Great speakers aren’t just for audiophiles. Whether for at-home listening to music or watching movies or for businesses that want to create a delectable ambiance, great speakers can make all the difference.
Bookshelf speakers are small and compact, but as we’ll see, some can make a really big audio impact. In this review, we’ll be looking at a set of bookshelf speakers from KEF that come with a moderate price tag and some pretty mixed opinions attached to them.
Are these the best budget bookshelf speakers around, and what are they all about? Let’s find out in our in-depth KEF Q150 Review.
All About KEF
Let’s start with some background here before we get into these specific speakers. KEF is a company founded in England and has been going since 1961. And if you didn’t already know it, KEF stands for Kent Engineering and Foundry. Yeah, we think KEF sounds better, too.
Reading their mission statement: “to deliver sound with as little intervention as possible; from treble to bass, and everything in between” lets you know what they’re all about. This is a company that wants to produce the most natural sound possible. Now the question is, do the Q150s get the job done?
The Q150 Bookshelf Speakers: Overview
The Q150 comes in three colors of cabinets, black, white, or walnut vinyl finish. In all three cases, the drivers are sleek black. We think the white cabinets with the black drivers give the coolest look, but hey, that’s just us.
These are considered bookshelf speakers. Although they’re well out of the size range of most bookshelves we’ve seen. These mid-sized speakers are 11.92 inches tall and 7.08 inches wide. They measure 10.944 inches deep and have sound ports on the backs. So, they’re not designed to be placed on shelves at all.
Each speaker connects through a double banana plug under its sound port. On the front, the speakers look pretty slick already. But in case you are a big fan of grilles, you can buy (separately) a set of black magnetically attaching ones that will complete these speakers.
Let’s start with the all-important driver. These are 2-way speakers, which means that each cabinet is driven by two separate speakers, a tweeter and a woofer. In fact, they are some of the best 2 way speakers on the market.
But there’s only one speaker on each cabinet…
KEF has been tremendously tricky here. Most 2-way speakers feature a woofer on the bottom and a tweeter on the top, not to mention a sound port that could be anywhere. So why do these guys look like they only have a single speaker? The secret is that KEF has mounted a 1-inch dome tweeter in the center of each of the 5¼-inch woofers.
This what they call their new and improved Uni-Q driver Array. What this does is focus the sound from a single point, rather than splitting up the high and low end into two different levels. We’ll talk more about how this affects the sound later.
The crossover for these speakers is set at 2.5kHz. This crossover features a low-distortion inductor to clean up the bass and keep it accurate without being too analytical.
Place them anywhere…
Because the mid-range and bass cone, what we’ll refer to as the woofer, has the tweeter smack dab in the middle of it, you can feel free to set these speakers up standing tall or laying on their sides. Each cabinet comes with four rubber feet that can be attached to the bottom or on the side, depending on how you want to experiment with your set-up.
Inside, the tweeter loading tube is damped to reduce the sound coming out the back of the tweeter. On the front of the tweeter, KEF has placed their tangerine waveguide to help diffuse the high-end gently and smoothly, and remove harshness.
So, that leaves us with the most important question of all.
How Do They Sound?
To us, these speakers lean a bit towards analytical. Meaning crisp attention to detail in all elements of the reproduced sound. But rather than focusing solely on detail, the KEF Q150s put a much heavier emphasis on producing and an enjoyable sound that’s smooth and rich in all areas.
Let’s explain with more details…
Many complaints about KEF products say they are simply too focused on the top-end. Producing an overly bright and intensely analytical sound that can lead to listener fatigue. Not so here.
The high-end is bright, yes, but not overly so. It’s very clear without being cut, and the lower treble is very well controlled by added dampening. As a result, these are some of the best sounding speakers currently available, especially considering the cost.
What does this mean in terms of music?
Guitars sail through these speakers, and female voices sound smooth rather than piercing as they can with some speakers. The mid-range is warm and smooth, but not soft. You’ll find enough detail to please most ears without being too sharp.
Male vocals get very good definition here without being pushed too far forward. Some listeners might find the vocals overly pushed to the back, but this is a personal preference for how much you like your vocals to stand out.
The bass is strong and warm, and well-detailed. Internal dampening and moving the sound port to the back helps to control muddiness and keep things clear. At least, this is all true up to a point. Once the volume gets pumping, the bass can get muddy.
This is where these speakers shine. Like their more expensive and better-known KEF counterparts, the LS50, these speakers sound great in any position. Indeed, these are some of the most versatile speakers on the market.
No matter where you place them in a room, you’ll find an excellent soundstage, and it’s very hard to pinpoint where the sound is even coming from. To us, the soundstage with the Q150 and the much pricier LS50 is nearly identical.
The Best Set-Up for KEF Q150 Speakers
With these speakers, KEF pushes their “Sit anywhere” philosophy through their Uni-Q driver. The combination of the tweeter in the center of the woofer to create a single driver array produces a single sound source. This leads to a lot less distraction than in separated speaker designs and disperses sound ideally.
Don’t let the name fool you…
With their rear sound ports, these bookshelf speakers definitely won’t shine on the bookshelf. Their ideal position is pulled out quite far off the wall. We’re talking one to two feet off the wall, at least.
With limitations in the low-end, volume can be solid but not overwhelming. Additionally, these are some of the best small room speakers, where they don’t have to be turned up too loud. So they’d be great in living rooms, home theaters, smaller dining areas in restaurants, etc.
You need to power them…
These speakers have a nominal impedance of 8 ohms and require a 10-100W amplifier to power them. As mentioned earlier, they can be mounted standing up or laying over on their sides which can give you some cool options for set up.
They do best on slightly higher stands since the tweeter is centered in the cabinet rather than in the upper half. For example, you would normally use 28-inch stands; consider moving them up a bit to 30 inches to hit your ears at the perfect level.
What’s More Fun than Stats?
Just because we know that some of you out there love numbers, we have got a few to give you. The KEF Q150 speakers have a wide frequency response of 51-28,000Hz. So they have the entire top-end covered and handle a decent bit of low-end. You’ll probably still want to pair these with a subwoofer for best results, though.
Their sensitivity is very good at 86dB (measured at a standard 2.83V at 1 meter). Maximum output hits 108dB, though you wouldn’t want to blast them all the way. They might be able to fill a larger room, but it will be with a muddier, lower-quality sound.
KEF Q150 Review – Pros and Cons
- Crisp, detailed but not overly detailed high-end.
- Decent bass that’s clear and powerful at moderate volume.
- Excellent soundstage when optimally positioned.
- Balanced and warm sound.
- A bit pricey for their sound quality, but are often on sale for a great deal.
- Bass can get muddy at high volume.
- Needs a subwoofer for optimal sound.
- Requires a “break-in period” where sound peaks and drops all over the place and need to be played frequently.
Looking for Something Else?
The rights speakers have never been easier to find. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Wireless TV Speakers, the Best Smart Speakers, the Best High End Home Theater Speakers, the Best Bluetooth Speakers With Radio, and the Best Party Speakers you can buy in 2021.
Also, take a look at our comprehensive reviews of the Best Bookshelf Speakers, the Best Computer Speakers Under $100, the Best Studio Monitor Speakers, the Best Ceiling Speakers For Dolby Atmos, and the Best Speakers For Vinyl currently on the market.
KEF Q150 Review – Final Thoughts
In this review, we looked at the ins and outs of these bookshelf speakers in detail. Their main features include great bass dampening and reverse sound port, as well as a combined tweeter/woofer driver array.
As far as we’re concerned, these speakers sound great if you like your sound to be warm, slightly vocals-back, and with a moderate level of detail. They might not be the high-end analytical speakers that audiophiles dream of, but they definitely put out some great sound. Look for a special sale and pick up a pair that will bring you years of listening delight.
Until next time, happy listening.