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KEF Q350 review: A not-so-quiet achiever

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The Good The relatively affordable KEF Q350 speaker sounds good with almost everything, and offers an excellent sense of depth and space in decent recordings. Fit and finish are superb.

The Bad The Q350 doesn't come with grill covers, but KEF will sell you a pair for extra cost. Competitors such as Klipsch and Elac sound more exciting.

The Bottom Line The KEF Q350 bookshelf speaker looks exquisite, and sounds bigger and more expensive than it really is.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 9

If the amazing Elac Uni-Fi UB5 is the flashy lead actor in "Affordable Audiophile Speakers: The Movie," think of the KEF Q350 as the reliable character actor who can turn its hand to anything.

The Q350's performance may not be as arresting as the UB5, but if you buy this speaker you won't have to be as careful about picking a powerful receiver or the "right" music. A forward-sounding system like the Elacs sound best with a beefy amp and steady diet of well-produced recordings. But with a pair of the KEF Q350s in your system you can also enjoy Sebadoh, Katy Perry or Metallica without being reminded of their less-than-stellar production quality. There's no pomp, no artifice, just the music the speakers are given.

With simultaneously understated-yet-striking looks, rock-solid sound quality and an affordable price, the KEF's are an attractive package. If you want to just enjoy your time with your favorite movie or song and not have to think too hard about it, the KEF Q350 is your ideal partner.

The KEF Q350 is available now for $650 or £529 for a pair. Australian pricing and availability are TBA, but we expect them to cost upwards of AU$1,200.

Design and features

Sarah Tew/CNET

Even before you hear it, you'll know the KEF Q350 isn't just another bookshelf speaker. That cool looking single 6.5-inch Uni-Q driver is the tip-off, with its concentric 1-inch aluminum tweeter and sci-fi-styled protective grill.

Audiophile readers might note the Q350's resemblance to KEF's highly regarded LS50 monitor speaker ($1,500 a pair). Though the speakers look similar they are a little different: The Q350s go a little lower than the LS50, are a touch more sensitive and have both a larger cabinet and a larger driver (6.5- versus 5.5-inch).

The Q350 offers a choice of colors -- black with a black driver, or white with a silver driver. The models we received came in black with an ash wrap. We prefer this finish to the cheaper-looking vinyl wrap on the Elac Uni-Fis.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With a bass port on its rear panel, don't plan on shoving these speakers up against the wall or into a corner. A foot or more clearance would be a good starting point. We had the speakers on tall metal floor stands, well out from the front wall of the CNET listening room.

Once you get the speakers out of the box you may find yourself shaking the packaging looking for the grills. Well, there aren't any. That formidable tweeter cage should ward off most incidents, but if you want, KEF can sell you a pair of magnetic grills for an extra $20.

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