Skip to main content

Transform your desktop with the KEF X300A powered PC loudspeakers

kef_x300A_1bxCheck out our review of the KEF X300A desktop speakers.

Fifty years is a long time in any industry, but it’s an eternity for an electronics manufacturer. It’s easy to understand why the folks at KEF have been in a party mood for the past 12 months. Its flagship Blade model (which runs a cool $30,000 per pair) utilizes its state-of-the-art Uni-Q drivers. That technology has trickled down to its R-series and can now be found on its LS50 ($1,500) 50th anniversary model, and brand new X300A powered loudspeakers, which, at $800, may be the biggest bargain of all.

Desktop audio has matured a lot in recent years, and it’s easy to spend thousands of dollars on a pair of monitors, amplification, and DAC. Laptops and Mac minis have replaced expensive single-disc players, and – combined with third-party playback software like JRiver Music Center or Pure Music – offer sound quality that mega-buck players used to offer for ten times the price.

Digital audio has taken a quantum leap, and it’s now very possible to build a truly outstanding system for your desktop for under $1,000. KEF, apparently, thinks they can do it for even less.

The heart of the X300A is its Uni-Q single-source driver, which is incredibly lightweight and rigid. The Uni-Q combines a 1-inch aluminum tweeter and 5.25-inch midrange woofer in one driver, offering amazing dispersion. The first thing you notice about the Uni-Q designs is the coherency of the sound – the resolution, clarity, soundstage, and dynamic capabilities are second to none. You may be listening to one driver, but it actually sounds like three or four working together to cover the entire frequency range. Being able to do this in a box that measures 11 inches by 7 inches by 9 inches (HWD), is no small feat.

The X300A powered loudspeakers utilize two class AB 50W/channel audiophile-grade amplifiers that use high performance toroidal transformers to minimize noise and electromagnetic interference. This means that because each driver has an amplifier delivering its own power, the tweeter won’t be negatively affected when the woofers are being driven hard, and won’t sound hard when the woofer is reaching its limit.

KEF has also stuck a rather impressive 24/96 DAC inside the enclosure. When connected to your laptop or desktop computer via USB cable, the DAC will playback HD resolution music files up to 24/96. The X300A also includes a 3.5mm analog input for either an iPod, another DAC via stereo-to-mini cable, or even a phono stage. Yes, you can play your turntable through these and control the volume via the speakers.

If wireless audio is important to you, KEF will send you a free dongle when you register the speakers after purchase (a $99 value). You can stream via AirPlay and it works very well.

The frequency response of the X300As is 58Hz – 28kHz, and, based on our experience with the LS50s, we’re going to give KEF the benefit of the doubt. Depending on the music and how hard you drive the speakers, the X300A placed on your desk (a few inches from the wall is a good idea) will deliver a lot of volume and bass.

The gunmetal finish is a bit industrial looking, but the sound quality is state-of-the-art. For $800, the quality of the entire package makes it the desktop loudspeaker to audition in 2013.

Editors' Recommendations

11 Sonos tips, tricks, and little-known features
Sonos Era 100, beside a turntable.

Sonos continues to be one of the best multiroom wireless sound systems you can buy, with whole-home speakers that range from Wi-Fi-connected single speakers like the stalwart Play One and surround sound beasts like the Sonos Arc to the portable Sonos Roam and Move speakers and the new, er, era of Sonos speaker, the Era 100 and Era 300 that seemingly do everything.

A Sonos system can spread music throughout your home, be configured with multiple products as a pretty excellent Dolby Atmos-capable surround sound system for your TV, and be used to connect your existing analog equipment to it for a tailor-made setup that works just for you -- they're some of the best speakers you can buy.

Read more
How to connect a stereo pair of Apple HomePods to your Apple TV
A stereo pair of HomePods, a TV, and an Apple TV 4K.

If you haven't already heard, Apple's latest HomePod — which was brought back from the dead and now dazzles in its second generation — sounds pretty darn good. On its own it offers beautiful, rich, Spatial Audio sound that can fill a room, thanks to its large woofer, five beam-forming tweeters that shoot sound off walls and into different parts of the room, and its room-sensing capabilities that help it do this just right for the room it's in.

But as we learned in our review of the 2nd-gen HomePod, creating a stereo pair with another HomePod is on a whole other level. Not only does it create a much wider soundstage and bigger, bolder bass for listening to music, but Spatial Audio tracks on Apple Music sound immersive and dynamic, if you're into an experience beyond that of regular stereo (which the HomePod is great at, too).

Read more
Sonos Era 100 and Era 300 first impressions: it’s all about immersion
Sonos Era 300.

Sonos has launched its latest wireless multiroom smart speakers — the $249 Era 100 and $449 Era 300 — effectively rebooting the company's entry-level product. It marks the end of the Sonos One, and its midsize offering, which had been noticeably absent since the discontinuation of the Play:3 in 2018. We'll have reviews in due time, but I've spent a little bit of time with the new kit, and here are my first impressions.

I got a chance to hear both the Sonos Era 100 and 300 in action at a private launch event in New York City. The demo room was hardly an ideal spot from an acoustics point of view -- a wide and shallow shape and drapes slung on some walls, while others were built from highly reflective glass -- and yet I was able to get a sense of both speakers' potential.

Read more