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The Quest for The KEF… Reference 107!

Discussion in 'British Audio' started by SimplySound, Apr 30, 2012.

  1. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

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    We all have our quests in this hobby. The amp that will make our systems sing, the turntable that brings life to our LP’s, or in my case, the speaker system that will unify my room in sonic glory. And it is interesting that as soon as we think we have completed our quest, it makes us realize, that it may just have created yet another quest!

    In my case it started with a pair of KEF 103.2’s that I bought as surround speakers. Once I heard that glorious mid-range and that crystal clear high end, I was hooked. It wasn’t long before I was researching the KEF line, absorbing all I could about this venerable brand.

    I had a pair of DCM TF-700’s pulling duty as the mains in my system and I thought it might be time to consider another speaker that would fill that role. The more I researched, the more I was drawn to the flagship of the line, the legendary Reference 107! As many know, the R107 as it became known, spent many years on Stereophile’s list of favorite speakers and they did a thorough review of the R107.1 here and the follow up on the R107.2 here.

    Well karma took over (as it did for Raynald in 2009) and I am now the proud maintainer of my quest… a pretty decent pair of KEF Reference 107’s. What follows are my thoughts, experiences and the continuation of my quest to restore these venerable giants to a condition that is as good or even better than when they were released in 1986!

    And just remember, the quest isn’t a destination, it is a journey.

    Enjoy yours!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2012

     

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  2. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

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    The Deal

    So where to find a pair of 30 year old legends in decent condition without breaking the bank, became a quest in and of itself. These speakers don’t show up on EBay very often because they weigh 100lbs a piece and shipping them is way over the top. But they do appear on Craig’s List from time to time. Often in far away major metropolitan areas, way far away from an outpost in the desert, like Albuquerque, NM!

    The owners of these speakers know what they have, so finding them in a yard sale or at Goodwill for chump change has about the same odds as hitting the lottery. No, if you want to obtain a pair of these legendary speakers, it usually won’t come cheap or easy.

    I scoured the CL pages and found a pristine set in NY State for $2000. Scratch that! There was another mint pair outside of San Antonio TX for $2100, but that was 12Hrs away and more than I wanted to spend. A pair showed up in Phoenix that needed surrounds in both speakers for $850 but they didn’t have the Kube. No Kube meant a no go for me!

    Then they appeared. A set in relatively original condition located 7Hrs away in Denver CO, for $1200! They seemed reasonably priced, and had the original Kube! But could I seal the deal?

    I contacted the seller and YES, they were still for sale. Seems he had them up on Craig’s for a month or so, but I guess many in Denver didn’t want to spend the money for them, didn’t have the space for them or didn’t know what they were. He did have an offer of $400 for the Kube, but I urged him that under no certain terms, should he separate the Kube from the Speakers.

    They are MATCHED for crying out loud and selling off the Kube is like separating sibling twins! I knew right then and there that I had to save these speakers from spiraling into the abyss of separation or heaven forbid, being bought by a death metal head banger.

    I was anxious… how to get them? Would they slip through my hands? I felt I had to act fast! So I started thinking how I could get up to Denver and back in a weekend. And with how busy my weekends were, it was more like one day! Driving 14hrs round trip in a day initially sounded reasonable and I told him I would pick them up that next weekend. The deal seemed sealed.

    Then after some sleep and some deep soul searching, I began to think what I was doing was on the verge of irrational compulsion. Heck, it was close to an altered state of reality. I mean 14hrs of driving in a day and $1200? Am I living in the real world here?

    Reluctantly I emailed the seller and told him, I really wanted the speakers but that driving up and back in one day was just bizarre. I did mention that I had an event I was going to attend in Pueblo (2hrs away) and if he would take a deposit, I would come get them in 6 weeks, but that was the best I could do! I didn't hold out much hope that the guy would wait that long to sell them.

    I guess imploring him not to separate the speakers from the Kube convinced him I knew what he had. He said he wanted to get them to an Audio Enthusiast and didn’t want to break them apart and if I was willing to send him $200 through Paypal, he would hold them for me and I could come get them when I came up for my event! Halleluiah, it seems I saved them from an unknown fate playing Deicide or Slayer at Level 11! The deal was sealed and they quietly slipped off of Craig’s List.

    I think karma truly played a part in this deal. Sometimes things happen for a reason and some would say all things do. All I know is I am now the maintainer of these giants of the speaker world. You’ll notice I haven’t used the term “owner”, because some day we all shall pass and there is nothing we shall keep. But for the days that I have left on this planet, I will hold, love and cherish these speakers and vow to maintain them in a manner that something of this pedigree should expect. For they really are legends in the Audio realm and deserve the affection that all who are fortunate to have a set, lavish upon them!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2012
  3. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

    Messages:
    2,495
    Location:
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    The Condition

    After contacting the seller initially, I of course asked for some detailed pictures and a run down on the condition of the speakers. He said he was the second owner and when he purchased them in the late 90’s, they were missing the Top Hat grills. He was fortunate enough at the time to be able to procure some remaining NOS units direct from KEF. He had the original Kube and of course everything was a matched set.

    The pictures revealed a pair of cabinets that looked reasonable good for 30 years. These units weigh 100lbs, so moving them around can result in unintended consequences. And they do represent immovable objects. The pictures he sent showed them against a wall and they hadn’t been played in almost a year. He had “downsized” to a HT Surround system and sold off some of his high end 2-Channel gear. So there they sat, looking a little dejected and ignored. But that was about to change!

    Once I got to see them first hand, it was what I was expecting. I could tell they hadn’t been cleaned in a while, but they didn’t look abused. The Top Hat grills looked good with no tears or damage, pretty much as new. The heads looked solid with no damage to any of the Mid-range or Tweeter Cones.

    As for the cabinets, I could tell the right one must have been in a traffic pattern of a house with small children. It had some bruises and a few scratches (one of some significance on the front) but in general it looked pretty good. The Left Cab was in better shape, but had a good size bruise on its left side. Still for 30 year old monoliths like these, they didn’t look too bad and can definitely be spruced up with a good cleaning and a light coat of stain.

    When I arrived to retrieve the speakers, I had brought with me a meager 25Wpc Surround amp and a small DVD/CD Player. As I mentioned above, the owner had downsized to an HT Surround system and these sat unused in his living room for the last year or so. Not expecting to tell much about the speakers with this setup, all I was interested in; is did the mid/high-range drivers in the heads work and what condition were the Bass Cabinets in?

    The surrounds in the Left speaker had been done 8 years ago, but the Right unit had never been touched. I was expecting that the Bass Drivers in that cabinet would indeed be ready for repair. So no surprise there, when in fact it did come up weak. Not dead, just not the same drive and punch of the Left side. Probably a little degradation, if not full on failure of the surrounds.

    Well, I hadn’t driven all that way to Denver to drink at the Bull and Bush and go home empty handed. And fortunately for me, there were no major issues that would have me questioning why I was spending $1200 on this pair of Kef’s. So I loaded them up and for the next 7 hours, as I drove down I-25, I day-dreamed of what they would sound like in my system.

    Getting them home, I quickly solicited the support of my next door neighbor to carefully unload these from my truck and into my house. The KEF’s had made it home and were quickly set to playing some John Coltrane to determine their real condition.

    The weakness in the right cabinet was reaffirmed with 200W playing into it, but there was no rattle or distortion, so it told me the speaker cones must still be somewhat attached. But to assure no future damage the bass cabinets are scheduled for a full upgrade. Now my quest has become to hear the beauty of these monoliths in full swing!

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2012
  4. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

    Messages:
    2,495
    Location:
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    The Sound...

    Oh the glorious sound! To try to describe what comes forth from these units is truly beyond words. But try I must and do I will!

    These are a “Full Range Reference Speaker” and as I attempt to describe to people, there are a number of different types of speakers used in a major recording studio. You have the “Near Field” monitor that is used by a sound engineer at a mixing deck to capture a track to tape. The Reference 103.2's fit this description. It has some depth and range, usually far into the high end. Clarity and detail is what is expected, but no need for a broad image or deep stage.

    Then you have a “Session” Monitor that a musician may listen to while playing that track. Being a larger cabinet, it will have more capability in the drivers it uses (Three ways and larger woofers). It will deliver a little more range and provides an even deeper and broader image.

    Then you have the speakers that are sitting in the Music Producer’s personal office. The ones that are used to sit down with the musician who has just paid royally to record their soon to be Grammy Winning album! The KEF Reference 107’s are just that type of speaker and what the finished product is listened to for everyone to nod their head and say “sounds pretty damn good”!

    It better sound pretty good through these, because this pair of speakers will reveal every flaw imaginable in any recording. The mid-range and high frequency drivers are some of the best KEF made in the day and sound as clear and clean as the proverbial “driven snow”. And talk about effortless! These speakers are rated at 300W into 4-Ohms and you’d need a pretty big “fire hydrant” to bring these to any level indicating stress. In fact, I’m pretty sure your hearing would give out before these speakers revealed any discomfort.

    What does what I ‘m saying sound like? “Effortless” is a hard thing to describe, but let’s talk a bit about PRAT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing). As I said previously, my system consisted of a pair of DCM TF-700’s with a pair of KEF 103.2’s paired up as a center channel and a pair of ADS L730’s for surrounds. There is power enough for all of it, with a Yamaha M85 pumping over 250Wpc to the ADS Surrounds and the DCM’s making due with 200Wpc of David Belles' warm but pure power.

    Now the first thing I noticed in this setup is the ADS’s seemed to rule the roost. They are a very dynamic three way speaker. The DCM’s are a three way as well, but aren’t quite as dynamic and are more geared toward providing a wide sound stage image. So what does it mean when someone says a speaker is “dynamic”?

    I may have this wrong and anyone is free to correct me, but I interpret a “dynamic” capability as having a high level of PRAT. It comes down to a faster speaker response sounding quicker and more dynamic in its ability to react to the music.

    Now I want to be careful here about saying a dynamic speaker is better than a slower paced speaker. I’ve been fortunate in this quest of mine to hear a fast and slower speaker together and there is nothing inherently wrong with a mellower, slower response.

    The problem is when you match two (or more) speakers together in a multi-channel environment. Not only do you need to think about timbre (or shimmer) but also about bass response and yes PRAT. In my case the DCM’s tend to be a little slower in response than the ADS’s and therefore the ADS’s seemed to drive my room, even though they were surrounds.

    Enter the big KEF's! As soon as I lite them up, I knew everything had just changed. Not only are the Reference 107’s Full Range and play at ease, they have PRAT in spades. I know of no speaker I’ve ever heard that can respond as effortlessly and quickly as these do. I’m sure they are out there, but they are far and few between and I’ve never had the pleasure to cross paths with said unit.

    The KEF R107’s? Well it’s like the ADS L730’s looked over and said; “OK, I guess you’re running the show now!” And the Kef 103’s are like; “Wow, big brother’s at the party, let's get it on!” Everything has just fallen into place around the monoliths. They play clean, they play free, they have some bass extension and once I get the cabinets fully up to snuff, I am sure they are gonna rock the house.

    Seems my quest has just begun!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2012
  5. McBru6177

    McBru6177 One Way or Another Subscriber

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  6. McBru6177

    McBru6177 One Way or Another Subscriber

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    I recently bought my first pair of KEFs--the 103.2s (see my thread "Love my KEFs"). They are wonderful for my small office. Like you I am also hooked on the KEF sound.

    Based on your photos, are you using your pair of 103s as a center speaker?
     

     

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  7. Mystery

    Mystery constantly upgrading...

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    Great!
    Glad you like it.
    What are the center speakers over the TV?

    BTW, I like the hanging OM on the wall... Is that ornamental or more?
     
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  8. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

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    Hey guys, yeah, I'm using the KEF 103.2's paired together as a center channel.

    Prior to gettting the ADS's I was using the 103.2's as surrounds and I had a B&W CMC as my Center Channel. The 103.2's sounded great as surrounds but being a Near Field Monitor they were being pushed a bit in my room and did sound a little boxy.

    The L730's stepped into the Surround Role well and so I moved the 103's to the center as a pair. They are way better than the single CMC for movie voices and in the Multi-Channel Audio realm settle in well with the 107's. Some talk about "comb effect" but I haven't heard any of it. I guess it's because they are a two way and not a three way.

    The L730's being as dynamic a speaker as they are, they tended to overshadow the TF-700's. Now with the 107's in the house, they have been put in their place.

    All in all it has really drawn my room together with the monoliths being the anchor of it all. I can't wait to get the Bass Cabinets working 100%. That's gonna be a treat!

    A little of both! ;)
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2012
  9. Fast_Eddie

    Fast_Eddie Upper-middle fi

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Awesome story! Fantastic to get the one you've been after. Denver seems to be spitting up holy grails of late. Finally, after years of looking, I have the AR9s I've always wanted. It'll be another week or so before they're singing properly though.
     
  10. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

    Messages:
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    Yeah and C-Springs too with the EPI 1000's that Galaxie65 scored... Colorado has been throwing up some gems.

    Just read your post Eddie on the AR9's... I saw a pair of those on Ebay near Atlanta and listed them on "Dollars and Sense"... they seemed to me to be some of the finer examples of AR's full range lineup.

    Good luck in your quest to get them working on all cylinders again! :thmbsp:
     
  11. mech986

    mech986 Text ↓ optional Posts:>18,000 Subscriber

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    Although I'm sure you already know, a proper inspection of both sets of woofers should be done before any more powered operation with the KUBE working into these speakers. The woofers are pretty much unavailable and any operation with suspect surrounds would be just asking for voice coil damage, even if no audible distortion is noted - the subtle scraping of voice coil insulation doesn't take but a few seconds to occur.

    I read in your other thread that you have instructions but here's info from a post on Audiogon with some good instructions:

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    09-03-09: Tubeking
    I just did a pair. Try Orange County Speaker for the foam surrounds, remember the have TWO per driver with TWO woofers per speaker for a total of Four drivers. Orange county sells a complete kit with all eight foams and glue for under $100.00. The drivers are accessable from the bottom and top panels, remove only the outside screws on the top as the crossover for the woofers are attached to the panel with the screws in the center. Both chambers are full of foam and stuffing and it must be removed takeing care to remember how it needs to be reinstalled, The woofers have the posative terminal marked and are push on connectors, if confused by polarity use masking tape with notes on the wire to remember how to reattach. the drivers are attached with nuts that have some resistance to them as they have plastic locking nuts. Remove the bolt in center of one driver so that it maybe removed from the cabinet, after you have removed the first woofer then remove the center bolt from the second woofer and remove the connector rod from the cabinet. The woofers are orentiated so that the wire will hookup better if you note the direction of the woofers as the wire is not real long and is easier to reconnect if the woofers connectors face the same direction as before. If you have patience and dexterity the refoam is not to hard if you don't I think Orange County Speakers offers the full service plan at $70.00 ea. woofer. Considering you will be restoring a Classic and expensive speaker that's not bad.

    As far as the cap's I will leave that to a better qualified KEF kind of guy.

    Tubeking
    Tubeking (Answers | This Thread)


    09-07-09: Idfnl
    To the guy who suggested dumping them, that's laughable. These speakers are a total classic and sound incredible.

    Tubeking, Orange County Speaker is exactly who I went to, they had the complete kit: surrounds, center doughnuts, adhesive, instructions and brushes.

    The speakers came apart pretty easily, I labeled all the wires and foam positions for reassembly.

    Once I got the drivers out, 2 of the 4 woofers had holes in them about the size of a dime... this was the source of my bass loss.

    The surrounds were as brittle as a burned piece of paper. The slightest pinch broke it apart. I pinched my way around the surround until it was off, then took a pocket knife to the outer edge to remove all the gunk. I tried a razor, fingernail, and a few other tools but the knife was by far the best.

    The inside surround came off very easily with a fingernail.

    Be careful, these things will damage easily.

    For the doughnut, tilt the driver so none of the old surround can get in the voice coil and use compressed air to make sure nothing gets in there, this old foam is like gum when its compressed. I used my fingernail very carefully here to get all the stuff off.

    First I glued the inside of the outer surround, let it dry, then the outside and at the same time the doughnut.

    Check carefully that the voice coil is aligned well --> no scraping!

    With patience, this was very satisfying work.

    I changed my terminals while I was in there and put everything back together.

    RESULT:

    WHOO HOO!!! My KEF's are back... bass is snappy and tight, deep, just like they used to sound. REALLY glad I did this and would highly recommend to anyone with a pair of 107's!

    Here's KEF's installation manual:
    http://www.kef.com/uploads/files/en...eries_Model_107_Installation_Instructions.pdf

    And OCS's page on replacement surrounds / central donut if you're going to do them yourself, $80 for both speakers, all 4 woofers is a damn good price:
    http://www.speakerrepair.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=KEF107K

    Good Luck with your full restoration, should be a great project. BTW, I have a spare pair of heads I'm using to cover a pair of BBC LS3/5a's on top of subs I have. Speaking of which, you should consider finding a pair of KEF LS3/5a's and R101's to fill out your KEF collection.
     

     

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  12. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

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    You're right Mech... I need to be careful with them. I have already contacted Orange County about getting them done. I have the instructions you posted for speaker removal and they sent me a list as well.

    I'm planning on working on the one that sounds the weakest first over the next few days. Once I have it done I'll do the other which sounds a bit stronger.

    It's interesting that you bring up the Ref 101... I stopped into Gold Sound in Englewood CO while I was up there to pick up the 107's and they had a set of the 101's for sale. They wanted I think about $290 for them. They were in good shape but I was already spending enough on speakers as it was.

    I was amazed at how much sound those little two-ways put out! They are actually quite a bit smaller than the 103.2's but man they sounded awesome! :music:
     
  13. tubed

    tubed Lunatic Member

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    Very nice pit stop on the meandering journey:)
     
  14. mech986

    mech986 Text ↓ optional Posts:>18,000 Subscriber

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    Heh, what a coincidence! That's a pretty good price for the 101's and you could always say the 101 woofers are backup midranges for your 107's, which they are. They're no real match for the 107's in a direct comparison, but, like the LS3/5a, on their own, they sound a lot bigger than their size would suggest. The 101's also generally hold their value too.
     
  15. Mystery

    Mystery constantly upgrading...

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    Noob KEF 107 question...
    Where is the Kube (offered for $400 separately) and speakers offered for $800?
    Is there more to it than what's in the picture?
     
  16. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

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    Digging in...

    Well Mech... glad I listened to ya... these things are toast! No music out of them until I have them fixed!

    Followed everyone's suggestions and I avoided getting any "crumbs" in the voice coil (I think). Both drivers move so they aren't frozen. I'll have OC check out the VC, but I think I'm OK.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     

     

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  17. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

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    Mystery... the speakers are the big "monoliths". They have a Mid/High-Range head and the bass cabinet is everything you see below the heads. There are dual 10" woofers in the cabinets that are tied together with a rod to dampen any resonance between the drivers. In other words, they drive in unison... that is where the term "Coupled Cavity" comes from.

    [​IMG]

    The "Kube" is a Bass Equalizer that goes between your pre-amp and power amp. It can also be used with the Tape Monitoring circuit of an Integrated amp. It allows you to really taylor the Bass Response of the cabinet with the room. Slick shite!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  18. mech986

    mech986 Text ↓ optional Posts:>18,000 Subscriber

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    Glad you took a look, older foam surrounds are just not reliable after a few years. The newest polyether foam surrounds are supposed to be better but we won't know for a number of years of use.
     
  19. Mrv8q

    Mrv8q Well-Known Member

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    Those input cables look like old Adcom cables, circa 1990. If so, be careful; they're so old they can physically separate and take out what they are connected to....
     
  20. SimplySound

    SimplySound Kent Engineering & Fondry

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    Nothin' but wires and caps...

    I'm being told by Orange County NOT to try to recap these bass units. The rational is that they are very specifically designed and the quality of the caps used wouldn't warrent them being changed. Better left alone?

    [​IMG]

    I'm also wondering what folks think about trying to rewire the Cabs? Think there is much to gain or just an excersize in frutility?

    [​IMG]
     
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