Prior to a certain Mr Zuckerberg commandeering the term “meta” for Facebook’s use, one of the UK’s most respected loudspeaker manufacturers had already applied it to a unique material. Maidstone-based KEF developed a complex maze-like structure which it dubbed “Metamaterial Absorption Technology” (MAT). MAT hasn’t merely improved the sound quality of KEF’s speaker systems: it elevated the performance so tangibly that last year’s compact LS50 Meta, the latest in an already-successful series of small speakers, shot to the top of its price category – under £1,000 per pair.
Who knew that this diminutive speaker would herald a mini revolution? The material that added a bold suffix to the LS50 took an already stunning speaker and lowered the distortion dramatically. The new material efficiently absorbs unwanted artefacts from the back of the tweeter, resulting in a purer, more natural sound. It made the speaker sound even larger – always the goal of small monitors.
But KEF also had another sonic weapon called the “Uni-Q” driver. This speaker positions the treble and midrange units concentrically, the aim to improve dispersion, or how sound fills a room. The better the distribution of sound, the more realistic and convincing the way the performers and instruments are positioned in front of the listener. Now in its 12th generation, Uni-Q not only provides greater focus for the audiophile in the “hot seat” – it means better sound for those who aren’t seated dead-centre, in front of the sound system.
New models incorporating MAT and Uni-Q were demonstrated to Brummell earlier this month, including the latest in the company’s radical Blade series and a compact stand-mount speaker in the Reference series. Immediately apparent was how the MAT/Uni-Q combination exhibits scale and power that seasoned listeners would have attributed to even larger, costlier systems.
At only 440 x 205 x 422 mm, however, the Reference Meta 1 (£7,500 a pair) is room-friendly enough even for space-poor urban dwellings, though the best sound requires positioning on the matching pedestals (£1,000 a pair). The Uni-Q driver handles the middle and upper frequencies, while impressive bass performance is supplied by the 165mm aluminium cone woofer. Its party trick is sounding larger than any speaker its size ought to, with bass rich and deep enough even to handle hip-hop and heavy metal.
KEF’s family of sleek, curvaceous, luxury floor-standing models has been expanded with the addition of the Blade Two Meta (£22,500 a pair), at 1,461mm slightly smaller than the new 1,590mm-tall Blade One Meta (£30,000 a pair), both offered in eight finishes. Already regarded as among the finest systems in the company’s 61-year history, a saga peppered with models for no less than the BBC, Blade Metas qualify as “high end” by any measure. If concert-hall realism and tonal neutrality are the boxes you want ticked, the Blades do both with aplomb. Consider their sexy looks a bonus.