As if inspired by science fiction films from the 1950s, KEF’s $1499 KHT 3000 system is composed of sleek elliptically shaped speaker satellite and center channels modules, plus a subwoofer that looks for all the world like a flying saucer. Some will find the system’s curvilinear design exquisite, while others might think it’s a bit over the top, but either way the KHT 3000 rig is bound to draw attention. And that’s a good thing, because—apart from space-age styling—this system offers listeners some very serious small loudspeakers.
The KHT 3000 satellites/center channel modules feature KEF Uni-Q drive units with small, waveguide-loaded dome tweeters positioned in the throats of ringshaped mid-bass drivers (essentially, a driver-within-a-driver system). But here the Uni-Q drivers incorporate two technical advancements that prove sonically significant.
First, mid-bass speaker diaphragms feature molded-in radial stiffening ribs said to improve rigidity dramatically. While the ribs look too small to make a significant difference, they in fact give the KHT 3000 modules a much clearer, more focused sound than previous small KEF speakers have achieved. Second, the diaphragms are supported both by outer and inner surround rings (not just the outer ring typical in most drivers). KEF says the inner rings help control driver movement, and improve power handling and dynamics. While the KHT 3000 system somewhat resembles past KEF sat/sub packages, it takes substantial steps forward in terms of sound quality.
A New Take
Traditionally, KEF speakers have been known for their warm, gentle, almost self-effacingly natural sound, but the KHT 3000 system breaks new ground by offering a more forward sound that is rich in small transient and textural details. This voicing scheme works particularly well for films, making dialog more intelligible, and clarifying subtle effects that might otherwise be lost or obscured. On Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the KEFs revealed the subtle inflections in Li Mu Bai’s voice during his quiet, passionate conversation with Shu Lien in the tea pavilion. The ability to convey passion, even when voices are barely above whisper levels, is something not all small speakers can pull off. The system also handles large-scale dynamics gracefully, doing a credible job on the Fhloston Paradise battle scene from The Fifth Element. Just bear in mind that the KHT 3000 satellites and sub will eventually run out of steam if pressed too hard for too long. The system can achieve reasonably high output levels even in largeish rooms, but if you hear audible signs of compression, know that it's time to back volume levels down.