KEF HTF8003 review: KEF HTF8003

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Single-speaker sound bar; excellent sound on movies for a sound bar; stylish exterior design; KEF offers matching bookshelf surround speakers; relatively light weight makes wall-mounting easier.

The Bad Needs a separate subwoofer for credible home theater sound; no virtual surround effects; rubber support pads are too small; needs to be carefully tweaked to get the subwoofer/sound bar balance right; requires an AV receiver.

The Bottom Line Buying the KEF HTF8003 is an expensive proposition once you add the cost for an AV receiver and subwoofer, but it has some of the best sonics we've heard from a sound bar.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 8.0

Sound bar speakers generally only appeal to a small portion of home audio buyers. If you've got a large budget, minimalist ethos, appreciate sound quality--but not enough to insist on a pair of standalone speakers--a sound bar speaker fits your niche. The KEF HTF8003 doesn't offer anything radically different from the competing models available, with a long tubelike design and glossy black finish. Its sound quality with movies was among the best we've heard on sound bars (although it doesn't do any virtual surround effects), but music fans will want something more substantial. As usual with this product category, our major concern is the total cost of the system: in addition to the sound bar, you need an AV receiver, plus we found that a subwoofer is pretty much a must-have, too. That will probably bring the total cost to over $2,000, which could buy you a lot more sound quality from a more conventional tower speaker arrangement, but if you need the single-speaker style, the KEF HTF8003 is one of the better options available.

Design and features
The KEF HTF8003 looks like most of the other sound bars on the market, with a long tubelike design and glossy black finish. Viewed from the side, the HTF8003 has a skinny, oval-shaped profile, and it comes to only 3.2 inches deep. The speaker isn't particularly heavy, but its weight distribution made it feel somewhat unstable: whenever we moved HTF 8003, it had a tendency to tip over backward. The problem: the small rubbery support pads seem a little too small to provide a stable platform for the speaker. On the plus side, the HTF8003 weighs significantly less than the competing Atlantic Technology FS-7.0; we'd feel much more comfortable wall-mounting the HTF8003 ourselves.

Wall mount and rubber support pads
The HTF8003 comes with wall-mounting hardware and small rubber support pads. We found the rubber pads to be a little too small.

Around back, the HTF8003 has three pairs of all-metal spring connectors that accept bare wire ends, or wires terminated with pins or spades; banana plugs won't fit. We appreciated that they weren't recessed into the speaker, like on the Canton CD 90 SB, but their low positioning made them slightly difficult to access with speaker wire.

Speaker connectors
There are three pairs of all-metal spring connectors on the back of the HTF8003.

Behind the speaker grille, the HTF8003 houses nine total drivers. Each channel includes a 3-inch Uni-Q driver (and each Uni-Q driver has its own high-frequency/midrange/bass driver), a 3-inch woofer and 3-inch auxiliary bass radiator.

Setup
Since the HTF8003 doesn't make much bass on its own we started our listening tests partnering the speaker with a KEF HTB2SE-W wireless sub. We've tested the wired version of the sub before, and know it's a great-sounding unit. But in this case we had to work for hours to get the HTB2SE-W to blend with the HTF8003.

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