KEF R107 loudspeaker Thomas J. Norton 1995 part 3
I did note a slight sonic fog in this region, particularly when the going got heavy, which seemed to relate to balance rather than congestion—the latter was admirably low, even at uncomfortably high levels. At least some of this may have originated elsewhere in the system; the Denon transport, Rowland preamp, and Carver amplifier all tend more to a sweet, slightly warm rather than analytical sound.
That said, the 107/2's balance was nevertheless particularly flattering to large-scale orchestral music; the character often referred to as the "hum" of the orchestra was definitely there. Combine this with the 107's prodigious dynamic range and big, open quality, and you have a loudspeaker that can definitely sound convincing on the most challenging material.
The 107/2's impressive dynamic range extended all the way to the lower bass. My first reaction to the KEF at the extreme bottom was, "So where is it?" With a rated -6dB point of 18Hz, I was somehow expecting more. Perhaps I've been listening to too many subwoofers recently. But the more I listened to the 107/2, the more I appreciated its power and bottom-end reach. No, it definitely did not equal the "feel" of the very best subwoofers in either extension or the capacity to roll down your socks. But it definitely did go deep, with plenty of punch.
And it handled every musical bass test I could throw at it, from Däfos (Reference RR-CD12) to the opening notes on the Jurassic Park soundtrack (MCA MCAD-10859). It also passed the crunch test with video-based material, emitting no protest when asked to reproduce the falling rock from Aladdin and the dino stomp from Jurassic Park.
But while it did a satisfactory job with the deep bass on the video material, it did not really produce the sort of room-shaking "feel" that gives this sort of material its full emotional impact. I have yet to find a single, full-range loudspeaker that does, however. Even expensive, high-end loudspeakers can use a little added bass oomph with video material. With music, however, a pair of 107/2s will more than hold its own. They beat the Thiel CS7s, in my room, in both bass dynamic range and subjective extension. The Thiels' bass was definitely tighter, however, and their overall sound more open and transparent—at least partly because of this tighter, cleaner mid- and upper bass.
I haven't said much about the 107/2's top end, because there's little to say. It was clean, sweet, and slightly soft at the very top, but in no way dull. Everything was there, but in proper proportion. My listening height put my ears about level with the midrange, which put me just a few degrees off-axis to the tweeter. I experimented briefly with tilting the cabinet forward slightly to listen on a more direct line to the tweeter axis, and while this resulted in a somewhat brighter, tighter sound, some of the 107/2's relaxed quality disappeared in the process. I quickly returned to the standard cabinet setup.
Other observations? The KEFs' soundstage was right up there with the best large loudspeakers. Depth was good, though in my room I didn't find it to stand out in any particular way from that of other good designs, such as the Thiels or the Energy Veritas v2.8s.
As to the KUBE, which is an integral part of the system: some may balk at its combination of ICs and a minimalist power supply (fed by one of those ubiquitous wall-warts), but it did appear to be well-made. Since the system is only properly balanced with the KUBE, I made no attempt to audition the 107/2s without it, as that would prove little.
I did almost all of the listening for the above observations with the KUBE controls set on flat and saw no pressing reason to alter them. I did experiment briefly with them, however, and found that their effect was very subtle—far more evident on pink noise than on music. The changes weren't insignificant, but their usefulness in correcting for room-matching problems appeared to be very limited.
The KUBE, incidentally, has only unbalanced inputs and outputs. This didn't bother me in the least—I have never found significant practical advantages in the home with balanced electronics. But readers who have gone to considerable effort and expense to set up a balanced system may not warm to the 107/2.
When I heard the original KEF Model 107/2s in JA's listening room a few years ago, I found them a little polite and dynamically restrained. I have no such reservations about the newer versions. I suspect the difference is due less to any change in the loudspeaker than to a change to a larger, slightly livelier room and a longer exposure to a wide range of program material.
Polite? Well, if polite means lacking in unnatural vividness and an unnatural "hi-fi" quality, then the 107/2 qualifies. JA subsequently reviewed the 107/2 in May '91 (Vol.14 No.5) and found them to be "one of the few full-range dynamic loudspeakers that I have experienced to touch the soul—not just of the music, but of the listener." A strong endorsement. And, based on my auditions of the latest version, one that I would not argue with.—Thomas J. Norton