Apples and Oranges: KEF's R500 and GoldenEar's Aon 3

To Doug Schneider,

In recent months you have given very favorable reviews to both the KEF R500 and GoldenEar Aon 3 loudspeakers. Noting that you have spent time listening to both of these speakers, how would you compare and contrast them?

They are at different price points and one is a floorstander, whereas the other is stand-mounted. I realize that this is like comparing apples and oranges, but that's exactly what I am hoping you can do. Depending on where or how they are to be used, might one speaker be better suited over the other?


These are tough questions to answer because the R500 and Aon 3 are quite different speakers, so it is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison, although there are some similarities.

One of the biggest differences is that the R500s sell for about $2600 per pair, while the Aon 3s are about $1000. Obviously, the difference in price can't be overlooked when assessing appearance or performance. As you pointed out, the R500 is a floorstanding design, while the Aon 3 is designed for stand- or shelf-mounting, so they not only look different, but their applications differ somewhat. Their drivers and crossover topologies are completely different. The Aon 3 has obviously been designed for smaller living spaces, and the fact that it's compact and light means that it would be ideal for a shelf. Stands are required to bring them out on the floor. The R500 is quite a bit larger and, obviously, can only be used on the floor. All this means that someone who is shopping for the R500 won't likely be shopping for the Aon 3, and vice versa. If anything, the R500's logical GoldenEar competitors would be the Triton Two or Three models, which are priced at about $2000 and $3000 per pair respectively, and are floorstanding designs, each with greater bass extension than the Aon 3 provides. The Aon 3's natural competitor in KEF's R line would likely be the R100, which is a stand-mounted design priced at about $1200 per pair.

The R500's and Aon 3's similarities aren't that obvious, but there are some. One thing I noticed was that in each instance the designers have taken unique, proprietary drivers and created speakers that are real standouts at the prices they sell for. Another thing is that despite the differing design approaches, the hallmarks of good speaker design are apparent in the measurements –- wide bandwidth, generally flat frequency response, well-controlled dispersion, and low distortion. All told, they're both unique, exceptionally well-engineered speakers that are very reasonably priced, given all they offer.

As I said up front, your questions are tough ones, but I hope I answered them sufficiently. . . . Doug Schneider