KEF R500 to Reference 1 Upgrade

To Doug Schneider,

As a fellow audio nut, I was hoping to get your opinion.

Initially leaning towards LS50s, your favorable review of the KEF R500 floorstanding speakers had me actively seek out a pair for myself to demo and ultimately buy.

Given you have had time with both the R500 speakers and the new Reference 1s, I was wondering what extra the Reference 1s brought to the table in comparison.

I recently upgraded my amplification to an NAD M2 and have found it’s really brought out the best in the R500s, but curiosity has got the better of me!

Thanks in advance.

Kind regards,

I want to begin by saying that I am happy that you didn’t just take my word for it on the R500, but went out and listened to the speaker yourself before you bought a pair. As I said in my editorial last month, it’s crucial to let your own ears be the judge in order to avoid bad buying decisions. I hope you will do the same here.

The Reference 1 won’t necessarily provide much, if any, additional bass depth compared to what the R500 can deliver, but it will provide tighter, more visceral, and more detailed bass that’s better integrated with the Uni-Q driver array, which handles the mids and highs. I also found that the Reference 1’s midrange to be even cleaner than the R500’s, which was already very clean. I also thought the 1’s highs were subtly more refined. The Reference 1 could also play even louder than the R500 could in my room. All in all, the Reference 1’s voicing is similar to that of the R500, but it’s at least a little bit better in pretty much every way and can be considered a true reference-grade performer. The Reference 1 also features a far better-built cabinet and much more attractive finish options, so if looks and build are important, those are things to consider as well.

Yet there is one downside to the Reference 1: price. The R500 costs $2599.98 per pair in the United States, which is why I consider it a screaming-good deal -- so much speaker for so little money. The Reference 1 costs $7499.99 per pair, plus it needs a stand, so we’re talking about much more money to move that way. I have no idea what KEF prices are like in your part of the world. Are the benefits that the Reference 1 brings worth that much to you? As I said up front, listen first, as you did with the R500, and let your ears decide. Once you do, write back and tell me the outcome -- I would like to know. . . . Doug Schneider