KEF Through the Years

By Johan Coorg

February 28, 2019

I have been fortunate enough to be with KEF for many years – since 1989 – in other words for some half of the brand’s existence. Various roles have and continue to take me to all corners of the globe.

We all know the pace of change in the world of technology which, if anything, increases in pace. Back in 1989 the smartphone had not been invented yet: In fact the world’s first Android smartphone was the HTC Dream, which wasn’t released until 1995 as the Simon Personal Communicator – some 12 years before the first Apple iPhone.

So what has this to do with loudspeakers, in particular KEF? – It struck me that loudspeakers are instruments of audio reproduction of program material, communicating at the END of a chain of delivery. It is this chain which has also hugely changed. From source, music from the “cloud” is now commonplace and ubiquitous, amplified by ever more dynamic and powerful electronics in today’s audio system. Loudspeakers – although nothing new, are at the behest of many technical challenges.

Raymond Cooke (KEF’s founder) declared early on that ‘Transformed to a dance of electrons along a wire, its ghost lives on. When KEF returns music to its rightful habituation, your ears and mind, they aim to do so in the most natural way they can ... without drama, without exaggeration, without artifice'.

Fast forward to today and that same original philosophy is still central to the KEF products of today, no matter what shape, size, price or function.

Looking at the technical mechanics of a loudspeaker they have to now cope with and translate source recordings of incredible resolution and frequency range, delivered by electronics capable of huge dynamics. All without distortion. KEF’s chief quest is to create transducers which do not bend under pressure, causing distortion, and enclosures which remain as inert as possible, plus total products which disperse sound waves in a wide and controlled manner.

When I joined, KEF’s “signature” wide dispersion Uni-Q point source technology (all frequencies come from one point) had just been patented. At time of writing KEF has just released the 12th generation of Uni-Q. There have been massive improvements along the way, really enhancing the two key goals of high dynamics and low distortion. Flagship products like Blade (which started as a technical concept to take the point source principle as far as possible) have contributed hugely to KEF’s complete product pallet: KEF always strives to share and implement new ideas and methods into other products.

In the 1990s we saw the home theatre “revolution” – suddenly people using not two but five channels to reproduce movies (and in some cases music). Now we talk about 7 or 9 or 11 – even more channels to deliver material. Since the start of all this it was clear that the behaviour of Uni-Q point source is greatly beneficial to such complicated acoustic delivery in an environment. In fact KEF was the first British manufacturer to deliver a center channel speaker (model 100) – to great acclaim in the early 90s.

It is perhaps in model 100 we begin to see another important factor: Design aesthetics. People have to live in their homes with their products and the loudspeakers compliment their design tastes – or further still be completely hidden in custom-installed architectural speakers. But all with as little acoustic performance compromise as possible.

Perhaps as of today, KEF ranges offer, more than any other loudspeaker manufacturer,  a whole host of shapes sizes and color choices to complement our living environments.

And as KEF looks to the future, it has in the last couple of years introduced complete system solutions like the LS50W active wireless system. Packed with highly sophisticated technology shoehorned into modestly sized enclosures. High performance with optimisation to acoustically fit different situations, but importantly at the same time easy to use “plug and play”.

It’s been a super exciting journey to be associated with and represent a dynamically evolving brand for more than quarter of a century!

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