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KEF Ci In-Ceiling Speakers First Look

KEF Ci160CRds In-ceiling speaker

KEF Ci160CRds In-ceiling speaker


  • Product Name: Ci In-Ceiling Speaker
  • Manufacturer: KEF
  • Review Date: March 25, 2011 01:40
  • MSRP: $179.99 - $349.99/ea
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Buy Now


  • 200mm (8.0in.) Uni-Q driver array
  • 25mm (1.0in.) Aluminum dome tweeter and ‘tangerine’ waveguide
  • Gold plated spring loaded binding posts
  • $349.99 /ea


  • 160mm (6.5in.) Uni-Q driver array
  • 19mm (0.75in.) Aluminum dome tweeter and ‘tangerine’ waveguide
  • Gold plated spring loaded binding posts
  • $299.99 /ea


  • 130mm (5.25in.) Uni-Q driver array
  • 19mm (0.75in.) Aluminum dome tweeter and ‘tangerine’ waveguide
  • Gold plated spring loaded binding posts
  • $249.99 /ea


  • Asymmetrical tweeter island for wide off-axis response
  • 25mm (1.0in.) Aluminum dome tweeter and ‘tangerine’ waveguide
  • 200mm (8.0in.) extended response bass driver
  • $274.99 /ea


  • Asymmetrical tweeter island for wide off-axis response
  • 19mm (0.75in.) Aluminum dome tweeter and ‘tangerine’ waveguide
  • 160mm (6.5in.) extended response bass driver
  • $224.99 /ea


  • Asymmetrical tweeter island for wide off-axis response
  • 19mm (0.75in.) Aluminum dome tweeter and ‘tangerine’ waveguide
  • 130mm (5.25in.) extended response bass driver
  • $179.99 /ea


  • Asymmetrical tweeter island for wide off-axis response
  • Dual 19mm (0.75in.) Aluminum Dome tweeters and ‘tangerine’ waveguides
  • Dual voice coil 160mm (6.5in.) extended response bass driver
  • $274.99 /ea

Executive Overview

There are typically three places you see coaxial drivers, that is woofers with tweeters mounted in the center: architectural, gaming, and automotive speakers. At least most of the time. There are a few home theater companies that utilize these types of drivers in their freestanding offerings. KEF is just such a company. So if anyone should be able to do a coaxial driver in an in-ceiling application correctly, it is KEF.

There are a few different technologies they are touting with the new Ci QR range of speakers. First, though, let's go through the numbers. In the model designation, there is a number. This number corresponds to the size of the woofer in millimeters. So, for the US crowd, the 200 sports an 8" woofer, the 160 sports a 6.5" drivers, and the 130 has a 5.25" driver. All these in-ceiling speakers are round and sport a coaxial tweeter. The tweeters will be either 25mm (1") or 19mm (.75"). The 8" woofers are paired with the 1" tweeter and the rest of the line gets the .75" tweeter. The entire line has a nominal impedance of 8 ohms and a sensitivity between 91 and 87dB, which means you'll have no problems pairing these speakers with just about any receiver or amplifier.

There are actually three "lines" within the Ci range with the QR being the highest end. While KEF rates these speakers at +/- 6dB (rather than the traditional +/- 3dB, the QR range will hit as low as 35Hz (for the 8" driver) to 45Hz (for the 5.25" driver) and all are rated up to 34kHz (14kHz higher than you can actually hear). The CR range uses the same metric but will start as low as 45Hz to 52Hz and tops out at 20kHz. The last speaker is sort of unique so we'll address that one last.

The big difference you'll notice between the three offerings in the CI line are the tweeters. The QR sport a traditional round tweeter at the center of the woofer. The CR line has an asymmetrical tweeter island (essentially an oval shaped surround to the tweeter) that is designed to "reduce diffraction and enhance off-axis, high frequency response." That's sort of an odd claim as the speakers with the tweeter island have lower rated extension than the more traditional QR speakers. The last speaker in the line is the Ci160CRds (pictured above). This speaker has the asymmetrical tweeter island but has two tweeters mounted within slightly angled out. This is so you can use the speaker as a single stereo source for confined spaces. It even features a screw-down clamp with moisture-resistant fixing for environments. Like bathrooms.

No, that was their recommendation. But moving on.

kefOf the new technologies KEF is highlighting, one of the top is the low profile bezel. The ultra-thin bezel will make the speaker appear to be much more flush to the wall than other speakers. While this doesn't equate to complete invisibility (you still have a grill to worry about), it is certainly a selling point. All of the tweeters also sport what KEF has termed a "tangerine waveguide." As you can see from the picture to the left, it is an apt description. According to KEF, the tangerine waveguide will not only add additional protection to the tweeter (we are not really sure how much protection is needed for an in-ceiling speaker) but also has exceptionally wide dispersion characteristics. They pair this with a forward mounted woofer which is designed to eliminate diffraction and ensure the speakers perform well regardless of placement.

And here is where we run into a bit of a problem.

Most in-wall or in-ceiling speakers have some sort of ability to aim the tweeter. This is because placement within a wall is much more limited than it is for a freestanding speaker (theoretically - we've known some spouses that can be pretty limiting with placement of box speakers as well). So, often you can't place speakers equidistant from the desired listening location. Aiming the tweeter can help intelligibility and overall evenness of the sound. But we see no provision for tweeter aiming with the new Ci line. The asymmetrical tweeter island may help with this but it really leads us to believe that the Ci line is designed with distributed audio in mind and not home theater applications. This isn't a knock against the speaker, just defining what we see as its intended use.


The new Ci line from KEF looks to be just what the doctor ordered for distributed audio. You have speakers that can dip down fairly low (into the mid-thirties if the specs are to be believed) with a focus on not only invisibility (with an ultra-thin bezel) but on high end extension. The price of the line can be as low at $180 a pop but most of the offerings cross the $200 mark with the top of the line at $350. For a large install, this can quickly add up. We wish they would have rated the speakers at a more traditional +/-3dB instead of the 6 dB they used so we'd have a better idea of what performance we can actually expect. The fact is that if anyone knows coaxial speakers, it is KEF. Chances are these are going to sound pretty good. If you are looking for some speakers for your living room or bathroom, give these a listen when they ship soon.

For more information, please visit www.kef.com.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

AcuDefTechGuy posts on March 25, 2011 11:08
Should sound much better than Bose or Polk or all those other generic offereings.
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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