KEF Blade Two Meta loudspeaker

It seems as if I have been waiting for these all my life. Not in any existential sense, but in a literal, practical way: The arrival of the Blade Two Meta is the culmination of a lifelong fascination with KEF. As a teenager, I was introduced to founder Raymond Cooke and his innovative "race-track" woofer, Mylar tweeter dome, and Bextrene cones in Bud Fried's IMF Newsletter. Shortly thereafter, I commenced decades of building loudspeakers, mostly with KEF drivers, and, beginning with the 104 in 1973, pining for their Reference speakers. They always seemed to strike the right balance of intelligent engineering, solid construction, and domestic suitability. Regrettably, they were always priced out of my reach.

The project Cooke started has been sustained by a succession of notable designers and engineers (Laurie Fincham; Andrew Jones), and it seems to be flourishing under the current VP of technology, Jack Oclee-Brown. During his tenure, we have seen the maturation and refinement of the Uni-Q coaxial driver, the development and implementation of Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT), the use of force-canceling woofers to minimize cabinet vibration and coloration, and the introduction of stiff, glass-reinforced composite cabinet material shaped to reduce diffraction. These technologies and others combine in what KEF calls a "Single Apparent Source." All are incorporated in the new Blade Meta speakers.

When the original Blade was released in 2009, I was fascinated but also intimidated. They looked like no other speaker, and they were tall. The latter is significant because I enjoy the view from my Manhattan apartment, unobstructed on the inside, at least. Still, I was jealous when John Atkinson reviewed the smaller com/Blade Two in 2015. This time, anticipating updates to the Blades (and the Reference line) for KEF's 60th birthday, I presumptuously requested a pair of the new Blade Twos well before they were announced. It worked.

822kef.uni

Superficially, the Blade Two Meta looks just like its predecessor: same shape, same dimensions, same weight, a single Uni-Q driver on the front, two pairs of force-canceling woofers mounted on the cabinet's two sides, and two large ports, each venting a separate chamber for each woofer pair. Even the speaker terminals look the same. Yes, the price is higher, but taking inflation into account, the new speaker is actually about 10% cheaper.

So, what's new in 2022? Uni-Q, KEF's unique, concentric tweeter/midrange driver, is now in its 12th generation; as the "Meta" name indicates, it incorporates Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) to reduce the influence of the reflection of the tweeter's backwave back onto its own diaphragm. This 12th generation technology has already appeared in the LS50 Meta, and John Atkinson said that in comparing it to its predecessor, it "improves on its presentation of low-level detail and ... presents a more transparent window into the recorded soundstage." (footnote 1)

The Uni-Q in the Blade Two is a bit different. The LS50 is a two-way loudspeaker, its Uni-Q is a tweeter/midwoofer combination, while in the three-way Blade, the Uni-Q is a tweeter/midrange combination, so it's free to operate over a narrower bandwidth.

The Meta Uni-Q's midrange also operates over a narrower bandwidth than the Uni-Q in the original, crossing over to the woofers at 450Hz and to the tweeter at 2.2kHz, compared to 320Hz and 2.4kHz in the original Blade Two. The increase in the lower-limit frequency should improve power handling. Frequency-response linearity and dispersion control have been enhanced by a redesign of the crossover, which now incorporates a polarity inversion for the midrange. A fascinating and comprehensive document on the technical development of the Blade and Reference series is available from KEF (footnote 2).

Setting up the Blade Two Metas
Oh, my, these are lovely speakers. Our room style might be described as transitional, with traditional elements and far from modern. Yet, the Brâncusi-inspired Blades fit right in. Yes, they are tall and deep, but they are so narrow, gracefully shaped, and finished that they do not dominate the space visually no matter where they are placed.

These Charcoal Grey and Bronze Blade Two Metas were trucked in from KEF America in New Jersey and installed by a team headed by Ben Hagens, KEF's product training manager. It was the swiftest installation of a pair of large speakers that I've witnessed. The KEF guys knew what they were doing, the packaging was uncomplicated, no assembly was needed, and for all their size, the Blades are relatively light, at 78lb. What's more, Ben was happy to let me deal with the fine-tuning. We were all standing, behind the sofa where I normally sit while listening. I connected speaker cables to the upper pair of terminals on each Blade and hit Play. The sound that emerged was immediately appealing, so, after exchanging a few stories and anecdotes, Ben and his team took their leave and headed back to NJ, taking the boxes with them.

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All this was in stark, welcome contrast to many lengthy, micromanaged installations in the past.

When I sat down to listen seriously, I found that the bass from the Blades was uncritical of placement: As long as each Blade remained within the magic 1m circles where almost all speakers end up, the bass was full, deep, and tight. Otherwise, the heard sound was clean and well-balanced but a little bit diffuse: A snapped-in center image was lacking.

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Using Scenes in Tin Can Alley, a delightful new recording of piano music by American composer Florence Price performed by Josh Tatsuo Cullen (24/96 download, Blue Griffin), I moved the Blades around their end of the room. They were fine wherever I put them; however, to optimize the initial sense of the acoustical space of Blue Griffin's Studio, "The Ballroom," and to solidly place the piano in the center, the Blades needed to sit a few inches farther apart and closer to the wall behind them—farther from the listening position—than my Revel Studio2s did. Like the Studios, they were best toed-in, aimed directly at the listening position.

Now, from the listening position, I was able to enjoy the well-defined image of the piano as Cullen romped through Price's often bluesy melodies, the ambience spread wide and deep but with little echo to obscure the music's delicacy.

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Listening
Once I had the setup I wanted, I switched to Gottlieb Wallisch's set of four (so far) discs 20th Century Foxtrots. I had acquired the first volume (16/44.1 download, Grand Piano) out of curiosity, immediately became addicted, and grabbed the three (so far) succeeding issues as soon as they appeared.


Footnote 1: See JA's review for a description of the MAT technology.

Footnote 2: KEF offers a comprehensive document on the Blade and Reference technical development. See shop.us.kef.com/pub/media/reference/KEF_Blade_Ref_Meta_Tech_Paper.pdf. The link is a bit wonky, so keep trying if it doesn't work

COMPANY INFO
KEF, GP Acoustics (UK) Ltd.
US distributor: GP Acoustics (US) Inc.
10 Timber Ln.
Marlboro, NJ 07746
(732) 683-2356
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
remlab's picture

but this is as close as I've ever seen. I know KEF has always done nonstop R&D over the decades and will continue this practice, but how on earth could they ever improve on this design? I'm sure that HD and IM distortion measurements are just as flawless as everything else. Crazy.

volvic's picture

Have heard them over the years in different iterations, improvements etc., and they never fail to amaze. They seem to do everything right and not many speakers have ever done that for me, maybe Focals, MBL and Verity Audio. Very special speakers, wish I had the space and the cash for a pair.

JRT's picture

...for another interesting, well thought out, well executed, and well written review of an interesting loudspeaker. And I also appreciate the efforts of JA1 in providing measurements and associated useful commentary.

You gentlemen do not receive enough positive feedback in the comments section for the high level of competence in all of the good work which you provide here, and the significant effort that goes into that.

Edit: I had a question about the Uni-Q coax utilized in this loudspeaker, but reading the KEF whitepaper at the link provided in footnote 2 answered my question.

Mev Dinc's picture

your excellent review moved them to the top of the list.

johnnythunder1's picture

Any time I've seen the Blade speakers I think of the ridiculous "fish fountain" from Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle. https://medium.com/@hyeoh/bong-joon-hos-parasite-and-jacques-tati-s-mon-oncle-d1b23564db93

remlab's picture

..sometimes in the near future. Trickle down technology(Kind of). I know the magazine frowns on one piece audio solutions, but it would still be a very interesting review in comparison with the Blade 2

JRT's picture

KEF's LS60 Meta wireless is a two piece (if you ignore counting the added componentry included in varied domestic IT infrastructures) consisting of a seemingly proper pair of floor-standing DSP filtered active loudspeakers with added functionality.

Compared to KEF's Blade II Meta and LS50 Meta, the LS60 Meta utilizes a smaller diameter Uni-Q coax, allowing for the narrower baffle, which may be a little more conducive to domestic harmony with a non-audio-enthusiast spousal-type weighing in with counter demands on room decor. And it will sound better than an aging Bose Lifestyle modular hideaway system.

All of that is in contrast to the one piece wireless Sonus Faber Omnia boombox audio enabled plant stand, in Stereophile's review recently posted here.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/sonus-faber-omnia-wireless-loudspeaker

rpeluso's picture

So with this review I gather that you now think the Perlisten S7t speakers are the second best you have ever heard, is this right?

Kal Rubinson's picture
Quote:

So with this review I gather that you now think the Perlisten S7t speakers are the second best you have ever heard, is this right?

Yes and I wrote a somewhat detailed and, perhaps, sophistic explanation of the situation but that did not make it into print. Bottom line is that I was not sufficiently motivated to buy the S7t and I moved on. It is still a speaker that I would recommend to anyone for serious consideration.

P.S.: The LS60s are on the to-do list.

wannarock2's picture

yeah the LS60 wireless could be the bargain of the design.
(kal thinking surround sound ☀‿☀)

yyz's picture

I am curious how the Blade 2 Meta, my next speaker, would sound with overwhelming power such as with the Rotel Michi M8 monos.

About 5 years ago I heard the Blade 1 with the Hegel H30 monos which are similar power wise to the Michi M8. It was a real fun listen, but the Hegel was not very clean sounding on top. When I demoed the lower powered Michi X5 integrated, it seemed cleaner sounding than the Hegel H30 with the some new B&W speakers. As a frame of reference, the Benchmark AHB2 is as clean as it gets for my ears.

The upcoming KRELL KSA i400 uber amp is something that I think would be excellent with the Blade 2 Meta. I have owned 2 of the new KRELL XD amps and I am now considering trading one in for this uber KRELL amp.

I also have my Benchmark AHB2 monos available, which I know will be good not sure about being great with the Blade 2 Meta due to power. The single AHB2 stereo was awful with Magico A3 (not enough power) and the monos were not the best with my now sold hard to drive Thiel CS3.7 speakers.

b-baij-jo's picture

I've had the B2Ms for a month now and I am over the moon. As for amplification, I am using a Zanden 8120 (re. 100 tube watts) to drive them with excellent results. I am running a pair of subs - and using a mere 5th of their power. I am very satisfied. Amazing clarity and coherence - and add in exceptional soundstaging, imaging, and dynamism - the you have a speaker that is hard to beat. Order yours soon as the wait was loooong - but worth it.

ejlif's picture

for about 3 years. I came to slowly realize they are one of the most dull and uninspiring speakers I ever owned. I'd take a pair of Klipsch Forte over a pair for pure enjoyment of playing music. I went back and forth over and over for a year putting different speakers in and out and comparing and eventually I sold them. I thought they would be my dream speaker. I loved the looks. I was quite disappointed with the actually product in real life. Light and made of plastic. The entire base is just a piece of plastic and they aren't even heavy. I'm perplexed out how they come up with such a high price for these. Seems like they are double or triple what they should be based on the quality. Mine is a case of different strokes for different folks I ended up far preferring the sound of lower power tubes and efficient speakers over the power hungry Blade 2. I tried for 3 years to like these speakers but could never warm up to them.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Fair enough indication of an alternate perspective and your decision to move on. From my POV, I've yet to hear a Klipsch speaker that I could live with (and that includes the originals).

Jim Austin's picture

After all, your tastes are your tastes. But as to that lightweight "plastic" cabinet, someone should set the record straight. Here's what JA wrote after measuring the original Blade 2 (not the meta): "The Blade Two's enclosure is extremely inert, and the force-canceling woofer arrangement seems to work as advertised." The result with he Metas was a bit different: " Although the sidewalls emitted an audible "bonk" when I rapped them with my knuckles, especially in the region behind the twin woofers, I didn't find any significant resonant modes on these walls. This is a testament to the effectiveness of the Blade Two Meta's use of opposed and mechanically connected woofers on the two sidewalls. A couple of modes between 400Hz and 600Hz were present on the front baffle (fig.2), but these modes were very low in level and should not have audible consequences."

Another perspective: Here's an image of the larger Blade Meta, from the recent Audio Advice Live show in Raleigh. The speaker is playing loudly in a highly resonant space.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

remlab's picture

There is no law that says you have to like objective accuracy(Some people actually believe this). After all is said and done, if it doesn't move you...

steve59's picture

It would have been great if KR or JA had reviewed both speakers. Would blade 1 owners benefit more by upgrading to meta's or using equal money on better components?

I was able to get an extended audition of the perlisten s7t and found the listening window to be to small to be practical even if the effect is polarizing.

Kal Rubinson's picture

To be sure but those kinds of comparisons generally demand that the reviewer already possessed the original pair. So, we do it when we can and JA did it with the LS50s, original and Meta.

I think you are spot-on in your observation of the Perlisten S7t.

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