KEF is one of the few stalwart British speaker manufacturers that successfully evolved from its purist audiophile roots to become a more mainstream brand. KEF's separate, high-end home theater offerings are excellent, and its beautifully styled packaged systems, such as the new KHT-5005.2, maintain KEF's sound-quality standards. The cast-metal speaker cabinets are not only elegantly proportioned, they house KEF's advanced Uni-Q driver array that features a 0.6-inch metal-dome tweeter mounted in the center of a 3-inch woofer, plus another pair of 3-inch woofers. The Uni-Q design is said to provide more precisely focused imaging than conventional separate tweeter and woofer designs. The matching dual 10-inch powered subwoofer is both stylish and powerful, and yet its audiophile breeding is apparent in its taut definition. The KHT-5005.2 handles home theater and music with equal zeal. Some may blanch at the $2,000 price tag, but for a speaker system that looks and sounds this good, it's money well spent.
The KEF KHT-5005.2 slender cast-metal speakers have a unique shape; when you look at them from the side, the tops and bottoms of the cabinets taper inward at a radical angle. The design gives the system a very modern yet understated appearance. The four satellites each stand 17 inches tall and weigh 4.4 pounds each. They're premounted on matching (removable) table stands; metal wall brackets are also included. KEF also offers two other stand options: an adjustable-height shelf stand and a fixed-height floor stand, which follows the contour of the speakers. The 16.5-inch-wide center speaker, the HTC5001.2, is essentially one of the satellite speakers resting on its side. It can be wall-mounted or placed on a TV or shelf. The speakers' curved cloth grilles aren't removable.
The doughnut-shaped HTB2 subwoofer matches the speakers' curves, and we think it's one of the coolest-looking subs around. KEF doesn't supply grilles for the sub, so the front and rear woofers are naked to the world. The sub can either stand vertically or lie horizontally on three spiked feet. When standing, it measures 15.5 inches high, 17.3 inches wide, and just 7.6 inches deep. It weighs 24.2 pounds.
The entire ensemble is finished in automotive-grade high-gloss silver or black paint. Buyers interested in expanding the system to a 6.1 or 7.1 configuration can invest in additional satellite speakers (HTS5001.2). KEF also offers a wireless kit for the surround channels ($600); the speakers and the kit are available in a single package as well (KHT5005.2W), but the $2,600 price doesn't offer any savings versus purchasing both separately..
Instead of the usual separate tweeter and woofer, KEF's patented Uni-Q driver produces a wide range of frequencies from a "point source" tweeter/woofer driver, which creates a more uniform sound for listeners sitting directly in front of the speaker and for those sitting to the left and right of the speaker. The five KHT5005.2 satellites each house a Uni-Q driver array with a 0.6-inch metal-dome tweeter mounted in the center of a 3-inch woofer, plus a pair of conventional 3-inch woofers. The center and satellite speakers have the identical driver complement. We were a little surprised that the 3-inch Uni-Q driver is smaller than the Uni-Q driver used in the less-expensive KEF KHT-3005 satellites; that system utilizes a 0.75-inch aluminum-dome tweeter mounted in a 4.25-inch woofer. All metal speaker connectors accept bare wire ends or spades. The connectors are pretty robust, but in a $2,000 speaker system we expect even sturdier five-way binding posts.
The subwoofer is an old friend--we'd previously heard it anchoring the KEF FiveTwo systems and the aforementioned KHT-3005. When sold separately (in black or silver), it retails for $800--so it accounts for a good 40 percent of the KHT-5005.2's overall price tag. The HTB2 has front- and rear-mounted 10-inch woofers, but only the front woofer is powered by the 250-watt onboard digital amplifier (the rear woofer produces bass passively, from the internal air pressure created by the movement of the front woofer). The sub doesn't have a volume control or crossover network; those functions are handled by your AV receiver's bass management system (see below). The sub's base is fitted with a three-position switch that controls deep bass boost and a phase control. Connectivity is limited to one RCA input--and you need to turn the sub upside down to access the controls and make the cable connection.