Friday, May 20, 2011

KEF Blade at HighEnd 2011

Today one of Great Britain's granddaddy brands, KEF, launched the Blade loudspeaker at 24,000€ per pair. This is the production version of the Concept Blade, and it will be available at a KEF dealer near you in about three months. This isn't exactly the same speaker as the Concept Blade: The carbon-fiber cabinet is now gone, the four woofers have shrunk from 10" units to 9", and the external crossover of the Concept is history. But according to KEF, the Uni-Q driver in the production Blade is their best yet, the bass performance is better through more advanced driver research, and the overall design has been subtly refined in several critical parameters. Technical details abound, like the fact that each woofer and the Uni-Q are all mounted with their centers equidistant from each other, creating what KEF says is the first three-way point-source speaker. KEF's CEO, Marten Klaassen, wasn't humble in his assessment of the Blade's performance when he said, "There is no better speaker in the world."

Now, embellishment is the norm at audio shows. But the Blade did sound amazing in Munich this year. One observation is that, tonally, the Blade's sound didn't change whether I was sitting in front of it or off to the side. Talk about wide and even dispersion! And the bass seemed unusually quick and punchy, giving rock music a driving beat that's non-existent in many audiophile speakers. Yes, the Blade is special -- and available andreasonably priced -- at least for something aiming to represent the state of the art.