Saturday, June 20, 2009

A visit with the KEF Q60 loudspeakers

When I first got into audio gear back in 1989, I started reading Stereophile magazine. Since I was only a poor college student, I could only dream of buying the gear they were reviewing. However I still remember reading about these KEF Q60 speakers back in 1991. I remember being intrigued by the Uni-Q driver and the strange looking port. The Uni-Q driver has the tweeter placed right in the middle of the woofer voice coil which makes them a great point source. I wanted a pair but never got 'em due to money and changing speaker interests. Fast forward eighteen years and I see a pair for sale on Ebay for $149. I immediately pull the trigger and get them three days afterwards. You gotta love the modern world.

The KEF Q60 loudspeaker use san 8" Uni-Q driver and is rated for 8 ohms / 90dB efficiency. This speaker is only rated for 100Ws of power and also features a large radius port on the bottom. The size is basically a 'large bookshelf' speaker, though it certainly would take a gigantic bookshelf to place these on, so I would recommend a pair of stands instead.

The Q60s went and replaced my pair of Q30 floorstanders with the 6.5" Uni-Q drivers. The Q30s, though nice, lacked bass and treble extension but were good enough for my second system. They were also fairly undynamic and created little soundstages with little instruments. I could immediately tell that both speakers have an extremely similar house sound - slightly warm and perhaps a touch rolled off on top, but in the end the Q60 is the better all-around speaker.Though the Q60s only uses an 8" driver they were better in the bass and treble department. Images are also larger, though certainly not in the big full range speaker department.

Treble is very smooth, though lacking in ultimate extension and detail. The Q60s bass is good, perhaps going to 50Hz before rolling sharply off. Of course I have them tucked close to the wall so I'm getting a little help there since the lower frequencies are perhaps just a wee overdone. The midrange, though certainly not in electrostat territory, is balanced and works well with vocals. Nothing seems to get terribly confused during complex music or loud passages though I certainly wouldn't call the Q60s a headbanger speaker. After all there is only so much a single 8" woofer can do. Soundstaging is very good for the price range and even listening off-axis is an involving experience.

Overall the KEF Q60s would make good budget or second system speakers - they are coherent, err on the side of omission and give you some sense of what audiophiledom is all about. This is a balanced speaker with no major faults that allows you to hear differences in recordings. Due to their relatively high efficiency and easy 8 ohm load, Q60s would also be suitable for lower powered tube or solid-state amplifiers.

Second System:
Dynaco PAS-3X modified
Dynaco AF-6 tuner
McIntosh MC250 amplifier
Hitachi L55 turntable
Pioneer DVD-V7400 cd player
various budget cables


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bottlehead Seduction updates

I've replaced the .47uF Orange drops with AmpOhm tin foil and oil capacitors available from the Tube Store. I've also replace the .1uF Xicons with Auricaps. After many hours of break-in, I can strongly approve of the AmpOhm units - it has an extremely musical, almost laid back sound that makes you want to spin record after record. It is a good balance to strike with the more lean and forward sound of the 6DJ8 family of tubes.

Regarding tube rolling - I've also tried a pair of Voskhod 80s production 6N23Ps. Though not quite the same quality as the NOS Amperex/Mullard/Telefunken tubes, it has a fast sound that mates well with the AmpOhm oil capacitors.

For a budget tube phono stage, the Bottlehead Seduction is a musical revelation. Though it doesn't compete with my Threshold FET-10/PC in terms of overall detail and bandwidth, the Seduction is certainly no slouch either. Though it lacks the very ultimate in inner detail it is natural, musical and would be a great upgrade over most vintage tube phono units. Now if only it had a White Cathode Follower low impedance output, a regulated tube power supply and... oh, curses I just can't leave anything alone!