In fact, the R900’s performance is the sonic equivalent of form following function. Once you understand why it looks the way it does, what all the different elements contribute, it sounds exactly the way you think it should. Curzon’s famous Mozart Piano Concertos (with Britten and the ECO) have the delicacy and fluidity, the sense of space and colour that made their reputation. The KEFs reveal a real authority, a rhythmic discipline and a wonderfully solid and textured bottom end to the piano that brings the music to life. Such a difficult instrument to reproduce, the R900s show far more expensive speakers just what they should be doing with this complex box of hammers and wires. They reveal the weight and body of the instrument without adding the weight of their own (carefully engineered) body to the mix. Even Joe Jackson attacking the keyboard on Summer In The City doesn’t provoke the KEF’s dark side and unlike boxes of similar size that deliver more weight, they never lose control and the bottom end never becomes an embarrassment. Just as importantly, they are so dynamically and tonally consistent that they are almost impervious to level, going loud or quiet with equal ease and a totally absence of dynamic collapse or strain.
Superbly integrated and effortlessly refined, dynamic and authoritative, the R900s are the living embodiment of trickledown technology. They incorporate the thinking behind and deliver a considerable slice of flagship performance at a distinctly real world price. If there is a downside, it’s that they have flagship sensibilities when it comes to the system you hang them on the end of. But get the details right and the R900s will surprise and startle, not with obvious attributes but with the way they disappear from the musical picture. They are the epitome of an understated engineering and musical masterpiece and deserve to be taken far more seriously than their price suggests – which is pretty much exactly what it says on the trickle-down tin.
Type: Three-way, reflex loaded speaker
Driver Complement: 1x 25mm/125mm Uni-Q with aluminium MF cone and HF dome 2x 200mm aluminium cone LF
Bandwidth: 40Hz – 28kHz ±3dB
Impedance: 8 Ohms (3.7 Ohms minimum)
Weight: 29.5kg ea.
Dimensions (WxHxD): 24cm x 113cm x 36.5cm
Finishes: Black or white high-gloss, walnut or rosewood real wood veneers
Price: £2750 per pair
GP Acoustics (UK) Ltd
Tel: _44(0)1622 672261
Setting up the R900s; not as Fussy as the Blade, But…
The attention paid to dispersion and delivering clean uncluttered bass is reflected in the R900’s performance and the way it responds to a little TLC. Devoid of the usual clutter and rounded smudging that covers a multitude of system sins, it responds with gusto to any efforts expended on system set up – and an equally emphatic raspberry if your house-keeping isn’t up to the mark. Normal rules apply, meaning the better the system the better the R900 will sound, and whilst it isn’t as ruthless as the Blade, it will still point out poor systems while rewarding better ones more enthusiastically than any speaker at this price should.
The other key to unlocking the R900’s considerable musical potential is care when it comes to placement. Thankfully, there is at least one area in which the cheaper speaker trounces its more illustrious antecedent. It comes fitted with a set of cast aluminium outriggers, each sporting a socket-headed M8 spike that is easily adjusted from above – which matters because once you’ve got the R900s placed (you’ll need to work within 1cm or so) and decided whether you prefer the ports open or foam filled – I far preferred letting them breathe, but in a small room or close to a wall the plugs could well be a blessing – you need to spend time on getting them perfectly upright and then adjusting the rake angle. The taller Blades needed to be tilted forward, the R900s work better tilted slightly back to point the tweeters up towards seated ear height, but with both speakers, it is critical to get the tweeter axis spot on to really lock in both the imaging and rhythmic coherence. I used them toed in to point at my shoulders – again, the same as the Blades.