These beautiful, one-of-a-kind speakers are in a league of their own: great looks, outstanding imaging, five home theater speakers in two narrow columns, and AMAZING sound. According to KEF's website, these speakers won several awards when introduced. KEF Five-Two Model 11 speakers are everything I wanted in upscale home theater speakers, and more.
During the movie WALL-E, for example, amazing sound filled the room and created an incredible home theater experience. Natural, accurate, seamless and perfect are words that comes to mind. Star Wars I was stunning.
Regular music sounds accurate and most enjoyable -- if the recordings are decent.
The imaging and broad sound stage are particularly outstanding. The great imaging is achieved through KEF's Uni-Q drivers. The Uni-Q drivers, found on more-expensive KEF speakers, place the tweeter in the middle of the woofer, so the sound waves from the tweeter are in exact alignment with the sound waves from the woofer. That creates precise audiophile sound and a very wide sweet spot, because the sound patterns from the tweeter and woofer are identical at many different angles. The broad sound stage is created further by the five speakers L-C-R-RR-RL in one.
With other brands of speakers, tweeters and woofers are separate, and each has a different sound axis. With other brands of speakers, sound errors occur where the two sound waves from the tweeter and woofer cross off-axis. With other speakers, the sound patterns are different because the tweeter is not in the middle of the woofer. That results in diminished sound off-axis (poor sound) and a narrower sweet spot for other speakers. In contrast, these KEF speakers with the Uni-Q drivers fill the room with broadly accurate audiophile-caliber sound at many seating positions. The imaging is excellent and broad.
Several people in several seats hear great "sweet spot" sound, which is great for home theater listening. The home theater experience is outstanding. If you search the Internet for reviews of other KEF speakers with the Uni-Q driver, you will read rave comments about the audiophile-caliber sound of other KEF speakers with the Uni-Q driver.
With these speakers, you do not need a separate center channel speaker, because a center channel is hidden in the two speakers, eliminating the clutter of a separate center channel speaker and improving the integration of the left-center-right sound stage. This was an important feature for our home because our nice TV console does not have a place for center channel speaker. We did not want a separate center speaker. Wires would be visible with a center channel speaker. The seamless left-center-right sound stage of the Kef Five-Two 11 speakers is excellent. It works. I never notice that I do not have a separate center speaker.
The speakers are very narrow and made of quality aluminum, which looks great and is a design benefit that improves the imaging and dispersion even further. The narrow width allows the sound to disburse freely without blockage from the cabinets (unlike wide box speakers). These speakers have a wide and accurate sound pattern.
The two speakers nicely match our nice-looking Panasonic Viera TH-50PZ800U 50-Inch 1080p Plasma HDTV, which has a nice-looking stand. If home decor is important to you and you do not want to hassle with the clutter of regular home theater speakers, then these upscale speakers become even better. The speakers look as though they were made to match our nice HDTV and are very nice looking overall.
Surround sound is generated from flat-panel surround sound speakers on the sides of the speakers. Those speakers broaden the soundstage, but they do not fully create a complete surround sound experience in the reat as you would if you installed surround sound speakers to the rear of the room. Home Theater sound still sounds amazing, and the broad imaging is great, but I do not hear surround sound coming from my rear. Actions movies sound amazing but not attempts to create movement from behind. These KEF speakers are made for people like me who value great overall sound, great looks, and some surround sound effects instead of the clutter of a true five-speaker home theater system. Realistically, I do not want to hassle with the installation of surround sound speakers at this time, which is why I bought these speakers. Also, the home theater sound of these speakers is amazing.
You must buy a good subwoofer. Ideally, the subwoofer will have good upper extension, such as to 200HZ, because the KEF five-two speakers have very little bass. If you can afford it, buy the KEF HTB2BL (SE) Powered Subwoofer (Black). I bought the Polk Audio PSW505 12-Inch Powered Subwoofer because the sound is good (but not audiophile), the bass is deep, and I received a great deal. I set the crossover to 120 HZ. The crossover of my Polk subwoofer with the KEF Five-Twos sounds smooth enough (the frequency response is flat up to around 150 HZ and down to 30HZ) and creates an amazing home theater sound experience. However, I will probably wonder for awhile if I should have bought a subwoofer with a higher upper-extension and audiophile sound. Due to the higher crossover of the Five Two Model 11s, some of the upper-bass slightly seems to come from the subwoofer. That is the trade-off with these speakers. They seem designed to have amazing audiophile imaging from the narrow cabinets, look great with home decor, and partially create 5.1 surround sound without the clutter of five home theater speakers, but do not have deep bass extension of complete surround sound.
One other mild weakness with these speakers is that they are brutally accurate. Old or poorly-engineered recordings are accurately portrayed as old and poorly engineered. Some music is meant for that one-speaker AM radio!
The price of these high-end speakers is not expensive considering that you are getting three outstanding speakers, left-center-right, with amazing imaging and great sound, plus you get two surround sound speakers that create some surround sound effects. If the qualities of these speakers fit your home theater needs, then I highly recommend them.
A review of these speakers by Steve Guttenberg at CNET said that these are "Beautifully styled and engineered 2.0-channel virtual surround speaker system; each speaker has 11 drivers; KEF's advanced Uni-Q drivers deliver razor-sharp imaging while the side-mounted NXT flat-panel speakers produce surround sound... exceptional audiophile-grade clarity... surround effects fall a bit short of the best we've heard...
"KEF's Model 11 speakers ($2,000 per pair) are one of two models in the company's FiveTwo virtual surround product series, so named for their ability to produce five-channel surround sound from two speakers. Unlike most self-powered virtual surround systems that rely on proprietary digital surround processing, KEF's Model 11 was designed as a freestanding system, so it can be used with any A/V receiver. The 40-inch tall towers' height gave the company's engineers the room to fit the svelte speaker with 11 specially designed woofers and tweeters, and the exquisitely finished speakers have an upscale look that would be right at home next to a pricey 1080p video display. KEF's high-end approach pays dividends in audiophile sound quality, but the Model 11 falls short of the best competing systems as purveyors of immersive surround sound. That said, if you value audiophile-level clarity and detail over faux-surround sonic gymnastics, the KEF FiveTwo Model 11 speakers more than justify their admittedly high price tag..."