After a long time, I decided to do another review of KEF speakers in my latest KEF R3 Meta Review article.
- 1 Intro
- 2 KEF R3 Meta Specifications
- 3 Construction & Design
- 4 Sound Test
- 5 KEF R3 Meta VS Competition
- 6 KEF R3 Meta Video Review
- 7 Final Verdict
In the ever-evolving world of audio technology, where innovation knows no bounds, the pursuit of sonic perfection is a relentless journey. Audiophiles and music enthusiasts alike are constantly on the lookout for the next breakthrough that promises to transport them deeper into the heart of their favorite tunes, revealing nuances they never knew existed. In this pursuit of auditory bliss, one name consistently stands out: KEF.
KEF, a renowned British audio manufacturer with a legacy dating back to 1961, has consistently pushed the boundaries of audio engineering. Their commitment to creating exceptional sound experiences has made them a household name among audio connoisseurs. And now, with the introduction of the KEF R3 Meta, they seem to have taken another giant leap towards redefining what’s possible in the world of hi-fi sound.
In this comprehensive meta-review, I delve deep into the KEF R3 Meta, a speaker system that has generated significant buzz in the audio community. I will explore its groundbreaking features, dissect its performance, and ultimately, determine whether it lives up to the lofty expectations set by its predecessors and the audiophile world at large. Join me on this sonic journey as I navigate the intricate landscape of the KEF R3 Meta, where artistry meets engineering to deliver an unparalleled acoustic experience.
KEF R3 Meta Specifications
DESIGN: Three-way bass reflex
DRIVE UNITS: Uni-Q Driver Array:
HF: 25 mm (1 in.) vented aluminium dome with MAT
MF: 125 mm (5 in.) aluminium cone
LF: 165 mm (6.5 in.) hybrid aluminium cone
CROSSOVER FREQUENCY: 420 Hz, 2.3 kHz
FREQUENCY RANGE (-6dB): 38 Hz – 50 kHz
TYPICAL IN-ROOM BASS RESPONSE (-6dB): 30 Hz
FREQUENCY RESPONSE (±3dB): 58Hz – 28kHz
HARMONIC DISTORTION (90dB, 1m): <1% 73 Hz and above, <0.5% 90 Hz – 20 kHz
MAXIMUM OUTPUT: 110 dB
AMPLIFIER REQUIREMENTS: 15 – 180W
NOMINAL IMPEDANCE: 4 Ω (min. 3.2 Ω)
SENSITIVITY (2.83V/1m): 87 dB
WEIGHT: 12.4 kg (27.3 lbs) per unit
DIMENSION (H x W x D) WITH TERMINAL: 422 x 200 x 336 mm (16.6 x 7.9 x 13.2 in) per unit
FINISHES: Black Gloss / White Gloss / Walnut / Indigo Gloss Special Edition
You can download the manual here->KEF R3 Meta Manual
Construction & Design
The KEF R3 Meta speakers are a testament to the brand’s commitment to excellence in both construction and design. These bookshelf speakers are meticulously crafted to deliver exceptional audio performance while seamlessly blending into any living space. Here are the key details about their construction and design:
Uni-Q Driver Array
At the heart of the KEF R3 Meta lies its patented Uni-Q driver array.
This driver arrangement places a 12th-generation, 5.25-inch aluminum cone midrange driver coaxially within a 1-inch vented aluminum dome tweeter. This Uni-Q design ensures that sound radiates evenly in both horizontal and vertical directions, creating a wider “sweet spot” and providing a more immersive listening experience.
The “Meta” in KEF R3 Meta refers to the Metamaterial Absorption Technology used in its design.
This technology employs a unique metamaterial placed behind the tweeter to absorb unwanted sound waves, thereby reducing distortion and improving overall clarity. This innovation enhances the precision and purity of the sound produced by these speakers.
The cabinets of the KEF R3 Meta are constructed using high-density fiberboard (HDF) and feature internal bracing. This design minimizes cabinet vibrations and resonances, ensuring that the sound remains pure and uncolored. The cabinets are available in a choice of elegant finishes, including Gloss White, Gloss Black, and Wood Veneer Walnut, allowing them to complement various interior aesthetics.
These speakers incorporate a front-firing port, which is carefully tuned to optimize bass response and reduce air turbulence noise. This design choice ensures that the KEF R3 Meta delivers deep, controlled bass without muddying the midrange or treble frequencies.
The rear of the speaker features a high-quality terminal panel with bi-wire/bi-amp capability.
This allows users to fine-tune their audio setup for optimal performance, whether using a single wire or bi-wiring/bi-amping with separate cables for the high and low-frequency drivers.
The KEF R3 Meta speakers come with magnetic grilles that not only protect the drivers but also provide a sleek and unobtrusive appearance when attached.
Elegant Design Elements
KEF pays attention to the finer details of design, including the curved baffle edges that reduce diffraction and enhance aesthetics. The speakers also feature aluminum trim rings around the Uni-Q driver and tweeter, adding a touch of sophistication to their appearance.
4 Different Colors
The KEF R3 Meta speakers are available in a range of stylish color variations to cater to different aesthetic preferences and interior design schemes:
- Black Gloss – For those who prefer a sleek and sophisticated appearance, Black Gloss offers a timeless and elegant finish that can blend seamlessly with various room styles.
- White Gloss – A classic choice for a clean and contemporary look, White Gloss complements modern decor and brightens up any room.
- Walnut – This option provides a touch of warmth and natural beauty to your audio setup. The wood veneer Walnut finish adds a touch of classic elegance and pairs well with traditional or rustic decor.
- Indigo Gloss Special Edition – This is a special edition of KEF R3 Meta speakers in Indigo Blue color. Maybe you will prefer this version.
Size and Placement
These bookshelf speakers are compact in size, making them suitable for placement on shelves, stands, or even as part of a home theater setup. Their size makes them versatile and capable of fitting into a variety of room layouts.
In summary, the KEF R3 Meta speakers showcase an exquisite blend of advanced engineering and elegant design. From the innovative Uni-Q driver array to the incorporation of Metamaterial Absorption Technology, these speakers are a testament to KEF’s dedication to delivering exceptional sound quality and aesthetics to discerning audio enthusiasts. Whether you’re an audiophile seeking uncompromising performance or a design-conscious individual looking to elevate your living space, the KEF R3 Meta speakers offer a compelling solution.
With Diana Krall’s “Look Of Love”, the R3 Meta bookshelf loudspeaker masters the beginning with excellence. His great talent is a timely, homogeneous, completely coherent rendition. Here you just like to listen, even louder, because the R3 does not change its highly balanced characteristics. Despite all the harmony, Daian’s voice never seems superficial but presents itself with fine dynamics. The total volume that KEF’s compact loudspeakers from the R-Meta series have in store is also enormous. Here you could spontaneously bet on a significantly larger case size if you listen with your eyes closed. We also really like the incorporation of the piano. High quality is offered here in terms of fine dynamics,
Let’s continue with “Vivo Per Lei” by Andrea Bocelli and Georgia. And again we have a piano right at the beginning of the title, and again the R3 Meta scores with an extremely clean reproduction. Both voices, Andrea’s and Georgia’s, have a lot of charisma, and the KEF bookshelf loudspeaker works out dynamic differences within the vocal presence with clean impulse fidelity. The bass has substance and emphasis, but at the same time acts with impeccable precision. The R3 boxes succeed in grading the entire sound image exactly and authentically, the separation of the voices from the instruments is not objectionable even at a significantly increased volume.
“For Your Eye Only”, the 007 title track by Sheen Easton, is actually not quite up to date in terms of the quality of the source material. The round and harmonious R3 Meta, however, makes you forget the otherwise quite audible dissonances: the voice sounds pleasant and clear, we particularly like the piano in this piece, and even the spatial density is flawless without restrictions.
“The Sun Always Shine On TV” by a-ha in a very special version: unplugged and sung by Ingrid Helene Havik and Morten Harket. Here the KEF loudspeaker proves once again how fast and at the same time cultivated it works, it prepares the voices very sensitively, but also gives them a good deal of dynamics when both artists raise their voices with verve. The instruments are grouped appropriately around the vocal parts and always have clearly recognizable contours. The tight and powerful bass is astonishing once again, providing a solid “substructure” for the track at all times.
Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” suits the KEF R3 Meta as well. Very clear, and well-founded, with seamless transitions and solid dynamics, the speaker cannot be faulted at all. The vocal elements – female and male voices – are incorporated with the right amount of expressiveness, and the rhythm is always presented on impulse. The intensively experienced three-dimensionality is another point that speaks for KEF’s three-way bookshelf speakers. This is still almost fully retained even in larger listening rooms, in which one would prefer a 2.1 system or floor-standing rather than bookshelf speakers.
“Land Of Confusion” in the cover version of Disturbed can also be “listened to”. Here, KEF’s talented bookshelf speaker skilfully emphasizes the energy present, for example in the voice and the electric guitar, but does not push the level of acoustic aggressiveness inappropriately into the red area. Everything fits here, the overall sound distribution, the space provided and the rough dynamics. The material is quite difficult, the playback often degenerates into uncontrolled screaming, especially at higher levels, which is accompanied by over-stylized harsh e-guitar and dull thumping of the low frequencies. The R3 Meta-Box acts in a completely different way – and ensures such great listening pleasure, because the speaker never gives up control and composure.
With the trance track “Bonzai” (Oliver Heldens & HI-LO), the KEF proves to us that harp trance beats don’t cause them any problems. With rich bass, clear contours and extensive effect reproduction, it fulfills almost every conceivable requirement. We would never have thought that it could still increase in power and hardness even at high levels in the bass range. Also, not all spatial structures remain stable and do not soften.
The benefits of the Meta technology can be clearly understood if one concentrates. Even more structure and a purer sound – everything that KEF promised is also true. That doesn’t mean that the predecessor R3 speaker is “old iron”, it’s still an excellent loudspeaker.
KEF R3 Meta VS Competition
For the pair price of EUR 2,200, a really high standard is offered here – good, some people will think. You can read that on AREADVD from many loudspeakers, regardless of whether they are shelf or floor-standing speakers. But what exactly is so good about the R3, and for which listener is the KEF box exactly the right choice?
Here we have to go back a little further. In fact, the standard that already prevails in the class from EUR 1,500 per pair is high, and of course, there are also more expensive solutions, but the additional price is still reasonable.
With a pair price of around 3,200 euros, the Elac Vela BS 404 is one of the more expensive alternatives that is attracting attention. With the outstanding resolution JET 5 tweeter and a very well-rounded, at the same time clear and detailed way of playing, the Vela 404 will rightly find many friends. The processing is high-class, but here the R3 comes very close because it also spoils you with outstanding processing. Acoustically, the Vela resolves an idea even better in the high-frequency range, making it appear even more delicate and sensitive. The R3 for this is simply one of the most pleasantly playing boxes that we know. As mentioned, the more expensive Elac also shines with enormous harmony, but these round, seamless transitions of the R3 are what really set it apart.
The Quadral Aurum Galan 9, which has a classic look but is also very attractive and compact in price, is very close in terms of price. You pay around EUR 2,000 for a pair here and get outstanding value for it. The extremely impulse-accurate quSENSE ribbon shines in the high-frequency range. But the precision in the bass range is also impeccable. Overall, the R3 Meta is even more rounded, creating a little more volume, while the Galan adds a touch of brilliance in the high-frequency range. If we draw a conclusion here, one thing is certain: the better is the enemy of the very good. The R3 Meta still plays out the higher level of stability and the extremely high level of sovereignty with every source.
Would you rather have a floor-standing loudspeaker? In addition, one that looks unique and is equipped with complex technology? Here the Q Acoustics Concept 50 would be recommended at a pair price of 2,600 EUR. Of course, there are also bookshelf speakers from this series, but since the floor-standing speaker is very slim and elegant, it is an interesting, powerful option with outstanding resolution over the entire frequency range, precise bass and really good, complex voice reproduction.
KEF R3 Meta Video Review
The KEF R3 Meta is a premium bookshelf speaker that expects no compromises from its new owner. It gets along excellently with almost every style of music, it is perfect for long listening sessions due to its round, homogeneous design, and it has a stable level and excellent workmanship. The plus of the Meta technology manifests itself in more acoustic clarity and a more direct sound that lacks any annoying accessories. Thanks to the Uni-Q driver, the baffle also delivers a coherent acoustic picture in terms of timing, in which the musical levels are perfectly differentiated. With a pair price of 2,200 EUR, the acoustic and optical beauty of the R3 Meta-Box is not too expensive. Clear conclusion: Currently (July 2023), the R3 Meta is the benchmark in its performance class, which no competitor can beat.
KEF R3 Meta Pro & Cons
- Outstanding sound quality
- Innovative Metamaterial Absorption Technology
- Uni-Q driver array for a coherent soundstage
- High build quality
- Stylish design
- Versatile placement options
- Relatively high price
- Larger and heavier than some competitors
- Requires a quality amplifier