We sometimes use the expression ‘the results are plain to see.’ With KEF, that should probably read ‘the results are plain to hear.’ This KEF Q350 is a system for those who want sound of the highest quality.
Founded in the UK in 1961, they have become one of the big players in sound. Driven by their innovative ideas and research into the finer points of acoustics. The ‘Q’ series from KEF is special but at an affordable price. They are a remarkable bookshelf speaker with a list of awards that recognize their superior quality.
So what makes it special? Let’s find out in our in-depth KEF Q350 Review…
The Q350 is a redesigned version of the original KEF Q300 series. Nearly everything involved in the design and the acoustics have been redesigned. The original speakers were given five-star awards. Yet, these take this range of bookshelf speakers to another level.
KEF has a research department that is encouraged to innovate. The result is that there are no limits to what is possible. These sound good, but they also look creative.
These speakers are unique in their design. Understated in many ways but still with a ‘look at us’ feel to them. They don’t stand out with an outrageous shape. They just say, ‘this is something different.’ And they are.
At the center of the design is the Uni-Q driver, which we shall discuss later. The cabinet is plain, and even the KEF logo isn’t emblazoned over the fascia.
Style and sound…
That is what you are going to get with these speakers. If you want a flashy build or an outrageous bass depth, this isn’t the place to be. What you do get is a balanced sound performance at the highest level, coupled with a minimalist style.
Time to look closer…
Your first impression of this speaker is its basic, simplistic design. It is modern with clean, sleek lines. Those familiar with the Q300s will notice that the chrome strip over the baffle at the front is gone. So are the holes where the grilles were fixed.
Even the KEF logo is pulled back in the design. They really did not want anything to take your gaze away from the important issue. The center-placed Uni-Q driver.
Take a close look…
What looks like a single driver is actually two. At the center of the main speaker is situated the tweeter. Together they sit at the center of the cabinet. Staring at you. There is a reason for that, which we will go into a little later.
In this array is a 6.5-inch aluminum Uni-Q driver. At the center of this driver is a one-inch aluminum vented dome tweeter.
This arrangement is not made to bring it into line with other KEF designs. The position of the drivers reduces any internal standing waves. And that helps to improve clarity.
Port at the rear…
The port in this two-way bass-reflex cabinet has been moved to the back of the cabinet. The new design of the port helps to reduce any external unwanted noise and distortions. This produces a cleaner performance for the bass that is noticeably deeper.
The dampened design of the rear of the tweeter helps to reduce and even eliminate any sound leakage. Again this helps to create an uncluttered clean, low-frequency sound.
Good strong build…
The cabinets themselves are well-built and very sturdy. Each measures 14.25 by 8.26 by 12.04 inches. Considering what is on offer, that is a remarkably small footprint. Each cabinet weighs 16.8 pounds.
Round the back, other than the port, there are single-wired terminals. An improvement on the previous bi-wired design. There are now no wall brackets. This presents a much neater and cleaner look. But also, it may not be such a good idea to have a rear-firing bass port fixed closely to the wall.
There are no speaker grilles provided, but magnetic full-length grilles are available as an extra option.
It is known that the single point source concept for a sound system will give you the highest definition possible. There are a number of issues at the heart of this idea.
In part, there is a need for transducers with low distortion values. And also the need to maintain high dynamics and high definition. It may not be fully realized as yet. But it is the future. You could say that KEF takes a major leap forward in the DeLorean of sound.
“One small step for speakers.”
A step closer…
At the center of the Q series of speakers is a KEF innovation. The Uni-Q driver array. It brings the idea of a single point sound source closer. It does this by placing the tweeter at the center of the midrange cone.
The result is a sound that would not be possible from a conventional speaker. The three-dimensional sound image is evenly dispersed around the room. Providing a more accurate and detailed sound image.
This single-source point idea improves the integration that exists between the drivers. Thus providing you with a wider dispersion.
Taking it a little further…
The sound is further improved by what KEF calls their ‘tangerine waveguide.’ This waveguide over the tweeter assists in the even distribution of sound.
It also gives you more output gain but without any further power needs. It is most noticeable between 7 kHz to about 15 kHz.
Back to port…
We briefly mentioned the rear-firing bass port. But let’s look at that a little more closely as it plays an important role.
An essential part of the design architecture of the ‘Q’ series includes the integration of CFD in the overall dynamics. CFD or Computational Fluid Dynamics is the study and understanding of flow around objects.
Understanding how air will flow through a cabinet and around its contents will have an impact on the sound. This application of CFD principles will ensure airflow works to create a better sound. This has particular importance in the sound and clarity of the low frequencies. Thus giving you a precise and tight bass sound.
Revised tweeter design…
KEF has used a design from their high-level Reference speaker range for the tweeter. The Q350 is fitted with a dampened tweeter. The idea is that there will be some sound activity at the back of the dome of the tweeter. That needs to be removed, and this soaks it up.
The effect of this is twofold. Firstly it sharpens up the high frequencies and improves their quality. Secondly, it eliminates any high-frequency interference with the low frequencies emanating from the port.
What about the bass?
We wouldn’t say that these speakers have been designed with the low frequencies in mind. But they do pack a rumbling punch. They are surprisingly deep and almost threatening in their texture.
And one very impressive feature is that even when the speakers are pushed, there is no distortion at the bottom end. In fact, to get the best out of these speakers, you do need to drive them a bit.
But it is not just about the low frequencies, excellent as they are.
…is one way of describing them. Every note and nuance in the music is delivered beautifully. Voices are clear and precise, and the mids are full of character.
The midrange and high frequencies are seamless in their integration. It is very hard to decide exactly where one starts, and the other ceases. Such is the quality.
They make some of their competitors sound very ordinary and unrefined. Even those with a higher price tag.
A larger cabinet…
The size of the cabinet in the Q350 allows them to deliver a wide and huge soundstage. They will fill a standard room without any problem. This soundstage is open and full of space, allowing you to hear every instrument.
Across the frequencies…
These speakers deliver across all the frequencies. The previous incarnation, the Q300s, took some criticism for being thin at the top end. No such problems here. The highs are crisp, sweet, and bright but not overpowering.
In fact, none of the frequencies overlap. Leaving each to do its job within its defined space without overlap or overcrowding.
Guitars with plenty of overdrive can show up sound problems, causing an excess of treble. Here they are kept in control without taking away the essential sound.
Mids also excel…
Drums as well, in the mids section, are taking their place. Whilst seemingly having an element of restraint in the sound, they are crashing around you. And even with all this going on, distortion does not rear its ugly head, even when you crank them up.
And to be fair, you do have to let go a little with these speakers. They are a very good sound at lower levels. They sound brilliant when the button is turned.
For those that like to know the numbers, here are just a few.
The speaker delivers a maximum output of 110 dB. You will therefore need an amp pushing out of somewhere between 30 and 120 watts RMS to drive them. Probably the higher, the better.
The frequency range is 63 Hz – 28 kHz, plus or minus 3 dB. And the crossover frequency is fixed at 2.5 kHz. The nominal impedance is 8 ohms, with a minimum of 3.7 ohms.
The free-field frequency range field is 42 Hz (-6dB)
KEF Q350 Review Pros and Cons
- The levels of clarity and sound detail are stunning.
- A wide soundstage with all frequencies powerful, clear, and articulate.
- Cabinets designed with CFD principles.
- An improved Uni-Q driver array delivering pinpoint sound.
- A sleek looking designed cabinet.
- Set at a price point that is more than attractive considering the quality.
- No speaker grilles included if you happen to want them.
- They need to be driven to get the best out of them.
Looking for a few more speaker options?
If so, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Floor Standing Speakers, the Best Powered Speakers, the Best Wireless TV Speakers, the Best Bookshelf Speakers, and the Best Computer Speakers Under $100 currently on the market.
Also, take a look at our reviews of the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $500, the Best Bookshelf Speakers Under $200, the Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Solar Powered Bluetooth Speakers, and the Best Home Theater Speakers you can buy in 2021.
KEF Q350 Review Bottom Line
KEF should take a bow. They have produced a speaker that is way ahead of the rest at this price point. And you do not expect to hear speakers this good at this price.
Everything about them is pure quality. And when the only criticism is that they haven’t got speaker grilles, that gives you an idea.
Are you serious about getting some speakers that give you a great sound and look good? If so, your search is probably over. These are just superior to anything near them price-wise. A stunning set of speakers.
Until next time, happy listening!