Interview: Robert Wong, Kef
A recent visitor to our shores was Kef New Business Development Manager, Robert Wong. AudioEnz took the oppourtunity to quiz Robert about Kef’s recent developements, plus of course the inevitable “how does New Zealand compare” question…
Q. New Zealanders have a tendency to compare themselves to overseas. You’ve probably gone and seen some of the hi-fi stores while you’ve been here - how do they compare to what you’ve found in other countries?
I would compare your retail outlets here to those found in the UK more than to the ones in Asia. The Asian stores are more like a mass supermarket. Here at least you have systems set up and speakers as pairs – in Asia you find fifty pairs of speakers against a wall, with no electronics attached to them. From that perspective, New Zealand dealers are sensible .
New Zealand retailers are very similar to those found in the UK. But British stores don’t have such a wide selection. The customer here has a great deal of choice. Some of the retailers in the UK are becoming lifestyle stores - independent rooms for independent lifestyles and not so cluttered.
Q. The KHT system is a bit unusual for KEF, very different to what they have done before. What is the geneses behind it?
The evolution of the KHT is basically the starting point of the transistion between the old and the new Kef. We wanted to bring out a home entertainment 5.1 system, but we didn’t want to bring out a square box. We wanted something nouveau, for the beginning of the 21st century.
Peter Mansen, the Danish designer of the KHT, came up with an egg. The egg was generated some 18 months back and in 2001 we managed to win awards in Britain, the States, Europe and we picked one up two months ago in Australia.
To answer your question of “why”, it was to start the new generation of Kef. Kef is a 40 years old brand.
Q. The new Q series is obviously part of the new look then?
From the egg we catapulted into new concepts such as the Reference, the Q and the Coda. The Coda, being the budget speaker, still incorporates a square box design.But instead of a vinyl wrap is now a real wood finish.
With the Reference, the reason why we went for that particular shape with the curved structure is going with the times. We’re not the first in terms of a rounded back, but we are the first in terms of the technology in this new reference series.
From there we filtered down to the Q series where we made a curved structure again with the side of the cabinets, a new Uni-Q drive unit and we made it more affordable.
Q. The curved cabinets of the Q series must add quite a bit to the products costs, surely?
No, because we own our own cabinet manufacturers. All the Reference products are manufactured in the UK. If we did the Q series in the UK this would have added additional costs to the manufacturing. So we decided to use our factory in mainland China to produce these products.
The most expensive part of these speakers is the Uni-Q driver. The cabinet is a minor cost.
Q. The Uni-Q driver is used in both the Q-series and Reference. Is it the same drive unit?
No, it’s not. One is a titanium tweeter, the other is an aluminium tweeter. The main differences are in the tweeter. The properties of the cone are different, but not by much. But in the Reference you’re not only getting the Uni-Q, but the Hypertweeter as well.
Q. What was the idea behind the Hypertweeter?
You look at the direction that software is going, with SACD and DVD-Audio. We decided to do a Hypertweeter for future formats. You can also hear a difference with CD material. It’s a lot clearer.
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