B&W or KEF?

To Randall Smith,

I found your review of B&W's 684 loudspeakers extremely interesting. I am building a new, small hi-fi system, with a relatively small budget. I listen to both classical and rock-pop music (my kids listen to the "young" pop-rock Lady Gaga-like music, and they will use the hi-fi system as well).

I received as a Christmas gift a pair of KEF IQ5SE speakers, which are generally well ranked (five stars by What Hi-Fi?), but I am afraid they are a bit too lean and small.

A hi-fi shop recently proposed that I buy their last pair of B&W 684s for around $1000 (the normal price in France is $1300-$1400, including taxes), and they are also open to take my new KEFs on trade, evaluating them at around $540 (so the exchange to B&W would cost me $460 only). What do you think? Shall I keep my KEFs or, for the proposed difference, jump to the B&W 684s? Thanks in advance for your advice.

Paris, France

I am not familiar with the KEF IQ5SE speakers. Looking at the specs and after reading a few professional reviews, it appears the biggest issue with the speaker is its lack of bass. Considering the type of music you like, as well as the type of music your family listens to, the B&W 684s would be able to play deeper and louder and would therefore probably be more satisfying. Having said that, if you have to spend $460 more to move up to the B&Ws, then perhaps you could look into buying a subwoofer to add to the system to mate with the KEFs? A powered sub combined with the less-expensive KEFs would probably outperform the 684s. Both the KEFs and the B&Ws are very thoroughly designed speakers and both come from well-established companies. But, if you do not have the space for a powered sub, then moving up to the B&W 684s is probably a great idea. I just wanted to put that idea of using a sub out there.The 684s are wonderful-sounding speakers, indeed. Hope it works out for you! . . . Randall Smith