MOVIE PERFORMANCE December 7, 1941 is a date that will live in infamy. Unfortunately, the movie Pearl Harbor fails to satisfactorily retell its historic events. But every line and vocal inflection of the endless back-story dialogues was transparently audible in the iQ6c center speaker, with excellent intelligibility and good off-axis response. I wasn't surprised that the front towers nailed the movie's lush orchestral score and some great ballroom swing; in Chapter 7, for example, I observed how the towers and sub really kicked up their heels on some pounding tom-toms.
The movie's climatic battle scenes gave the KEF system a full-body workout. Planes dive-bomb from the sky, machine-gun bullets rip through the air, torpedoes speed through the water, aerial bombs whine as they hurtle downward, and explosions rip apart the naval fleet at anchor. The sound designers on this film really made full use of their art, not to mention the surround channels. Fortunately, the iQ8ds surrounds did not disappoint. Although they couldn't compete with the front towers for pure impact, they produced a very diffuse ambience and created a huge sound field. Tonally, the dipoles were similar to the front towers, successfully merging their sound with the direct sound from up front to create a unified and realistic sense of space. The spatial fidelity of this system in my listening room was excellent.
As in my music audition, the iQ9 towers cranked out good upper bass, allowing better reproduction of bass attacks that are often poorly executed by small satellite systems. You just get much cleaner, more articulated bass that really punches through. As with music, the subwoofer did the heavy lifting, pounding out the literally thousands of explosions embedded in the soundtrack. Explosions aren't musical, but if they're not well-reproduced, the distortion is obvious. In this case, the PSW3500 cleanly played anything thrown at it.
A final note: The ability to remotely control subwoofer parameters on the fly, most notably the level, is an absolutely terrific feature that'll quickly spoil you.
BOTTOM LINE It's always enjoyable to audition high-end speakers, particularly when they come in an attainable $3,500 package. Like fine wines, they're almost always pleasurable and display individual traits. The KEF Q-Series home theater speaker system is highly transparent, with low-end warmth and a smoothness that extends across the frequency range. Its commanding sound - and attractive design - would be impressive in any serious home theater. With speakers like the iQs, the sun will never set on the KEF empire.
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