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Review: KEF iQ30 Bookshelf Speakers

Bookshelf Speakers with Something for Everyone to Like

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)

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Review: KEF iQ30 Bookshelf Speakers
It comes as no surprise that the selection of good-sounding and affordable bookshelf speakers continues to grow. Sales trends show that consumers want good sounding, lower cost speakers that don't dominate a room and manufacturers such as KEF are eager to provide them. Whether you're a casual or critical listener, rock or classical music aficionado, there is something for everyone to like in the moderately priced KEF iQ30 bookshelf speakers.

Feature Highlights

I'm still enjoying the sound of the KEF iQ50, the bigger, floorstanding model in the same KEF Q series line. Like the iQ50, the smaller iQ30 enclosure is elliptically shaped to minimize internal standing waves that can result in less than ideal bass response. It's a nice departure from the typical boxy look. The bass reflex cabinet is internally braced for a solid, resonant-free enclosure.

The KEF Uni-Q driver and a new 'tangerine waveguide' are the core drivers in the iQ30 speaker. Uni-Q is a proprietary KEF driver design, developed over the company's fifty-year history. In the Uni-Q design the acoustic centers, or voice coils of the 6.5" mid-bass driver and 0.75" tweeter are time aligned in order to achieve a 'point source' design where all sounds emanate from the same point in space. As a result, interference between the sound waves from separate drivers is minimized and the results provide a coherent sound quality with wide dispersion characteristics. A coherent speaker presents a sound wave as if listening to a single driver for all frequencies, not separate drivers interconnected by a crossover and is one of the most important and often overlooked characteristics of accurate music reproduction.

A waveguide helps control and direct the sound coming from the tweeter and increases horizontal dispersion of high frequencies. I have no idea where the term 'tangerine' originated and it's not important, but I assume it's because of the shape, which resemble the mottled skin of a tangerine.

The KEF iQ30s have dual speaker terminals for bi-wiring and bi-amplification.

Sound Quality

A good speaker reproduces music and voice with little coloration and is faithful to the original recording, thus the term high fidelity. I found the iQ30s to be accurate and very easy on the ears for casual and critical listening.

Stephane Grappelli's jazz violin sounded sweet with good transparency and openness in the mids and highs in 'The Collection' (CD, Castle Music), a great live recording from the 1970s.

Likewise, the delicate details in the fiddle and mandolin had excellent resolution in 'The Lighthouse's Tale' from Nickel Creek (SACD/CD, Sugar Hill Records). This trio's talented musicians really showed off the midrange and treble qualities of the iQ30s.

The KEFs also reproduced vocals with outstanding openness and transparency in Norwegian singer Kari Bremnes' 'Dine Oine' (Your Eyes). Her voice imaged well and had great soundstage presence.

The KEF iQ30s nicely revealed the sonic refinements and imperfections in the newly re-mastered Beatles CD collection. As I mentioned in my review, the vocal clarity and instrumental details were markedly improved from the original LPs and CDs. Understandably they're not perfect, and the KEFs exposed some edginess and harshness, but that's a strength not a weakness.

While it may seem that a subwoofer would be required for a bookshelf speaker, I thought the bass from the iQ30s was adequate.

The iQ30s sound best on speaker stands placed at ear level while listening to get the best bass and imaging.

The iQ30s have a low sensitivity spec of 89 dB, but my Yamaha stereo power amp with 70-watts x 2 easily reproduced dynamic musical peaks.

Conclusion

Two thumbs up! The KEF iQ30s are one of best bookshelf speakers I've tested and are a great value priced at $599.00 per pair. They have a neutral sound quality with little coloration and are easy to listen to with all kinds of music. Whether you're a casual or critical listener, the iQ30s have something every music lover will enjoy.

Specifications

  • Design: Two-way bass reflex
  • Drivers: 6.5" Uni-Q mid-bass and 0.75" aluminum dome tweeter with waveguide
  • Crossover Frequency: 2.5kHz
  • Sensitivity: 89dB
  • Impedance: 8 Ohms
  • Recommended Power: 15-120 watts
  • Magnetic Shielding: Yes
  • Frequency Range: 45Hz - 40KHz
  • Dimensions (H x W x D) 14.4" x 8.7" x 12.9"
  • Weight: 14.2 lbs.
  • Finishes: Black Ash, Dark Apple, American Walnut
  • Price: $599.95 per pair
  • Contact: www.kef.com
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
like a fine wine..., Member stevewroe

I'd considered the B&W685s but bought these on the recommendation of Steve from Eastwood HiFi in NSW Australia. At first, I was a bit disappointed to be honest and damn near sold them on eBay. Then, after about a month of moderate use, they came into their own. It was remarkable...as if they had final 'broken in' and lived up to their abilities. Now it seems they get better with each listening. The thing I disliked about them at first was that the treble, bass and vocals seemed to blend together and get all muddled. It sounded muddy and confused. But now each is clear and resonant - beautiful soundstaging. I am running a Paradigm sub which helps a bit but another thing I noticed is that the bass has developed a lot more 'presence' over the last month. If it's a bit late and I have friends over and we're...well...a bit boozed...the music gets turned up. I turn off the sub to resounding boos (in order to avoid upsetting the neighbours) and the bass in the iq30 works fine. I am running these with a Cambridge 540R (series 3) amp and I am very happy. Now. If you'd asked me 2 weeks ago I'd have said something else. So I recommend them but they need waaaay more than a week to break in. These are now 5/5 - for the money they are AWESOME.

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