January 08, 2010
| by Arlen Schweiger
It’s not often you get to test drive something that’s unlikely to actually reach market. As Jack Oclee-Brown, research engineer at KEF, put it, auto manufacturers make concept cars because they can, and they get to experiment with technology.
Loudspeaker manufacturers get to do the same thing. Sometimes we’ll see their work come to fruition in a bold statement. Sometimes it stays in the manufacturing plant. Oclee-Brown has gotten to travel around the world with KEF’s experimental loudspeaker, the Concept Blade, of which there’s only one.
At this week’s CES 2010 in Las Vegas, KEF gave attendees a taste of what the Concept Blade was like. “It’s like a concept car that you see at car shows,” says Oclee-Brown. “It’s our way of pushing forward new ideas. We can make it into a concept, but the technology might trickle down into other products.”
With the impressive-looking Blade, KEF turned to its patented technology to give us the one driver that’s visible when you look straight on at the front of the charcoal carbon-fiber cabinet. The British company’s UniQ driver technology serves up the tweeter and midrange drivers in a single concentric array to pump out the mids and high frequencies.
The sides help deliver oomph to the lush, full sound, as each speaker features a pair of side-firing woofers, planted near the same height of the UniQ array. It makes for a well-blended, detailed sound that KEF demo’d with a pair of classical tracks and an upright-bass-laden jazz cut.
“The highs and midrange are surrounded by the LF (low-frequency) drivers on the sides placed about the same level. They’re opposing, so there’s very little cabinet vibration in this arrangement, and the front surface is completely smooth from the UniQ so sound isn’t disturbed or reflected from any other drivers,” Oclee-Brown explains.
Fed by an Audio Research integrated amplifier and CD player, the Concept Blade served up warm and airy sound on the three tracks KEF presented, with detailed high frequency notes and full-body low frequencies. Listening to the tracks, one thing that stood out about the Blades was the sheer effortlessness with which they performed, while standing statue-like, imposing yet beautiful at the same time.
From the company that brought us the six-figure Muons, we can only hope that KEF decides to turn this unique concept into wider market reality.
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.