KEF KIT100 Speaker System Reviewed

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 KEF KIT100 Speaker System Reviewed

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With only a monitor to add to the mix, I tried the KIT100 via S-Video and composite into the Marantz 4200 plasma and was immediately staggered by the quality of the video playback. No kidding: I detected no loss of detail, the colours were natural, the blacks as black as Nigel Tufnel requires. Flipping from KIT100 to Denon DVD2900 was educational: the Denon clearly had the edge - literally, when you played crisp animation through it - but the KEF was not shamed at all. I watched four films on the trot and suffered no viewer fatigue, so don't look for compromises here.

But...if ever a system required familiarisation on the part of the user, this is it. I don't mean virgins for whom this is a first-ever purchase, who should love it from the get-go, but for veterans such as yourselves. In particular, if you're coming from a true 5.1 surround sound system, you'll find the lack of sound from behind to be disconcerting. Instead, just let the movie takeover and here's what should happen:

Using a mix of DVDs, ranging from the dialogue-heavy Phone Booth, to the bombastic Pirates of the Caribbean, to the violently noisy We Were Soldiers, it was clear that the KIT100 had no trouble resolving dialogue, left-to-right special effects, and - surprisingly - deep and powerful bass. It wasn't as fast or tight as, say, five MartinLogans or a quintet of Sonus Fabers, but it was intelligible and euphonic. However, a goodly portion of the surround experience was vague and diffuse, and this can be attributed to using NXT panels firing off the side walls to create an impression of surround sound.

Make no mistake, the stage was wider, deeper and (as far as DVD movie playback is concern) more involving then straight stereo. No, it was not as convincing nor satisfying as five separate speakers with loads of power backing them up; indeed, limited maximum SPLs may prove problematic for some, so don't be afraid to crank up the volume during a demonstration to test its limits relative to intended room size and personal preference. Be that as it may, I soon forgot that I wasn't listening to five separate speakers and sat through the mix of movies without feeling cheated.

As for pure music playback, the KIT100 won't have you consigning your high-end two-channel system to the loft, but - provided you defeat the all-purpose setting for two-channel playback - it's certainly more than listenable. Purists will be hard-pressed to detect the transition from the main speakers to the subwoofer, the stereo sound stage is on a par with conventional systems using small box-type monitors, and the only repeatedly discernible demerit is a touch of nasality that I could not ameliorate no matter how hard I tried. Remember: this system doesn't provide the liberty of messing around with cables or other tweaks.

Other downsides? Beyond the sonic criticisms, it could do with an illuminated remote - not an unreasonable demand given that this is made for use in darkened rooms. No, I think the only problem with the KEF KIT100 in real-world terms is that it's too upscale for its target audience. Mirror-reading Mr and Mrs Joe Leisure Suit will probably think that 1200 all-in is too much, when you can get house-brand doggie-doo for 499. Sorry, KEF, but the Amstrad curse lingers after 20-plus years, and I think your retailers may have a hard time prising twelve bills out of the great unwashed. But look at it this way: it's probably too good for them anyway.

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