KEF 104.2 speakers. How do I know the condition of 20yr old speakers? [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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11-12-2008, 06:05 PM
Hi. I have the opportunity to purchase a pair of kef 104.2 reference speakers for about $370. I am going to check them out in the next few days and I was wondering if anyone could give me some suggestions as to what to look for, how to test them out, how to inspect them, etc. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

11-13-2008, 07:05 AM
Antonio: There are a few things you want to take into account when you are checking over these speakers. First, and foremost, is the sound. When you audition these speakers, already have in mind that there are three hats for you to wear: Your Thinking Hat, your Feeling Hat and your Neutral Hat. Start with the Neutral hat. Instead of spending time mulling over the presentation, staging and so forth, listen for little scratches and sounds that will clue you in to possible defects that need further attention. Ask the vendor if he would turn the volume to a fairly robust level--not too loud to be offensive, but loud enough that it represents a body of sound that gives you a chance to hear the presence of any deformity flaw or charcteristic that you may find objectionable.

At this time, you want to look over the speaker visually, noting any nicks, scrapes or whatnot on the enclosure and any gouges, dents, dings or whatever on the diaphragms, etc. Likewise, look at the binding posts, and any other surface where he has diddled. Does it look clean and well kept, or does it look like it has been manhandled by an overgrown adolescent? If you have the chutzpah, if you detect any weird sounds or shoddiness in the aforementioned places, ask him if the speaker can be opened. Look at the wiring and crossover networks. Again, does it look factory-quality pristine, or does it look like somebody mucked around in there.

Now, put on your Thinking cap and give the speakers a listen. I recently auditioned these speakers (look it up on the Search Menu), amd found the speakers quite adept at producing accurate and nuanced performance characteristics. Listen as though you were listening to the instruments themselves. Does the guitar sound like a guitar or does it sound as though it comes from a boombox that has been stuffed into a crate? Do the voices sound like there is a person in the room or do they sound as though the singer is next door? Can you hear her catching her breath? Can you hear her throat? Walk around the room as you listen, paying attention to the play of sound against the various surfaces and objects in the room. Realise that your room will have to accomodate the speakers: will they interface with them as effectively? Will you have some rearranging to do?

Lastly, put on your Feeling Hat: Does this speaker thrill you? You and I and all of God's children know that great music is capable of lifting us....Does this speaker do this to you? Are you hearing music, or is it the volume level that has you so stirred up? Don't be swayed by the Circuit City tactic of mistaking volume for quality, and take the volume down a few notches as you listen to some intimate music. Find a piece that is quiet, but still moves you deeply. As that voice whispers into your ears, do you find the tears welling up? This is what I am talking about.

So, when you audition these speakers , you have to take three things into account: Are they in decent condition, physically; Can you think about your music; And do they rock your soul? If they pass these tests and you can fit them into your budget without breaking your bank and into your living room without your woman breaking your back, you might have a couple of winners.

Keep us posted....

11-13-2008, 09:02 PM
Aricauricle, thank you so much for your thoughtful advice. I am not even close to an expert on audio equipment but I will do my best to describe the kef 104.2 reference speakers I went to audition this evening.

Before offering a review of the sound, physical condition, nuanced performance characteristics and the feel, I have to say that the receiver and wiring that the owner used to display these speakers was extremely low budget. I bring this up first because even though the owner is very upfront and honest, I just don't think the $175 sony home theater receiver or the very thin speaker wire could drive these speakers enough to really give me a good idea of what they are capable of. Furthermore, he only had a DVD player and not a separate CD player to try out CDs. That being said, here are some thoughts.

neutral hat: There was no detectable scratches in sound, waffling, distortion, rattling, etc. of any kind I am not sure if the speakers are supposed to be completely silent before the music starts or if it is normal to hear a smal amount of "air" I did not notice any strange sounds, loose pieces, shaking, etc. We turned the volume up quite loudly and there were no sound defects either.

Visually and physical condition: Not bad but definitely not perfect. The speakers are quite dusty--on the domes and rubber rings and especially inside the open hole at the bottom for the woofers. I am not sure what impact this might have but I am thinking they can be cleaned? The speakers have been painted all black which is too bad aesthetically. The cabinets are for the most part very solid, no major dings, cuts, scratches no rotting or chunks of wood ripped or missing. However, the owner did point out that near the bottom front of each speaker the front is not perfectly flush with the sides. It appears they may have gotten wet at some point and this is very slightly noticeable. I think this is why they were painted. The owner bought them already like this and used them for 5 years without any problems he told me. So, while they are not mint or perfect, these imperfections were not that bad and my only concern was whether or not any water may have damaged the inside of the speakers years ago.

Thinking cap: We listened to Sting, Joshua Redmond, Sade, Beethoven, John Mayer, Herbie Hancock, Cowboy Junkies, Jaco Pastorius, and more. Even with the weak receiver and dvd set up the first thing I can honestly say is that the voices were incredible! Vocals in mid and high were so crystal clear, so clean, and I could actually hear Sting taking a breath between versus. It was fantastic. Even more impressive was Joshua Redmonds sax. Really sounded wonderful, it almost sounded like a live sax in the living room. The snare drum and high hats on some of these tracks were impressive, very crisp, picked up much more than I have with other speakers. Guitar as well was very very clean. The bass however, to me, was really not very impressive. I am not sure if this is the receiver, its settings, or do I need to look for something inside the speakers to make sure the original woofers are there and not replaced. Since I am not familiar with these speakers it just looks like such a different design inside than anything else I have ever seen. Well, the bass, even on a remastered Jaco Pastorius tune, while clear was not very powerful, did not move me. On more rock charts, the low end sounded less clean to me. Sounded better with jazz, classical, highly well produced newer albums like Herbie Hancock's latest compilation with many contemporary singers. Will the sound change dramatically with a high quality receiver, amp, speaker wire, and cd player? I imagine it has to. So this is where I feel that while the speakers did sound great, I just think I only witnessed a tiny bit of their potential. At low volumes they still soundede good, but lost lots of bass to me. I wonder if they can be used well with a quality subwoofer?

Feeling hat: Well, I sort of blended into my feeling hat in the last part, but I have to say for the jazz and classical, yes, I was moved by the amazing clarity of these speakers at least in mids and highs. I can't say I teared up or got goose bumps simply because I don';t think the system could really power these speakers. I'm a bachelor and live in a house where I can practice my drums all the time so I am notuld worried about my woman getting upset with me or the neighbors for playing music!

What do you suggest? I don't want to pass up a possible great opportunity to take music listening and sharing to another level. Is $370 still a good deal for these kef speakers? Should I ask to gtry them out again and bring a better receiver and cd player? how important is it that the speakers be free of dust, inside too? How much can cabinets be messed with? (as far as sanding down, refinishing? ) without damaging the sensitive audio equip? Any thoughts on my lack of feeling the bass? Finally, what do you think is a minimum stereo system necessary to fully take advantage of these speakers?

thanks so much for your time, you already helped me out a lot!

11-13-2008, 09:30 PM
Just make sure that you dont see any rot around the woofers or drivers because at 20yrs old you may be refoaming them soon.

11-14-2008, 12:11 PM
Tonionc: All I have to say at this point, is bring some of your own discs over to audition these speakers. Find material that you are intimately familiar with, so that you know (a) how it sounds and (b) how you think it should sound. Apply the same critical ear, and see if the speakers please you. If they do, then you are probably making a sound (hah!) decision; if they miss the boat, then move to plan B. In the end, this is your decision to make, and nobody--not me, not Julian Hirsch, not Robert Harley--can make the decision but you.

Happy listening!

11-14-2008, 01:17 PM
Hello again, thanks Auricauricle for your advice. I did take my own cds over the audition the speakers. My main issue is that the owner's amp/receiver is really not equipped to power the kefs and I would love to try them out again with a better system. Maybe he will let me do that. Thanks for all the encouragement. If you have any advice on a good amp set up for these speakers that would be much appreciated. Take care,

11-14-2008, 01:21 PM
Thanks for the comment blackraven, there is absolutely no rot around the woofers or drivers, they are a bit dust but in great condition.

11-16-2008, 07:28 PM
I bought them for $350! I listened to them in my own home tonight for three hours straight and could not get off the couch I was totally blown away and moved by the incredible sound of these kef 104.2 reference speakers....and I have a very inexpensive receiver, but high quality monster cable and banana plugs. I was amazed! Thanks again for your suggestions and I am glad I went with my instinct on this one, and of course the hundreds of reviews of these speakers that raved about them. Cosmetically they need some work. But that can be done in the future. I love them already.


11-22-2008, 05:25 PM
I think that you have a winner, too. As you probably saw from my post about these speakers, they are very lovely. Enjoy and keep us posted as you experience "The Raptures"....You're in trouble now, man....