The latest member of KEF’s EGG family updates the iconic speaker design. Ed Selley enjoys some over-easy beats
As the revival in the fortunes of two-channel audio looks set to continue, we’re seeing companies adapt products that were originally intended for multi-channel use to more traditional stereo-orientated designs. In the case of KEF, the company has taken its long standing ‘egg’ satellite speaker – a benchmark in the compact home cinema multi-channel loudspeaker market – and given it a thorough overhaul to turn the design into the active stereo setup you see before you here.
The EGG digital music system is derived from KEF’s latest 5.1-satellite and subwoofer system and makes use of the same Uni-Q driver that originally gave the speaker its shape. In this case the Uni-Q is a 115mm aluminium mid/bass driver with a 19mm tweeter placed at its center. This version incorporates the latest refinements of the design such as the ‘tangerine’ waveguide in front of the tweeter and the ‘Z Surround’ system that allows for more controlled driver excursion.
Each enclosure has a small, front-mounted bass port, which along with the drivers is concealed behind the grille.
The conversion to a stereo product has also led to some alterations. In order to accommodate the ‘active’ amplification, the base of each speaker has been enlarged – with a selection of controls being added to one – and the leg that connects the speaker enclosure to the base has been beefed up as well. A 50W-rated Class D amplifier is inside each speaker, which is unusual because while the practice of powering a driver with a dedicated amp is relatively common, this makes the KEF a true dual mono design, meaning that each speaker runs independently.
Despite the twin amplifiers, it requires just a single mains socket for power. Along with audio signal inputs, the power connection is made on one speaker, which is then connected to the second via an umbilical cable to carry power and audio signals. This is an elegant solution, but the umbilical cable is a little on the short side at just 1.5m. While you are unlikely to want the speakers to be positioned much further apart than this, getting anywhere near to this distance does mean that the wire will be stretched tight between them.
A good selection of inputs are on hand and include a USB connection with 24-bit/96kHz support as well as a 3.5mm jack socket that works as both an analogue or digital optical connection that also supports 24/96 formats. Wireless streaming is via aptX Bluetooth connectivity when paired to a compatible device. In keeping with the speaker’s home cinema roots, there is also a subwoofer pre output.
The KEF impresses with its looks from the moment it’s extracted from its excellent packaging and it certainly looks like a serious piece of audio equipment perched on a desktop. Some of the elegance of the original EGG has been lost in the conversion to active stereo speaker, but judged on its own aesthetic merit, this is a great piece of design. Build quality and finish are of a very high standard and the speaker enclosures feel impressively solid and well implemented. A small remote control is also supplied.
Connecting the KEF to my laptop running Windows 7 and jRiver, has me up and running in a little over a minute with no issues. Given that the EGG is closely derived from a multi-channel system that is designed to work with a subwoofer, it isn’t unreasonable to wonder how effectively it will work without one.
As you might expect, with only a pair of 115mm mid/bass drivers housed in rather small enclosures, this is no bass monster. The amount of energy that it produces below 100Hz is fairly negligible. But this doesn’t seem to have as dramatic an effect on performance as you might anticipate, and while it is unlikely to vibrate your internal organs, the EGG is able to generate a stereo image that is outstanding. The level of immersion that this soundstaging attribute generates is not to be underestimated, and it does a fi e job of appeasing the brain more than any loss of bass does.
This is further aided by it being punchy, well integrated and entertaining to listen to. Choosing White Bear, the latest release from The Temperance Movement, it manages to capture the intent of the piece extremely well with plenty of energy and drive. The heady rock of Oh Lorraine has enough of the punch of the original recording to negate any sense that the KEF is cutting off any of the bottom end. This is further aided when positioned in a near-field configuration when used as speakers with a computer.
Further up the frequency response, the EGG is more assured. The Uni-Q system has superb integration between its two drivers, resulting in a seamless performance from 100Hz upwards. There is plenty of space and presence to vocals and Regina Spektor’s Consequence Of Sounds is deeply impressive. The speaker manages the neat trick of having an extremely wide sweet spot that means a decent and believable stereo image can be had, even when used at a greater distance from your listening position.
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One of the more impressive aspects of the EGG is that despite the fairly reasonable price tag, it responds positively to high-resolution material. As you might expect, the bass response doesn’t change significantly but with the 24/96 download of Joe Satriani’s Shockwave Supernova, the almost liquid quality of the guitar work is handled impressively well.
Where the system further impresses is that this ability to respond to higher-quality material doesn’t impair the KEF from sounding perfectly listenable with Spotify and more compressed material. It is only when you wind the bitrates down to very compressed material that it starts to sound in any way strained or brittle.
Switching to Bluetooth does not really change any aspects of the performance that the speakers demonstrate via the USB port. Making the connection itself is simple and painless and in the case of the Android devices that I use for testing, reconnection is automatic.
Listening to My Wild West by Lissie on Tidal over USB from the laptop and over Bluetooth via a phone, reveals little noticeable fundamental change in the way that the KEF is able to grab the vocals and generates a meaningful and engrossing soundstage with them carefully placed over the top.
The KEF EGG active speaker system is an effective refinement of the multi-channel home cinema original. While perhaps not quite a perfect replacement for a more conventional separates system, it is more than up to the task of replacing an all-in-one dock-type speaker system, providing significantly improved functionality and a far superior sense of stereo soundstage. The useful selection of inputs combined with the excellent build quality and unfussy placement makes this an impressively flexible audio system.
● 19mm vented aluminium dome tweeter● 115mm Uni-Q driver● Quoted power output: 50W● 24-bit/96kHz capable USB and optical inputsWEIGHT 2.2kg eachDIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 136 x 274 x 172mm.