KEF R3 loudspeaker Page 2

With the grilles off, you'll also find that the skills gained in making some of the brightly-coloured driver finishes found elsewhere in the company's range – notably in the LS50s, Blade and the 'Foundry Edition' variants of the Reference series – are used to more subtle effect here, by colour-keying the drivers to match the cabinet finish chosen. It's an unusual but very effective detail, as is the fact that the grilles are also toned to match the cabinets – in grey for the white model and brown for the walnut, plus of course black for the gloss black speakers.

sqnote.jpgFocused 'N' Refined
The R3 isn't the smallest of standmount speakers, at some 42cm tall, but it doesn't look excessively large when used on KEF's matching stands, which are available in a choice of black, grey or white. What's more, the R3 is a relatively unfussy design when it comes to both positioning and partnering equipment. I ended up with the speakers around half a metre away from side and rear walls, with a slight toe-in to the listening position to firm up the image. Even with them pushed well back, the bass remained controlled and well-defined.

Like all the best speakers, these KEFs get better as you up the ante on the source and amplification front, but they're happy enough being driven by modest amps if that's all you have. I had good results with both the slightly restrained Arcam SA10 and the sparkier Pioneer A-40AE [HFN Aug '18] at the lower end of the price scale, while the speakers really thrived on the end of my usual Naim set-up, as well as with the storming Parasound Halo JC5 power amp – which might just be seen as slightly OTT for a £1300 pair of speakers!


A feeling of precision is the most obvious first impression of the R3, with clear, focused soundstaging and excellent resolution of voices and instruments alike. But all this is underpinned with bass that's both weighty and well-controlled, with no sense of lack of extension and not a hint of overwrought upper bass being employed to hide any deficiencies lower down.

Instead the R3 is all about balance and a totally 'together' presentation of the music, enhanced by the excellent imaging that's almost a Uni-Q tech trademark. That means the speakers make the most of the live presence of the That Hot Pink Blues Album by Keb' Mo' [Kind of Blue Music KOBL 41475], while displaying a deft touch with the rhythms and, of course, the guitar and voice, all wrapped in a warmth and generosity that makes the set so easy to enjoy. There's no softness or restraint here – rather the speakers are allowing the atmosphere of the recording to come through.

Nose To Nose
They do the same with the unashamed roughness of Ian Dury & The Blockheads' New Boots And Panties!!, being especially persuasive with the stripped-down demo versions on the 2015 Edsel two-disc re-release [EDSK 7080], which get closer to Dury's voice and the instruments. The alternative version of 'Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll' is all sinuous bass-lines and rolling piano figures, and these show the control and speed of the R3s extremely well.

That same combination of rhythmic acuity and tightly controlled detail also serves well the new Paul Weller set, True Meanings [Parlophone 0190295615161] – even on tracks such as 'Glide' where the vocal recording is 'intimate' and Weller seems to be nose to nose with the listener.

The lushness of the mixes on this album means the sound is often extremely dense, but the R3s, especially on the end of sprightly amplification, make a fine job of opening things up so one can listen in rather than simply letting it all wash across the room.

It's no surprise, therefore, that the R3 speakers are fast and vibrant with the latest set from Scandi-jazzers Phronesis, We Are All [Edition Records EDN1118]. Here Jasper Hølby's bass is at once sonorous and tight, while Ivo Neame's piano combines body and lightness of touch, and Anton Eger's drumming is revealed with all its invention intact.

Indeed, while these new KEFs have the weight and speed to rock, they're at their most persuasively sparkling with well-recorded instruments, as is clear when Anna Fedorova blasts through the final section of Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata on her Four Fantasies album [Channel Classics CCS41318; DSD128]. The performance has no shortage of attack, and yet the speakers allow every note from the Steinway piano to be heard and enjoyed, bathed in the spacious acoustic of the concert-hall space.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The R3 isn't without competition in this sector of the market, with models such as the Spendor A1, Monitor Audio Gold 100 and B&W 706 S2 breathing the same sort of air, but it distinguishes itself with precision and control, plus the ability to have a good time. The many improvements made have built on long-standing KEF strengths, in particular the imaging from that Uni-Q driver and the quality of the bass.

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