KEF R11 Meta Loudspeaker

hfnoutstandingKEF's R series adopts all the 'acoustic principles' of its far costlier Reference range, but is the big R11 Meta a 'disruptor'

How to make sense of the KEF speaker range? A sideways glance helps no end: comparing ostensibly similar models from across the company's four mainstream lineups – five, if you count the highly polished Muon flagship [HFN May '08] – will give a clearer idea of the way these various loudspeaker series dovetail together, even when the similarities seem greater than the differences.

Take the Reference range, for example. This does what it says on the tin, if you rule out the sculptural Blade speakers [HFN May '22] that sit above it, while the R series snaps very close to its heels. For each Reference speaker, there's a parallel R series model, so the £5500 R11 Meta seems very similar to the £17,000 Reference 5 Meta [HFN Jun '23] – both have KEF's latest-generation Uni-Q mid/treble driver, complete with the company's MAT (Metamaterial Absorption Technology), straddled by a quartet of bass units. However, while the Reference 5 Meta has alloy-coned bass drivers, those fitted to the R11 Meta are alloy-skinned with a pulp cone connected behind and to the motor system. The 450Hz/2.1kHz and 330Hz/2.5kHz crossovers, respectively, are also clearly 'tuned' differently.

Sibling Rivalry
The Reference 5 Meta also pips the R11 Meta slightly in size – at just over 1.4m tall complete with its fitted plinth, it's some 10cm loftier than the more affordable speaker on test here. Furthermore, while the Reference models are assembled in the UK, the R Series comes in from overseas manufacturing facilities run by KEF's parent company Gold Peak, which acquired the British audio brand some three decades ago.


Two pairs of 165mm alloy diaphragm/paper-coned bass units flank a 12th-generation Uni-Q array (with MAT). The tall, slim cabinet is stabilised by spiked outriggers and is available in three colourways – Gloss Black, Gloss White and Walnut, each with matching driver/trim colours

The R series cabinets also miss out on the range of luxury finishes you'll find on their upmarket Reference stablemates, but whether in black or white gloss, or walnut finish, complete with drive units and grilles colour-coded to the cabinet, the R11 Meta both looks the business and delivers on the promise of its styling.

Of course, the adoption of the MAT 'maze' behind the aluminium dome tweeter, the better to control its rearward radiation and thus clean up the high frequencies, has had the effect of bringing the R Series closer to the Reference models. Now used in many of KEF's designs, including the LS range of wireless speakers [HFN Sep '22] and Blade, it works together with the Uni-Q technology the company has been applying to its designs since this 'coincident source speaker driver' was launched back in the late 1980s.

Serious thought has even gone into the design of the full-length grilles – instead of relying on a fabric cover being sufficiently acoustically transparent, KEF has punched each grille with a huge number of microperforations (1801, in fact) to let the music flow through and still provide protection to the drivers.

The R11 Meta speaker might look big in our pictures, but in fact it's slender, with the cabinet just 20cm wide – any narrower would make it tricky to fit those 165mm diameter bass units into the baffle. It's room-friendly too, with two-piece foam bungs provided for the rear reflex ports, enabling them to be used as close as 20cm from the back wall. And with their high sensitivity and modest load they thrived on the end of the Constellation Inspiration monoblocks [HFN Oct '19] driving them in PM's listening room. The new Michi X3 Series 2 integrated, which is seriously powerful and rather more price-compatible, also makes for a grand partner.

sqnote Fun Factor
The R11 Metas impress almost from the off: even with a vintage track such as 'Corner Pocket' from Count Basie's Live At The Sands (Before Frank), recorded in 1966 [MFSL UDSACD 2113], the speakers deliver a fabulously big and powerful sound with bags of detail. This was a very easy listen without losing any of the 'hi-fi-ness' – think effortless focus and soundstaging, and punching out the band with real swing and ambience.

GP Acoustics (UK) Ltd
Maidstone, Kent
Supplied by: GP Acoustics (UK) Ltd
01622 672 261