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We always found pleasure when it came to test a pair of KEF speakers and having tested one of their floorstanding speakers recently, the Q500, we have only good words to say about them. Going into the 8th iteration of one of their most popular lineup, the Q series, has a lot going for it. KEF has included 2 bookshelfs, the Q150 and Q350, 3 floorstanders, the Q550, Q750 and Q950, a center speaker, the Q650c and a Dolby Atmos module, the Q50a and thus filling the series with all the necessary type of speakers in order to support any kind of home theater setup. The Q series doesn’t offer a specific subwoofer but fear not as KEF has a nice range of subwoofers that could pair with the rest of the Q speakers.
For this new release KEF created an enhanced Uni-Q driver array, redesigned the cabinet and added sleek new finishes in their try to improve upon an already great design both acoustically but also artistically.
Today we will be reviewing one of their floorstanders, specifically the Q550 which is the smallest floorstander in the series. Having reviewed the previous version of this model, the Q500 to be more precise, we were curious to see if the changes that KEF made overall to the Q series has affected the quality and performance in any meaningful way. So let’s proceed with our KEF Q550 review to see what these lovely little floorstanders have to offer.
Design, Inputs and Features
The first thing that catches your attention if you were to compare these with the previous model in the series is that the Q550 is almost the same in size and weight making them compact enough, something that can be a very deciding factor if the space you want to place them is somewhat limiting. Measuring 926mm (36.45 inches) x 299mm (11.77 inches) x 310mm (12.20 inches) with the rubber feet included and a weight of 14.5kg (32 lbs) the Q550 has a very bare and monotonous box-shaped design especially if you have the grills on as they cover the full front face of the speakers. The KEF logo at the top is the only element that brakes this monochrome monotony in the front.
The Q550 comes with a redesigned cabinet and KEF has opted to place the Uni-Q driver in a sealed box. This way the load on the Uni-Q midrange cone is reduced due to the closed midrange cabinet further improving clarity and bass quality. Also the removal of the DC blocking capacitor from the mid-bass driver resulted in further improving midrange clarity and bass roll-off between the drivers.
Removing the full frontal grill we are presented with what is the highlight of the Q550. A 130mm (5.25in.) aluminum Uni-Q driver featuring the 25mm tweeter in the acoustic center of the midrange cone in addition to the ‘tangerine’ waveguide over the tweeter dome create a wider, more even sound dispersion and a more accurate three-dimensional sound image. Further additions to the design include a damped tweeter loading tube that improves the treble performance and a low-distortion inductor on the crossover which according to KEF promises to offer a more clear bass response.
Under the Uni-Q driver we find a 130mm (5.25in.) aluminium low-frequency driver which features a better cone structure for improved mid-range performance, a new spider suspension system in order to produce cleaner bass at high volumes and a larger roll surround in order to lower the distortion at high sound pressure levels. The accompanying dual 130mm (5.25in.) aluminium ABRs have also been enhanced with a larger roll surround and a rubber suspension that KEF claims to be better than fabric and can result in deeper and louder performance.
The Q series speakers are coated with a fine satin finish in black or white while the drivers come in the same color as the cabinet. The full frontal grills can be magnetically attached on the speakers should you wish to hide or protect the drivers while the feet (plinths) use height-adjustable spikes for easy balancing on uneven floors. The high quality gold-plated terminals on the back can accept bare wires or any kind of banana plugs.
The Q550 driver array has a frequency response of 58Hz – 28kHz, a maximum output of 110dB with 87dB sensitivity and 8 Ohms impedance.
Design-wise KEF has been through a lot of effort in order to try and improve upon an already magnificent design. Naturally making better an already excellent design is not an easy task but it seems that somehow KEF has found ways to make small changes that would create an even better acoustic result.
As with all speakers testing we went through our usual calibration after connecting the Q550s to our Onkyo AV receiver and positioning them accordingly in our area. Leaving some breathing space around the speakers is always preferable if your area allows for that with KEF suggesting to leave at least 20cm from the back and around 1m from the sides of the speakers for better performance.
First in our list for testing couldn’t be other than the 4K UHD disc of Saving Private Ryan with it’s amazing Dolby Atmos track and of course we checked the opening scene with the Allied Forces landing on the beaches of Normandy. The first thing that we immediately noticed was the amount of clarity and response we got from the speakers. This scene has many small acoustic details with the Q550 being able to reproduce them faithfully creating a really amazingly soundstage that you have to experience for yourself.
Splashes of water, the marine engines roaring and the military equipment on the soldiers were spot on in the foreground while artillery shells exploding on the background created an ominous atmosphere. When they reach the beach and the doors open all hell breaks loose on the screen but the Q550s keep a straight face by reproducing all sounds with an amazing control and focus. Explosions and machine gun fire take center stage and while they are the most impressive elements acoustically the never overshadow the dialogue or the rest of the effects.
For our second test we went for the Blu-ray disc of the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King with it’s amazing orchestrated DTS-HD Master Audio track. We skipped forward to the siege of Minas Tirith from the moment the Rohirim destroy Sauron’s army. The speakers once again managed to left us nothing short of amazed. Clarity and dynamics were top notch, frequency response was excellent and sound texturing very convincing.
Everything from the trolls crashing the humans, the Fell beasts screaming as they fly above the city or the metal shields and weapons clashing during the battle every single sound element is reproduced masterfully creating a really immersive environment.
Closing our movie testing we wanted to say that having tested the previous iteration of this model recently, the Q500, we were very impressed with it’s performance but KEF managed to make enough improvements with the new Q550 to make them even better. The changes in the acoustic result may not be dramatic but they are there even if subtle.
The Q550 are amazing speakers and will elevate the quality of any home theater but depending on the size of your area they may lack a bit. In that case the Q750 will definitely improve this but if your area where you will use them is relatively small then you have nothing to worry about. KEF once again proved us why they are considered such a high quality brand.
Finishing our movie testing we anxiously picked up our trusted selection of FLAC music tracks as the time to test some music has come. If the speakers are new it may take some running time until they can reach peak performance and during this time you may feel the speakers underperform but giving them the necessary time to flex their muscles will for sure reward you in the end.
We were very impressed with the musicality of their predecessors and oh boy did we experience once again an amazing performance from the Q550s. First of all what KEF claims about the omnidirectional capabilities of the speakers seems to be true as we tried various positions and we didn’t feel like we were loosing anything in depth or frequency response making the speakers ideal if sitting on the sweet spot is not a given in your situation.
Bass was adequate and never interfered with the rest of the musical instruments although we would like it to have a bit more punch. We believe that going for the bigger Q750 would improve upon this but if you cannot afford that then the Q550s will suffice. The speakers will give you a very good sense of instruments placement as they managed to reproduce each sound separately with clean textures and incredible resolution even if you push the volume at higher levels something impressive for such relatively small floorstanders.
Overall if music is your thing rest assured that the KEF Q550 will satisfy all your needs and then some with their convincing performance no matter the kind of music you prefer.
The Q550 is part of KEF’s newest Q series and these small floorstanders don’t stop to amaze with their performance. Their size may not make them suitable for large home theater rooms but for more compact spaces like living rooms or small to medium media rooms they will really shine and deliver the kind of performance that will truly immerse you in either you are a movie or music lover.
Small improvements on the design compared to it’s predecessor may not result in huge acoustic differences but for those seeking the best in this size and price range then the KEF Q550 is a very good speaker to consider. Great mid-range, dynamic highs and tight lows make the Q550 a great overall floorstanding speaker that will offer you countless hours of acoustic pleasure. Highly recommended.
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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 HF
- 130mm (5.25in.) aluminium LF
- 2 x 130mm (5.25in.) aluminium ABR
- Frequency Response : 58Hz – 28kHz (±3dB)
- Crossover Frequencies : 2.5kHz
- Maximum Output : 110dB
- Amplifier requirements : 15 – 130W
- Sensitivity : 87dB (2.83V/1m)
- Impedance : 8 Ohms
- Dimensions :
- 873mm (34.37 inches) x 180mm (7.08 inches) x 278mm (10.94 inches)
- 926mm (36.45 inches) x 299mm (11.77 inches) x 310mm (12.20 inches) with rubber feet
- Weight : 14.5kg (32 lbs)