Previously, I was using the KEF Q150 bookshelf speakers in conjunction with a Bowers & Wilkins ASW608 subwoofer to fill out the low end. I’ve owned the Q150 speakers for about 5 months, and always felt that they were the weakest link in my HiFi system. The bass was muddy and lacking, so I used the included foam plug to reduce the low end and the B&W sub compensated. I’ve actually been happier listening to my headphones and IEMs instead of my HiFi as they just sounded better.
Now I know I’m supposed to put bookshelf speakers on stands, pull them away from the wall, give them space, and pay attention to the room acoustics. Well, that might be great for your run of the mill audiophile, but for me I use these speakers on my computer desk.
Well today, I did it. I took the plunge and upgraded. Unfortunately, there’s no easily accessible HiFi shops in my area. In fact, the only place to be able to buy higher end speakers locally is Best Buy. So after reading many a review online, watching some YouTube videos, and taking a leap, I bought the R3 speakers (without listening to them) purely on a few illogical factors:
- They were on the higher end of my budget. $2,000 was my top end, and this was slightly more. I figured, for this price, they better be good!
- They were available locally. I also was interested in the LS50 Metas, but no store locally had them.
- The only other bookshelf speaker in this range that was available was the Bowers & Wilkins 706 and 707 S2’s. I own the B&W ASW608 sub which I’m quite pleased with, but regarding their bookshelf speakers, I read a lot of people complain about B&Ws piercing high end and that it caused ear fatigue. The KEF R3’s from what I read seemed to be nice and detailed, but not shrill.
- I opted for the walnut finish over the black finish because it just looked cooler.
- Magnetic / optional grills are included and look nice.
- They weighed more than the B&Ws. I know this is a stupid factor to decide on, but years ago I learned that better speakers have heavier magnets. Now granted, I was stupid and in my teens – close to 30 years ago, so what did / do I know? Still, when buying based upon factors that have nothing to do with listening to the speaker, this seemed as good as any.
One extremely important point to note is that Best Buy has a generous return policy just in case my purchase was not a good fit.
So now that I’ve had the speakers for all of a half a day now, I’m happy to report that they do indeed sound significantly better than the KEF Q150’s. The Q150’s required a ton of custom equalization, and always felt lacking to me in terms of – well everything.
Initially, I listened to the R3’s by themselves – with no equalization or adjustments. Here’s what I was able to hear:
- Much cleaner sounding and separation of tones than the Q150’s could produce.
- The mid and low end is nice and detailed. Not muddy like the Q150’s. I’m keeping the foam insert out of the speakers to hear every possible tone that they can reproduce. No doubt about it. The R3’s are much better.
- The high end is indeed detailed, but not piercing and shrill like I have heard on some other high end speakers in the past.
- The bass doesn’t really bump or go too low. Without a doubt, a subwoofer is needed to complete the sound.
According the KEF’s website, the speakers are rated down the 50kHz, so I set the subwoofer crossover slightly higher than that, turned it on, and added it to the mix – ahhhhh, so much better!
After that, it was time to tune the settings on the DAC. I enabled the default loudness control on the ADI-2 DAC which is pure magic! I continue to fiddle with the bass and treble knobs depending on the track or genre of music, but as I’m listening to some EDM right now, the bass is set to +2.5 and the treble is set to +2, and I’ve left them there for over an hour now. Finally, I’ve adjusted the parametric EQ to ever so slightly bump the mid end up.
In conclusion, this setup sounds great! It’s detailed, gives the music a nice spacious feel, and I don’t feel anything is lacking. The R3’s are definitely more expensive than the Q150’s, but for the enjoyment they deliver, they’re worth it. Just make sure you have a good solid amp, DAC, and sub to pair them with.