KEF Q950 Review
The KEF Q950 is powerfully equipped, offers excellent material and processing quality, and is significantly cheaper than many comparable-sized floor-standing speakers. The KEF, which is, of course, equipped with Uni-Q drivers, also wants to be a real alternative to significantly more expensive hi-fi speakers in terms of sound.
Anyone who has owned or heard a speaker from the Q series will probably be surprised when talking about KEF’s entry into the high-fidelity audio world. Loudspeakers with the Q in their name are fully tailored to the needs of knowledgeable hi-fi fans looking for the best sounding branded loudspeaker at the lowest possible price. That in itself would be nothing special; there are also inexpensive and comparably good-sounding speakers from other manufacturers. The big difference here is that KEF also sets the highest material and processing quality standards in this line. Technically, it is also up-to-date. The popular budget series benefits from the in-house technology transfer with each new edition.
What exactly does that mean? The answer can be found in the company’s history; without a doubt, the company, founded in 1961, is one of the most innovative hi-fi brands in the world. KEF has shaped the audio world by starting with the legendary LS3/5a BBC monitoring monitor through the first reference series and perfecting the one-point sound source called Uni-Q to milestones such as the Muon brand.
Findings, breakthroughs, and setbacks – strictly speaking, the entire know-how is from well over 50 years of loudspeaker construction – serve the British engineers today as the basis for the development of each loudspeaker. Each innovation gradually seeps through each series. Developments that years ago were reserved for the Reference models are now standard in the Q series.
- Excellent performance
- KEF’s Uni-Q array driver
- Perfect for big areas
- Awesome looking cabinets
- It may be too much for small or medium-sized rooms
- Only two-color variations
- Grilles need to be bought separately
- Need proper power to reach peak performance
KEF Q950, the elegant giant
If you touch something at KEF, it makes sense. This applies to every product line and, of course, also to the Q portfolio, which includes seven models. In addition to a center, a Dolby Atmos top speaker and three bookshelf speakers, three floor-standing loudspeakers should also be mentioned here, of which the Q950 is the head of the series.
The stately size of 1.12 meters underlines this status. Although it is tall and just under 36 centimeters wide, the Q950 is primarily recommended for use in the living room. The reason for this lies in the completely streamlined design. The two-and-a-half-way box is completely free of flourishes and unnecessary details.
The perfect interplay of form and space creates a unique appearance that clearly expresses the expected strength, energy, and temperament. Clear lines, level surfaces, and a sense of style make the KEF appear pleasingly well-proportioned despite its massiveness.
In a nutshell, the Q950 is a beauty with a timeless design. An impression that is further underlined by the laterally protruding traverses. They appear as a varied design element and have a practical background. They widen the base and offer the box more stability. This works without any tools; the spikes can be easily adjusted in height. Practically, the height-adjustable pins can be perfectly adapted to the ground at any time without having to tilt the Q950, which weighs more than 20 kilograms, to the side. But also have a practical background. They widen the footprint and offer the box more stability.
The latest generation of Uni-Q
A closer look at the loudspeaker front reveals what is to be expected. The KEF Q950 is also equipped with a large Uni-Q chassis in the uppermost housing compartment. Nothing works at KEF without this striking chassis, the latest development of which is used in the new Q series.
If you don’t know exactly what the Uni-Q is, here is some information. The Uni-Q is a one-point sound source that has been continuously developed and improved over the years and is a two-way system in a chassis. For example, in the series flagship, there is a large, 20-centimeter-diameter mid-range driver, with a 38-millimeter tweeter enthroned in the middle. A setup that allows the majority of all sound components reproduced by the Q950 to come from a central point.
A lot has happened in this driver alone in the past two decades, so the latest version of this coaxial sound transducer also comes up with a few innovations. Among other things, the Uni-Q used here was equipped with KEF’s patented Tangerine Waveguide, originally developed for the “Project Blade.” As a result, the star-shaped sound guidance in front of the tweeter has a visual and sound-enhancing significance. In addition, they optimize the radiation behavior.
The specially shaped tube behind the dome also ensures quiet. The sound emitted backward, directed from the tweeter into the box’s interior, must necessarily pass through this small cylinder and is dampened here. The cone material, on the other hand, is familiar, aluminum. The drive unit’s complex structure has only one goal to achieve the best possible sound quality. Of course, the suspension of the oscillating system is also subject to this maxim, the bead construction of which is angled by 90 degrees and allows the suspension to be aligned further towards the outside.
Trio for volume and boost
The interior of the case is no less complex. What is striking here is the massive bracing on the one hand and the subdivision into chambers on the other. For example, the Uni-Q sits in its dwelling. A sensible solution that protects the important driver from the influences of the bass trio placed below it. Said triumvirate is also a sly old dog.
For example, the middle bass driver is a passive woofer that shares another chamber with the one placed directly above it. However, the word “passive” is by no means negative. A passive driver is not actively driven. Simply put, it is made to vibrate by the air moving in the housing. If the housing is correctly dimensioned and the passive membrane offers a perfectly balanced mass, an extended bass tuning can be achieved in this way.
The speaker delivers more bass. A process similar to that known from bass reflex tubes, except that disturbing flow noise plays no role here. The woofer housed in the lower housing compartment is then actively used again and, like its two siblings above it, measures 200 millimeters in diameter. Of course, the advanced chassis assembly and the massive housing cannot be obtained without expense.
In order to compensate for this without making the new Q line more expensive, savings had to be made somewhere. The necessary savings can then be found on the back of the case. Instead of the bi-wire connection field used in the previous series, the British Maidstone decided to use classic single-wire connections for the current hi-fi entry. However, no savings were made on the quality of the sockets. Instead of simple rockers, the British use solid metal screw terminals that accept speaker cables up to 6mm2 thick.
Little things make the difference
The visual inspection of the Q flagships and the obligatory break-in period are complete, now the best part of the test procedure can finally begin. But before we get started, I want to create the ideal conditions for the best possible sound. So, first of all, I dedicate myself to the alignment of the loudspeakers, a point that is underestimated in many HiFi setups.
However, if you take some time and leisure, it may well be that the new speakers perform a class better than initially expected. You don’t have to be afraid of this step; this process is quite easy to implement and even fun as soon as the first successes appear.
If possible, set up the two loudspeakers simultaneously and from the listening position. In some living room situations, this may not be possible. In this case, you should try to come as close as possible to the ideal. Then align the 950s with the reference seat. The speakers now “look” the listener straight in the face. Then turn the loudspeakers outwards in small centimeter steps without changing the distance to the listening position. The ideal position has been found as soon as the sound no longer comes directly from the speakers but is in the middle of the room.
Just as important is a stable, wobble-free stand of the box at all times. You can reach this with the KEF using the height-adjustable spikes described above. Thanks to the clever screw mechanism, quick and stepless adjustments are possible without tilting the heavy box. Spikes are a useful upgrade in this context, as they couple the box very well to the ground due to their low connection. This offers the best sound conditions but can also lead to the tips scratching the floor, covering parquet, laminate, or stone floors. If the speaker is on wood or tiles, place small metal plates under the tips to protect the valuable floor covering.
Impulse and fine details
I start the listening check with James Blake’s “Unluck.” A perfect song for testing purposes and quickly provides information about loudspeakers’ energy, liveliness, and dynamics. Exactly this energy flows only a few moments after pressing the play button – by the way, the recently tested Creek combination consisting of Evolution 50 A and Evolution 50CD serves as the audio chain– in the listening room. The setup playing here is bursting with determination and dynamics from the first second. Despite all the momentum and agility, the Q950 also shows a great ability to differentiate. Details are carefully presented, there is detail, and there is no plasticity and airiness. The Uni-Q does its job very well, has a fine resolution, and is impressively playful.
In addition, there is high rhythmic intensity and a lot of temperament. What is also clear, the KEF has plenty of power and still plenty of headroom. So, I experience a simply fun performance and encourages me to make a not insignificant jump in volume for a short time. A process that the two stately sound towers seem to have been waiting for. Now it starts loud, dynamic, and sometimes deep black. The capability remains excellent even at higher levels, as does the stability of the image.
Due to their impressive size and equipment, I am not only surprised by the level of performance shown but primarily by the accuracy and, at the same time, almost irrepressible energy with which the KEF Q950 now shines. What’s more, the KEF also plays clean and correct. Fine and coarse gradations in volume and dynamics result in hardly any changes in timbre and timbre. Points that are largely due to the perfect coordination of the Uni-Q and the woofers that play along. This also explains how the series flagship repeatedly manages to perfectly reproduce the ever-changing tempos in the base and bass range without robbing the piece of its enormous dynamics.
Fire & Truth
The first test section was already an announcement. But now want to know how the Qs perform when pressure and agility are required over the entire frequency range. In this regard, AC/DC should provide the answer with “Rock `N Roll Train.” A song that goes straight forward from the first moment and is immediately fun. So, starting at the same volume level, guitars, drums, bass, and Brian Johnson’s unmistakable vocals are then spread out in our listening room in no time. All this with sovereignty and calm that one is otherwise only used to from much more expensive loudspeakers.
What is also positively noticeable, the sound stage stretches a bit beyond the speakers’ locations and extends in depth. The localization is very good, as is the stability in the image. But what is perhaps even more important is the size of the acoustically reproduced instruments is correct. Cheap showmanship is not for this speaker. Instead of making guitars and drums gigantic like competing products, the KEFs prefer to stick to the truth. Very well!
Speed, agility, pressure, and honesty are the attributes that turn mere CD listening into an impressive musical experience. An experience that sweeps you away. Every detail, no matter how small, contributes to an overall presentation that fascinates, electrifies, gets under your skin again, and encourages you to “rock along.” Although the volume has meanwhile reached far above room volume, the sound is far from distorting or annoying. The matte black KEF is not even close to its performance limit. On the contrary, because strangely enough, the KEF Q950 manages to combine temperament and composure perfectly and optimally with each other – all without appearing boring, rushed, or even exaggerated.
The KEF Q950 is a fun maker with audiophile prowess. This impressively equipped speaker is a powerful sound solution for the playback of almost any music genre. It offers plenty of power reserves to let it rip but can also resolve super-finely and illuminate the sound acoustically perfectly. In addition, there is a high level of flexibility in installation, very good quality, and a timelessly elegant design.