The company was founded in 1961 by Raymond Cooke MBE (1925–1995) and was initially headquartered in a Nissan 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, Cooke, an ex-BBC Electrical Engineer, was keen to experiment with new materials and technologies in order to create products with superior acoustic quality that could reproduce recordings as natural as the original performance. From the very beginning, the pioneering inventiveness of KEF loudspeakers was undeniable and now for several decades, audiophiles around the world have revered KEF for its innovative, high-performance loudspeakers.
As the home theatre market developed through the late 1990s KEF’s engineers set to work on the next generation of affordable, high performance subwoofer/satellite systems. The result was the KHT2005 system released in 2001, featuring the iconic ‘egg’ shaped satellite. The high quality feel of the cast aluminium enclosure, coupled with the superior acoustic performance of Uni-Q set new standards in its class and it dominated this ultra competitive the market for several years. This was followed by the KIT100, an integrated DVD/Subwoofer/Satellite system, offering quasi surround performance from two front located loudspeakers. With the surround information being radiated into the listening room by flat panel transducers located on the side surfaces of the front left and right speakers, the listener is immersed in a convincingly spacious sound stage without the need for rear located surround speakers.
Since the mid 1990s 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 KHT3000 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.
In 2005, KEF revealed to the world what had been a closely guarded secret since the late 1980s – ACE technology. After a comprehensive research and development program the KHT9000 system showed how putting activated carbon inside a loudspeaker enclosure vastly increases its effective internal volume – allowing enhanced bass extension from compact cabinets. Finally, the loudspeaker industry had a means of circumventing the age-old constraint that extended bass requires a large enclosure. What’s more – the bass quality of an ACE loaded closed box enclosure is as good as it gets – with a unique combination of extension and superior transient response.