Since it was founded in 1961, KEF has remained unapologetically driven by technology. In many ways, the result of this focus on technology has moved the art and fashion of the audio industry forward. KEF’s position as an industry leader is largely due to its early adoption of computer analysis and simulation, dating back to 1969.
In the late 1960s, KEF and Bradford University embarked on a venture using a Hewlett-Packard Fourier Analyzer. Our focus was on two questions:
1. How does sound reflect in a rectangular room?
2. What EQ is required to design a speaker with the perfect shape for an audio response?
As the ‘70s approached, there were very few H.P. Fourier Analyzers in the commercial market, owing mainly to their cost (which equates to just under USD300 000 each in today’s economy). However, we knew this investment was a promising one, and by 1975, Fourier Analysis was integrated into KEF’s designs. Model 105 became the world’s first mass-produced speaker designed with waveform analysis.
In the process of conducting the first Fourier analysis, KEF’s engineering team became one of the first to successfully create a digital recording. Spanning about 20 seconds, this was quite an impressive feat in 1975!
The ability to analyse a speaker’s waveforms, both wanted and unwanted, is critical to product design. Before computers were as powerful as they are today, we’d build prototypes and then analyse their output in specially designed rooms. This way, our engineers could identify real-time frequency responses and anomalies, then make design adjustments accordingly. These days, all of this can be accomplished through computer simulation, which makes it faster to produce speakers, and helps to reduce production costs, as large numbers of prototypes no longer need to be built.
With Fourier analysis, the study of how general functions in a waveform can be represented by trigonometric approximated sums, we can create a visual representation of signals and frequencies, and as a result, can make the necessary adjustments to the design of our speakers.
We started doing the Model 105 and with computer analysis, it was all very approximate, but what it did do was give [the design] a very broad distribution pattern, which gave a sort of nice ‘airy’ sound so that the stereo image seemed to float in space rather than appear to be coming from a couple of speakers.
We started to make the Model 105 and we thought we’d use the computer to make it very accurately because it was the beginning of computer matching. But at the time, our attempt at computer matching was simply to print the frequency responses of the first fifty or so, and we would look at one another and say, ‘do you have one like this?’ We decided that wasn’t particularly effective, so one of our engineers wrote us a matching program, and that was the beginning of computerized measuring in production. ”
- Acclaimed audio engineer Laurie Fincham explained
We’re passionate about creating perfect sound experiences - we always have been. That’s why for six decades, we’ve been at the forefront of using science to craft the best loudspeakers imaginable.