Peak Consult’s Kepheus
All arguments about speaker parameters and measurements aside, a great speaker either grabs me with an emotional response and an instant urge to purchase them, or at least investigate further. Just like any other object of extreme desire, an outstanding speaker will have you daydreaming about it even when you are not in its presence.
I’ve only had this experience a handful of times in my life. Mind you, the job of reviewing speakers is somewhat different – bias must be kicked to the curb, or the review just becomes gushy and overloaded with adjectives. Interestingly about half of the speakers that have really burrowed into my subconscious mind over the last few decades have been from Denmark. Perhaps I was a Viking in another life?
The Peak Consult Kepheus is not inexpensive – at $110,000 per pair these are squarely aimed at the more well-heeled customer. And you can more than double the price by adding their dedicated bass modules that add four more 8-inch woofers per side, cabinets slightly larger than the main speakers. Signing up for the four-box Kepheus experience may require some room remodeling. Most will find the standard issue Kepheus without the extra bass modules just fine. I certainly did and a quick frequency sweep validated that they are flat to about 30hz, with solid bass output down to about 25hz.
Yet Peak Consult speakers always evoke a highly emotional response, making me weak in the knees because they paint such a natural musical picture. Make no mistake – a six figure pair of speakers better rock your world and never ask you to make excuses for any aspect of their design. The Kepheus is a destination speaker that does not disappoint – even without the additional bass modules in my 16 x 25 foot listening room.
Music First, Tech Later
Jumping right in with the self titled Sbtrkt, the dual 6.5-inch woofers prove their ability to move serious air, working in conjunction with the intense cabinet tuning, pumping out plenty of well controlled bass with the opening track, “Heatwave.” Bass is not enough though, the stereo image presented by this somewhat compressed CD is massive, extending all the way to the listening room walls, almost eight feet from the speaker boundaries.
A series of other favorite tracks from The Supreme Beings of Leisure, DJ Crush and Mickey Hart convinced me that these speakers muster more than enough LF drive to accommodate any kind of music. I kept thinking that I would be able to bottom the Audio Technology woofers, designed specifically for the Kepheus, but even the most raucious rap tracks at high volume yield no sense of strain.
Great results were achieved on both the long and short walls of my listening room, yet I enjoyed the wider soundstage rendered on the long wall versus the deeper soundstage on the short wall. Being able to get back from the speakers a few more feet on the short wall did provide more bass augmentation from the room, so the Kepheus is easily adaptable and not difficult to setup. I suggest a set of Delrin pucks and spending a long weekend deciding which presentation you prefer best. Because of their almost 400 pound (each) weight, I also suggest not worrying about the supplied spikes until you are sure about final placement.
The Kepheus is a stellar performer that always keeps the most densely packed recordings sorted out. My Japanese LP pressing of Judas Priest’s Screaming For Vengance has more compression than I’d like, yet the combination of the Kepheus and Carver 180 vacuum tube monoblocks made it easy to hear each of the individual drums in the kit, while keeping Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downings dualing lead guitars in their proper place on the stage.
If Priest is not at the top of your playlist, Jackie McLean offers the same dogfight between his alto sax and Blue Mitchell’s trumpet – one taking up residence just behind the right speaker and the other behind and beyond the outer boundary of the left, with the piano softly in the middle on his Bluesnik album. (The particularly tasty Music Matters 45 rpm remaster even more so) The Kepheus keeps the musical soundscape intact – never faltering, or blurring the stereo image.
The wonderful tonality of these speakers will most likely be the first thing to grab your attention, no matter what music you enjoy. The closer you listen, the clarity that they present along with a correct sense of scale keeps you glued to the listening chair. I love electrostatic speakers for their coherence (which the Kepheus is certainly the equal of), even though they often paint an overblown sense of musical scale. This can be a lot of fun, with popular and electronic music, merely adding to the effects created in the studio, but when listening to a solitary acoustic guitar that sounds eight feet tall, not as much. A perfect example is that of Alex DeGrassi’s Southern Exposure LP on Windham Hill, Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Toure’s Talking Timbuktu. The acoustic guitars in both of these records are well recorded with minimal miking and only a tiny bit of effects – but both render the guitar in a realistic note, sounding as if there’s someone in the room about 10 feet from your listening chair playing.
A Wide Range of Options
Along with the high degree of coherence the Kepheus provide, they maintain a high level of resolution from low volume to ear shattering levels without compression. At low volume, they disappear like a pair of great mini monitors – tough to do for a large floorstander. Their 90db sensitivity and crossover presented an easy load to drive for the low power tube amplifiers at my disposal. The 20 watt per channel 845 SET monoblocks had no problem achieving fairly realistic volume levels with all but the heaviest rock music. 50 watts per channel of quality tube amplification will work fine with the Kepheus.
However, those that enjoy higher volume listening sessions will enjoy the Kepheus in equal measure – the massive stereo image presented does not collapse when driven by a large amplifier. All of the reference amplifiers at my disposal ran out of steam before the Kepheus did. Perhaps it’s time for those Audio Research REF 750s I’ve been pondering.
Neither forward or laid back sounding, they will take on the characteristics of whatever electronics put in front of them, and thanks to their high resolution, will be as revealing as well. These speakers are so versatile, they will be easily fine tuned by your choice of electronics.
Visual And Technological Works of Art
A quick “knuckle rap” test anywhere on the Kepheus cabinet produces a faint sound with zero hint of vibration or resonance, confirmed by a few quick frequency sweeps. The only thing rattled there was my eardrums. These cabinets define inert, with the woofers, each midrange driver and the tweeter all having its own individual cabinet made from 1.5 – inch to 3 inch thick HDF board covered by another inch of solid acrylic, with additional resonance supressors milled into the cabinetry. If that weren’t enough, there are no parallel surfaces to be found anywhere with these enclosures.
The hundreds of hours that go into these complex shapes not only eliminates resonance, it also minimizes diffraction effects and maximizes off axis response at the same time, resulting in a speaker everyone can enjoy. Of course, the optimal spot is still firmly centered between the speakers, but sitting on the floor well of axis still provides a highly satisfying result.
Lastly, the front surfaces of the enclosures are covered with black leather. While chosen to further minimize diffraction, this touch adds a human quality to the speakers that helps them to blend with any decor.
All of the drivers in the Kepheus are hand built specifically to PK specification – no “off the shelf” components are used. The crossover boards are massive, utilizing custom components and isolated in their own enclosures inside the speaker cabinet, further eliminating any vibration and interaction from the drivers.
The Kepheus is Indeed Something Special
Though neutral is an overused word with hifi components, I prefer natural – the Kephus has a natural presentation, again with much of the credit going to the extensive amount of time spent on matching drivers and crossover components as well as Peak Consult concentrating on the phase and time domain parameters. Though it is a deceptively simple mission, the Kepheus sounds like music, not like an electronic reassembly of musical information. Minimalist recordings of acoustic instruments are accurately reproduced with timbre, tone and decay.
The ultra low distortion presented by these speakers makes them easy to listen to for days on end without fatigue or boredom. I’ve heard a few speakers that are more engaging on the first few demo tracks, but after about 15 minutes, I’d rather be doing anything but listening to music.
The Kepheus succeeds brilliantly because you can not only listen to music continuously with them, whatever program material you choose will be reproduced faithfully and effortlessly. There’s nothing that they can’t handle, so the speaker isn’t limited to a handful of audiophile approved test tracks. The Kephus offers a full spectrum of musical enjoyment – no matter what your musical taste consists of.
If you are looking at a destination speaker, you owe it to yourself to audition the Kepheus. Bring your checkbook and a few strong friends to help you get them home!
The Peak Consult Kepheus
MSRP: $110,000 (US)
www.bluebirdmusic.com (North American Importer)
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