KEF Reference 5 Meta Loudspeaker

hfnoutstandingThe 'Blade' models fly the flag for KEF's speaker tech, but its Reference 5 offers a more accessible route to 'high-end Uni-Q'

Fortunately, the Reference 5 Meta is the £17,500 flagship of KEF's 'conventional' speaker range, bettered only by the striking-looking Blade designs [HFN May '22]. Fortunately? Well, yes, because this is an imposingly huge design, standing just over 1.4m tall, even if some of that impression of scale is minimised by the slenderness of the cabinets. Indeed, if the enclosures were any narrower than their 205mm, there wouldn't be room on the front baffle for the quartet of 165mm aluminium-coned bass drivers, arranged in pairs above and below the company's 12th-generation Uni-Q treble/midrange unit.

KEF's Reference 5 Meta looks strikingly clean in its all-white high-gloss finish seen here, with bass drivers anodised to match the immaculately finished cabinet and champagne coloured Uni-Q. There's a wide range of other colourways on offer – you can have white with a blue Uni-Q, satin walnut with a silver baffle and driver array, and high-gloss black with the Uni-Q in either grey or a lustrous copper.

Meta Physical
The white was well suited to the light wood floor and general décor of PM's listening room, but I must admit to a real hankering for that gloss black/copper finish. And while a set of ten magnetically attached grilles, finished in black and with one for each driver, is available at £250, frankly it would be a shame to cover up KEF's beautifully finished drive-units.

In fact the whole of the Reference 5 Meta exudes precision engineering: the coincident Uni-Q driver, with its 25mm aluminium dome tweeter in the 'throat' of the 125mm midrange cone, also made from aluminium, will be a familiar concept to HFN readers. So too will KEF's Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) used to absorb a claimed 99% of the unwanted output from the rear of the tweeter [HFN Jun '21].


Two pairs of 165mm aluminium-coned bass units flank a 12th-generation Uni-Q array (with MAT). The tall, slim cabinet is stabilised by spiked outriggers and available in numerous contrasting cabinet/driver colourways, including High Gloss Black/Copper and High Gloss White/Blue

The absorber is a compact maze-like structure, comprising channels that 'soak away' specific frequencies, the MAT disc itself sitting in a redesigned space behind the driver, with two porous rings further damping resonances. The midrange motor has a new copper ring to reduce inductance, thus lowering distortion and compression, while the company's tangerine waveguide is used to control dispersion, and response, over a wider listening area. Importantly, KEF has decoupled the Uni-Q array from the main cabinet to prevent direct interference from that powerful quartet of bass units, which take over from below about 450Hz.

Built For Bass
A full four of these 165mm drivers amounts to a substantial radiating area, their light, stiff and dished diaphragms driven by hefty, vented magnet systems with large aluminium voice coils. And there's as much 'devil in the detail' when it comes to the cabinets themselves, and the design of the skeletal stabilising plinth in particular. Rather than going for a large rectangular slab to extend the footprint, here the assembly bolts into place to form four spiked outriggers, adding just under 12cm to the width of the cabinet, and a mere 5mm to the depth, the better to locate the 60kg enclosure. Tall it may be, but the Reference 5 Meta feels rock-solid.

Neat, too, is what goes on around the back of the speaker. The flexible bass-reflex arrangement affords some DSP-free room-tuning while the design of the terminal panel is also worthy of mention, as this usually prosaic part of a speaker's build shows KEF's customary attention to detail. High-quality terminals, able to take 4mm plugs, spades or bare wire, are provided for bi-wiring or bi-amping, but selecting between these and single-wire operation is merely a matter of turning a pair of well-finished knobs. Styled to match the terminal clamps, these levers move an internal link that connects, or disconnects, the two halves of the split crossover.

sqnote Sitting Pretty
If the industrial design of the Reference 5 Meta seems better suited to those who want all that 'KEF engineering' without the radical styling of the Blade One Meta, not to mention the £30,000 price tag, then the sound is not held hostage. Despite my initial fears that the Uni-Q driver might be set a little low in the baffle, at less than a metre from the floor, when I settled into the listening seat it was clearly perfectly placed. There was no change in tonality whether I sat upright or slumped, and I experienced an even balance and excellent imaging at every position along PM's big four-seat sofa.

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