Any home entertainment aficionado with an eye for the eccentric will know KEF as one of the world’s most innovative loudspeaker design companies. The British company was founded with the mission statement of making deliberately controversial designs, embracing computer-aided design technology and quickly establishing a reputation for excellence that extended to performance as well as design. Always intent on keeping that marriage sweet, the latest speakers out of the English stable are dubbed ‘Muon’, employing a moulding process with ‘super formed aluminium’ (like they use with some hand-built sports cars) to bring unexpected new shaping to the malleable and super-light metal.
The Muon – the name is Japanese for ‘strange twisty shape like shapely woman’ (OK, not really, it’s actually named after a subatomic particle, or ‘lepton’, which is really obvious, basics physics stuff that everyone knows) – was the collaboration of KEF’s technological expertise and self-confessed ‘evolutionary biologist’ or, er, industrial designer on a mission, Ross Lovegrove. Welsh born, Manchester-trained Lovegrove’s previous designs always mention Apple, given that company’s perennial reputation for all things trendy but, in fact, he’s responsible for imaginative takes on everything, from a water bottle and solar powered car to furniture, including some ‘Skysleeper’ seating for posh class on Japan Airlines.
Lovegrove’s modus operandi of ‘organic essentialism’ – really just a cool name for minimalist tendencies – resulted in a loudspeaker that seems inspired by Robert Patrick’s transforming T-1000 Terminator robot, producing a sensational, silvery liquidity to the Muon’s outward form. Towering sculptures that recall some of Henry Moore’s famous bronzes, the speakers make such a definitive and uncompromising artistic statement that any potential purchaser is probably going to have to look very carefully at the décor of the speakers’ proposed new home before loading them up into the Mercedes wagon.
Inside, the front-mounted four-way speakers, and extra pair of bass drivers in the back of the boxes, powered by the company’s ‘Uni-Q’ driver array, faithfully reproduce the sound, with KEF claiming that ‘activated carbon’ technology doubles the available volume inside the beautiful, 6 mm aluminium casings to enhance the effect. With an extraordinary frequency response range of 25Hz to 60kHz, maximum output of 400 watts at 118 dB (far louder than your average rock concert and not too far off literally ear-splitting), the two-metre high, 115 kg behemoths are clearly going to need some big spaces to play to. So factor that in when the architect comes round with the remodelling plans for your lounge room.
KEF is producing only 100 pairs of the Muon, which at least guarantees exclusivity if you’re willing to lay down enough cash to buy a house to fulfil your audio aspirations. Sixty-five have already been sold worldwide, and two more pairs are likely to find a home in Australia, according to local distributor, Audioworks.
With such a striking and distinctive appearance, along with the price tag of $220,000, these are clearly going to bought by high rollers who are looking as much for a piece of active art, or ‘talking point’ furniture, as high fidelity audio products. Their classy launch last year, at the Museum of Science and Technology in the fashion Mecca of Milan, reflected this elite positioning, showcasing a Muon pair by placing them on top of a 5 x 10 metre LED screen installed in the floor! Purists may pull faces over the exclusive use of metal but hey, with aluminium, at least you know your babies are never going to rust.