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KEF Concept Blade Floorstanding Speakers First Look

KEF Concept Blade

KEF Concept Blade


  • Product Name: Concept Blade
  • Manufacturer: KEF
  • Review Date: May 24, 2011 05:00
  • MSRP: $29,999
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Single Apparent Source technology
  • Four 9" bass drivers side-firing with pairs bonded at the magnet
  • One fully pistonic KEF Uni-Q MF/HF array with an injection molded LCP cone with a 3" voice coil and an 1" titanium dome tweeter
  • Constructed out of glass-reinforced composite material over a balsa wood core
  • Off-board crossover
  • Available in a standard Gloss White and Gloss Black, but will also be available in an array of custom colors including Garnet, Sapphire, Grigio, Racing Red, Racing Blue, Pale Gold, Orange Sorbet, Graphite, Stardust, Lemon Sorbet, Lime Sorbet and Snow White

There are some first look articles I look at as an opportunity for fun. I go into them knowing I'm just going to slam the company for putting out such a ridiculous product at such a ridiculous price point. Esoteric companies and high end audiophile manufacturers are prime targets. they put out solid aluminum boxes stuffed full of silver wire that has been cryogenically frozen for that "icy" sound audiophile desire. These products are more talk the performance, more raw metal than technology and they deserve to be lampooned because they are, usually, nothing more than modern day snake oils.

That's what I thought I was in for with the KEF Concept Blade speakers.

But the more I looked at them, the more I liked what I saw. No, I'm not going to tell you to go out and buy a $30,000 pair of speakers. But let's look at this from a more global perspective. We've all seen those SEMA shows on TV and other specials. These are shows where auto manufacturer put together concept cars in order to test the limits of what can be done with vehicles. Some of these concept cars end up in people's garages. Mostly rappers and other people with more money than sense. But the idea is that new technology is tested and tried and some small part of it trickles down to the consumer level (usually after a number of years).

This is what KEF is doing.

First, the price must be addressed. KEF has not only created their "concept" speaker, but they are selling it. This is an (according to them) "at any cost" speaker that has, what they see as, the best of the best. So let's address that. If you think that audiophiles think a $30k speaker is a no-object cost product, you haven't been around for very long. That's a power cord to some. That alone should be an eye opener. If a manufacturer like KEF can't spend more than $30k on a speaker then what are the audiophile companies spending all their money on?

KEF_Blade_3DCabThe KEF Concept Blade speakers represent five years of research and testing. They are being released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company. The main claim to fame behind the speakers is the Single Apparent Source technology. The point is that all the drivers work together to ensure that the sound all appears to come from a single point. If you know anything about KEF, you know they love their coaxial drivers (this is a tweeter mounted in the center of a midrange woofer). The Single Apparent Source is a not-so-subtle nod to this focus.

The KEF Concept Blade floorstanding speakers sport four 9" bass drivers each. The bass drivers fire to the side and are mounted directly behind each other in order to cancel out any internal waves and resonances. The drivers are arranged so closely that the magnets of each pair are bolted and bonded to each other. The side-firing configuration also allows the acoustical center to coincide with the front mounted Uni-Q coaxial midrange driver and tweeter. The fully pistonic KEF Uni-Q MF/HF array has a an injection molded LCP (Liquid Crystal Polymer) cone with a 3" voice coil. In the center is a 1" titanium dome tweeter which is tube loaded to give exceptionally low resonance and has a tangerine wave guide. Together, according to KEF, they can handle the entire frequency range.

The Concept Blade speakers are constructed out of glass-reinforced composite material (fiberglass - probably some sort of carbon fiber) over a balsa wood core. The enclosure is thinner at the top and bottom than at the middle (where the drivers are located) which, other than aesthetic reasons, also increases the enclosure's rigidity. The back of the speaker sports a single flared port and three pairs of binding posts for connecting the speaker to the off-board crossover. It is unclear if you can tri/bi-amp the speaker as the crossover has not been shown in detail yet. The KEF Concept Blade is available in a standard Gloss White and Gloss Black, but will also be available in an array of custom colors including Garnet, Sapphire, Grigio, Racing Red, Racing Blue, Pale Gold, Orange Sorbet, Graphite, Stardust, Lemon Sorbet, Lime Sorbet and Snow White. For $30k, we'd expect nothing less.


There are enough holes in the KEF Concept Blade speaker design for a true audiophile to use to justify other speakers' higher prices. KEF seems to be married to the coaxial driver to the point that they built an entire speaker around the Single Apparent Source concept. KEF hasn't seemed to buy into the sonic benefits of silver/platinum/unobtainium wire. There is no mention of burn-in, frozen, or anything at all chocolatey. In fact, they don't mention at all how the speakers will make you feel or how they will transform your music. All they say is that they won't distort and that it'll appear to come from a single point in space. This single source presentation will create a sonic picture that is "virtually indistinguishable from a live performance." Not better than. The same. Doesn't sound very esoteric to me.

But that's not what's important. What's important is that the speakers cost $30k a pair and you can bet KEF is still making money on each pair sold. So how do you justify those $1 million speakers? I certainly can't. All the silver wire in the universe doesn't. Building them out of solid aluminum doesn't. Heck, having them installed by the creator personally and blessed by a witch doctor while sacrificing a baby panda doesn't. 

If you watch the video on the KEF site (I'd suggest skipping the end part trying to convince you that the speakers are good by having people with random accents tell you how much fun they had working on them) what you will see is that there is a lot of actual technology and research that went into the Concept Blade speakers. And if a company like KEF can put five years of research into a speaker and only charge $30k for it, what are you paying for with those other esoteric brands?

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.

About the author:
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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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