ARTICLE: HOW KEF STARTED
27 November 2021
HOW IT STARTED BACK IN THE DAYS
Since 1961, from our UK home, we have created remarkable – award-winning – speakers. From our ground-breaking Uni-Q technology to our bar-setting LS50 Wireless, KEF exists to fill rooms with music as it was made to be heard, to move souls with truly authentic soundscapes. KEF is named after Kent Engineering and Foundry where our story began. Our founder Raymond Cooke was propelled by a love of music and a refusal to compromise, and he leveraged technology at every turn to ensure KEF’s position at the cutting edge of audio. A list of breakthroughs spanning more than half a century shores up that promise; a walk to match the talk. Patents and academic papers alike testify to decades of consistent progress, from the early use of synthetic materials to our Reference Series which determines industry standards to this day. KEF’s insistence on excellence is at the heart of a virtuous circle, which attracts the world’s most gifted acoustic engineers to join us in the pursuit of good, better, best.
A RISING IDENTITY
KEF was initially headquartered in a Nissen Hut on the premises of Kent Engineering & Foundry in Maidstone, Kent in the UK since 1961. Cooke, an ex-BBC electrical engineer, was keen to experiment with new materials and technologies to create products that could reproduce recordings as natural as the original performance. The first KEF speaker, the three-way K1, incorporated the use of synthetic materials. In the following year, the first ultra compact two-way speaker system designed to give true high-fidelity performance Celeste was born. Raymond Cooke re-established his working relationship with the BBC as KEF took on the exclusive manufacture of the LS5/1a monitor. The B110 and T27 drivers followed in 1967 and were successfully utilised in the Cresta and later selected by the BBC for use in the LS3/5a monitor. The manufacture of monitor loudspeakers for the BBC provided KEF with useful experience in working to tight acoustic tolerances. By the end of the decade, KEF was established as a leading company in the audio industry with commercial and critical success not only for the KEF loudspeaker systems but for the drive units which were adopted by numerous companies around the world into their own systems.
THE 1980s PHASE
Throughout the 1980s, KEF maintained its reputation for excellence with the highly respected Reference Series through a series of technical enhancements including coupled-cavity bass loading that considerably boosted bass performance, force-cancelling and driver decoupling to eliminate cabinet coloration, and the KEF Universal Bass Equaliser (KUBE) that allowed extended bass from compact enclosures. In 1988 KEF designed and patented the world’s first truly coincident source speaker driver Uni-Q that enlarged the optimum listening area, allowing everyone sitting at different spots in the room to experience the same natural, detailed sound. Uni-Q became the building block of KEF signature sound and sits at the heart of almost all our speakers today.
WELCOMING THE NEW ERA OF KEF MASTERPIECES
In the 2000s, KEF has been steadily developing the use of advanced acoustical, magnetic and mechanical modelling techniques in speaker designs including Finite Element Analysis allowing acoustic systems to be modelled to an accuracy not previously achievable using other methods. The Reference Series Model 207/2 was launched in 2001 established itself as one of the world’s finest loudspeakers with major upgrades from the previous Reference Series.
2020 AND BEYOND
Committed to ‘sound before all else’, KEF introduced the ground-breaking use of Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) in speaker design which has been awarded the ‘Innovation of the Year’ by What Hi-Fi? Awards 2020. A truly revolutionary tool in the KEF acoustic armory, MAT is created to eliminate 99% of the unwanted sound from the rear of the driver. MAT allows KEF to design a new range of revolutionary products including the new LS50 Collection consisting LS50 Meta and LS50 Wireless II, which delivers an unrivalled purity of sound. The introduction of Uni-Core technology on KC62 subwoofer in 2021 has created a completely new take in subwoofer designs by redefining the physical space required for high-performance speakers and subwoofers. The Uni-Core technology combines both drivers into a single motor system allowing cabinet size to be reduced by over a third, while also increasing excursion to unlock exceptional output and depth.