The Venerable Kef 104/2

What can I say.  I purchased these speakers off Craig’s List on Maui and talk about a “gem in the rough”!  I am very, very happy with them, especially the more I play them.  So much so that I’m on the hunt for another pair for Canada.  They are something worthy of growing into.  I found them early on in my return to my love for high end music reproduction, so they started out playing SACDs coupled with a nice warm Marantz preamp and an utterly competent vintage SAE power amp.  They immediately started to reveal the weaknesses in my system in other areas, such as that of my SACD player’s DACs (Op Amps are holding back my digital quest).

But the real magic started to happen once I got my vinyl signal path going with the Denon 103R moving coil phono cartridge (The formidable Denon 103 vs. 103R low output moving coil phono cartridges – is there really a difference?…) , the right preamp for the job of handling said phono cartridge (The Nakamichi CA-5A preamplifier), and the perfect power amp to drive these amazing loudspeakers (The Audionics of Oregon CC-2. More distortion, more better.).

At the risk of using superlatives, the 104/2’s are visceral in the best sort of ways, vs. the analytical qualities of “Maggies” (In a nutshell, the big Maggies (3.7Rs) are a fantastic speaker, but are very dependent upon room acoustics).  It seems strange to call these seemingly mutual exclusive qualities both good, but they are!  All I can say if you seek perfection in the plucking of a string as part of an acoustic performance, go for the Maggies.  But if you want to rock your world like you are at a live show of your favourite classic rock band, the 104/2’s will absolutely steal the show every time.

When setting these up, it was immediately apparent that my room is by far my biggest limitation (Why do speakers need to be matched to room acoustics?…).  Very early on I discovered a dramatic improvement in imaging by not toeing them in (as you do most speakers) and much tighter bass just by moving the them about 6” further out from the rear wall.  My room is gonna resonate at around 75 Hz no matter what, since the “long” dimension is 15 feet long.  But there are still ways to work with that, especially with an acoustic suspension vs. bass reflex design.  Interestingly, the 104/2s are neither.  They are about the most clever design to get exemplary bass out of a relatively small cabinet I’ve ever seen.  The key to their success is two vertically firing woofers that combine their output to a port of exactly the same diameter as the B110 mid-range drivers, a design Kef calls “Coupled Cavity Bass Loading”.

The CC-2 powering the Kef’s is a marriage made in heaven (after all, the designer of the CC-2 was working alongside Lynn Olson who was designing speakers spec’d with Kef drivers).  As a side note, the CC-2 is also a perfect match for the 15 ohm LS3/5As I built in Canada (What is it about the Roger’s LS3/5A?…).  How do I know this?…  I listened to them together back when they came out in the 70s – another audiophile magic combination (Why do power amps need to be matched to speakers?…).

Leave a Reply