KEF Blade Two loudspeaker Associated Equipment

Sidebar 2: Associated Equipment

Analog Sources: Linn Sondek LP12 turntable with Lingo power supply, Linn Ekos tonearm, Linn Arkiv B cartridge.
Digital Sources: Ayre Acoustics C-5xeMP universal player; Apple 2.7GHz i7 Mac mini running OS10.10.1, iTunes 11, Pure Music 2.0, Audirvana Plus 1.5.10; PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream, Ayre Acoustics QB-9 D/A processors; dCS Vivaldi upsampling D/A system; Ayre Acoustics QA-9 USB A/D converter.
Preamplification: Channel D Seta L phono preamplifier; Ayre Acoustics KX-R Twenty line preamplifier.
Power Amplifiers: Ayre Acoustics MX-R Twenty, Bricasti Design M28 (both monoblocks).
Loudspeakers: DALI Rubicon 8, KEF LS50.
Cables: Digital: AudioQuest Coffee, Belkin Gold USB, Kubala-Sosna Elation! AES/EBU, Transparent USB (with dCS Vivaldi). Interconnect (balanced): AudioQuest Wild Blue (with PS Audio/dCS), Cardas Clear (with Ayre). Speaker: Cardas Clear. AC: Kubala-Sosna Elation!, manufacturers' own.
Accessories: Target TT-5 equipment racks; Ayre Acoustics Myrtle Blocks; ASC Tube Traps, RPG Abffusor panels; VPI Bricks, Shunyata Research Dark Field cable elevators; Audio Power Industries 116 Mk.II & PE-1 AC line conditioners (hard drive, computers). AC power comes from two dedicated 20A circuits, each just 6' from breaker box.—John Atkinson

GP Acoustics (UK) Ltd.
US distributor: GP Acoustics (US) Inc.
10 Timber Lane
Marlboro, NJ 07746
(732) 683-2356

audiodoctornj's picture

As a Blade dealer who has both the LS 50 and the Blades and the Ref 1 and 3 and the R series, I feel I know the line really, really well.

I agree with many of the comments that were made, however, I was really taken back by the comparison to the LS 50 saying that other than increased bass, and dynamics, you seem to be implying that there is some similarity between the LS 50 and the Blade II.

We love the LS 50 and even with the matching KEF R400 sub woofer the sound is really great, and in fact will challenge a lot of $5k plus speakers, but the resulting sound doesn't come close to amazing resolution, and incredible holographic sound stage, which comes out of the Blades, so it is not just about the increased bass and dynamics, there is a wholeness and organic quality to the sound that you just don't get out of the LS 50 or many other speakers.

We had a setup at the New York High End Show in 2013 with the original Blades setup with state of the art electronics, a Merrill Williams Turntable, and an EMM Labs Digital setup and the system was amazing! Yes this system was over a $100k: $30k speakers, and 50k electronics, and $15k front end plus $20k plus on cables, so the system was up there in price but I did listen to the $107k Yg the $54k Wilson's plus some other very expensive speakers and I would say that a well setup pair of Blades offers the performance of speakers in the $50k-100k price range and that is an amazing value proposition that the Kef Blades and Blade II represent.

w1000i's picture

How do you compare Ref 3 to blades ?

dfwatt's picture

Agree with you completely AudioDoctorNJ, about the Blades (both original and their baby brother).

We just picked up a pair of the Blades I, after owning (and loving each in their own way) the 104/2, the Reference 107s, the 201/2s, R300s, and several others. But the Blades are just in a different league, exactly in the way you describe in terms of the holographic sound stage they create, with a seamlessness and coherence that is just so addicting. Each generation of the KEF Uni-Q driver system has been better, and in the 201/2 generation you could begin to see this approach and technology really hitting its stride. Those 201/2 were the best small speaker anyone had created up to that point in time, while the R series might be the best value in a speaker for those with reasonable budgets, and offering an amazing amount of the technology of the previous gen Reference series for a whole lot less money.

If any $32k speaker can be considered a bargain, in the rarefied air of speakers attempting to be 'ultimate' loudspeakers, the Blades are a steal. They are worth every penny. And they frankly embarrass some of the esoteric house brands pushed by the audiophile fringe, which can easily go for three times their cost.

JA's measurements show why they sound so good. KEF technology and understanding of psycho-acoustics is a step ahead of the field, and they focus on what research shows you can actually hear, and not stuff that the audiophile community finds fashionable, trendy, etc. Science really does work, and their commitment to empirically based design shows that right now, they are making the best speakers in the world for the money.

brian_pdx's picture

Would love to hear these speakers although esthetics will take time to get used to. Similar to TT dust covers are speaker grills going away? Dust covers serve a need, make total sense and a well designed speaker grill keeping your 5 year old from putting a PBJ through a woofer makes even more sense.

brian_pdx's picture

Went to an event last Saturday at Echo Audio in Portland where the big Blades were featured by KEF. I was completely taken by the sound, one I had never heard from a home speaker before. For that price you expect it but KEF also demo'd the Reference 1 and the LS50s both of them simply outstanding but the Ref 1 was also driven by the 400W Chord monoblocks. The KEF people said the Ref. 1 could be well driven by 200 W. They also said, to answer my above question, the drivers are very "tough" and hard to damage even without grills. I agree with the reviewer that these speakers are very neutral, source material is important but I cannot get over the way the sound of all three speakers embraced me. At 1/4 the price, the Reference series is actually attainable. But the Blades make me want to buy a lottery ticket. Highly recommended.

Venere 2's picture

Although this review is about the KEF Blade, I have to mention another KEF speaker that is highly recommended.
I had the chance to audition the KEF LS50 speakers. The hype and fanfare surrounding the LS50s is out of this world. The performance is anything but… They are very good, but they don't come anywhere close to what all the hype would have one believe. They are a good buy for their price, nothing more. They absolutely do not belong in Class A!

If the 1500$ KEF LS50 belongs in class A, then what Class for the 25 000$ blades? The first Class A++++ ever for Stereophile?

makarisma's picture

I think they are great as desktop speakers.

klosterman's picture

Hi John,
Chatted with a KEF dealer recently about the Blade Two's. He emphasized they absolutely require top flight amps to make them sing properly. Didn't see that mentioned in this review.

Perhaps the unspoken assumption that pricey speakers = pricey amps? Did you try the Blades with other amp combos out of curiosity?

spudnik's picture

Having read your review I have been left with the frustrating belief that it was incomplete. The problem, as you have no doubt been informed, is that there is no comparison between Blades I and II. The ommission is also obvious: Sterephile did not reveiw the Blade I. I do not know the rationale for that choice but as I have complained before, it was a bad one. You are Stereophile. You ought to have found a way.

WM's picture

I'm guessing the slopes are steep with the side firing woofers, but just wondering if there is any issue with that crossover point and 2pi etc.

Axiom05's picture

Although this review is somewhat old, the speakers are still current, so I thought I would comment. First, the in-room response must be one of the smoothest that I have ever seen. I would imagine that this contributes to the superb imaging. I am surprised that KEF did not provide alternative port tubes like they do for the Reference series, these might have allowed you to tweak the low end a bit more, although the lowest frequency room mode is always difficult to modify with ported speakers. Second, KEF's dealer network is really awful in the US. I would love to give these speakers a serious audition but there is not a single Blade-carrying dealer in the state of Florida. The same was true when I lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Basically, I have been trying to hear these speakers since their release.

davidrmoran's picture

What is up w/ that 500Hz peak? Looks nasty-sounding. Not real?

Allison effect unpleasant lower-midrange dip ~160-260Hz can be partly addressed w/ placement experimentation closer to front wall. Probably not possible to get rid of it altogether cuz the woofers are up too high.
Nice that they are sidemounted.

remlab's picture

By looking at the lateral response family on the Uni-Q, the crossover point appears to be around 3.5 kHz rather than the specified 2.3 kHz.