KEF and Crystal Cable: Taking a Stand on Two Stand-Mounted Speakers

To Doug Schneider,

Last December, you raved about the KEF Reference 1, which, besides its sound, did not seem to have any issues with playing loud. Now you review another stand-mount speaker and compare it to floorstanders? C’mom, take a stand: How do those two match up?

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The stand-mounted speaker you must be referring to is the Crystal Cable Arabesque Minissimo, which costs $12,995/pair, a price that includes integral stands. If you want to know how they stack up against the KEF Reference 1, which costs $7500/pair without stands, I’ll be happy to tell you.

The Reference 1 is a three-way design that sounds exceedingly neutral across the audioband, can plumb quite deep in the bass, and can play incredibly loud. It’s every bit the speaker I said it was last December, which is why it received a Product of the Year award last year.

But the downside to the Reference 1 is that it is large; in fact, it is one of biggest stand-mounted speakers I’ve ever reviewed. The 1’s rectangular cabinet is also pretty conventional, which makes its appearance a little ho-hum, though the variety of finishes is impressive, as is the workmanship.

The Arabesque Minissimo has a very pleasing tonal balance; can go deep in the bass for its size, but not as deep as the Reference 1; and can play loud enough for a small- to medium-sized room, though it doesn’t have near the SPL capabilities of the 1. But it’s also a much smaller speaker that’s uniquely and beautifully styled, not to mention created using topflight materials, with fit and finish that are second to none. As I said in my review, my wife loved the way the Minissimos look in my listening room, whereas with the Reference 1s, not so much. There are also aspects of the Minissimo’s sound that thrilled me, such as the way it reproduced piano and voices. Suffice it to say, the little Minissimo, while certainly expensive, really surprised me in more ways than one.

In the end, these are two speakers for two different buyers. If you want deeper bass, super-high output, and don’t mind the size, definitely go with the Reference 1. It’s a great, great loudspeaker, not to mention an outstanding value. However, if you want something smaller that looks as beautiful as it sounds, then give the Arabesque Minissimo a listen. That’s where I stand. . . . Doug Schneider