The KEF Story

Celebrating Sixty Years

KEF is a proud pioneer of excellence in sound.

Since 1961, from our UK home, we have created remarkable award-winning speakers. From our ground-breaking Uni-Q technology to our bar-setting LS50 Wireless, KEF exists to fill rooms with music as it was made to be heard, to move souls with truly authentic soundscapes.

Innovation

KEF is named after Kent Engineering and Foundry where our story began. Our founder Raymond Cooke was propelled by a love of music and a refusal to compromise, and he leveraged technology at every turn to ensure KEF’s position at the cutting edge of audio.

A list of breakthroughs spanning more than half a century shores up that promise; a walk to match the talk. Patents and academic papers alike testify to decades of consistent progress, from the early use of synthetic materials to our Reference Series which determines industry standards to this day. KEF’s insistence on excellence is at the heart of a virtuous circle, which attracts the world’s most gifted acoustic engineers to join us in the pursuit of good, better, best.

1960s

KEF was initially headquartered in a Nissen Hut on the premises of Kent Engineering & Foundry in Maidstone, Kent in the UK since 1961. Cooke, an ex-BBC electrical engineer, was keen to experiment with new materials and technologies to create products that could reproduce recordings as natural as the original performance. 

The first KEF speaker, the three-way K1, incorporated the use of synthetic materials. In the following year, the first ultra compact two-way speaker system designed to give true high-fidelity performance Celeste was born. 

Raymond Cooke re-established his working relationship with the BBC as KEF took on the exclusive manufacture of the LS5/1a monitor. The B110 and T27 drivers followed in 1967 and were successfully utilised in the Cresta and later selected by the BBC for use in the LS3/5a monitor. The manufacture of monitor loudspeakers for the BBC provided KEF with useful experience in working to tight acoustic tolerances.​

By the end of the decade, KEF was established as a leading company in the audio industry with commercial and critical success not only for the KEF loudspeaker systems but for the drive units which were adopted by numerous companies around the world into their own systems.​

1970s

In 1970, KEF received the first prestigious Queen’s Awards for export achievement as the company became known beyond the UK. In 1973, KEF became the first loudspeaker manufacturer in the world to implement the use of computers in loudspeaker design and measurement. 

Pioneering the use of digital technologies to achieve the highest audio accuracy, every pair of Reference Model 104 can be matched within 0.5dB to the laboratory-maintained reference standard. ​

The legendary LS3/5a was the original mini monitor inspired by KEF drivers and designed at the BBC that transformed the audio experience in 1975. It was renowned for delivering accurate precise sound for the recording and broadcast industry and is still spoken about in reverential tones today.​

In 1976, the design methodology was refined into a new approach to loudspeaker development – computer assisted ‘Total System Design’ – with the release of the Corelli, Calinda and Cantata. A year later in 1977, Reference Model 105 was launched as one of the most radical and sophisticated loudspeakers ever made. The Reference Series has continually set the benchmark of loudspeakers since its launch. ​

1980s

Throughout the 1980s, KEF maintained its reputation for excellence with the highly respected Reference Series through a series of technical enhancements including coupled-cavity bass loading that considerably boosted bass performance, force-cancelling and driver decoupling to eliminate cabinet coloration, and the KEF Universal Bass Equaliser (KUBE) that allowed extended bass from compact enclosures. 

In 1988 KEF designed and patented the world’s first truly coincident source speaker driver Uni-Q® that enlarged the optimum listening area,  allowing everyone sitting at different spots in the room to experience the same natural, detailed sound. Uni-Q became the building block of KEF signature sound and sits at the heart of almost all our speakers today. 

1990s

Throughout the 1990s KEF continued to design class leading, innovative products including Coda 7, Q Series, Reference Series Model 109 and Monitor Series. The Reference Series Model 105/3 featuring the second generation of Uni-Q technology was voted ‘Best imported Speaker’ by the Japanese press in 1992.

The 1990s were notable for the rise of home theatre systems. In 1993, KEF introduced the Model 100 centre speaker which developed a strong positioning in the market. In the following year, KEF was one of the first companies to release a THX approved home theatre system – a revolutionary subwoofer/satellite concept with vertically directional front speakers and dipole surrounds. 

Founder Raymond Cooke OBE sadly passed away in 1995. However, Cooke left the company with firm guiding principles encapsulated in his core values of ‘Quality, Honesty, Dedication and Innovation’. 

2000s

In the 2000s, KEF has been steadily developing the use of advanced acoustical, magnetic and mechanical modelling techniques in speaker designs including Finite Element Analysis allowing acoustic systems to be modelled to an accuracy not previously achievable using other methods. The Reference Series Model 207/2 was launched in 2001 established itself as one of the world’s finest loudspeakers with major upgrades from the previous Reference Series. 

In 2005, KEF revealed the ACE (Acoustic Compliance Enhancement) technology, a technology that enables the same bass performance as a conventional speaker of twice the size, after a comprehensive research and development program since the late 1980s. ACE also plays an important role with the most remarkable KEF loudspeaker to date – Muon

A collaboration with leading Industrial designer Ross Lovegrove, Muon was launched at the Milan Furniture Fair in 2007 as a triumph of form marrying function and contains the acoustic breakthroughs from the KEF engineering team.

The patented Tangerine Waveguide was introduced to the 8th generation of Uni-Q driver in 2007 and it improved sensitivity and sound dispersion which helped to deliver an even cleaner, smoother sound. This innovation was applied with the launch of KHT3005 – the iconic ‘EGG” home theatre system and the Tangerine Waveguide remains to be an iconic design of the Uni-Q driver today.

2010s

The BLADE launched in 2011 was the result of KEF engineers being given free rein to create the ultimate loudspeaker without design or cost limitations. The Single Apparent Source configuration is what makes BLADE so gratifyingly coherent across the entire frequency range, with noticeably more precise imaging than is possible from any conventional speaker.

To celebrate KEF’s 50th anniversary, a new classic LS50 was born in 2012. With numerous technological breakthroughs, LS50 took the original LS3/5a studio monitor concept and brought it to the living room. It was a pioneer in enabling everyone to experience great sound at homes. In 2017, KEF introduced the first generation of LS50 Wireless, a complete fully active music system, using the LS50 platform and brings high-fidelity sound to the digital lifestyle. 

Throughout its sixth decade, KEF introduced a number of wireless products including the EGG wireless speakers, MUO portable speakers, M Series headphones, and the collaboration with Porsche Design consisting Gravity One portable speakers, Motion One earphones and Space One wireless headphones.

2020s and today

Now in its seventh decade, KEF continues to establish itself at the forefront of audio excellence. 

Committed to ‘sound before all else’, KEF introduced the ground-breaking use of Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) in speaker design which has been awarded the ‘Innovation of the Year’ by What Hi-Fi? Awards 2020. A truly revolutionary tool in the KEF acoustic armoury, MAT is created to eliminate 99% of the unwanted sound from the rear of the driver. MAT allows KEF to design a new range of revolutionary products including the new LS50 Collection consisting LS50 Meta and LS50 Wireless II, which delivers an unrivalled purity of sound. 

The introduction of Uni-Core technology on KC62 subwoofer in 2021 has created a completely new take in subwoofer designs by redefining the physical space required for high-performance speakers and subwoofers. The Uni-Core technology combines both drivers into a single motor system allowing cabinet size to be reduced by over a third, while also increasing excursion to unlock exceptional output and depth.

Listen and believe

KEF’s mission is to deliver sound with as little intervention as possible; from treble to bass, and everything in between. Listeners should be able to close their eyes and immerse themselves in the sound so deeply that they are transported, in their minds, to the source. We believe that the best sound is natural sound – and that access to it is a right, not a privilege.

Experience is everything, and that’s no overstatement. Combining our obsessions with acoustic authenticity and innovative engineering, we’d like to think that KEF products speak for themselves.

We invite you to close your eyes and be transported. Listen and believe.
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