KEF is a well-known and respected British audio brand known for its high-quality products and strong brand recognition within the industry. The company has been a witness to the development of the audio market. The REFERENCE series is a classic flagship series from KEF, and the latest update has incorporated MAT technology to further optimize its performance. The KEF Reference 1 Meta speaker is the only bookshelf speaker in the REFERENCE series, making it stand out among the rest.
The first thing that caught my eye with the KEF Reference 1 Meta was its tweeter. The tweeter, featuring a 25mm aluminum alloy dome paired with an exclusive crown waveguide design, is cleverly placed in the center of the 125mm mid-range unit, giving it the appearance of a blooming rose.
It’s worth noting that the orange petal waveguide in front of the tweeter is not just for aesthetics. It, along with the fin-like protrusions on the mid-range diaphragm, is designed for smoother frequency response and wider dispersion angle, helping the unit create a wider sound field.
The KEF Reference 1 Meta features the latest 12th generation UNI-Q Meta coaxial driver, with a 1-inch aluminum alloy diaphragm for the tweeter, a 5-inch aluminum alloy diaphragm for the mid-range, and a 6.5-inch aluminum alloy diaphragm for the bass – a bass driver that was first used in the Blade series.
The tweeter’s cutoff frequency is around 40kHz, which is beyond the range of human hearing. The orange petal waveguide comes into play above 7kHz, helping the tweeter control dispersion and providing a 3.5dB increase in sound pressure above 15kHz.
The mid-range driver covers a frequency range of approximately 450Hz to 2.1kHz, and the shallow horn-shaped waveguide on the frame is said to increase sound pressure by approximately 7.5dB.
The REFERENCE series represents KEF’s technological evolution, and the most well-known component of this series is the Uni-Q coaxial driver. Coaxial drivers, also known as point source drivers, have the tweeter and mid-range emitting sound from the same location, solving the problem of phase misalignment.
This is achieved by placing the tweeter inside the mid-range unit, creating a single, cohesive appearance. Of course, KEF’s coaxial drivers have not remained unchanged over the years.
The initial version of the Uni-Q driver looked like a regular diaphragm, unlike the current version with its petal-like protrusions on the diaphragm. The tweeter was also a simple dome shape.
The 12th generation Uni-Q driver currently in use features a tweeter with a waveguide-induced design and an aluminum alloy mid-range diaphragm. The key improvement of this driver is the incorporation of a MAT (Metamaterial Absorption Technology) damping plate on the back of the unit.
This technology was developed through a collaboration between KEF and the Acoustic Metamaterials Group (AMG), which specializes in the research of soundproofing materials, primarily for the hotel industry.
The MAT is a circular plate with 30 tubes arranged in a criss-cross pattern that is attached to the back of the magnet of the unit. It is able to absorb 99% of back waves, greatly reducing airflow and standing waves inside the cabinet. Therefore, even though the Reference 1 Meta is a rectangular box speaker, the sound emitted by the drivers is still very clean.
The low-frequency driver of the KEF Reference 1 Meta is a 165mm unit that has also been carefully designed. The diaphragm is made of lightweight yet sturdy aluminum alloy, paired with a special aluminum wire voice coil and a large ventilation magnetic circuit system, resulting in powerful dynamic performance while maintaining good control.
The Reference 1 Meta offers five color combinations to choose from, including three cabinet colors and five driver color options: walnut/silver, gloss white/blue, gloss white/champagne, gloss black/gray, and gloss black/copper yellow. The design of the two drivers is especially impressive, featuring a combination of symmetrical and asymmetrical rings that reduce aesthetic fatigue through the use of optical illusions.
The KEF Reference 1 Meta has a cabinet designed with inertial properties, meaning it is not easily affected by vibrations from the drivers. The front panel of the cabinet is made of a composite material combining aluminum and resin and is molded under high temperature and pressure to control resonances and reduce sound coloration. The cabinet itself has a narrow rectangular design that is easy to place and saves space.
The Reference 1 Meta also has an unexpected feature in its inverted port design. The manufacturer offers two sizes of inverted ports that can be freely replaced, allowing the user to adjust the sound based on the characteristics of the space. The longer inverted port has a more gradual low-frequency attenuation and a deeper extension, making it a great choice for bass enthusiasts.
On the other hand, the shorter inverted port allows for faster low-frequency attenuation, mainly highlighting the impact of the bass. Additionally, the inner wall and opening of the shorter inverted port have been designed with computer analysis to reduce inverted port resonance and prevent the generation of airflow noise that can cause sound pollution.
The KEF Reference 1 Meta has six binding posts, plated with white gold, which look of high quality. The top and bottom binding posts are used to connect the speaker wire, while the middle ones are purely for the purpose of relaxing and tightening the internal jumper wire.
In other words, if you want to use Bi-Wire, you must loosen the middle two terminals; if you only use one speaker wire, you must tighten the middle terminals so that the internal jumper wire can connect to the top and bottom sets of terminals.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Reference 1 Meta is its second and third harmonic distortion. KEF is one of the few companies that dares to publicly disclose the harmonic distortion of its speakers. The higher the harmonic distortion, the more severe the sound pollution.
The Reference 1 Meta’s harmonic distortion specifications are very detailed: second and third harmonic distortion (90dB/1m) is less than 0.5% (40Hz – 100kHz); less than 0.2% (200Hz – 2kHz); less than 0.1% (2kHz – 20kHz). These numbers may seem much higher than those of amplifiers, but in the speaker field, they are considered very low harmonic distortion.
The crossover points for the KEF Reference 1 Meta are set at 450Hz and 2.1kHz. The two speakers are also paired with a deviation of less than 0.5dB, which is quite precise. Something to note is that its sensitivity is only 85dB, and its average impedance is 4 ohms (with a minimum of 3.2 ohms and no maximum listed, though it is likely to be above 10 ohms).
This suggests that it may not be an easy speaker to drive, and therefore may require a larger amplifier in terms of power output.
The KEF Reference 1 Meta handles various genres of music easily, especially when playing popular music, jazz, and country music, which is full of surprises. The images of each part of the instrument are clear and three-dimensional. The strings under the vocals are touching.
Large symphonies also have good performances, with clear rhythms, ups and downs, and crisp and not dragging layers. The Reference 1 Meta is suitable for small living rooms or study rooms that can fully display the excellent characteristics of the sound, and a set of reasonable equipment, the Reference 1 Meta is enough to satisfy you to appreciate all kinds of music.
Listening to Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” theme song, the full and powerful voice and rock accompaniment came straight through. I didn’t expect such a small speaker to produce such full sound energy, and the sound lines were clear, the bass was strong enough, and it wouldn’t be weak or ambiguous.
When listening to Fink’s “Blueberry Pancakes” the strong impact of rock music can also be reproduced, allowing me to feel the full mid-range and low-frequency range.
John Campbell’s “Down in the Hole” also showcased the Reference 1 Meta’s rich midrange and bass, as well as the rough, gravelly vocals.
The saxophone in Anette Askvik’s “Liberty” was also full and rich, and the overall scale of the music was expansive and exceeded what is usually expected from a bookshelf-sized speaker.
When listening to pop music, KEF Reference 1 Meta is full of momentum. So, what about classical music? When I listened to “Journey Through a Century” violin solo, I found that Reference 1 Meta’s violin is introverted, sweet, and shiny, but not gorgeous, but rather listenable, and carries warmth.
The sound quality and tone of this violin have great differences from the metal diaphragm that some audiophiles recognize will have a metallic sound. In fact, I have listened to many KEF speakers, with metal diaphragms in the tweeter, midrange, and even the woofer, but when listening to all kinds of music, there is no so-called metallic sound.
Looking for a high-quality speaker that delivers exceptional sound and is also visually appealing? Look no further than the KEF Reference 1 Meta. With its 12th generation Uni-Q coaxial point source unit, featuring MAT technology, and an independent mid-range unit, this bookshelf speaker delivers accurate, full, and clear lows that perfectly complement the sparkling highs and rich mids.
Whether you’re listening to pop, classical, or rock music, the Reference 1 Meta will bring your audio experience to the next level. And with its sleek design, it’s sure to add a touch of style to any room. Don’t miss out on this amazing speaker – get your Reference 1 Meta today!
KEF Reference 1 Meta Specs
- Design: Three-way bass reflex
- Drive units: Uni-Q driver array:HF: 25 mm (1 in.) aluminium dome with MAT/MF: 125 mm (5 in.) aluminium cone; Bass units: LF: 165 mm (6.5 in.) aluminium cone
- Frequency range free field (-6dB): Short port: 40Hz -45kHz/Long port: 37Hz – 45kHz
- Frequency range typical in room bass response (-6dB): 30Hz
- Frequency response (±3dB): 45Hz – 35kHz
- Crossover frequency: 450 Hz, 2.1 kHz
- Amplifier requirements: 50 – 200W
- Sensitivity (2.83V/1m): 85dB
- Harmonic distortion 2nd & 3rd harmonics (90dB, 1m): <0.5% 40Hz – 100kHz; <0.2% 200Hz – 2kHz; <0.1% 2kHz – 20kHz
- Maximum output (peak sound pressure level at 1m with pink noise): 111dB
- mpedance: 4 Ω (min. 3.2 Ω)
- Weight: 18.2 kg (40.1 lbs.)
- Dimensions (H x W x D)(with grille and terminal): 440 x 205 x 422 mm(17.3 x 8.1 x 16.6 in.)