I have been a fan of KEF speakers for some time now, and I have had extensive experience with a significant portion of the KEF line, including the KEF Reference system, which I had in my home. It was with pleasure and anticipation that I received a set of KEF Reference 203 speakers for review as a two-channel set. The KEF Reference line has been a critically acclaimed success, and the 203s are the starting point for the floor-standing models. With an MSRP of $5,000, they fall into a sector of the market where many excellent speakers are available.
The 203s have an interesting driver array, with the top-mounted hypertweeter and the Uni-Q tweeter/midrange driver array. The hypertweeter is designed to give extended response up to 50 kHz, tailing off at about 70 kHz. Although this is beyond the threshold of human hearing, they are supposed to increase headroom and create an airier top end. This is especially important for high-resolution audio reproduction, as the SACD and DVD-Audio tracks (and presumably whatever high-resolution audio format is used on the new high-definition DVDs) have a much wider frequency bandwidth than regular CDs. The combined 1-inch tweeter and 6.5-inch midrange driver array are referred to as Uni-Q, and are designed to provide as tight a point source as possible. Rounding out the driver array are two 6.5-inch woofers, which are ported in back. The speakers come with adjustable feet, although spikes can be fitted. These speakers are tri-wirable, and come with jumpers to allow for single- or bi-wiring. It is also possible with rear-mounted knobs to make some fine adjustments to the high frequencies and to the bass.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The particular set that I reviewed was black, and the finish is top-notch. The tapered sides are designed to reduce standing waves within the cabinet, and the wood veneer is lovely. Testing was performed with the excellent Marantz Reference PM11-S1 integrated amplifier, the Krell DVD Standard as a two-channel audio source, and the Marantz 8260 SACD/CD player as a high-resolution audio source. The cables used were Audioquest DBS speaker cables and Jaguar DBS interconnects.
Here We Go
When I received the speakers, they had about 50 hours of running in. I ran them for about another 30 hours before I felt that they started to open up properly, and before the bass started to become rhythmic and smooth.