I actually took some time to hook up the 201s as front speakers before setting them up as surrounds. Sonically, they are very similar to the 205s in the midrange and highs, and actually generate a reasonable amount of tight, rhythmic bass but, of course, nowhere near as much as the 205s. After hooking them up as surrounds, and adding the 202c center channel, I began to demo 5.1 music material. All speakers were set to full range, and the subwoofer was turned off for the initial testing. The sound field projected by the system was very cohesive, very wide, and detailed. The amount of bass produced with all speakers playing was truly surprising, as it was deep, copious, tight, and rhythmic. In fact, it would at times overwhelm the live, moderately sized listening room and verge on being boomy, but this was not the fault of the speakers as much as the listening environment. Frankly, these speakers sounded wonderful, transparent, smooth, and non-fatiguing with music material. Adding the sub was simply overkill, as it just was not needed.
A few words on the PSW4000 subwoofer: it is powerful, attractive, and designed to go deep and loud. It does not produce the tight, musical bass of my little REL Strata III, but the deep, floor-shaking bass that adds the realism to home theater. I, personally, did not find the need for the sub for music with this system but, with movies, it is a powerhouse. I really liked the included remote control with the sub that allowed you turn it on and off, change the level, frequency, and phase with the push of a button. Why can't all subs have a remote like this? Moving on to movies, the same characteristics that I enjoyed with music made movies a delight. The 202c center is especially clear and intelligible, and anchors the system very well. Panning between speakers is excellent as the sound field never changes signature sonically between the speakers, and once again creates that sense of cohesiveness that I have talked about. This is mainly due to the use of the same midrange and tweeter drivers throughout the line, which is not only intelligent, but also absolutely necessary for high quality home theater reproduction. The sense of detail is excellent, which draws one into a movie, and creates total immersion. Although many prefer a dipole speaker for the surrounds, I still prefer direct radiating, as it is much better for high-resolution surround formats. The 201 simply does not disappoint, and does an excellent job as a surround speaker although, like my reference system's B&W Nautilus 805, it is often just loafing through its job.
What is there to say negative about this system? Besides the brightness with occasional material or equipment, the only thing I have to complain about is that it costs somewhere north of $16,000. So, I know what you are thinking: for that kind of money, it better deliver! Well it does, and KEF should be proud of the fact that this system not only sounds great, but looks beautiful as well. KEF has made significant improvements to their Reference line, and boy are they on a roll.
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Suggested Retail Prices:
KEF Reference 205: $8,000
KEF Reference 201: $3,750
KEF Reference 202c: $2,000
KEF PSW4000: $2,500