At around £40,000, the KEF Reference 7.2 speaker system is home cinema for those for whom cost is not really an issue.
Home theatre for folks with Ferraris in the heated garage.
What you get for the enormous wedge is excellence, performance and sheer beauty. This system is not about built-in discretion, it's not for hiding.
These are some of the most astonishing loudspeakers in existence. They demand to be seen.
The left and right 207/2 flagship loudspeaker enclosures of the range have three 10in drivers each, one
of which is just for midband output, and the two subwoofers tout 18in drivers driven by 1,000W of onboard amplification.
That's obviously impressive, but the key technology here is the ultimate incarnation of KEF's famous point-source Uni-Q wizardry. Each speaker has a 165mm Uni-Q driver in it, with a tweeter that can soar up into the very high frequencies.
This means the system has resolution to spare for all the new lossless codecs from Dolby and DTS, as well as eating every other surround sound format you've ever heard of for breakfast. This co-axial and co-planar arrangement also provides the legendary coherency of imagery and soundstage that is KEF's trademark.
The 204/2c centre, like the main and side speakers, has a six-fold nest of WBT brand binding posts and connection points on the rear.
The different options for hooking up the speakers' terminals is probably a job for experts. Rear-mounted Uni Balance controls allow for LF adjustments to take into account the possible close proximity of walls.
There's also a four-step adjustment to the high-frequency output, as shown by neat EQ curves in the perfect-bound manuals. Of course, you can bi-wire or bi-amp or even tri-wire or tri-amp these speakers if you wish.
There is so much brilliant KEF-ness involved here, with different technologies – and their evolutions and applications– all culminating in these speakers, that I could go off into a serious geek-fest. Instead, I'll concentrate more on how it all made me feel...
Utterly delicious speakers
If you can afford to buy these, don't scrimp by choosing the cheaper satin finish, as the glossy one is utterly delicious. The KEF technicians told me in loving detail about how many coats and how many hours of rubbing each cabinet got, but I was just drooling and itching to hear them.
We set the speakers up in a THX Ultra2 array with dipoles at the sides and regular forward-firing units for rear-right and -left.
Oh yes, and those two 18in subwoofers, one at the front of the room and one at the back, had been individually acoustically tailored to the space by use of the included microphone and the internal DSP.
Raising the roof
Being audio gurus, the KEF crew spun the Legends of Jazz Blu-ray. Being an HCC writer, I pulled out my Ratatouille Blu-ray, and skipped to the short film Lifted. This is set in an Indiana plain, like the one Barry Guiler was abducted from in Close Encounters. A flying saucer arrives over a lone house and the bass is supposed to shake the building.
With this Reference system, it did, to a degree that when I emerged, the receptionist looked a bit bewildered. She had heard the demo room a thousand times, but I don't think she had heard five kilowatts before.
This audition may not have been quite up to the usual HCC standard but KEF definitely let me run the system with real level. The ceiling, which was suspended, is due a treatment with Dynamat vibration damping material or some such, as it did move about a bit. I felt like The Stig let loose in a Bentley. The grip on the air and your soul, while keeping detail at all times, was wonderful.
The KEF boffins were so impressed with the soundtrack on Lifted that they are going to use it as a top demo clip from now on.
Ratatouille followed after and, again, it was fabulous. The opening scenes have a thousand rustly rats running, shotgun blasts and lots of screaming, mingled voices. I was able to pick out the most astonishing level of detail in the lossless soundtrack. Just the rainfall at the start was awe-inspiring.
These KEF Reference 7.2 speakers are subtle, detailed, incredibly intricate and yet able to reproduce explosions with a visceral grip that literally pressurises your entire world. It's musical and mayhem all at once, and I absolutely love it. If I was planning a once-in-a-lifetime home cinema, I'd have these on my list.
File under total genius. Now pass me that bottle of Cristal...