KEF has a reputation for building speakers that deliver natural sound with low coloration and high clarity, and while the $3700 KHT6000 upholds this tradition, some listeners may find it too selfeffacing or subdued at first—less exciting or “spectacular” than competitors designed to create dramatic first impressions. Over time, though, the KHT6000 system grows on you specifically because it doesn’t impose a sound of its own. A true sonic chameleon with a rich palette of tone colors, timbres, and textures, it has what TAS Associate Editor Jonathan Valin calls “transparency to the source,” and I think this is one of the KHT6000 system’s greatest strengths. The only downside is that the KEFs will also reveal any shortcomings in your associated components—so choose ancillaries wisely.
The system consists of four HTS6001 (main and surround) speakers, the horizontal HTC6001 center-channel speaker, and the PSW3500 powered subwoofer. KEF’s optional “bass extender” floorstands ($175 each) position the 6001s at ear level and also act as bassreflex devices that push response down to 75Hz. (I wish, however, that KEF had positioned the binding posts on the tops—not the undersides—of these stands). Another clever touch is KEF’s HTS wall-mount system (included), which is not just a support bracket but also a plug-in wiring connector that automatically selects the wall-position EQ curves built into the HTS6001’s crossover network.
The KHT6000 system needs considerable break-in—40 hours or more— before it sounds its best. Initially, my review samples were bright, edgy, and dynamically compressed, but they loosened up beautifully over time, gradually becoming smoother, more focused, and more dynamically alive. Don’t be discouraged if your KHT6000s take awhile to smooth out; the easygoing clarity you’ll enjoy later is well worth the wait.
Broken in, the KHT6000 system is quite neutral in tonal balance, with just the lightest touch of inviting warmth. A little cooler than KEF’s $7400 KHT9000 system, it is also slightly more forward in the upper midrange and a touch clearer and more analytical, though by no means sterile, overall.
The PSW3500 sub is a small infinite- baffle design with a pleasing blend of low-frequency warmth, clarity, and extension; it deliberately sacrifices a few Hertz for more defined and tightly focused response. This is a wise tradeoff because it makes the woofer much less fussy about room placement. For best sub-to-satellite integration, try using an 80Hz crossover frequency. (Slightly higher crossover frequencies might make sense on paper, but in practice they often make the system’s midbass sound too thick.)
With its broad dispersion, high resolution, and tight focus, the KHT6000 system does a fine job of surround imaging and soundstaging. Soundstages are deep and wide, with very precise three-dimensional imaging, as illustrated by the multichannel SACD version of David Chesky’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra [Chesky].
This striking composition features a rich, intoxicating blend of orchestral and percussion elements (some traditional and others not); through the KEF system you’ll hear each instrument’s distinctive voice and dynamic signature, with instruments and performers precisely positioned within a huge three-dimensional soundstage.
When pushed hard the KHT6000 system eventually exhibits some coarsening of midrange textures and “splashiness” on hard transients. Don’t get me wrong, the KHT6000 system offers great dynamics for its size and price, but it understandably runs out of headroom well before the larger KHT9000 system does.
Does KEF’s lifestyle-oriented KHT6000 system hold its own in comparison to the best non-lifestyle speaker systems in its price range? Yes, though some tradeoffs are involved. Von Schweikert’s comparably priced System 12, for example, sounds smoother and can play louder than the KHT6000 system, but the KEF probably has better resolution and imaging. Similarly, Triangle’s Odyssey Major system sounds warmer and more dynamically alive, but the KEF is less colored and comes with a superior subwoofer. In sum, the KEF system stands its sonic ground against stiff competition.