Focal Electra 1008 Be vs. KEF Reference 1

To Doug Schneider,

In the process of looking for a different pair of speakers, I read your review of the KEF Reference 1. My current speakers are Focal Electra 1008 Bes. I owned a pair of KEF Reference Twos and I enjoyed them very much; they were made in England at that time.

No dealer for the Reference series where I live, so my question to you: Is the KEF overall a better performer, for almost twice the price? It should be.

Thank you,

It’s funny you should ask about KEF right now. As I am writing this, I’m sitting in a Hilton hotel room in Maidstone, UK, just a few miles from the KEF factory. I will be there tomorrow with our video team filming two SoundStage! InSight segments, which will be online on our YouTube channel soon. I encourage you, and anyone else reading this, to subscribe to the channel to keep abreast of our updates, since the videos we’re producing are informative and fun to watch.

The Reference 1 is a phenomenal loudspeaker if you value neutrality, transparency, clarity, and dynamic agility. It’s one of the best stand-mounted speakers ever created, which I said in my review. It’s also a generation newer than the Reference Two that you had, so likely more advanced. Yet despite my praise for the Reference 1, I’m not going to throw Focal under the bus and say that the KEF is better in every way. I’ve heard the 1008 Be and was deeply impressed with it. It’s not as neutral as the 1, and it couldn’t play as loud when I tried to push it really hard, but it has some sonic qualities that make it very engaging to listen to. I also consider the 1008 Be a very good value for its asking price. Therefore, although I could see many preferring the Reference 1 for the things it does, I could also imagine some people liking the 1008 Be because of the qualities it possess, so I cannot say that the 1 will be an across-the-board improvement to what you have. It will come down to what things you value and what kind of sound you like.

It is unfortunate that I can’t help you more, but this is truly one of those cases where you will have to be the final judge. I know you said that you can’t audition the Reference 1 locally, but maybe a trip is something worth considering if you don’t have to go too far. . . . Doug Schneider