KEF Reference 5 Meta Loudspeaker Page 2

In fact, and at the risk of damning with faint praise, the Reference 5 Meta does that impressive thing of being a big speaker, with all the bass power and extension that brings, while having the speed and agility of a much smaller design. Listening to the Bill Charlap Trio's version of 'Sunny Side Of The Street', from Notes From New York [Impulse! 4778388], there's excellent intimacy and lightness of touch, plus convincing weight in the piano, bass and drums. Even with the height of the speakers and all those drivers, the musical presentation enjoyed excellent focus.

Excellent, too, is the way the sound hangs free of those enclosures, creating an entirely credible soundstage in the room. In the Steven Isserlis reading of Elgar's Cello Concerto [Hyperion CDA68077], the playing of the cello is more about fluidity than the sheer attack of, say, the du Pré recording, but the dynamics are fabulous, the orchestra has realistic weight, and there's a fine sense of soloist and band working together, rather than the cello being spotlit. Driven by the remarkable Halcro Eclipse Stereo power amp [HFN May '23], the Reference 5 Metas delivered fine detail when required, but were always ready to turn on the drama.

Their grand but focused balance was well suited to the sizzling brass opening of Mahler's 5th Symphony [Czech Phil./Bychkov; Pentatone PTC5187021]. These KEF speakers delivered a great, stately weight to those opening chords, and a fine impression of the orchestra before the listener. Nothing seems to be trying too hard, which is no bad thing given the sparkling quality of the performances here.


Port rim mouldings can be rotated and unlocked to interchange long and short internal 'tubes' [see boxout, p57]. Split crossover and dual 4mm cable posts, with an internal link, allow for bi-wiring/bi-amping

With more intimate recordings, the ability of the towering Reference 5 Meta to sound small and precise, yet with plenty of weight, is again in evidence. Erin Bode's cover of 'In My Life', from her YourSong Volume 1 album [Bandcamp download], was given a rock-solid stereo image, every breath clearly delineated, as was her version of 'Happy Together', where the presentation was like a high-definition version of something wonderfully old-fashioned, with every word crystal-clear. Rachael Price's voice on 'Join Me In A Dream', from the Rachael and Vilray I Love A Love Song set [Nonesuch 075597909746], was equally lucid, bringing great vivacity to a piece with a deceptively simple – but gorgeous – arrangement. And with Thibault Cauvin's acoustic guitar arrangement of the Bach 'Toccata and Fugue', from his Bach album [Sony Classical 19658784622], the Reference Meta's superb resolution did a magnificent job of placing the solo instrument in an atmospheric, reverberant space, with laser-like focus and every touch of finger on string clear to hear.

Ready To Rock
Succumbing to the temptation to hear the speaker's quartet of bass drivers in real action, I steered my listening towards the 'Cowboy Song'/'The Boys Are Back In Town'/'Don't Believe A Word' sequence from the 1977 Philadelphia set on Thin Lizzy's remastered Live And Dangerous boxset [UMC 0819035]. Here I was instantly rewarded with Brian Downey's powering drums, Phil Lynott's voice and thundering bass focused dead centre, and the soaring interlocked guitars of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham.

This is no-frills power rock done proper, and thrilling, as the band wraps one track and slams straight into the next. Sleek and elegant these big speakers may be, but they'll take – and deliver – some serious level, too, making them just as adept when rocking out as they are portraying the most elegant of 'audiophile' recordings.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Maybe they lack the last word of detail delivered by the innovative Blade Meta design, but these top-of-the-range Reference floorstanders are speakers with a sound as refined and measured as their stylish looks, along with an ability to deliver a massive, room-filling sound when required – even in the largest space. Go for the all-white cabinets for elegance, or black and copper for a more menacing presence!

GP Acoustics (UK) Ltd
Maidstone, Kent
Supplied by: GP Acoustics (UK) Ltd
01622 672 261