KEF R3 Meta Loudspeaker Page 2

Link Wray's proto-rock track 'Rumble' [The Link Wray Collection: 1956-62; Acrobat ADDCD3316] sounded as fresh as a daisy, KEF's speaker conveying the lightly overdriven guitar chords with a level of bite, but no lack of finesse, and giving bass and drums sufficient depth and impact to explain why this 1956 instrumental was such a hit in its day. The R3 Meta's revealing nature lays bare the somewhat basic nature of the recording, but in a good way, sending your mind spinning back decades.

This sense of a naturalistic, uncoloured performance is aided by KEF's cabinets effectively getting 'out of the way' and, perhaps, the coincident nature of the mid and treble units. There was certainly an immediacy to its presentation of Chris Isaak's lovelorn classic 'Wicked Game' [Heart Shaped World; Reprise Records 44.1kHz/16-bit FLAC] that had me forget about the speakers in front. Instead, I was caught out by the dreamy, almost ethereal production and the detail-packed, wide soundstage. Isaak was a central presence, but the oh-so-quiet backing vocals were there to be heard. This piece also revealed the R3 Meta's accomplished way with instrumental tones. The signature surf-style guitar melody was reverberant and full-bodied, rather than thin and constrained, while the bassline was plump and extended without dominating.

Taking A Lead
More varied instruments are dotted all over The Roy Hargrove Quintet's superb jazz set Earfood [EmArcy 0602517641815], including trumpet, piano, sax, clarinet, acoustic bass and percussion, and they came and went in a flurry of distinctly different timbres, the R3 Meta also showing its ability to snap into leading edges, other notes fading gracefully away.


KEF R3 Meta seen in its 'Indigo' finish. Split bass/Uni-Q crossover enables bi-wiring/bi-amping via two sets of chromed 4mm cable terminals linked, internally, via two rotaries. Note that cables may be hidden and 'dressed' via the inside of the stand

The Hargrove album is an audiophile's dream, and so too is Kanye West's Yeezus [Def Jam Recordings 602537432134], although for different reasons. 'Black Skinhead' bounded out of the R3 Meta with angular, industrial samples and frantic, glitchy beats – it's a messy, stop-start song yet KEF's R3 Meta made sure it sounded coherent and fizzing with energy. Producer Rick Rubin routinely sends effects and vocals flying far left and right, and the result here was a startling widescreen image, underpinned by bass without an ounce of flab.

This loudspeaker is also happy to oblige with up-tempo rock, revealing a fun side to go with its excellent handling of more delicate compositions. Given Greta van Fleet's Led Zeppelin-esque 'Safari Song' [From The Fires; Republic Records 44.1kHz/24-bit], the rambling, bluesy groove of the piece is as noticeable as the skilful playing of bass and electric guitar. It sounds authentically large and hard-hitting, as does the prog-rock madness of the Wasteland album from Polish band Riverside [Sony Music 19075875402]. The influences here range from Mike Oldfield to Lalo Schifrin, via heavy metal, and the R3 Meta takes it all in its stride, accurately conveying the weight of a piano one minute, and the smooth tones of singer Mariusz Duda the next.

Special Offer
The R3 Meta's rated 87dB sensitivity and 4ohm nominal impedance might suggest a tougher-than-typical drive, but I found it worked happily with Audiolab's similarly priced 9000A integrated [HFN Aug '23], and had superb results with Primare's beefier, Class D A35.2 power amp [HFN Dec '19]. Ramp up the level and KEF's latest standmount rewards with a dynamic, full-range performance.

Some well-worn demo tracks, including Dire Straits' 'Telegraph Road' [Love Over Gold; Vertigo 800 088-2], Elton John's 'Rocket Man' [Honky Chateau; Mercury 528 162-2], and the York remix of Mike Oldfield's 'Ommadawn' [Tubular Beats; Ear Music; 44kHz/16-bit] reinforced my belief that KEF has achieved something rather special here. This is a well-priced speaker with high-end aspirations and a sound to match.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
KEF's R3 Meta will surely shake up the sub-£2000 standmount speaker market. Armed with trickledown technology from the Reference range, and a style and build quality that makes a mockery of the price, it sounds as smart as it looks. Superb with rock, jazz and everything in between, it offers detail across the audio band, from rich, deep bass to open-sounding highs. You just need to choose a colour.

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