When it comes to installation, KEF supply a really excellent set of M8 spikes which can be replaced with effective skates to handle polished floors, important given the weight and difficulty in handling the curved, shiny surfaces of the cabinet. I used the 207/2s with a variety of amps including the Goldmund Telos 200, the c-j LP275Ms and the Gryphon Diablo integrated. Cabling was either the Nordost Odin, the full Vertex loom or Crystal Cable’s latest Ultra. The EQUIPMENT REVIEW 30 range of combinations itself proved interesting, revealing the 207/2 as just as transparent as the older version but a whole lot less critical. In other words, it lets you hear what’s going on but doesn’t force it down your throat. In particular, the differences between the various cables were clearly apparent, but the KEFs seemed to fasten on the positives in each case, underlining the benefits of the chosen balance rather than the inevitable compromises.
Indeed, the first thing that strikes you about the 207/2, especially given its imposing size and physical bulk, the complexity of its four-way, five-driver format, is its sheer musical coherence. Work at set up (of the speakers and the system driving them) and you’ll hear them simply disappear – which is impressive and not a little spooky.
The original 207 also possessed pretty remarkable integration, even successfully incorporating that extra driver. But its leaner overall balance necessitated the addition of the sub-woofer to fill out the low frequencies, to really make the most of its virtues. In contrast, the more natural tonality of the 207/2 with its more accurate but also warmer and fuller balance, delivers the necessary low-frequency authority without external aid. Couple that to the improved tonal shading and separation across the rest of the range and you have the sort of transparency and clarity normally associated with the best mini-monitors, but allied to the presence, substance and scale that only comes from a full-range system. The images here are precisely positioned and scaled, but they have dimensional qualities too, a to match the coherence of the overall acoustic. In general, speakers perform best on material that matches them for size. So, play largescale orchestral works to make a big speaker sound impressive, keep the really intimate, acoustic stuff for the little two-ways. Reverse that and you stand a good chance of tripping a speaker up, but not the KEF. You don’t get much more intimate than the uncompressed acoustic brilliance of the emerging “New Country” performers captured on those 1975 recordings from Heartworn Highways. Yet, play the unaccompanied acoustic rendition of ‘L.A. Freeway’ and you’ll hear a solid, three-dimensional guitar, cradled in the lap of Guy Clark, perfectly scaled, perfectly natural, sat before you just behind the plane of the speakers. Now, this a great recording and thing about great recordings is that they sound good on everything, right? Well, this is also one of the most natural recordings I’ve heard, of a very familiar subject. Any discontinuity, any disturbance in the bandwidth or arrival times of the information stands out like a sore thumb. But with the 207/2 I simply hear the music, there’s nothing amiss to distract or destroy the illusion. Likewise, Townes Van Zandt’s achingly beautiful version of ‘Waitin’ Round To Die’: the front-room acoustic is all there, complete with interruptions, incidental noises and impromptu backing vocals. But none of those things intrude on the song. Instead the coherence of the soundstage, their innate naturalness and precise positioning makes them an integral part of the whole.
Now switch to the other extreme and the SACD re-master of the Reiner/ Chicago Scheherazade, with its colossal orchestral crescendos couple to huge dynamic contrasts. The KEFs present that huge soundstage in all its glory, wide and deep with clearly defined boundaries, rear corners and a wonderful sense of air. The orchestra is clearly placed and convincingly terraced, even to the slightly spot lit solo violin. The big brass tutti that opens the piece has a huge, commanding presence and impact, creating just the right atmosphere to accentuate the fragility of the violin’s entrance, the contrast of craft and beauty with the sweeping, majestic power of the sea. And if you think that’s impressive just wait for the finale…
Meanwhile, the opening of the second movement, placing the violin again against the carefully developing backdrop of the orchestra underlines the coherence of the soundstage, the speakers’ ability to grow with the music without shifting instruments or swamping the quieter ones. If you want to be picky it also brings out the two criticisms that can be levelled at the speaker, but they must be considered in context. Recently I’ve spent a lot of time listening to some of the most costly and accomplished speakers available. By those exacting standards, the 207/2 (at around a quarter of the price!) lacks ultimate resolution and transparency. Those “more than the price of a decent BMW” speakers deliver greater texture and more sense of the air and energy around and between instruments. Likewise, read the speakers’ spec sheet and you’ll see how low it does and doesn’t go. Listen to that pizzicato bass line and you get the colour and texture of the notes, their pitch and placement spot on. But the 207s don’t go deep enough to let you hear the underside of the notes or the cushion of air they float on.