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KEF V300 2-Channel Speaker System Review

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KEF latest speaker package helps you get the best from your TV

by Steve Withers Oct 11, 2013

  • Home AV review

    5,305

    Recommended
    KEF V300 2-Channel Speaker System Review
    SRP: £700.00

    Introduction

    It's no secret that modern TVs don't sound that great and, as a result, an entirely new market has developed. The main driver of this new product range has been the soundbar but many established two-channel and multi-channel speaker manufacturers have also been getting in on the action. The idea of a two-channel solution is an attractive one because two speakers, one either side of your TV, will provide better stereo separation and a wider soundstage. Some manufacturers have developed soundbars that can be used in either a traditional configuration or as two separate speakers and others have gone the more traditional two-channel route.

    KEF's V300 digital TV sound system falls into the latter category, with two ultra-slim speakers designed to compliment a modern TV and what the manufacturer calls a discreet activation module. That's an amplifier to the rest of us. The appeal of this approach is that it eliminates the need for an unsightly AV receiver in your front room and minimises the amount of additional cabling. The ultra-slim speakers certainly look attractive and the amplifier is indeed discreet but how will they sound when handling both movies and music? Let's find out.

    Design and Connections

    As we would expect from KEF, the constituent parts of the V300 system all share a pleasingly high level of design and build quality. The speakers themselves use a pair of KEF's patented 115mm ultra-slim bass midrange drivers, which have flat and exceptionally rigid diaphragms. As a result they can deliver accurate upper-bass and mid-range that is free of distortion across the frequency range. The drivers are partnered with KEF's 25mm vented tweeter. By eliminating any distortion from air compression behind the aluminium dome, venting the tweeter assures accurate reproduction of vocals, even at high volumes. In addition, the company's unique 'tangerine' waveguide evenly distributes the output across a wider angle so that everyone in the room enjoys the same sound quality, regardless of where they are sat. A lot of this technology has been ported over from KEF's excellent T Series speakers, so you're getting a serious amount of performance for your investment.

    KEF V300
    A lot of this technology has been ported over from KEF's excellent T Series speakers.

    KEF V300

    As a result of all this proprietary technology, the enclosures of the V300 speakers are only 35mm deep, allowing them to compliment most modern TVs without sacrificing sound quality. The cabinets are 600mm high and 140mm wide, meaning they can match perfectly with screen sizes between 42 and 55 inches, which is increasingly the range within which most TVs are sold.

    The KEFs certainly looked the part either side of our Kuro.

    The speaker cabinets are finished in black metal, with a black non-removable fabric grille and a solid and well engineered feel. They certainly looked the part either side of our 50-inch Pioneer Kuro but looked equally as good with a 65-inch LG Ultra HD TV that we happened to have in for review at the same time. They are extremely flexible, in terms of placement, with the choice of either using provided desk stands or wall mounts, and there are also optional floor stands available.

    KEF V300

    The activation module is equally as flexible and thanks to its diminutive size (28 x 271 x 162mm), it can be positioned just about anywhere. You can obviously pop it into an equipment rack or on top of another device but it also offers the option to attach to the back of the screen using the VESA mounting points. Thus the unit can be placed discreetly out of sight and if that isn't enough, you can even position the unit on the wall using an optional flush mount kit. The activation unit has the same superior build quality as the speakers, with an all black chassis and a brushed aluminium facia. There's a small LED on the front to show when the unit is on and a set of basic connections at the rear, including an HDMI input and an optical digital input. There is also an on/off switch, an output for an optional subwoofer if you want to enhance the bass and an EQ switch, depending on whether you are wall or stand mounting the speakers.

    The activation unit has the same superior build quality as the speakers.

    KEF V300

    Setup is extremely easy, especially if your TV has an HDMI input with Audio Return Channel (ARC). If so, all that's required is to connect the HDMI input on the activation unit to the ARC HDMI input on your TV. The audio is then fed to the activation unit by the TV and you can also control the unit using your TV remote. We took this approach in conjunction with a 65-inch LG Ultra HD TV we happened to have in for review at the same time and found that setup was extremely easy. The TV passed audio via the HDMI ARC input without any issues and we could turn the V300 on and off, hit the mute button or adjust the volume using the TV's remote control.

    KEF V300

    If you don't have ARC, then instead you can connect the digital optical output on your TV to the activation unit and use HDMI CEC to control it with the TV's remote control. We took this approach with our Pioneer Kuro which, being a few years older, doesn't have ARC. Obviously this approach requires an additional optical cable but otherwise the performance in terms of audio and control was identical. It should be stressed that the V300 is intended purely as a way of improving the audio of your TV and is not meant as an alternative to an AV receiver with numerous HDMI inputs and multi-channel audio. KEF has designed the activation unit to work in harmony with your TV and, as such, it has just enough inputs for that purpose. However the addition of a coaxial digital input could also be useful, just in case their are any TVs that use that connection rather than an optical digital output.

    There are secure spring loaded terminals at the rear of the activation unit and cabling is provided to connect the speakers. These cables are 1.5m each in length which should be enough for most TVs, although that does tend to depend on where you have positioned the activation unit. Of course, you can always buy longer cable runs if you need to. The terminals on the speakers face downward, allowing for flush wall mounting, and are secured using a provided allen key. There is an EQ switch, with an option for either Wall or Stand, which adjusts for boundary gain to optimise the bass response depending on whether the speakers are free standing or mounted against the wall. If you have an active subwoofer, then you can use the sub output to enhance the bass performance of the V300.

    Audio Performance - Movies

    The sound quality of the V300 is excellent with the kind of controlled and composed audio performance that we would expect from a pair of KEF speakers. The small activation unit includes a Class D amplifier that is acoustically matched to the speakers and delivers 50W to each of them. Whilst this isn't going to shake the room, it is more than sufficient for watching regular TV programmes and even movies. The amplifier can go reasonably loud but never distorts and the dialogue always remains clear and nicely centred. The use of speakers either side of the screen allows for greater stereo separation and a more open front soundstage. The V300 is obviously lacking somewhat at the low end but the addition of a subwoofer can easily address that and despite their narrow dimensions, the speakers deliver an impressive mid-range and higher frequency performance. To get the best out of the V300, the addition of an active subwoofer would be recommended and KEF make a number of models that would nicely match the system.

    KEF V300

    The speakers deliver an impressive mid-range and higher frequency performance.

    We used the V300 in conjunction with both a 65-inch LG Ultra HD TV and a 50-inch Pioneer Kuro and the KEF combo performed superbly with both. There were no issues in terms of connection and control and in the case of the LG at least, the audio produced by the V300 is superior to the built-in speakers. Despite LG's best efforts and the larger chassis, you just can't beat a dedicated pair of speakers positioned either side of the screen. In case of the Kuro, the addition of speakers is essential because the Pioneer doesn't have any of its own. The V300 produced a pleasingly neutral performance, which is ideal for its purpose, allowing the listener to enjoy a wide soundscape at the front, with good localisation of music and effects. Dialogue remained anchored in the centre but the speakers themselves tended to vanish into the room, resulting in a genuinely transparent performance. Regardless of whether you are watching TV programmes or movies, the V300 delivers a highly accomplished performance and the final episode of Breaking Bad was well served by the KEFs.

    The high fidelity nature of the components means it is equally assured with music.

    Audio Performance - Music

    Of course, whilst the V300 is primarily intended for watching TV, the high fidelity nature of the components means it is equally assured with music. This is especially handy as modern TVs offer more opportunities to listen to music than ever before and the KEF combination allows you to take full advantage of this capability. Just as with our TV watching, the neutral and precise performance of the speakers resulted in an excellent musical experience. The mid-range is well served, whilst the higher frequencies were nicely reproduced for an enjoyable and lively experience. The amplification in the activation unit is also capable of filling the room with plenty of volume without ever distorting or sounding strained. As with TV programmes and movies, the bass is somewhat lacking so, to fully appreciate the abilities of the KEF speakers, an added subwoofer would be useful. However, the wider stereo separation afforded by the speakers delivers an impressively open and immersive soundstage. The result is a balanced sound that allows individual instruments to be picked out, whilst retaining its overall acoustic integrity. We've recently been enjoying the Manic Street Preachers new album Rewind the Film and the V300 did a superb job of reproducing the melancholy but complex arrangements.

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    The Good

    • Excellent sound quality
    • Attractive design
    • Flexible installation
    • Easy to set up and use
    • Impressive build quality

    The Bad

    • More connections would be useful
    • Quite expensive
    You own this Total 1
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    KEF V300 2-Channel Speaker System Review

    Right off the bat it's worth pointing out that the V300 has been very much designed to work with a TV and shouldn't be considered as an alternative to a full AV receiver. That isn't a criticism, merely the nature of its intended purpose. However once you've established the V300's limitations, what you're left with is a perfectly designed compliment to any modern TV.

    Of course this being a KEF product, the V300 includes the kind of attractive design and excellent build quality that we have come to expect from the manufacturer. The tall and slim speakers are beautifully made, with a solid and well engineered feel. The black finish and fabric grilles will match most modern TVs, especially if the model in question has a black chassis. The V300's speakers certainly looked the part either side of our Pioneer Kuro and the cabinets were the perfect size for the 50-inch screen. In terms of installation, the speakers are extremely flexible, with the option to mount either side of the screen using the provided desk stands or on the wall. There are also optional floor stands available if you would prefer.

    The activation module is equally as flexible and thanks to its diminutive size it can be positioned just about anywhere. You can obviously pop it into an equipment rack or on top of another device but it also offers the option to attach to the back of the screen using the VESA mounting points. If that isn't enough you can even position the unit on the wall using an optional flush mount kit. The activation unit has the same superior build quality with an all black chassis and a brushed aluminium facia. There's a small LED on the front to show when the unit is on and a set of basic connections at the rear. There is also an on/off switch, an output for an optional subwoofer if you want to enhance the bass and inputs for HDMI and optical digital audio.

    Setup is extremely easy, especially if your TV has an HDMI input with an Audio Return Channel (ARC), and all that's required is to connect the HDMI input on the activation unit to the ARC HDMI input on your TV. The audio is then fed to the activation unit and you can control the unit using your TV remote. If you don't have ARC then you can connect the digital optical output on your TV to the unit and use HDMI CEC to control it with the TV's remote control. There are secure spring loaded terminals at the rear of the activation unit and cabling is provided to connect the speakers. The terminals on the speakers face downward, allowing for flush wall mounting, and are secured using a provided allen key. Depending on how you have installed your speakers, there is an EQ switch for either a Wall or Stand configuration which adjusts for boundary gain.

    The sound quality of the V300 is excellent with the kind of controlled and neutral performance that we would expect from a pair of KEF speakers. The small activation unit includes a Class D amplifier that delivers 50W to each speaker and whilst this isn't going to shake the room, it is more than sufficient for watching TV and movies. The amplifier can go reasonably loud but never distorts and the dialogue always remains clear and nicely centred. The use of speakers either side of the screen allows for greater stereo separation and a more open front soundstage, making the KEFs equally as adept with music. The V300 is obviously lacking somewhat at the low end but the addition of a subwoofer output can easily address that and despite their narrow dimensions, the speakers deliver an impressive mid-range and higher frequency performance.

    The KEF V300 offers an elegant and highly effective solution to the problem of poor TV sound and the audio quality is among the best we have heard from a two-channel solution. It might not provide all the options that a full AV receiver will but it's a lot less intrusive in your living room. The price is quite high for what is a very competitive market but quality rarely comes cheap. Depending on how much your TV cost and assuming you don't want multi-channel audio, the KEF V300 might well offer one of the best ways to deliver high fidelity sound into your living room.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    6

    Ease of Use

    9

    Sound Quality

    8

    Features

    7

    Value for Money

    7

    Verdict

    8

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