To Diego Estan,
I’ve recently upgraded my hi-fi system. I found the choice of speakers most difficult of all. I auditioned, amongst others, the Q Acoustic Concept 500, Monitor Audio Gold 300, ATC SCM40, KEF R11, and Bowers & Wilkins 702. After many auditions and listening sessions, I finally chose the KEF R11. Why? I found the pair not to be power hungry and not to lose tonality at low volume. I found their musical reproduction to be effortless and relaxed, which I prefer. My initial impression was that they were highly resolving, neutral, or maybe very slightly on the warm side of neutral, with a huge soundstage and excellent off-axis listening. They imaged well, especially given their potentially imposing physiques.
At the same time as purchasing them, I bought a pair of REL T/9i subs to augment them. Obviously, listening to equipment in a dealer’s demo room bears little similitude to the way they sound in your own listening environment. I was really surprised when I got them home as to how low they actually go. I have got the subs in situ, but, honestly, in most circumstances the R11s are sufficiently full-range to be satiating as standalone speakers. I’m restricted in my speaker placement, as my listening room is also the family lounge. So, in order to appease the wife, they are placed just 4” from the front wall and about 2.5’ from each side wall. I was pleasantly surprised how good they sounded without really sufficient room to breathe. When I have the place to myself, I do pull them out to about 20” from the front wall, which does reduce the “boom factor,” and that is when I find the subs come into their own.
Now that I’ve had the R11s in situ for almost five weeks and have spent many, many hours listening to both vinyl and CD that I’ve not listened to for many a moon, and equally streamed stacks of tracks, I feel that I am now qualified to “nitpick.” I think that KEF got the balance about right. They’ve voiced the high frequencies to prevent sibilance, and it works well, but to my taste, I would have preferred the top end fractionally brighter. I find the midrange very slightly forward, which I like, but, fractionally dry. The bass is fast, tightly balanced, and well controlled, but, for my taste, I feel they could benefit from a little more midbass slam. I found that whatever their placement, they, to my ears, sound better with both sets of foam bungs removed.
Nothing is perfect, but, I’m highly gratified with my purchase, and sincerely believe that for my listening preference, I made the right choice. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone. Despite their stature, they blend easily into any room and I think would constitute an upgrade to all but the pinnacle of “high end” systems. I think your review of the KEF R11s was pretty much spot on, and really enjoyed reading it.
Thank you for reading my review, and this very detailed email on your experience with the KEF R11s. They are phenomenal speakers and I certainly enjoyed my time with them; it looks like you are really liking them as well.
I guess the only comment I’d like to add is one I often make: don’t be afraid to experiment with room EQ, especially in your case, because you have added subs. With respect to your nitpicks, as I’m sure you’re aware, bass performance has more to do with the room than the speakers. Audiophiles like to say they obsess over “high-fidelity” sound, yet they are willing to accept 10dB swings in frequency response in the bass! A good room-EQ solution will not make your bass worse. The only question is: How much better will it be? There’s only one way to find out -- by trying.
Many good room-EQ solutions (e.g., Anthem ARC Genesis, Dirac Live) will also let you experiment and potentially fix your other nitpicks as well. For example, with my Focal Sopra No1s, I have a nitpick that is the opposite to yours -- they have about 1dB too much treble energy (from about 3kHz to 12kHz), and I have completely mitigated this issue with Dirac Live. This change of course is subtle, but it really matters on recordings that are too sibilant. What is not subtle is what Dirac Live does to my bass performance (I have dual subs as well, operating up to 125Hz) -- it’s a gamechanger for the low frequencies. Enjoy your KEFs. . . . Diego Estan