KEF R3 Review: Excellent speakers that do practically whatever ideal

In the world of lover speakers, couple of names stick out as much as KEF R3. The British company has been an influence on high-end audio given that the 60 s, and to date makes a few of the most popular hi-fi speakers on the market.

Though the company has actually recently turned its attention to cordless speakers like the excellent LS50 W and LSX– which utilize digital signal processing to improve their sound– it hasn’t quit on standard passive speakers. Hence today’s topic: the KEF R3. It’s the tiniest speaker in KEF’s new R-Series, and it’s an all-around exemplary speaker that I presume could be end-game product for lots of enthusiasts. At $1,999, the R3 is not exactly inexpensive, however it’s a worthwhile financial investment for music fans going to save up.

Naturally, before you put down that kind of cash on a set of speakers, you’ll probably want something to make certain it really looks great too. No matter how excellent your speakers sound, you’ll invest more time looking than listening to them. Luckily, the R3s ought to be simple to accommodate in most any decoration, with a clean boxy look that is sleek however not ostentatious. And though I never use speaker grilles since I prefer the look without, the ones consisted of with the R3 are elegant and appear to have no substantial impact on the noise.

While not high in amplitude, there is a broad increase in level between 3 and 10 kHz. This will hit a lot more musical notes so it may make the speaker a bit bright relative to a speaker that has some choppiness but narrow peaks.

kef r3 review cea2034 sensitivity
Sensitivity is on the money with respect to company spec if you look at mid frequencies. Deep bass though is lower at around 80 dB so amplification requirements will be significant.

We can use statistical model of listening spaces to determine, using 3-D measurements we have around the speaker, what you will hear in a real room (above is anechoic or “free field” data). That gives us this likely response:

kef r3 review cea2034 in-room response deviations EQ

That stated, after the rainbow of colorways for the LSX and LS50 family, I lament that the R3 just is available in white, black, and wooden veneers. You’ll likewise want to keep in mind the R3s are massive. At 30 pounds apiece, they’re reassuringly significant, however you’ll want to place them on stands or a media console– racks are not suggested.

Once located, setting the R3 up is a basic matter of linking them to your amplifier by means of the terminals on the back. I evaluated them running directly from a Yamaha RX-A3080 A/V receiver as well through a pair of Emotiva PA-1 monoblock amplifiers. The speakers sounded outstanding from both sources, albeit I feel they were a little bit more vibrant with the Emotiva’s additional power and dedicated amplification. KEF suggests an amplifier efficient in 15 to 180 Watts into 8 Ohms, however I ‘d advise going for the higher end of that scale, (having too little power is even worse than excessive).

As noted, this measurement takes out the room using clever filtering in Klippel software (uses the free-field response to compensate). This results in much smoother low frequencies with no need to use gating, and response down to 20 Hz. I truncated at 50 Hz however as allowing it to go below that, shoots the distortion to nearly 100% as the speaker is incapable of producing usable output that low. An effect that I could hear in the sweeps.

There is no sudden peaks or other anomalies that stand out. Very low frequency dominates (as does with all speakers tested) which due to our high threshold of hearing and masking, likely is not very audible.

I let you all study the waterfall and see if you can correlated the little wiggles in the spinorama with the graph here:

kef r3 review cumulative spectral decay

Assuming they’re fed by enough tidy power, the R3’s seem to do practically whatever right. While lots of hi-fi speaker business like to “tune” their noise to have a focus on the treble and/or bass, KEF go for a ‘flat’ or neutral noise that does not change much in character even if you’re not completely placed in between the speakers.

Don’t confuse flat with dull though. It’s easy to assume everybody has different tastes, but research suggests a significant majority of listeners prefer speakers that display a flat frequency reaction when gotten rid of from the effects of the space (such as when measured in an anechoic chamber).

In a common space with rampant reflections, a flat speaker’s frequency action will in fact be tilted such that the bass is higher than the treble. Nevertheless, as our hearing adapts to our surroundings, the speaker will still be viewed as neutral. It also assists if the sound does not change considerably in character to the speaker’s sides, as we hear a combination of the direct noise and the sound emanating from other angles and bouncing off our walls.

I supply this background because these are all design principles obvious in the R3. It’s a speaker of highly neutral character, with which little feels particularly highlighted or omitted. It likewise is among the very best I’ve heard in my house in regards to spatial presentation– the kind of speaker that appears to welcome musicians to play in your home.

KEF r3 review

Credit: KEFThe R3 with its grille on

The midrange and treble on the R3’s are beautiful. Cellos and pianos have a proper tone. Vocals sound natural, without little evident pigmentation or emphasis. They are possibly a little laid back in their discussion, pressing voices back in the mix ever so a little, so the R3 may not be the finest choice for those who like upfront vocals, but it’s an overall well balanced noise that’s hard to fault.

The treble is smooth– drifting only to sharpness or dullness if present in the recording. In this regard, it also sounds more refined than KEF’s own LS50 or LS50 W. It’s a speaker that you can listen to for hours without fatigue, but all the while still having the detail resolution you anticipate from a high-end speaker.

You can observe a number of these qualities in standard measurements. The blue line listed below represents the R3’s frequency reaction utilizing a gated measurement method that mimics the action you may get from an anechoic chamber. It’s not reliable in the most affordable part of the frequency response, so that area has been truncated, however you can still see a fairly linear action throughout the frequency variety, a set of small dips in the midrange. This might be the reason for the slightly easygoing vocals, but it’s no major concern.

Measurements used a MiniDSP Umik-1, calibrated by Cross Spectrum Labs. All measurements made at 1 meter from tweeter, other than the room measurements, made at the listening position 8 feet from the each speaker.

In red is the response as determined at the real listening position– it’s a lot ‘messier’ since all the space interaction now comes into play, and no 2 rooms sound totally alike. Still, it provides you an idea of what I was hearing when actually listening to music, and assists show real-world bass extension.

The bass is among the more impressive aspects of the R3, especially compared to KEF’s uber-popular passive LS50, which was known to be light in the bass. The business rates the R3s are reaching down to 30 hz in-room, and that’s simply about what I found in my house with the speakers 2 feet away from the front wall (you can get a bit more bass by putting the speakers closer to the wall, at the expenditure of some muddiness). It’s impressively low for a passive speaker its size– much better than some towers– with reasonable quantities for just about all acoustic music and most popular music. You aren’t going to find better than the R3 in a passive style.

However to me, the specifying of KEF’s speakers has actually always been their soundstage.

The majority of speakers utilize different drivers for the mids and the treble due to the fact that it’s tough to make a motorist that can handle all frequencies without distortion. Some speakers use a coaxial design, which positions the tweeter within the midrange motorist so that they are lined up in on both the X and Y measurements. KEF’s ‘coincident’ design– which the company brands ‘Uni-Q’– goes a step even more, lining up the drivers in depth as well. This suggests that both high and midrange frequencies emanate from the very same point in space.

( The factor the bass chauffeur is typically not consisted of in a coaxial setup is that it’s more difficult for people to specify place with lower frequencies. That’s why subwoofers are so flexible about positioning.)

In theory, coincident motorists permit a more meaningful, reasonable sound. In practice, they have their own concerns and their advantages are less obvious the further you are from the speakers. Still, my consistent impression is that KEF’s Uni-Q drivers provide a few of the finest sound in regards to spatial discussion– a sound that doesn’t change much in quality as I move around the listening area.

Horizontal Response 0-75 degrees and Listening Window. The Listening Window is approximately the response at 0, /- 15, /-30 degrees horizontal, along with /- 10 degrees vertical.

The measurements mean this too. In the above graph, I’ve positioned the speaker on a turntable and determined frequency reaction at 15- degree intervals. You can see how the sound modifications efficiently as I determine more towards the speaker’s sides; the downwards tilt is anticipated, however the fundamental part is that the modifications are relatively smooth. On lots of other speakers, you’ll see a dip kind around specific frequencies as you move off-axis. Often this is done to stabilize problems with the on-axis sound, however usually it just sounds worse.

The vertical response, measured at 0, 5, 10, 15, and 30 degrees above and listed below the tweeter, reveals similar results. This recommends the speaker will sound good whether you are taking a seat or standing up:

There might be small differences in the vertical action compared to the horizontal reaction due to various positioning for measurements, nevertheless, the measurements should still be a sign of total trends.

This regulated dispersion assists give the speakers a wide listening ‘sweet spot’ that is not finicky about where you plant your butt. Prior to I ‘d even taken measurements, I observed I might move my open-floor-plan house and still preserve a balanced noise and intelligible discussion. In reality, the horizontal measurements recommend the speakers are actually a little smoother around 15 to 30 degrees off-axis. Many speakers must be angled aimed towards the listening position for the best noise, but I found the R3’s sounded finest facing right out. Your mileage may differ.

This isn’t to say whatever about the R3 is excellent. I do not get rather the exact same sense of characteristics and information I did from Focal’s Kanta No 3 I examined just recently, although it’s unreasonable to compare the R3 with a $13,000 speaker. I also tend to prefer a bit more focus on the highs and missed out on a few of the ‘crisper’ treble on the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo ($ 4,000) I evaluated alongside the R3. If you like your hi-fi speakers with more in-your-face information, the R3 might appear just a little laid back compared to some high-end competitors.

However those are very little problems in the higher context of the speaker’s performance. While I believe cordless systems with DSP are the future, the KEF R3 is a tip of how great speakers can still be with entirely passive parts. The R3 is quite, sounds fantastic no matter where you’re listening from, and is not finicky about placement. If you’re looking for new speakers and have $2,000 to blow, the R3 merit serious factor to consider.


Find Out More