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.