In the same way that there is a definite hot price point of around £350 for subwoofers, there is a massive amount of competition for your money from speaker manufacturers aimed at those cinephiles who will be prepared to spend around £1,000 on a 5.1 speaker system.
It's not enough to start reaching into the realms of audiophilia, but just the right amount for you to have an awful lot of your urges satisfied. Enter KEF's Q Series.
I have recently had a run in with a collection of smaller-footprint systems, but the setup here is not clamouring to be let into the designer bracket. Even so, it's not ugly, and the Q Series is big enough in cubic capacity to really encompass some air and have the ported enclosures shift quite a decent amount of it about.
Its performance is lovely in a lot of ways. For one, it treads pretty far in the direction of Partner Acceptance. The loved one mightn't want you to install dog-coffins all round the living room, but these look nice and techy without being too big, and they are all ovoids. From the cross-sections of the boxes - including the active subwoofer - down to the feet, there are few square and ugly edges.
Also, and much more importantly, they sound lovely. Potent and fast, with wicked dynamics and a subwoofer that really underpins and adds huge emotional impact.
Attack of the cones
The corner speakers are the smallest-of-the-range iQ1 enclosures. They are petite and have a brace of drivers - a tweeter nestles at the apex of a 130mm bass cone. A long-proven device called Uni-Q by KEF, it has the advantage of having the HF and LF source coming from the same virtual point in space, which is good for phase coherency.
The centre (the iQ2c) has the same speaker complement. There is a bigger centre in the range, though, and the iQ1 has a bigger brother and three tower models using up to three midbass drivers.
The difference between my iQ2c centre and the four corner boxes is that while the centre is rear-ported, the iQ1 has a fat port just below its upper-mounted driver assembly on the front drop. KEF supplies foam bungs for stoppering these if the bass is too overblown.
The curvy PSW2500 subwoofer has a sweepable phase control, a gain and crossover point knob, and phono inputs and outputs in stereo. There is a ground lift switch and an Auto/on/off switch, too.
A little bit of experimentation, including wanging the phase knob about, soon delivered me a level that worked well, allowing for huge bass crescendos and the best for detail and power.
It was only small but the heavy internal bracing KEF brags of made this active bass box out-perform many that are bigger, both in cubic capacity (it is a sealed design so the woofer can go to the limit of its suspension rather than the tuned limit of the porting) and in amplifier size.
The rigidity of this thing must be immense. I used the cinema setting for power rather than the music one for delicacy. It was so good, I found myself hankering to try the PSW4000 subwoofer, but that's a different price point altogether. Oh well.
Back on the sofa, I decided to spin Finding Nemo, in honour of the new Crushs Coaster at EuroDisney. The soundtrack has enormous emotional impact and huge bass throbs and swells. I enjoyed this set of speakers enormously - so much so that I kept on having to remind myself to take notes.
Huge swelling dynamics are shown off right at the beginning (around 11 minutes 20 seconds), when the school journey is underway on Mr Ray's back as he swims.
His vocal moves around in the background with wonderful steering, and the orchestral surge is uplifting and beautiful. Precise sound engineering for sure, but it was helped by KEF's smallish speakers easily delivering the lot in spades. The sub lapped up the mix too - a sunken submarine shifts, groans and then suddenly crashes into another position at 31mins 20secs.
Its a subwoofer-stretcher of a sequence and the system loved it - impact, dynamics, emotion and detail. Earlier on, at 28mins 08secs, a pelican hits a window at the dental surgery, again this was superbly real-sounding.
The KEF system holds it own with atmospheric and ambient effects across the front and rear soundstages. In Finding Nemo's hilarious fish tank sequence, the Muzak in the background and the variance of the muffled voices from Nemo's POV was excellent rendered.
This is a cracker of an array by KEF, with superior sound and just the right amount of styling. If these are this good, just how much more fun is a set of the big models I wonder?