Bose vs KEF – Which Brand Is Better?

Norvan Martin
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Bose and KEF are two renowned and well-respected brands in the audio industry that produce high quality speakers, headphones, soundbars, and subwoofers

In this article, we will cover a general overview of both brands, looking specifically at sound quality, durability, price, and so on. Of course, each brand has different devices at different price points, however, we will compare them as closely as we can.

Bose is known for its high-quality audio products, while KEF is a well-respected brand in the audio industry for its innovative speaker design.

Bose vs KEF Comparison Table

CriteriaBoseKEF
Brand ReputationHighly RecognizedHigh-End Audio Specialist
Sound QualityBalanced and ClearHigh-Fidelity, Detailed Sound
Build Quality/DesignSleek and ModernPremium Build, Elegant Design
Product RangeDiverse Audio SolutionsHigh-End Speakers and Audio Systems
PricingModerate to HighHigh-End, Premium Pricing
FeaturesAdvanced TechnologiesInnovative Driver Technology, Uni-Q Design

Before we continue, you can check out similar comparisons in the series:

Pros and Cons of Bose:

  • Pros: Known for producing high-quality audio products with excellent sound quality and build quality. Many of their products, including headphones and home theater systems, are well-regarded by consumers.
  • Cons: Audiophiles have expressed issues with the audio profile of Bose in terms of highs and lows.

Pros and Cons of KEF:

  • Pros: Known for producing high-quality speakers with excellent sound quality and strong bass response. Many of their products are designed to be aesthetically pleasing and can be a good fit for a home theater setup.
  • Cons: Some of their products can be expensive, and some users have reported issues with durability.

Quick History

Bose Quick History

Bose is an American audio equipment company established by Amar Bose in early 1964. It is well-known for making high-end speakers, headphones, car sound systems, and other professional audio equipment.

bose corp

Amar Bose started Bose because he was unhappy with the sound quality of a stereo he had bought. He did this to try to make sound systems better than they were at the time. Amar had taken the time to find out how important sound reverberation was to the sound system‌.

As a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Amar Bose knew how important research was to making excellent products. Therefore, he had made this the driving force for the company’s growth over the past few decades.

KEF Quick History

KEF has a long and distinguished history. The company was founded in 1961 in Maidstone, Kent, by Raymond Cook OBE, a BBC engineer. The British company specializes in designing and producing high-end audio products, including speakers, subwoofers, and headphones.

KEF logo

KEF introduced Uni-Q, the world’s first coincident source speaker driver, in 1988, and it remains a landmark feature in nearly all its speakers today.

kef speakers history

The first KEF speaker, the three-way K1, was built from synthetic materials. In 1973, the company became the first loudspeaker manufacturer to implement the use of computers in loudspeaker design and measurement in the whole world.

It continued to develop the use of acoustical, mechanical, and magnetic modeling techniques in speaker design including the Finite Element Analysis in the 2000s, and revealed the Acoustic Compliance Enhancement (ACE) in 2005. In the 2010s, KEF launched the BLADE, EGG wireless speakers, and MUO portable speakers among other brands.

Sound Quality

Bose Sound Quality

There is a lot of criticism about Bose speakers as it relates to sound quality. Many people believe Bose is an overhyped company that focuses too much on marketing and not enough on R&D to improve the quality of their speakers.

Many audiophiles for example lament the fact that Bose speakers tend to not have clearly defined highs and lows (bass). This is where the phrase – no highs, no lows, must be Bose came from.

Bose SoundTouch 300 Soundbar

While the above may be true, to Bose’s credit, some psychoacoustics has been a primary focus in the development of Bose audio equipment. This focuses on the effect of the reflected sound arriving at the listener’s head and thus tries to mimic a live performance with all their speakers.

This psychoacoustic design began with the Bose model 901, which was manufactured in 1968, and as a result of its success, it is still in production to this day.

But because Bose’s psychoacoustic approach is unusual and most audiophiles criticize it, that doesn’t make it sound any less impressive. The sound fills the room, making it seem like a live performance without losing any of the high, mid, or low frequencies.

KEF Sound Quality

KEF engineers classy, superb-sounding speakers and is one of the finest manufacturers of British hi-fi audio equipment. This is why audiophiles around the world revered KEF for its innovative, high-performance audio systems.

KEF 150

KEF’s company’s ethos is based on R&D, engineering, design, and development found in their trademark technology including:

  • Their Uni-Q driver array and Metamaterial Absorption Technology ensure that KEF speakers produce high-quality natural surround sound.
  • The Metamaterial Absorption Technology is a complex maze-like structure that helps the speaker absorb up to 99% of unwanted sound resulting in less distortion and pure, natural sound.
  • The Single Apparent Source technology helps to eliminate interference and contributes to clear, accurate, authentic, and immersive sound.

Features

Bose Features

Bose has features for expressive audio, intuitive controls, and modern components for better use. It is pretty easy to identify a Bose product when you see one. Some of the most common features of Bose devices are patented and device-specific.

Most Bose speakers support all audio formats, like Flac and Wav. They also have voice support, like Amazon Alexa, built-in music streaming platforms, like Deezer and Spotify, and seamless wireless connectivity for listening to music in multiple rooms through the Sonos setup and SoundTouch.

You can also expect to find a micro USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack/aux cable on a typical Bose device.

Most Bose headphones also have a background noise canceling feature that blocks out all the surrounding noise and allows you to focus on the sound from the headset. Because of this feature, Bose headsets are a great choice for professional uses like conference calls.

KEF Features

Here are the main features of KEF products:

  • Uni-Q drivers for the elimination of “sweet spots” and enhancement of surround sound
  • Tweeters mounted into the center of the mid
  • Metamaterial Absorption Technology for eliminating distortion and enhancing the production of pure, natural sound
  • Flexible Port Technology
  • Single Apparent Source Technology

Build Quality

Bose Build Quality

Bose products are not something you can rely entirely on when it comes to build quality. The build quality can be divided into the internal build and the external structure.

However, for a brand that has been a big player in the audio equipment industry, Bose seems to focus more on the internal build quality at the expense of the structural delivery. Therefore, this leads to a great-sounding device that has a poor structure.

Although, another factor that might be worthy of note is the fact that the build quality varies from device to device. While some Bose products fall short of expectations, others are extremely durable.

For example, while most Bose speakers are usually reviewed to be of below-standard build quality, the headphones have enjoyed excellent reviews. An example of this is the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, which most users have reported to have one of the best build quality.

KEF Build Quality

KEF speakers are designed to look acoustically exceptional and attractive. Besides, they are precisely built to the outstanding standards of KEF.

kef vs b&w

The Reference cabinets are built using finite element analysis to precisely determine bracing geometry and shape and reduce secondary radiation.

kef speaker build quality

The Constrained Layer Damping applied to the finish helps turn any little vibrations into heat that is quickly dissipated.

Ease of Use

Bose Ease Of Use

A great number of Bose products are easy to use. This means that even without technical know-how, you can operate them without stress.

For example, the QuietComfort 35 II headphone has a design that can be turned 360 degrees, adjusted to an angle, and can be folded easily.

The Soundlink Micro is another Bose portable Bluetooth speaker that is designed with a freestanding mount which makes it ideal for use anywhere including the bedside, bookshelf, and other places. This includes poolside too since the Bose Soundlink Micro is waterproof and can stand easily.

KEF Ease Of Use

The Reference speakers are undemanding in terms of positioning and space as they are sleek and compact. The REF5 and REF107 are good examples.

They are easy to fine-tune to conform to your listening area using the Flexible Port Technology. Also, the speakers and subwoofers come with remote control systems that make them easier to navigate without changing your sitting position.

Cost

Bose Cost

One of the most important pieces of information you need to understand before choosing a Bose product is the fact that they are quite expensive. However, most people will unconsciously prefer to buy Bose products. This is basically for two reasons:

  1. Bose has a brilliant marketing strategy which makes them one of the most popular brands in the world.
  2. Bose speakers have a sound that makes your brain mimic the feeling of being in a live show. This is because of the tremendous investment by Bose in research and development.

Unfortunately, there are so many brands in the audio equipment industry with less prestige than Bose but which offer similar quality products at a lower price.

Check out the price tags for their most common products:

  • Bose earbuds: $180 – $450
  • Bose headphones: $100 – $550
  • Bose bass module speakers: $400 – $850
  • Bose Soundbar: $300 – $850

KEF Cost

  • Speakers: $50 to $5,000
  • Subwoofers: $40 – $2000
  • Headphones: $50 – $500

Space Requirements

Bose Space Requirements

Most Bose products, including the home theater, AV receiver, and speakers, do not require too much space as they aren’t normally large and bulk. They include shelf speakers, minimal home theaters, and AV receivers with pretty sleek designs.

Bose speakers such as SoundLink Color Bluetooth speakers can be used on the bookshelf without disturbing the arrangement of books.

KEF Space Requirements

Vintage KEF speakers do tend to be large and bulky, but this generally applies to all vintage speakers.

KEF considers placement while designing its speakers to make it easier to enjoy listening to the surroundings, even in small spaces. They are therefore small and easy to install. The speakers are also designed with smooth edges to make it easier to place them anywhere in the room.

Remote Controls

Bose Remote Controls

entertainment without stress. They add this remote to almost all Bose products except for the headphones.

A pretty interesting factor to admire about the Bose remote control is the fewer buttons. The remote control adds usability to its delicate design. It allows you to perform all the desired tasks with a few clicks of the buttons.

KEF Remote Controls

KEF speakers come with remote controls. However, KEF also sells replacement remote control systems separately to make life easier for their product users.

The replacement remote controls are classified into HiFi, standard V1, or Luxury V2. They sell at different prices and come with different features, with the Luxury V2 remote system having the most variety of features.

Connectivity Options

Bose Connectivity Options

Here are the main connectivity options compatible with most Bose speakers:

  • Bluetooth
  • Wi-Fi
  • RCA
  • HDMI

KEF Connectivity Options

Here are the main connectivity options compatible with most KEF speakers:

  • Bluetooth
  • Wi-Fi
  • RCA
  • HDMI

Power Range

Bose Power Range

The power rating of Bose devices is not shown on most of their devices. But, according to different reviews from their users, the power range depends on the kind of device.

For example, the power range of an average mini home speaker like the Bose SoundLink Mini 2 is around 30 to 50 watts. The wattage of a larger speaker, such as the Bose Soundbar 300, is around 65 watts.

KEF Power Range

KEF speakers can rock up to 1000 watts of power and work perfectly well with amplifiers of between 15W and 300W.

The headphones can deliver up to 5mW maximum power output. On the other hand, the subwoofers consume up to 1000W peak power with up to 300W RMS recommended amplifier power.

Frequency Response

Bose Frequency Response

Most Bose speakers have a frequency response of around 25Hz to 20kHz. However, for most Bose headphones, the frequency range is between 100 Hz and 10 kHz.

KEF Frequency Response

KEF specifies a frequency range of up to 47 kHz. The low end of this range depends on the bass extension setting used. However, a wide range of KEF speakers responds well between 64 Hz to 28 kHz.

Conclusion

For those looking for a sound system that can simulate a live performance, Bose products are the best option. However, most audiophiles feel this is not a natural sound and it is hence heavily criticized amongst audiophiles. For over 50 years, Kef remains a reputable hi-fi brand. The sound quality is superb and the speakers are easy to install. The vintage speakers are however bulky and will require large spaces for placement.

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Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin