KEF R900 Loudspeaker

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KEF R900
KEF R900  Loudspeaker

It is hard to believe that anyone with even a passing interest in things audio could have remained either ignorant of or indifferent to KEF’s Blade loudspeaker. “Job done”, might be the conclusion. After all, isn’t the role of any flagship product to attract attention. Well, yes it is – but there’s more to it than that, and whilst accusing the Blade of attention seeking is easy, it is also underselling what is a genuinely revolutionary product. That’s a term I hesitate to use, simply because over exposure has devalued its meaning, but you can apply it to the Blade in its truest sense. This is a de facto blue-sky project, building on existing thinking and combining it with new materials and a completely new topology to extend not just the concept but also the performance, rewriting along the way the cost/performance equation, along the way asking some pretty pointed questions of the established order.

But the other role of the flagship is to add lustre to the more accessible products that bask in its reflected glow. “Trickle down” is a term that’s almost as over-used and worn out as “revolutionary”: there are plenty of affordable products that dress the part and deliver the same lines as their more illustrious cousins, but do they match – or even hint at – their performance? It’s a question that’s particularly pertinent in the case of the KEF Blade, because if any product can deliver on the gene-pool promise this should be it. The company makes pretty much every part of the Blade itself. No borrowed technology or bought-in components means no fixed price, irreducible costs, so in theory, the economies of scale can deliver their full benefits. Now factor in the Blade’s already outstanding cost/performance ratio and the possibility of something really special, at a price mere mortals can afford, becomes a tantalizing prospect…

On the face of it, suggesting that the R900 could be just such a product looks like a stretch. Not only is it physically so obviously different to the Blade’s sculpted Bauhaus minimalism, post-Ikea modernist and almost stubbornly rectangular, sharp edged and sharply dressed, flat-panels with with a welcome dash of Ligne Roset, it is just a touch over one tenth of the flagship’s price. A Blade on the cheap? Really? But look a little more closely and the common strands emerge. More to the point, listen and the similarities are even more obvious.

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