The mid-price XQs are the latest range from KEF and this £700 XQ10 is the smaller of two standmounts and sister model to the £1,000 XQ20.
Key features include KEF's Uni-Q driver, cunningly curved cabinetwork and beautifully lacquered real wood veneer finish.
The XQ10 is a two-way design based on the very latest type of 130mm Uni-Q drive unit, loaded by a front port and an enclosure with an estimated volume of seven litres.
A Uni-Q driver places a tiny tweeter on the end of the pole-piece in the centre of the bass/mid cone, so that it actually sits at the latter's effective acoustic centre, creating a 'coincident' variation on the co-axial theme.
This makes crossover integration relatively simple acoustically and also ensures off-axis output symmetry, but the recessed tweeter somewhat restricts dispersion.
Recent Uni-Q developments include a ventilated pole-piece, an elliptical profile tweeter, a cone profile (that's carefully shaped to avoid interference between the tweeter's direct soundwave and its reflections off the cone) and a 'tangerine waveguide', whereby eight small vanes help the tweeter's titanium dome diaphragm mimic a pulsating sphere.
At 6.4kg, this little speaker feels very solid, the more so because the curved top, base and side surfaces help increase stiffness and avoid focusing internal standing waves.
Our samples came in khaya mahogany under a deep, lustrous lacquer; but birdseye maple or piano black are also available. Two pairs of terminals fit directly through the enclosure and wires links are supplied.
The curved base requires special stand-coupling arrangements: the two supplied alternatives are a curved hard rubber pad, or a tripod of metal feet.
Big on detail
The website claim to some sort of legacy inheritance from the BBC LS3/5a is frankly disingenuous, as the only similarity would seem to be the maker's name on the drive units. The engineering, configuration, measured performance and sound quality, are all quite different.
Given the small dimensions and decent sensitivity, it's no surprise to find that the best results are obtained with the speakers mounted quite close to a wall. But even with this extra mid-bass assistance, the XQ10 does sound rather thin and bright.
This certainly ensures plenty of detail, but the tweeter always seems to be drawing rather too much attention to itself and the sound it delivers might have been sweeter to advantage.
What is arguably needed here is some sort of subwoofery, because the application of some extra bass power and weight will tend to balance out any excess at the top end.
In other respects, the sound quality is promising and positive.
Mid-to-treble coherence is very good, the more so because there's no unwanted phase shifting as one moves on or off axis.
The voice band is nicely open and the box coloration vanishingly low – those four curved panels are very effective at suppressing unwanted noise of all kinds from the enclosure.