KEF R Series 5.1.2 Loudspeaker Page 2

In the destruction of the swarm fleet in Star Trek: Beyond (Blu-ray) – still one of my favourite examples of a Dolby Atmos track utilising the height layer – this R Series system deals with the demolition of thousands of spaceships in an unruffled manner. The explosions have a suitably cosmic scale, but it's the fine detail found within them that impresses the most. As the wave of detonations starts, you can actually hear the individual ships exploding.

The system's sense of three-dimensionality is also outstanding. Those Uni-Q drivers are almost untouchable when it comes to generating a soundfield that is even from left to right, and with a front-to-back depth that is utterly immersive, and it is able to convey this from almost total silence, with only the barest of material.

This immersive quality is absolutely key to the suspension of disbelief. It's a stretch to describe the final showdown in Bumblebee (Ultra HD Blu-ray) as 'realistic', but the way the R Series blends the sounds that we have points of reference to with the ones we don't is convincing.

The R8a is also the best implementation of an upward-firing speaker I've yet experienced from KEF. The pairing here manages to effectively extend the soundstage above the listening position, and had me wishing for two more to cap off the surrounds. In the apartment block fight in Atomic Blonde (Ultra HD Blu-ray), the Russian baddies come down the stairway from above, integrated with the effects from the 'regular' surround channels.


The only real fault I can level at this package is that it really comes alive at higher volume. Run at lower levels, the detail and general space doesn't suffer but once you go beyond a certain point, there's an extra energy and heft that means you tend to drive the R Series harder than you might otherwise.

The good news is that nothing feels like it is under any strain when you do. The Kube 12b is cost-effective in the context of the system (£700) but it can extend the depth of the pricier R5s. When giant robot fist meets giant robot head, the effect is visceral and dynamic. There's also no sluggishness either.

The outstanding Kraftwerk 3-D: The Catalogue Blu-ray affords the KEFs a chance to show their musicality. The Atmos-equipped mix of Radio Activity, which the R8a speakers help propel high and wide, is outstanding. Of course, the nature of Kraftwerk's material makes it well suited to a multichannel arrangement, and the quality of the mix is peerless, but you don't sit there judging the quality of the mix, you sit there thinking 'this is awesome.'

The guiltiest pleasure comes from those full-size surround channels. Leaving the delights of Atmos behind and reaching for the 1080p Blu-ray of Flight of the Phoenix shows just what the benefits of having an identical speaker in each corner really are. The plane crash sequence in the sandstorm remains a reference-grade surround experience, and the snarl of the failing engine tearing itself to pieces gains from this system's ability to extract small details and work them into the wider mix.

In the film itself, the location of the engine changes relative to the position of the shot, and with smaller surrounds this can lead to a degree of unevenness. Here this is not an issue; the full fury of both engine and sandstorm is superbly presented.

Multichannel Maestro
The R Series isn't KEF's entry-level, but it's easy to see why it's the brand's best-selling range of speakers. Their balance of technical wizardry, attention to detail and aesthetic charm means you won't find yourself making excuses them for in any surroundings, and by covering off these basics, you're ready to enjoy the superb level of performance on offer. These speakers take everything that KEF is known and regarded for and makes those things better. The result is an absolutely outstanding multichannel performer and one that deserves to be at the top of anyone's shortlist at the price.

HCC Verdict

KEF R Series 5.1.2

Price: £6,250

We say: A supremely accomplished set of speakers that blends excellent design and aesthetics with a barnstorming performance. What's not to love?

Performance: 5/5
Features: 5/5
Design: 5/5
Overall: 5/5


Drive units: 1 x 5in Uni-Q driver with 5in aluminium midbass cone and 1in aluminium dome tweeter; 2 x 5.25in hybrid aluminium bass drivers
Enclosure: Twin rear-ported
Frequency response (CLAIMED): 52Hz-28kHz
Sensitivity (CLAIMED): 87dB
Power handling (CLAIMED): 200W
Dimensions: 271.6 (w) x 1071.4(h) x 343.5(d)mm
Weight: 27.3kg

Drive units: 1 x 5in Uni-Q driver with 5in aluminium midbass cone and 1in aluminium dome tweeter; 2 x 5.25in hybrid aluminium bass drivers
Enclosure: Sealed
Frequency response: 74Hz-28kHz
Sensitivity (CLAIMED): 87dB
Power handling (CLAIMED): 200W
Dimensions: 550(w) x 175(h) x 285(d)mm
Weight: 16.9kg

Drive units: 1 x 5in Uni-Q driver with 5in aluminium midbass cone and 1in aluminium dome tweeter
Enclosure: Sealed
Frequency response (CLAIMED): 96Hz-19.5kHz
Sensitivity (CLAIMED): 86dB
Power handling (CLAIMED): 150W
Dimensions: 174.6(w) x 173.8(h) x 255(d)mm
Weight: 4.45kg

KEF Kube 12b (subwoofer)
Drive units: 1 x 12in forward-firing woofer
Enclosure: Sealed
Frequency response (CLAIMED): 22Hz-140Hz (+/-3dB)
Onboard power (CLAIMED): 300W
Remote control: No
Dimensions: 393(w) x 410(h) x 410(d)mm
Weight: 20.6kg
Features: Stereo phono/LFE input; speaker-level input; volume, crossover and phase control; three-position EQ