KEF R3 £1300
What if you could capture the essence and brilliantly complete performance of KEF’S mighty Reference 1 standmounts, but at a fraction of their £5000 price?
Enter the new R3s. Part of the company’s recently introduced premium R series, they offer a large chunk of the Reference 1s’ engineering content as well as sonic performance, but for almost a quarter of the price.
A distinctive driver array
KEF’S distinctive Uni-q driver array is at the heart of these speakers, but here with a refined motor assembly, suspension and drive unit. While it may look like a single drive unit, it’s in fact a two-way arrangement where the 25mm aluminium-dome tweeter is positioned right in the throat of the 12.5cm midrange driver.
The R3s are a three-way design, so there’s a dedicated 16.5cm bass driver with a rear-firing port. Such a three-way configuration means that each driver can be optimised to work in its specific frequency band and tuned with less compromise than a two-way alternative.
The shaped trim around the Uni-q driver doesn’t just make the front panel look balanced by echoing the size of the larger bass driver, it also helps to reduce diffraction effects at the cabinet edges. That slim front looks smart and offers advantages in rigidity and dispersion.
Overall build quality is terrific for the money. The enclosure feels immensely rigid thanks to some clever bracing techniques that combine reinforcement with damping. All the edges are crisp and the gloss finish on our black samples is lovely. The R3s are also available in gloss white and a more traditional walnut.
Despite being relatively slim and compact boxes, standing only 42cm tall, the R3s are capable of delivering a good amount of bass weight and authority. In our test room they sound best balanced well away from all walls.
The Uni-q array disperses the sound in a wide and consistent manner, so toe-in angle towards the listening position isn’t as critical as it is with most conventional rivals for stereo imaging.
Excellent midrange clarity
We revel in the R3s’ excellent midrange clarity and ability to render the subtle dynamic nuances with delicacy. The KEFS capture the natural acoustic of a recording superbly, showing a level of insight and detail resolution that’s way beyond most rivals.
Despite all the analysis it remains a musical performer, one that excels in both dynamic range and rhythmic sense, focusing our attention on the message rather than the mechanics of replay.
The KEFS also offer sonic scale and authority belying their physical size, delivering an excellent stereo soundstage that is precisely organised. Tonally, the presentation is balanced and natural – mercifully free of showy false emphasis in any frequency band.
Choosing a Product of the Year from such a wide range of top-quality speakers is usually a real headache. Not this year.
KEF’S Uni-q driver cleverly sits the tweeter right in the throat of its midrange driver