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Friday
Mar042016

Podcast #729: KEF T-Series 5.1 Speaker System

We all tend to agree with the idea that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, especially when it comes to speakers in your home theater. You can either get small, good looking speakers that match your aesthetic decor, or you can get good sound. You can’t have both. KEF, and their T Series speakers, would like to respectfully disagree. Braden recently ran into a listener who ordered some T series speakers when he realized we had never posted a review of them.

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KEF T-Series 5.1 Speaker System

We all tend to agree with the idea that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, especially when it comes to speakers in your home theater.  You can either get small, good looking speakers that match your aesthetic decor, or you can get good sound.  You can’t have both.  KEF, and their T Series speakers, would like to respectfully disagree. Braden recently ran into a listener who ordered some T series speakers when he realized we had never posted a review of them.

One of the more requested KEF lines is the T Series because of their unique thin profile.  We haven’t listened to every KEF speaker, so our standard response to questions was that they looked good, but we couldn’t really judge the sound because we just hadn’t heard them.  So we got some a while back. We were, though, a bit skeptical that a speaker that thin could sound as good as a speaker with a standard depth cabinet.

 

System

The T Series line of speakers are very thin, high performance home theater speakers designed to compliment your flat panel television.  The speakers themselves only measure 1.4 inches or 35 mm thick and are designed to be flush mounted to the wall.  In the literature and on the website KEF promises “several landmark innovative driver technologies” that are supposed to allow speakers this thin to sound as good as traditional, bigger bookshelf style speakers.

KEF sells the T Series in three configurations; all three are comprised of different combinations of the same three basic units, the T101 satellite speaker, the T301 satellite speaker and the T-2 subwoofer.  All three include a T301c for the center channel and a T-2 subwoofer.  The T105 system includes four T101 sats for the front and surround speakers and retails for $1699 US ($1649).  The T205 system steps up to T301s for the front left and right speakers and keeps the T101s for the surrounds and goes for $1849.  The top of the line T305 system uses T301 speakers in the front and the surround and retails for $2199.

We have the T205 system.

 

Design

The speakers look great.  They have a diminutive design that, as you would expect, doesn’t stand out, but tries to blend somewhat seamlessly into a flat panel environment.  The speakers all have black grilles and thin black bezels with a small KEF badge.  The T301c center speaker has a sideways name badge so it looks right when you mount it horizontally as you typically do with center speakers.  The T-2 subwoofer is thin and unobtrusive as well.  At 7 inches, it isn’t quite as thin as the speakers, (measures 15 x 14.6 x 7), but it is very easy to get it out of sight to make it heard, but not seen.

 

Installation

The T Series come with small pedestal stand you can attach so that they can be placed on a cabinet or a shelf, or you can leave the pedestal off and mount them to the wall.  They also come with a wall plate that can be attached to the wall for mounting the speakers as flush as possible.  To make it easier, they come with templates you can use to get the wall plates aligned and installed just right.  Speaker wires are attached in a smart way that doesn’t require binding posts, so there really isn’t anything pushing the speaker off the wall at all.

 

Performance

Once you get them installed and have admired how nice they look, you’ll want to actually get some sound cranking through them to test the promise of high performance in a thin package.  To be perfectly honest, we weren’t expecting to be blown away.  Having been conditioned for years on what size cabinet it takes to really make great speakers, we were hopeful that the speakers would be decent, but didn’t want to really judge them against “real” speakers.  Boy were we surprised.

 We’re home theater guys, so we started right in with 5.1 content.  We threw every piece of test content we could find at the speakers to see how they would perform and where they would fall down - and we were amazed.  They did a great job with just about everything we handed them.  From loud, intense action scenes like you find in Transformers and Spider-man 2 to the more subtle sounds you find in movies like Road to Perdition or Gladiator, the T Series speakers were great.  At high volumes, they sounded loud, crisp and very clear.  At low volumes they still had enough punch and clarity to deliver all the subtle details.

Of course, the T-2 subwoofer is a must.  It clearly rounds out the full surround sound effect and without it you’d be left feeling somewhat flat.  But we were surprised at how well it, too, was able to deliver a strong, powerful sound from such a small package.  The specs say it will reproduce sound down to 30Hz.  It doesn’t go as low as other subwoofers we’ve used, and we didn’t measure it to double check the 30Hz claim, but to our ears it certainly went low enough to deliver the boom you need for good home theater surround sound.  The key is how seamlessly the sound blends between the speakers and the sub, making the whole surround sound experience quite smooth and seamless. We compared it to a couple other subs we had laying around and it clearly outperformed a couple we thought should beat it, judging solely on the size of the box they were in.

We did take the time to listen to music, and we recommend using it as a 2.1 system, not a 2.0 system.  The speakers by themselves without the sub lack the oomph you want to get from any style of music.  So just like TV and movies, the subwoofer is a must for music through the T Series setup.  But we cranked Guns n Roses, blasted latin music and jazz and brought it down for some symphony and classical guitar.  Everything sounded great, at any volume level.  Practically the only thing we didn’t try was country music, because we all know it would take more than great speakers to make that sound good (please direct all angry emails to Braden).

 

Conclusion

It turns out KEF has shown that it might just be possible to have your cake and eat it too.  They showed us that modern technology can change some of the preconceived notions we all have about what it takes to reproduce great sound.  The key is to choose what you’re comparing the T Series speakers with.  If you try to compare them to more expensive speakers, they won’t sound as good.  But you can expect the T Series speakers to perform right up there with any other speaker at this price point, regardless of the size of the cabinet.  In some cases, the T Series might actually sound better.  Top that off with a very pleasing aesthetic and you have a winning combination.

The bottom line is that Ara wouldn’t replace his KEF Q series speakers with the T Series because the Q speakers sound better.  If they didn’t, why would KEF sell any speaker other than the T Series?  Likewise, Braden won’t be swapping out his Klipsch reference speakers in his home theater for the T Series.  But if you compare the T Series speakers with an equivalent alternative, like the Klipsch reference satellites from a few years back that we happen to still have a set of lying around, we found that the T Series sounds better.  But speakers are like ice cream, everybody has their favorite flavor and they all taste slightly different to each of us.  You need to trust your own ears when it comes to speakers and listen to them for yourself.


 

 

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Reader Comments (1)

Guys please read this RE "kodi boxes"

https://kodi.tv/the-piracy-box-sellers-and-youtube-promoters-are-killing-kodi/

March 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterFeathers

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