KEF KHT2005.2 review: KEF KHT2005.2

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Pod-shaped cast-aluminum cabinets; advanced tweeter-in-woofer design; the 10-inch, 250-watt powered subwoofer features rarely seen bass-tuning features.

The Bad Don't mate this system with less than the best-sounding receivers.

The Bottom Line The KHT 2005.2 speaker system is a remarkable combination of exceptional design and audiophile quality.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 8.0

Intro

If British speaker manufacturer KEF set out to prove that it could make a decorator-friendly speaker package that even audiophiles could love, it's hit the jackpot. Its KHT 2005.2 system sounds like a set of exotic high-end speakers, but it's no bigger than some of the better home-theater-in-a box systems we've reviewed here at CNET. The KHT 2005.2 system includes five podlike satellites and a potent subwoofer; it retails for $1,499, and it's an easy recommendation for serious listeners with a sense of style. The KHT 2005.2's design is elegant and refreshingly modern. The satellite's computer-optimized 7.8-inch cast-aluminum cabinet minimizes internal resonance and distortion for a purer, cleaner sound. The egg-shaped speaker weighs a solid 4.4 pounds. The center speaker is identical, but it's horizontally oriented. The speakers are fitted with a swivel base that can be used as a table stand or wall bracket or on the optional stands. Extra satellites are available for $199 each, in natural silver or black finishes.

The subwoofer is a more conventional design. The bad boy weighs 40.7 pounds and measures a stout 16.5 inches wide, 15 inches tall, and 15.8 inches deep. Like the satellites, it's also available in a tasteful black or silver--but it looks nowhere near as classy as the curvy sats.

Conventional speakers launch their sound from the separate tweeter, midrange, and/or woofers. So far, so good, except that the sound from each driver arrives at your ears at a slightly different time--that's why we're so jazzed about KEF's very special tweeter-in-woofer approach: the 0.75-inch tweeter sits in the center of the 4-inch woofer. This "point source" design eliminates conventional speakers' timing misalignments to produce a far more accurate soundstage--the KEF's placement of sounds, voices, and instruments is precisely located in space. Rounding out the satellites' luxurious appointments are the all-metal speaker wire connectors, which accept banana jacks, spades, or bare wire.

The subwoofer features an integral 250-watt amplifier and a forward-firing 10-inch woofer. Instead of relying on a port to augment bass output, the KHT sub uses a front-mounted slot port. The advantage here is that you can cram the sub into a corner without degrading performance. In addition to the usual complement of volume, crossover, and phase controls found on the sub's backside, we noted a variable Slope switch that helps ensure seamless integration with the satellite speakers and a Ground Lift switch that can reduce unwanted audible hum or buzzing noises from the subwoofer's sound. A Cinema/Music switch can increase midbass power for greater home-theater impact. Connectivity is limited to stereo RCA inputs and outputs--mating the sub with any 5.1/6.1/7.1 receiver will be a snap. The 2005.2 is capable of filling a large, 500-square-foot home theater with sound.

The Day After Tomorrow DVD proved the 2005.2's home-theater prowess in a hurry. The devastating onslaught of tidal waves crashing over Manhattan were delivered with the force we associate with much larger speakers; the sheer scale of the sound--the width, depth and even height of the soundstage--was remarkable. We found comparisons with Mirage's overachieving Omnisat ensemble irresistible. Switching back and forth between the two big-sounding minisystems, the 2005.2's sound was more precisely defined in space--from nearly every seat in our home theater--and the Omnisat's imaging was softer in focus, though still very good.

Returning to the 2005.2, dialogue was wonderfully present and articulate, even in the midst of the film's most abysmal weather conditions. The system's subwoofer delivered low-end oomph but never lost control or veered over the line to bass boom or bloat. The sub's seamless blend with the satellites was in large part responsible for the illusion of the little ones' effortless power.

Next up was the Rolling Stones concert DVD set, Four Flicks, and oh, boy--the clarity of the 2005.2's sound added to our enjoyment of the music. The five satellites' vast domelike surround field placed us in the middle of a large arena.

CD sound was also well above par, but we noted the satellites' high treble range wasn't as beautifully clear and delicate as RBH's CT-MAX system, which we preferred on music. That said, our jazz CDs sounded fantastic over the 2005.2; stand-up bass was rhythmically nimble, and brass instruments such as Sonny Rollins's big tenor sax were reach-out-and-touch real. Jerry Garcia and David Grisman's self-titled CD features the masters plucking and stroking guitar and mandolin, and the KEF's tactile sound took our breath away. For best results, we recommend pairing the KHT 2005.2 with a top-rated receiver such as Denon's AVR-2805 or Harman Kardon's AVR 330 .

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