Category: Reader Feedback Reader Feedback
Created: 26 August 2020 26 August 2020

To Diego Estan,

I appreciated your review of the KEF R11 from last summer, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts about how it compares to the bookshelf Reference 1 mounted on a floor stand. I’m debating the two for my room, which measures 20’ deep by 25’ wide.

I have heard the R11s live and loved them. The Reference 1 wasn’t available in the listening room.

Thanks for any thoughts you might provide.

P.S. I’m willing to entertain the use of subwoofers with the Reference 1s.

United States

Thanks for your kind feedback. I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to any model from the KEF Reference series in my home, but I’ve reached out to my esteemed SoundStage! colleague Hans Wetzel, who owns Reference 3s and is quite familiar with the R11. He describes the R11’s style as “utterly coherent from top to bottom” and says that it is well-built and well-appointed and that it offers nearly full-range sound.” He considered making the R11 his reference speaker, but his space is too small.

Instead, Hans picked up a pair of Reference 3s, which he highly recommends. The Reference 1 is voiced almost identically to the Reference 3, according to our measurements. You might make some sacrifices in terms of extension below 40-50Hz and ultimate output, but they are more than made up for by the improvements in nearly every other performance parameter.

Personally, if I had to choose between the R11 and Reference 1 (without subs), I’d go with the R11. Bass performance is just too important to me, and in a room as big as yours I fear the Reference 1s would leave me wanting more. If paired with one or, ideally, two subs, I’d pick the Reference 1. First, a good sub will output deeper, more powerful bass compared to all but the most expensive full-range speaker/amp combos. Dollar for dollar, in terms of bass performance, subs win. Second, you can place the sub(s) in the room for optimal bass response, which you can’t really do with towers since they must be placed for optimal imaging. These differences become more significant the more work you put into dialing in the subs -- e.g., placement, volume setting, bass management and crossover point, and, for greater performance, measurements and EQ.

Best of luck! Please let me know what you end up with. I know you’ll be pleased with the sound either way. . . . Diego Estan