These $600 bookshelf speakers have excellent sound quality for the price - they are a mainstay in my home theater setup
- A great pair of speakers can help make your home theater setup sound a lot better.
- KEF has been making ultra high-quality speakers for some time - but now they're bringing some of that talent to lower-end speakers too.
- The KEF Q150 speakers ($599.99) offer an excellent sound quality for the price and a classic-looking design.
A great pair of speakers can transform your living room experience. Problem is, if you're an audiophile then most consumer-grade speakers simply won't live up to what you're looking for. That's where products like the Q-Acoustics 3020i speakers come in for those with a $300 budget. But if you have a bit more cash to spend, then you'll get something a whole lot better - like the KEF Q150 bookshelf speakers.
Read more: The best speakers you can buy
But are the speakers worth the cash? Or should you save up for something better? We've been using the KEF Q150 bookshelf speakers for a while now to find out.
Out of the box, the KEF Q150 bookshelf speakers look like a high-end product. They're available in a few different finishes, including a nice satin black, satin white, or the stunning new walnut finish. We're reviewing the satin black, and they look great - and should fit right in on any TV stand or entertainment center.
The speakers come in at almost 12 inches tall, 11 inches deep, and 7 inches wide - and that's a little bigger than some other bookshelf speakers that you may be used to in the sub-$500 range, but still small enough to fit on either side of a TV on a wider entertainment center. They weigh 12 pounds each, which is actually a little lighter than we expected. Still, they feel well-built and strong, so don't expect them to break easily.
On the front of the speakers you'll get the so-called Uni-Q array, which includes a 5.25-inch driver and a 1-inch tweeter. We'll dive a little more into the Uni-Q array a bit later, but it's generally aimed at offering well-timed frequencies and a wider soundstage than other speaker offerings. On the back, you'll find a bass port, along with gold binding posts, which you'll use to connect the speakers to your receiver through either exposed speaker wire, or banana plugs.
We would have liked to see some speaker grilles to cover up the front of the speakers, out of the box. It's not a huge deal but still something that many similar speakers come with. Speaker grilles won't really change the sound in a huge way, but including them does make for a more aesthetically pleasing look. You can purchase them separately for $19.99 each, however.
Generally speaking, the speakers look good and feel tough. They're light enough to be easy to carry, but heavy enough to feel like they can withstand most abuse you can throw at them - whether that be multiple times moving houses, placing them for a house party, or whatever else.
Alongside the Q150 speakers, we also took a look at the KEF Kube 8b subwoofer ($476.89), which is also super well-designed. It's essentially a 12-inch cube with a fabric covering around the sides and controls on the top. It's all black, and looked great next to our setup. The subwoofer is designed to work well with other KEF speakers, making it a great choice for those looking for something to work alongside the Q150 speakers. It's important to note that the subwoofer doesn't come with the speakers - instead it's available for an additional $550. Some will find that price worth it, however, and we'll get into how it sounds a little later.
- Dimensions: 11.92 inches by 7.08 inches by 10.94 inches
- Weight: 12.3 pounds
- Impedance: 8Ω
- Maximum output: 108dB
- Sensitivity: 86dB
- Amplifier requirements: 10W-100W
- Frequency response: 51Hz - 28kHz
- Drive units: Uni-Q driver array (includes 5.25-inch driver and 1-inch tweeter)
Setting up the KEF Q150 bookshelf speakers is pretty easy. These are passive speakers, which means that you will need an amplifier of some kind. Most commonly in a home theater setup, that amplifier will come in the form of an A/V receiver, and we're using the speakers with an Onkyo receiver, though most receivers will be perfectly fine.
To physically set up the speakers, you'll place them on speaker stands or next to your TV. If you're using bare speaker wires, you'll then unscrew the binding posts, insert the wires, and screw them back on. You can use banana plugs with the speakers, but to do so you'll need to remove plastic caps on the back of the speakers - which can be a bit of a pain. Connect the other end of the cables to your receiver, and you should be good to go. KEF recommends setting up the speakers at least 6 feet apart, and at least 9 inches away from the wall behind them.
Setting up the KEF subwoofer was easy too. Because of the nature of lower frequencies, you have a little more freedom with where you want to place the subwoofer. We placed ours right next to the entertainment center. You'll then plug the subwoofer into a power outlet, and connect a subwoofer cable to the back and to your receiver.
Of course, the most important thing to consider when it comes to a pair of speakers is how they sound, and thankfully, these speakers sound great. There's plenty of detail to go around as well as deep, rich low-end that audiophiles will immediately appreciate. What does that mean? You'll hear the low rumble of car engines, plenty of kick drums and bass guitar in music, and so on.
The low-end is perhaps one of the best things about these speakers. It's fluid and deep, without going over the top. Some may wish for slightly more bass extension - and those are the kinds of people who should buy the subwoofer too - but everyone else will love the deep response these offer. That carries over into the low mids, too, which are nice and warm - again, without getting muddy.
The subwoofer is particularly helpful in situations like watching epic movies and gaming. What a subwoofer does is essentially extend the lower frequencies that the speakers can reproduce. The effect is that you'll get a much more natural sounding bass, which you otherwise wouldn't get from bookshelf speakers like the Q150s. Alone, the speakers will sound good, but if you want that extra oomph, then you'll need a subwoofer, and it's well worth the extra cash if you can afford it.
The speakers are ultradetailed, especially for a pair in this price range. Sure, you could spend a lot more for a little extra clarity, but most will love the amount of clarity already on offer here. Like any quality speakers, it's worth hooking these up with a quality amplifier, but even lower-quality amplifiers will deliver solid high-end response through these speakers. Speaker detail is important, as it ensures that you can hear all the high frequencies that would otherwise be missing. It helps ensure that they sound like the audio is coming from a real life event - and not from a pair of speakers.
Have thousands to spend on a pair of speakers for your living room? Buy something in KEF's LS50 range. The KEF Q150 speakers, however, bring quality sound to the masses. If you still want detail and clarity at a slightly lower price, then it's worth checking out the Q Acoustics 3020i speakers. You won't get the same level of detail as these speakers by any means, but they're still a great option for speakers at the $300 level.
The bottom line
The KEF Q150 bookshelf speakers are absolute powerhouses in this price range. No, they're not the best-sounding speakers of all time, and if you have deep pockets you can do better - but only if you spend a whole lot more. Otherwise, if you have a budget of around $600, these are the speakers you should get. And if you can extend your budget another $500, they'll pair excellently with KEF's Kube 8b subwoofer. It's hard to overstate how helpful a subwoofer can be too - with a subwoofer like this one, sound will rumble kind of like it does in the movie theater - and who doesn't want that?
That said, the speakers may not be the best choice for those on more restrictive budgets. If you want to save a bit of cash, the Q Acoustics 3020i speakers are also worth considering, as you can get a pair of those for around $220.
Pros: Excellent sound quality for the price, well-designed
Cons: No speaker grilles out of the box, subwoofer doubles price
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