KEF Reference 1 Meta vs. Magico Loudspeakers A1 in a Small Space

Hi Doug,

I would like to ask for your advice on a speaker to choose for a 12′ × 11′ × 9′ office. I have some additional space with a closet door removed and my desk stuffed into that space. The room is nicely treated with GIK panels.

I used to have a pair of KEF LS50 Metas and KEF KC62 sub in this room and it was great. However, I have a new 200W amp that makes sub integration difficult. I am looking for a monitor speaker to replace the LS50 Meta so that I can get more bass without running a sub. The LS50 Meta needs the sub to shine.

My two top contenders are the KEF Reference 1 Meta and the Magico A1. I have not heard the A1 but have heard the A3. I thought the A3 was good but not great, due to driver-integration (coherence) issues with the bass (for my ears). I am assuming the A1 being a two-way will not have these driver-integration issues for my ears.

I expect the KEF Reference 1 to be a better version of the LS50 Meta + KEF KC62 sub, but I am concerned a bit about the Reference 1 being too powerful for my office.

Which speaker would you choose for my small office?

United States

Hello MC,

Based on what you’ve told me, I think that the KEF Reference 1 Meta would be a better choice than the Magico A1, for the reasons I’ll outline below.

Bass issues of the A3 aside, if you only thought that the A3 was good but not great, I can’t see you thinking that the A1 is great. I reviewed the A1 in May 2020 and thought it to be a fine-sounding standmount loudspeaker. But even at that time, there were speakers available that I know some would find as good or better than the A1. For example, our electronics measurement specialist, Diego Estan, tried the A1s in his system, liked them, but thought his Focal Sopra No1s were better. And now, there’s even more choice.

Then there’s the price, though I don’t know how important that is to you. The A1 was $7400 per pair (all prices in USD) when I reviewed it. Now it’s $9400 per pair, which is quite an increase. By the way, those prices don’t include stands or grilles.

I haven’t reviewed the Reference 1 Meta, but I did review the original Reference 1 way back in 2014. I thought that model to be spectacular. Since KEF has a reputation for making improvements with each subsequent series, I’d imagine that the Reference 1 Meta is at least as good or better—though, admittedly, that’s speculation. The Reference 1 Meta is priced at $9000 per pair, without stands but with grilles, which is obviously cheaper than the A1. It also comes in multiple beautiful finish options, whereas the A1 comes in plain ol’ black.

I don’t think a pair of Reference 1 Metas will overload your space any more than a pair of Magicos would. Any bass issues are likely going to be similar. But, just like the original Reference 1, the Meta version comes with two user-installable bass ports of different lengths to tune the low-frequency output to your room, which could come in handy.

That said, I want to caution you about something—neither the A1 nor the Reference 1 Meta will give you the bass depth that the LS50 and KC62 combination does, all because the KC62 can easily reach down to 20Hz in a room of your size. The Reference 1 Meta and A1 deliver bass to about an octave higher. But since you mentioned subwoofer integration to be a problem with the electronics you have, it’s kind of a moot point—though I did want you to be aware of that. I hope this helps you make a good decision.

Doug Schneider