A system that promises surround sound without the surrounding speakers, KEF's Model 7 speakers are from the manufacturer's new, swish-looking 'fivetwo' series. For your money you get two very attractive speakers, which are packed to the gills with drivers to create a five-channel soundstage.
Centre channel duties are handled by a 75mm Uni-Q driver with 15mm high-frequency tweeter, while the stereo pair get the same, plus a pair of 75mm LF drivers each.
Crossing the channel
The rear-channel duties are handled by flat NXT panels at the rear of the cabinets - the idea being that rear effects will bounce off the wall behind the speakers and appear to emanate from behind you. We like the idea of getting big sound from small speakers, especially when we know that both space and cash are at a premium, but there are a couple of specification issues that you need to look out for.
Firstly, you need to add a subwoofer for home cinema sound. With a frequency response that only gets down to 100Hz you really won't get anything like the necessary impact from 5.1 soundtracks without one.
Secondly, don't expect miracles - most of these systems deliver a wider soundstage than you'd get with two ordinary speakers, but nothing like surround sound.
Setup is a walk in the park. The supplied cables plug into the back of each speaker and then into your amplifier. There's good news in that these cables are also extremely long, providing plenty of flexibility in where you store your components.
Parameters such as speaker delay, speaker size and bass/treble settings are then all handled by your amplifier, so they should be familiar to you (unless you're buying this as part of an entirely new system). Our initial impressions are very positive, especially when it comes to reproducing dialogue.
Speech sits nicely rooted to the picture, apparently emanating from the TV screen rather than the two speakers on each side.
When the theme music to Cars thumps into action you get a good sense of power, but take the subwoofer out of the equation (we used a REL Q50 model for this test) and the bottom of the soundstage (inevitably) drops out.
Panned effects across the front do well, but the effect stops there. The soundstage is wide, but it does not wrap around you, so effects that should continue to move around the room until they are clearly behind you just do not.
It's perhaps too much to expect for such a two-box system to do this, of course, but beware of over-enthusiastic salespeople telling you it's just like the real thing.
There's a lot to like about the KEF Model 7: the excellent build quality, solid performance within its parameters and gorgeous looks are all major plus points.
But the high price, especially considering that you need to bring your own amplifier and subwoofer to the party, lets the side down considerably.