Dedicated surround sound systems seem to be losing favor with the masses of late as soundbars from all of the major players have been flooding the market and garnering praise from critics and consumers alike. It's hard not to like some of the more recent offerings from Sonos, Paradigm, and Definitive Technology, but the reality is that soundbars don't really deliver the immersive experience of a dedicated 5.1 system. The folks at KEF who have been on a serious roll of late with their LS50 loudspeakers and R-series home theater systems, apparently agree with us and just introduced their new E-series E305 5.1 system that has drool factor written all over it.
KEF has a lot invested in their Uni-Q driver technology and while it has been paying off with awards galore and strong sales, the technology has only started to trickle down into more affordable products including the X300A powered desktop loudspeaker at $800 and now the E305 home theater system.
The Uni-Q driver integrates a 4.25-inch full-range midrange/low frequency driver and a .75-inch vented aluminium dome tweeter and the results more than speak for themselves. For a more detailed explanation of the Uni-Q design, take a look at our recent rave review of the LS50 monitors which utilize a larger version of the Uni-Q and offer bass response and resolution far beyond their attractive $1,500 price tag.
The E305 system includes 5 E301 satellite loudspeakers (10.2"H x 5.4"W x 6.3"D) that weigh five pounds each and are available in a silky matte white or black finish. Their satin chrome base makes them easy to install on a media console or on bookshelves. KEF has also designed a stand for the E301 satellites that place the tweeter 33" from the ground in that configuration.
The tweeter at the center of the midrange cone is vented to prevent distortion-inducing high pressure from building up behind the dome, so the response in the critical vocal region remains intricately detailed with every nuance of the original recording. With KEF's ‘tangerine' waveguide, it encourages the sound to radiate evenly, increasing both the dispersion and sensitivity of the tweeter for a more natural performance throughout the listening area.
The E-2 powered subwoofer is downward firing via its 8" driver and is powered by a 250 watt/channel Class D power amplifier.
The E305 system is designed to deliver exceptional bass performance, with the sub seamlessly integrated within the rest of the system, so it sounds like five full-range loudspeakers. The frequency and phase response of the sub and satellites are carefully matched to smoothen the transition, so you can't hear where the satellite stops and the sub starts.
The Satellites are an 86dB 8 ohm load, and based on our experience with the LS50s, we expect these to measure rather similarly in terms of sensitivity and where the impedance drops in the upper midrange into 3 ohms. From an amplifier perspective, the E301s need an AV receiver that is powerful and stable into 4 ohms. Anthem, NAD, and Marantz look like good choices for this system if you really want to hear them at their best.
KEF hasn't announced a price yet for this system, but we're told that it's going to be "affordable" considering the sound quality and engineering.
If the E-series can deliver a real taste of the LS50s, this may be the sleeper home theater system of 2013 that might inspire some to ditch the soundbar for the real deal.
For more information: