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'Of all art, music is the most indefinable and the most expressive, the most insubstantial and the most immediate, the most transitory and the most imperishable. Transformed to a dance of electrons along a wire, its ghost lives on. When KEF returns music to its rightful habituation, your ears and mind, they aim to do so in the most natural way they can ... without drama, without exaggeration, without artifice'. Raymond Cooke, KEF founder

The Beginning

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

The Beginning

The company was founded in 1961 by Raymond Cooke OBE (1925 - 1995) and was initially headquartered in a Nissen Hut on the premises of Kent Engineering & Foundry (from where the name KEF is derived) - a metal-working company on the banks of the River Medway, near Maidstone in Kent.

1960s (and the LS3/5a)

Key to the design philosophy of the new company was the use of synthetic materials for the diaphragm and surround of the drive units. KEF's first speaker design, the three-way K1, incorporated drive units with foil-stiffened, vacuum-formed polystyrene diaphragms and the revolutionary T15 tweeter with a diaphragm made of Melinex (also known as Mylar in the US and Hostophan in Europe) – a 'state of the art' thin but strong polyester film. These breakthroughs inspired many new products, not least the Celeste, a ground breaking compact two-way design - the first really small hi-fi speaker. It went on to huge commercial success, ensuring the financial viability of the fledgling company. By the mid 1960s a comprehensive range of products was available from KEF to cover all applications including the Portable Celeste - a utility speaker aimed at schools and institutions, and the K1 and K2 baffles which customers could build into their own cabinets or mount 'in-wall' with the help of specially produced instruction leaflets.

1970s (birth of Reference)

In 1970, KEF received the first of two prestigious Queen's Awards for Export Achievement as the company became known beyond the UK. Three years later, KEF became the first loudspeaker manufacturer in the world to implement computer-assisted 'total system design'. New and revolutionary digital testing equipment gave KEF’s engineers access to relevant crossover and drive unit data at a glance, assisting them enormously in the development of a highly advanced generation of audio equipment.

1980s (the birth of Uni-Q)

A wonderful endorsement of the KEF Reference Series' accuracy happened at the Edinburgh Festival in 1980. A performance of Belioz' Te Deum conducted by Claudio Abbado was to take place in the Usher Hall yet the organ used was that of St Mary's Cathedral some one mile away. The sound from the organ was relayed via a BBC FM radio link and reproduced through 36 KEF Reference 105.2s. Andrew Clements of the Financial Times said of the event "…… with eyes closed I would not have known that Gillian Weir was not playing in the same hall as the orchestra" The concert was a notable success and another innovative BBC/KEF collaboration..

1990s

KEF's 105/3 loudspeakers featuring second-generation Uni-Q technology, were voted 'Best Imported Speaker' by the Japanese press in 1992. That same year the company came under new ownership when the company was purchased by Gold Peak and a fresh chapter of excellence and innovation began, adding further lustre to KEF's impressive reputation.   In 1993 KEF made waves in the home theatre market with the introduction of the Model 100 centre speaker which, despite its premium price tag, developed a strong following amongst serious consumers who appreciated the clear benefits of Uni-Q's superior dispersion characteristics. The following year KEF was one of the first companies to release a THX approved home theatre system - a high-end subwoofer/satellite concept with vertically directional front speakers and dipole surrounds it was revolutionary for its time. As the 1990s progressed, new ranges of sleekly styled but affordable designs were introduced, including the Q Series speaker range, the 60S/80C/30B home theatre system and the award-winning Coda 7 loudspeaker.

2000s

KEF's research group has being steadily developing considerable expertise in the in the use of advanced acoustical, magnetic and mechanical modelling techniques. These techniques, such as Finite Element Analysis, allow acoustic systems to be modelled to an accuracy not previously achievable using other methods. Drive units for example, with their complex vibrating parts, are now prototyped and optimised in the virtual domain, allowing many options to be investigated before a real physical sample needs to be made. The fruits of this capability can be seen in the latest generation of Uni-Q driver arrays from the 4.5 inch KHT3005 version with its ribbed cone and sealed suspension technology to the latest 6.5 inch Reference Range Uni-Q with its optimised geometry, wide dispersion tweeter section.

The Beginning

The company was founded in 1961 by Raymond Cooke OBE (1925 - 1995) and was initially headquartered in a Nissen Hut on the premises of Kent Engineering & Foundry (from where the name KEF is derived) - a metal-working company on the banks of the River Medway, near Maidstone in Kent.

1960s (and the LS3/5a)

Key to the design philosophy of the new company was the use of synthetic materials for the diaphragm and surround of the drive units. KEF's first speaker design, the three-way K1, incorporated drive units with foil-stiffened, vacuum-formed polystyrene diaphragms and the revolutionary T15 tweeter with a diaphragm made of Melinex (also known as Mylar in the US and Hostophan in Europe) – a 'state of the art' thin but strong polyester film. These breakthroughs inspired many new products, not least the Celeste, a ground breaking compact two-way design - the first really small hi-fi speaker. It went on to huge commercial success, ensuring the financial viability of the fledgling company. By the mid 1960s a comprehensive range of products was available from KEF to cover all applications including the Portable Celeste - a utility speaker aimed at schools and institutions, and the K1 and K2 baffles which customers could build into their own cabinets or mount 'in-wall' with the help of specially produced instruction leaflets.

1970s (birth of Reference)

In 1970, KEF received the first of two prestigious Queen's Awards for Export Achievement as the company became known beyond the UK. Three years later, KEF became the first loudspeaker manufacturer in the world to implement computer-assisted 'total system design'. New and revolutionary digital testing equipment gave KEF’s engineers access to relevant crossover and drive unit data at a glance, assisting them enormously in the development of a highly advanced generation of audio equipment.

1980s (the birth of Uni-Q)

A wonderful endorsement of the KEF Reference Series' accuracy happened at the Edinburgh Festival in 1980. A performance of Belioz' Te Deum conducted by Claudio Abbado was to take place in the Usher Hall yet the organ used was that of St Mary's Cathedral some one mile away. The sound from the organ was relayed via a BBC FM radio link and reproduced through 36 KEF Reference 105.2s. Andrew Clements of the Financial Times said of the event "…… with eyes closed I would not have known that Gillian Weir was not playing in the same hall as the orchestra" The concert was a notable success and another innovative BBC/KEF collaboration..

1990s

KEF's 105/3 loudspeakers featuring second-generation Uni-Q technology, were voted 'Best Imported Speaker' by the Japanese press in 1992. That same year the company came under new ownership when the company was purchased by Gold Peak and a fresh chapter of excellence and innovation began, adding further lustre to KEF's impressive reputation.   In 1993 KEF made waves in the home theatre market with the introduction of the Model 100 centre speaker which, despite its premium price tag, developed a strong following amongst serious consumers who appreciated the clear benefits of Uni-Q's superior dispersion characteristics. The following year KEF was one of the first companies to release a THX approved home theatre system - a high-end subwoofer/satellite concept with vertically directional front speakers and dipole surrounds it was revolutionary for its time. As the 1990s progressed, new ranges of sleekly styled but affordable designs were introduced, including the Q Series speaker range, the 60S/80C/30B home theatre system and the award-winning Coda 7 loudspeaker.

2000s

KEF's research group has being steadily developing considerable expertise in the in the use of advanced acoustical, magnetic and mechanical modelling techniques. These techniques, such as Finite Element Analysis, allow acoustic systems to be modelled to an accuracy not previously achievable using other methods. Drive units for example, with their complex vibrating parts, are now prototyped and optimised in the virtual domain, allowing many options to be investigated before a real physical sample needs to be made. The fruits of this capability can be seen in the latest generation of Uni-Q driver arrays from the 4.5 inch KHT3005 version with its ribbed cone and sealed suspension technology to the latest 6.5 inch Reference Range Uni-Q with its optimised geometry, wide dispersion tweeter section.