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KEF has been in the forefront of loundspeaker and home theater systems for a long time now having created some amazing models over the years while their proprietary Uni-Q technology that they have been using in their speakers from as early as 1988 and has constantly improved since then in order to provide the necessary technical means to deliver the type of sound quality that we are used to get from them.
The KEF Q series is a lineup of floorstanding speakers that show all characteristics of KEF’s excellence and attention to detail as they were created for both music and movies in mind in order to deliver the most accurate and realistic sonic imaging possible. The lineup consists of 3 different models starting with the Q500 as the smaller of them, the Q700 and lastly the Q900 as the top dog in the series. In this article we will be taking a look at the smaller of the 3 and we will determine if it has all the qualities KEF have been advertising and are so proud of for their Q series. All this in our KEF Q500 review following.
Design, Inputs and Features
The speakers measure 36.1 x 11.6 x 12.3 in. (917 x 295 x 312 mm) with the included plinth and weight 33.1 lbs (15kg) showcasing a relatively compact and low profile which makes them really versatile when it comes to positioning them into your media or home theater room. At first look and with the grills on they don’t look much as they keep a very simple box-type design with sharp corners and with only the KEF logo on the front giving us an idea of what to expect.
The chassis of the speakers is made of die-cast aluminium which rigidly locates the high efficiency vented magnet assembly to prevent unwanted resonance while the enclosure features internal bracing to eliminate resonance and according to KEF provide 30% more volume in comparison to their predecessors. In addition to the 50mm voice coil that provides better power handling and the dedicated front-firing auxiliary bass radiators (ABRs) the Q500 manages to provide deeper and more accurate bass than ever before.
But the real highlight of the Q500 speakers lies on it’s new Uni-Q array consisting of one 130mm (5.25in.) aluminium LF driver and two 130mm (5.25in.) aluminium ABRs for enhanced bass response while on top of them we find one 25mm (1in.) vented aluminium dome for the high frequencies and is based on the state-of-the-art HF driver developed for the Concept Blade.
The LF/MF drivers feature very light aluminium cones for better and faster response while KEF have used a unique surround that they call Z-Flex that allows for better sound dispersion from the tweeter as well as better power from the drivers.
The tweeter features a vented design with the dome assembly cleverly braced and with it’s ‘tangerine’ waveguide over the dome it ensures amazing dispersion in space which means that no more you need to sit in the “sweet” spot to get the best possible outcome and everyone in the room will enjoy the same sound quality no matter their position.
The Uni-Q drivers array give the Q500 speakers a frequency response of 40Hz – 40kHz, a maximum output of 110dB with 87dB sensitivity and 8 Ohms impedance.
On the back we get gold-plated bi-wire terminals and what we liked very much was that KEF has included a link mechanism in order to connect/disconnect the terminals instead of using traditional external shorting bars. By simply turning the knobs between the terminals you can link/unlink them making things so much easier.
The cabinet is made out of recycled wood fibre if you are worried about the environment and KEF has included top-turnable, adjustable spikes for easy calibration showing how much thought has been put for even the smallest of details.
The speakers come in 3 different colors to choose from with Black Oak, English Cherry or European Walnut the available ones.
We connected a pair of Q500 speakers to our Onkyo av receiver and positioned the speakers so they can have some breathing space around them. After manually calibrating them to be in balance with the rest of the system we were ready for our movie testing.
For our first viewing we chose the 4K UHD release of Saving Private Ryan. The Blu-ray disc had an amazing DTS-HD Master Audio track and with the 4K disc we get a Dolby Atmos track that takes everything from it’s predecessor and expands upon it even further making it perfect for checking out the Q500s. And there is no other scene to see first in the film other than the landing of the Allied forces on Omaha beach. From the first moments the Q500 showed their teeth with sound details like water splashes and background artillery explosions while the marine engines are pushing the metal boats towards the German defense line.
But once they reach the beach and the front doors open is where the Q500 show their excellence. It’s not that they can produce all this loudness happening but how they are recreating every sound. There is so much information during this scene that many times you are lost in all this audio cacophony. The Q500s manage to control all this masterfully by being able to give even the smallest of details. German machine guns produce a very trumping sound when firing while the characteristic ping of allied empty magazines are heard more clear than ever. Bullets hitting the marine boats and the tank hedgehogs are heard with great impact while artillery explosions on the beach feel menacing and more real than ever.
In general the speakers managed to reproduce faithfully all small details that the audio track provided. Either it be rain drops, the tank tracks scratching as they approach in the distance in the climatic battle of Ramelle or the low artillery thumping in the distance the soundstage felt more expanded and clearly defined.
The second film we chose was our all time favorite Blu-ray disc of the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King with it’s amazing orchestrated DTS-HD Master Audio track. And what better scene to try than the siege of Minas Tirith with trolls shaking the ground, metal clashing on the shields and armors of the trolls while you hear the menacing scream of the Fell beasts flying above the city as everything is surrounded by the amazing orchestrated theme of Howard Shore. The Q500 again managed to throw us right onto the Pelennor Fields with the Sauron army challenging the last shelter of men. Amazing performance and make an already exceptional audio track sound even more alive.
Closing this part we could not be more than happy with what we heard. The Q500 are great performers with tight mid-range and satisfying highs. The bass may be lacking a bit but if you plan to use them for movies then most probably you will be using a subwoofer to help with that so it’s not a big deal. For any serious home theater fan these speakers should be a consideration.
For our music testing we used a selection of FLAC music tracks with various rhythms and tunes in order to assert the behavior of the Q500 speakers. What was immediately apparent was the clarity and impact of the high frequencies making it easy to distinguish each musical instrument throughout the stage while vocals separated from the rest of the sounds with great precision. The bass was a bit soft for our tastes and if ask for more you will probably have to go for the Q700 or Q900 but although it lacked a bit in volume it was solid and well defined. Mid-range felt balanced and was able to bridge the lows and highs masterfully.
Dynamic shifts were excellent while the speakers managed to keep control through all the dynamic range. Even at high volumes the cabinets were sturdy without any audible distortion which shows the great work KEF did during manufacturing. Great quality brinks great performance and this is the case also here.
KEF may have updated their Q series, with the newer Q550, Q750 and Q950 models being part of their current lineup, but the Q500 is still an amazing speaker that is able to produce amazing sound. Quality wise KEF has added all these small touches that show how much they pay attention to details while keeping the materials and technology inside the cabinet carefully selected in order to produce the best acoustic results possible in this price range which may not be cheap but it definitely worth it. The speakers take some running time until they can give you their peak performance but once they do, after usually about 100 hours, you will enjoy every minute of them. We certainly did with the KEF Q500 getting our highest recommendation.
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- Design : Two and a half-way bass reflex
- Drive Units :
- 130mm (5.25in.) aluminium Uni-Q
- 25mm (1in.) vented aluminium dome
- 130mm (5.25in.) aluminium LF
- 2 x 130mm (5.25in.) aluminium ABR
- Frequency Response : 40Hz – 40kHz (±3dB)
- Crossover Frequencies : 2.5kHz
- Maximum Output : 110dB (SPL)
- Amplifier requirements : 15 – 130W
- Sensitivity : 87dB (2.83V/1m)
- Impedance : 8 Ohms
- Dimensions :
- 870 x 180 x 272 mm (34.3 x 7.1 x 10.7 in.)
- 917 x 295 x 312 mm (36.1 x 11.6 x 12.3 in.) with plinth
- Weight : 15kg (33.1 lbs)