KEF RDM Two loudspeaker Page 2

After a good long burn-in, I set about auditioning the speaker once more. Reference Recordings' superb Bruckner Symphony 9 (Skrowaczewski/Minnesota, RR-18) is filled with dynamic swings and massed brass crescendos, all of which the RDM Two handled easily. This speaker is capable of playing really loud—always a plus when playing Bruckner. The soundstage was immense, and instruments were placed within it with precision. But I found the hall sound somewhat more reverberant than I had with other speakers. Despite the dynamic immediacy, I felt as though I were listening to the Minnesota Orchestra at a greater distance than when I had auditioned the disc on the ProAcs or the B&Ws. And the accentuation of the reverberant nature of Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall was disturbing.

I tried a variety of amplifiers with the RDM Two, wondering if the Conrad-Johnson ART/Krell FPB 600 combo I've been using as my reference was simply a poor match. This seemed unlikely, given the quality of those components, but I thought I should try the KEF in a variety of systems. I tried the Cary CAD-300 SEI integrated, which had so impressed me with the ProAc Response One SC, but it tended to accentuate the KEF's nasality. I also tried Myryad's nifty little solid-state 60W integrated, the MI 120, which mated better than the Cary but still didn't solve the problem. The Krell KAV-300i worked even better, but the tonal story didn't change much. There was a decided lack of sparkle on top, and a "cupped-hands" coloration that tended to change the nature of instruments and vocals more than I could tolerate.

On voices, this manifested itself in two ways. First, as I noted in the Bruckner, the perspective seemed more distant when listening to the KEF. This is a matter of taste: Some people like to sit up close, while others—like me—tend to want to sit farther back in the hall. But strictly speaking, I'm not merely referring to distance—as in how close or how far away from the event one might be—but also to a sense of being emotionally removed from the event.

Additionally, there were changes in the character of voices. For instance, on Guy Clark's "I Don't Love You Much" (Boats to Build, Elektra Explorer 61442-2), Clark's voice was somewhat deeper—it didn't change from tenor to baritone so much as from a head to a chest voice. Overtones weren't as pronounced, and it had more "body." Some of this increased warmth, I suspect, was caused by a bit of "blump" in the KEF's bass response. The speaker's overall character was on the warmish side, but it also tended to favor notes in the 60Hz range—those notes stood out more in scales and progressions. I imagine this was the port's output reinforcing certain tones, but it wasn't the only factor leading to tonal changes in music.

Makes me want to shout
As Michael Fremer found, in a home-theater system the KEF RDM Two's warmth and lack of shrillness will give it an advantage over speakers that reinforce the tipped-up tonal character of many movie soundtracks. And "an impressive speaker at an affordable price," concluded Sam Tellig last October, commenting on the RDM Two's "focus...the [speaker's] combination of overall clarity and the ability to place soloists and their instruments precisely within the soundstage."

But as much as I enjoyed this speaker's dynamic ease and flawless dispersion characteristics, I could never relax with it and simply enjoy music for its own sake. KEF's RDM Two may have a lot going for it, but I just couldn't get past its sonic signature.

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