KEF R3 Meta Bookshelf Speaker Review

  • Monday, Jun 19, 2023

Foreword / YouTube Video Review

This pair of speakers was loaned to me by KEF for review purposes. I was not paid or compensated in any way. KEF has not seen this review before the public.

All my reviews are done on my own time with great care to give you all the best set of data and information I can provide in order to help you make a well-informed purchase decision. I offer this for free to all who are interested. In return, if you want to support this site please see the bottom of this review for ways you can help. It is greatly appreciated.

The review on this website is a brief overview and summary of the objective performance of this speaker. It is not intended to be a deep dive. Moreso, this is information for those who prefer “just the facts” and prefer to have the data without the filler. The video below has more discussion with respect to the technical merits and subjective notes I had during my listening sessions.

CTA-2034 (SPINORAMA) and Accompanying Data

All data collected using Klippel’s Near-Field Scanner. The Near-Field-Scanner 3D (NFS) offers a fully automated acoustic measurement of direct sound radiated from the source under test. The radiated sound is determined in any desired distance and angle in the 3D space outside the scanning surface. Directivity, sound power, SPL response and many more key figures are obtained for any kind of loudspeaker and audio system in near field applications (e.g. studio monitors, mobile devices) as well as far field applications (e.g. professional audio systems). Utilizing a minimum of measurement points, a comprehensive data set is generated containing the loudspeaker’s high resolution, free field sound radiation in the near and far field. For a detailed explanation of how the NFS works and the science behind it, please watch the below discussion with designer Christian Bellmann:


This speaker was measured with the reference point at the tweeter and with the grille off. Speaker was broken in.

Speaker was measured in a number of ways (on/off-axis) and ported by default. A sealed measurement is provided for comparison as well. Read the graphics’ titles for specifics.

Measurements are provided in a format in accordance with the Standard Method of Measurement for In-Home Loudspeakers (ANSI/CTA-2034-A R-2020). For more information, please see this link.


The On-axis Frequency Response (0°) is the universal starting point and in many situations it is a fair representation of the first sound to arrive at a listener’s ears.

The Listening Window is a spatial average of the nine amplitude responses in the ±10º vertical and ±30º horizontal angular range. This encompasses those listeners who sit within a typical home theater audience, as well as those who disregard the normal rules when listening alone.

The Early Reflections curve is an estimate of all single-bounce, first-reflections, in a typical listening room.

Sound Power represents all of the sounds arriving at the listening position after any number of reflections from any direction. It is the weighted rms average of all 70 measurements, with individual measurements weighted according to the portion of the spherical surface that they represent.

Sound Power Directivity Index (SPDI): In this standard the SPDI is defined as the difference between the listening window curve and the sound power curve.

Early Reflections Directivity Index (EPDI): is defined as the difference between the listening window curve and the early reflections curve. In small rooms, early reflections figure prominently in what is measured and heard in the room so this curve may provide insights into potential sound quality.




Early Reflections Breakout:

Floor bounce: average of 20º, 30º, 40º down

Ceiling bounce: average of 40º, 50º, 60º up

Front wall bounce: average of 0º, ± 10º, ± 20º, ± 30º horizontal

Side wall bounces: average of ± 40º, ± 50º, ± 60º, ± 70º, ± 80º horizontal

Rear wall bounces: average of 180º, ± 90º horizontal


Estimated In-Room Response:

In theory, with complete 360-degree anechoic data on a loudspeaker and sufficient acoustical and geometrical data on the listening room and its layout it would be possible to estimate with good precision what would be measured by an omnidirectional microphone located in the listening area of that room. By making some simplifying assumptions about the listening space, the data set described above permits a usefully accurate preview of how a given loudspeaker might perform in a typical domestic listening room. Obviously, there are no guarantees, because individual rooms can be acoustically aberrant. Sometimes rooms are excessively reflective (“live”) as happens in certain hot, humid climates, with certain styles of interior décor and in under-furnished rooms. Sometimes rooms are excessively “dead” as in other styles of décor and in some custom home theaters where acoustical treatment has been used excessively. This form of post processing is offered only as an estimate of what might happen in a domestic living space with carpet on the floor and a “normal” amount of seating, drapes and cabinetry.

For these limited circumstances it has been found that a usefully accurate Predicted In-Room (PIR) amplitude response, also known as a “room curve” is obtained by a weighted average consisting of 12 % listening window, 44 % early reflections and 44 % sound power. At very high frequencies errors can creep in because of excessive absorption, microphone directivity, and room geometry. These discrepancies are not considered to be of great importance.



Horizontal Frequency Response (0° to ±90°): specs

Vertical Frequency Response (0° to ±40°): specs

Horizontal Contour Plot (normalized): specs

Vertical Contour Plot (normalized): specs

“Globe” Plots

Horizontal Polar (Globe) Plot:
This represents the sound field at 2 meters - above 200Hz - per the legend in the upper left. specs

Vertical Polar (Globe) Plot:
This represents the sound field at 2 meters - above 200Hz - per the legend in the upper left. specs

Additional Measurements



Response Linearity


Step Response


Group Delay


Harmonic Distortion

Harmonic Distortion at 86dB @ 1m: specs

Harmonic Distortion at 96dB @ 1m: specs

Dynamic Range (Instantaneous Compression Test)

The below graphic indicates just how much SPL is lost (compression) or gained (enhancement; usually due to distortion) when the speaker is played at higher output volumes instantly via a 2.7 second logarithmic sine sweep referenced to 76dB at 1 meter. The signals are played consecutively without any additional stimulus applied. Then normalized against the 76dB result.

The tests are conducted in this fashion:

  1. 76dB at 1 meter (baseline; black)
  2. 86dB at 1 meter (red)
  3. 96dB at 1 meter (blue)
  4. 102dB at 1 meter (purple)

The purpose of this test is to illustrate how much (if at all) the output changes as a speaker’s components temperature increases (i.e., voice coils, crossover components) instantaneously.


Multitone Distortion

The following tests are conducted at (4) approximate equivalent output volumes: 70/79/87/96dB @ 1 meter. The (4) voltages listed in the legend result in these SPL values.

The test was conducted in (3) manners:

  1. Full bandwidth (20Hz to 20kHz)
  2. 80Hz to 20kHz

The reason for the two measurements is to simulate running the speaker full range vs using a high-pass filter at 80Hz. However, note: the 2nd test low frequency limit at 80Hz is a “brick wall” and doesn’t quite emulate a standard filter of 12 or 24dB/octave. But… it’s close enough.

For information on how to read the below data, watch this video:

  1. Full bandwidth (20Hz to 20kHz)


  1. 80Hz to 20kHz


Parting / Random Thoughts

See video linked above for subjective and objective analysis.

The KEF R3 Meta speaker, priced at $2200 per pair, offers excellent performance in its class. It features a three-way design with a 5.25-inch mid-range driver and a 1-inch tweeter organized in a coaxial or concentric fashion. The unique design places the tweeter pushed back into the throat of the mid-range driver, resulting in world-class neutrality.

One important consideration is the speaker’s optimal positioning. When the speaker is toed out about 5 to 10 degrees, it provides the best performance. Coaxial concentric designs, like the KEF R3 Meta, are designed to be slightly off-axis because on-axis listening may introduce diffraction elements and result in a brighter sound. By toing out the speaker, you can achieve a more neutral and smooth sound.

The bass response of the speaker is noteworthy. Unlike most speakers that are either sealed or ported, the KEF R3 Meta employs a unique combination of both designs. While technically still a “ported” design it reaches a certain frequency and then starts to roll off, but a slight scoop in the bottom end brings it back up before rolling off sharply. This quasi-sealed/ported design is known as Extended Bass Shelf (EBS) aims to achieve a more neutral response and can be advantageous depending on room characteristics and placement.

Another notable feature of the KEF R3 Meta is its excellent directivity, which evenly spreads reflections around the room with the direct sound. This means you don’t have to sit in the perfect sweet spot to experience optimal sound quality. In order to achieve the best results it is recommended to aim the speaker slightly off-axis as mentioned above.

In terms of performance, the speaker offers a solid bass response, although it doesn’t reach as low as 20 Hz. It outperforms other bookshelf speakers in its price range, such as the Focal 906, Polk R200, and Aperion with an 8-inch mid-bass driver.

Measurement data demonstrates the KEF R3 Meta’s impressive characteristics. The frequency response shows a slight drop in higher frequencies when the speaker is toed out. This drop helps achieve a more neutral in-room response, compensating for the slight elevation around 9 kHz when on-axis. The speaker’s linearity, both on-axis and off-axis, is excellent, making it well-suited for equalization.

The radiation patterns of the speaker indicate good horizontal dispersion, narrowing only at higher frequencies. Likewise, the vertical response shows a broad range, allowing for consistent sound characteristics within a wider listening area. This is a significant advantage compared to standard two-way or three-way designs.

Regarding output capability, the KEF R3 Meta exhibits low harmonic distortion levels for reasonable levels, crossing the 3% threshold around 40 Hz and 80 Hz at 86 dB and 96 dB, respectively. This suggests that using a subwoofer is advisable for higher output levels unless sitting close to the speaker.

Multi-tone distortion tests show minimal audible distortion, even at high output levels. The limited 80Hz - 20kHz bandpass test further reduces distortion, indicating improved dynamic range.

Compression linearity and dynamic range data highlight some deviations in the speaker’s response profile below 100 Hz at higher output levels. This is a common characteristic among similar speakers in the same price range, emphasizing the importance of using a subwoofer or listening at moderate volumes.

In conclusion, the KEF R3 Meta speaker delivers exceptional value with its coaxial design, neutral sound, excellent directivity, and unique combination of sealed and ported enclosure characteristics. While it may benefit from a wider mid-range waveguide and the use of a subwoofer for higher output levels, it offers impressive performance in its price class.

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