Windows 2000 to Windows XP, OK Computer to Kid A. The 2018 rework comprises one standmount and three floorstanders (plus a centre channel and a surround sound module that sit beyond the scope of this publication’s two-channel-only remit).
Let’s break the 2018 R-Series down as they relate to listening to music in glorious stereo:
The R3 (US$1980/pair) is a 3-way, rear-ported standmount in which KEF’s Uni-Q point source driver configuration – a 2.5cm ‘HF vented’ aluminium dome centred on a 12.5cm midrange driver – is augmented by a ‘high excursion’ 16.5cm aluminium bass driver.
The R5 floorstander (US$2940/pair) is a 3-way, rear-ported floorstander that takes the R3 standmount’s basic design but swaps out the 16.5cm aluminium bass driver for a pair of 13cm drivers. Hello D’Appolito!
The R7 floortstander (US$3960/pair) then uses the R5 floorstander’s 3-way, rear-ported, Uni-Q foundation to bring the D’Appolito-configured bass drivers back to 2 x 16.5cm.
The big daddy floorstanding R11 (US$5500/pair) takes the R7 but double its D’Appolito array to 4 x 16.5cm bass drivers.
The 2018 R-Series’ appearance is the perhaps first new feature to jump from the screen. A slimmer front baffle talks to modern European aesthetic trends. Bucking them is KEF’s decision to colour-match each loudspeaker’s drivers, feet and brand badges to the cabinet finish where choices number three: high gloss white, high gloss black and walnut (real wood veneer).
But let us also consider improvements less obvious to the naked eye:
That Uni-Q driver array isn’t the same for all loudspeakers in the KEF canon. It sees ongoing development and every model in the 2018 R-Series comes loaded with a 12th Generation Uni-Q design:
1) A tapered tweeter vent, greater excursion possibilities for the surrounding midrange driver powered by a new motor system that promises lower distortion.
2) Absorption material now sits behind the tweeter to reduce sonic colour introduced by the air gap required by the midrange driver’s inward excursion.
3) ‘Shadow flare’ – not a J.R.R. Tolkien character but the name assigned by KEF to technology that further minimises the Uni-Q driver’s edge diffraction.
Elsewhere each R-Series cabinet features improved structural bracing, including constrained-layer damping, and better-optimised port placement. KEF have specified the turbulence-reducing flexible-walled port that keener observers will have first encountered in the LS50, reminding us that KEF last updated the R-Series in 2011, a full 12 months before the debut of their ‘Anniversary’ standmount.
The R3 promises superior audible performance to the LS50 with the complete R-Series positioned above KEF’s entry-level Q-Series but beneath their Reference range and Blades to offer a taste of the uber-high-end but for fewer dollars.
I attended the 2018 R-Series’ German press preview event at Hegel HQ in Oslo a few weeks ago where German KEF/Hegel distributor Frank Eschholz said, “The only thing that remains the same is the name”. I can also attest to the seriously impressive high gloss black finish found on the new models.
Further information: KEF
System photos reproduced with the kind permission of Berlin KEF dealer HiFi im Hinterhof.