Since the 1960s when the founder of KEF, Raymond Cooke, first began revolutionizing driver design by using synthetic materials for cones and creating innovative technology including transmission-line loaded midrange drivers, KEF has been a leader in the home speaker industry.
More recent developments by the company such as the Uni-Q coaxial driver have furthered the company’s reputation for excellence and just in time for the company’s 50th anniversary, KEF has released a newly designed series of speakers based on the Uni-Q design – the Q series.
Offering the lowest-priced Uni-Q equipped speakers in the entire product line, the Q series starts with the small Q100 two-way speaker (priced at $499 per pair) and extends to the Q900 – a 2.5 way, floor-standing speaker.
Overview of the KEF Q900 Speakers
At over 3.5’ tall, 14” wide, and nearly 13” deep, the Q900 is a sizeable speaker. Each speaker weighs approximately 50 pounds that sit atop a sturdy base equipped with spikes. The most impressive feature of these speakers at first glance, however, is the presence of four 8” aluminum cones.
Appearance: The finish of the speakers is what KEF calls a paper veneer. Available in Black Oak, European Walnut, and English Cherry, the fake wood looks authentic and according to KEF’s description, the finish used on the Q900 is eco-friendly and easier to care for than actual exotic woods. The sturdy spikes and rigid bases on the bottom of the unit guarantee a stable stance although if you plan on putting the speakers on hardwood, make sure to get some spike pads to protect the floor’s finish.
Uni-Q: Starting at the top of the front panel, you will find the 8” Uni-Q driver sporting a 1.5” vented aluminum dome tweeter. The Q900 gets a slightly bigger Uni-Q driver as all other speakers in the Q series only have a 1” dome. The larger dome allows for a lower crossover point when switching between mids and highs (1.8 kHz compared to 2.5 kHz or higher).
The Uni-Q driver features the patented Tangerine waveguide technology that was originally developed for KEF’s Project Blade. This feature is designed to prevent changes in dispersion at or above the crossover frequency.
Cones: Below the Uni-Q driver are three more 8” aluminum cones. The first one below the Uni-Q is a passive radiator and below that is a separate enclosure that houses an 8” aluminum cone subwoofer equipped with a 2” voice coil as well as another 8” passive radiator. All four of these cones contribute to the speaker’s low-frequency rendering but because the lower subwoofer is automatically rolled off in the low midrange, the Q900 is a considered a 2.5-way speaker system.
Flexibility: Featuring two pairs of speaker terminals on the back of each speaker, the Q900 can accommodate bi-wiring or bi-amping. Even though the audio advantages of bi-wiring or bi-amping are arguable at best, it’s nice that KEF has afforded audiophiles the option of wiring the speakers in this manner is so desired.
Q900 Sound Quality Performance
- Midrange: Testing of the Q900 started with vocal recordings because voices focus on the midrange and this is the part of the audio frequency response band that conveys most musical information (whether it be instruments or voices). The Q900 performed this task extremely well and was able to reproduce a range of voices (both male and female) without spatial distinction. Solo vocal performances were rendered with uniform coherency and located in the proper location on the soundstage.
- Crossover: The Q900 did similarly well with unaccompanied instrumental tracks and when instruments and vocals are combined, there is no homogenized sound like inferior speakers tend to produce. This may have something to do with the Uni-Q driver’s coaxial design but it may also be a result of proper crossover and cabinet design.
- Clarity: Across a variety of musical genres, the Q900s provided a stable and deep soundstage that seemed to get wider as needed to accommodate the big sounds of certain musical numbers. The treble was clean and detailed throughout testing as long as the input signals were kept at reasonable levels. When the Uni-Q driver is stressed by excessive signal levels, some of the clarity that makes this particular driver so unique is lost.
- Subwoofer: Despite only having one powered subwoofer, the Q900 delivers strong, energetic bass down to about 40Hz before the performance begins to suffer. For music with lots of low bass responses below the 40Hz threshold, a separate subwoofer is recommended to maintain the consistency of the sound profile throughout these low frequencies although the Q900s are capable of handling quite a bit of bass on their own and with authority.
The only problems identified with these speakers during testing are minimal at best. First, the grill is extremely flimsy and relies on tiny plastic posts that are probably easy to break with repeated removal.
Also, the grill isn’t braced in the middle at all which could lead to the grill vibrating enough to actually hit the cabinet during musical passages with heavy bass. The good news is that the speakers look better without the grill in place so removing it from the speakers permanently should be a no-brainer for most people.
Other issues included a limited amount of bracing within the cabinet (only minimal vibrations are felt), the floor spikes seem a lot larger than they need to be, and no rubber feet are included for installation on hardwood floors. Again, these issues are all minor and pale in comparison to the overall performance of the Q900s.
When looking at the KEF Q900, it doesn’t present remarkable aesthetics or physical construction. That’s not to say the speaker is cheaply made; it just doesn’t have the same lavish construction and look as KEF’s signature Reference line of speakers.
Aesthetics aside, the most important thing about any speaker is how it actually sounds and the Q900 is no slouch in this department. The larger than usual tweeter found in the Uni-Q driver and the addition of the Tangerine waveguide both add an element of sophistication to this speaker that is uncommon in this price range.
- Top-end features not usually available at this price point.
- Balanced, wide-raging sound that performs well throughout all music genres
- Impressive bass extension
- Affordable price for speakers of this quality
- Flimsy grill
- Lack of bracing in cabinet
- Excessively large floor spikes
- No rubber foot option for installation on hardwood floors
Overall, the KEF Q900 produces a balanced, wide-ranging, and spacious soundstage that performs well no matter what type of music you throw at it. As far as small floor standing speakers are concerned, there are very few, if any, better places to spend your money than the Q900 series from KEF.