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KEF America To Add New Entry-Level Series

7/17/2008 03:55:00 PM Eastern

Marlboro, N.J. — KEF America plans to expand its customer base with the September launch of a new entry-level in-room speaker series priced from $120 each to $400 each.

The new C series of five two-way speakers and active subwoofer comes in under the entry-level iQ series, which ranges in price from $330/pair to $1,300/pair and will be replaced in the coming months with a slightly more expensive iQ series.

“The C series will expand our appeal and provide an opportunity to get into new distribution,” said sales and marketing VP Paul Egan, pointing to the brand’s main focus on A/V specialists and custom installers. Some regional chains also carry KEF in-room speakers. National chains are not in the distribution plans, he noted.

The new series marks the first time in the United States that KEF will actively market in-room speakers that do not use the company’s hallmark Uni-Q coincident-driver design, which places the tweeter in the mechanical and acoustical center of a midrange or woofer. The configuration delivers wide dispersion in both drivers’ operating range, enhancing off-axis response and expanding the stereo sweet spot. The bookshelf and floorstanding C-series speakers, in contrast, will use a tangerine waveguide with an aluminum-dome tweeter to widen high-frequency dispersion.

In the past, some KEF speakers lacking Uni-Q design were available in the United States but were developed mainly for emerging markets, Egan noted. Although available to U.S. dealers, they were not promoted by KEF America and were merely “clerked,” he explained, “because they were not appropriate for the U.S. brand position.” Those products were dropped globally a couple years ago, he noted.

Uni-Q drivers are more expensive to produce than separate woofer and tweeter drivers, Egan said, and aren’t practical to include in speakers in the C series range, particularly with the cost of materials and shipping rising sharply.

The C1 bookshelf with 4-inch woofer and 0.75-inch tweeter retails for $120 each. The C3 bookshelf with 5.25-inch woofer is $150 each. The C5 floorstander with 0.75-inch tweeter and two 5.25-inch woofers is $325 each. The C7 floorstander with two 6.5-inch woofers is $400 each. All are bass-reflex. The $250 6LCR is an acoustic-suspension speaker that can be used as a left-right or center speaker. It features two 5.25-inch woofers flanking a 0.75-inch tweeter. All are available with European walnut or black ash finishes with high-gloss black baffle.

The C series subwoofer is a bass-reflex model with 200-watt Class D amp, 8-inch driver, variable low-pass filter and magnetic shielding in a 13.6- by 12.6- by 14.9-inch cabinet available in black ash or European walnut.

KEF said it designed the C series for flexible placement in a room, so all L-R models feature front-firing but narrow acoustic port to allow for placement close to a wall or inside a cabinet. The two bookshelf models additionally feature integrated wall-mount brackets for on-wall installation. Also to maximize placement flexibility, the speakers are magnetically shielded.

In another product announcement, the company said it began shipping the third generation of its KHT2005 home theater sub/sat speaker system, which at a suggested $1,299 adds an upgraded subwoofer and high-gloss black finish instead of the previous version’s matte black to better match the cosmetics of new flat-panel TVs, said product manager Jason Caprarola. The previous version was $1,199.

Dubbed the KHT2005.3, the new speaker package features its predecessor’s two-way egg-shaped speakers with coincident drivers but features a higher performance KUBE2 subwoofer. It features one active and one passive driver in a smaller sealed enclosure, whereas the previous sub featured a single driver in a larger ported enclosure.