Help with kef r900 issue

I bought a pair of kef r900 speakers from kefdirect in April 2018. I enjoy them most of the time, but with some vocals, e.g., Alan Jackson, Allison Krauss and Mary Chaplin Carpenter, at nearly any level, they sometimes make a ripping, tearing or distorted sound that is hard to describe. Initially, I used a McIntosh MC202 with 200 rms, and now a Rotel RB 1590, with identical results. Initially, I used a very old Transparent Musiclink cable and now a Transparent Plus, again with identical results. I’m about to dump these unless I can figure it out since KEF has no one in the NW to repair them and they advise against paying to ship them (I agree). Before I write them off as a bad bargain, theories are solicited! Thanks
 I would try sending Kef a recording of what the issues are and maybe they can figure out and send you replacement parts with instructions for a DIY fix. Would stink to have to dump a new pair of speakers that are under warranty
Been there, done that-the warranty appears to be meaningless as a function of distance. That, alone, made me want to dump them, but I thought to ask here, first.

I mean really, they did send me a diy speaker...I feel so much better knowing that wasn’t the cure, and I am now fully sol.

Ive lived long enough to know that sometimes you make a bad bargain, and it is best to mitigate and move on.

I’m likely to move on, and never buy from this company again.
Did you try replacing the 2 drivers with the concentric tweeter? It sounds like there is a midrange/tweeter defect. Get Kef to send you the 2 drivers.
Thanks. Kef sent me a new uni q driver and the issue remains. I suspect a design or fabrication defect, but I’m just a layman. I plan to get rid of the speakers as it is too distracting. 
Sorry to hear about your situation maritime51. Wish I could offer some new advice, but I'm also a layman. 

Just found this and wonder if my crossovers are the problem viz distortion:

In in any event, I can’t access them nor would I so KEF has lost a customer. The world will spin on....🙀
Or maybe a quick youtube video demonstrating the issue and stating in the comments about what has been tried so far.  It is unlikely this symptom has never been heard before and others could offer suggestions. r900 not exactly inexpensive so would seem worth it to get some more ideas.
Both. Initially, I thought it was from one, but may have failed to isolate the other. Who knows, but I’ve now tested each in isolation, under identical conditions, and found the effect nearly, if not identical. 
Maritime we are a long time Kef dealer, there is no way that if you replaced a set of drivers and the speakers are making the same distortion is it the drivers.

You may have a bad part in the crossover or there is something wrong with one of your components.

The likelyhood of both speakers having an issue is doubtful you need to go back and start checking your components.

I would borrow an amp and start there.

This is one of the reasons why buying direct is not a good practice if you have a local dealer then your dealer would be assisting you to resolve the problem.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Thanks, Dr.

My last email to KEF (the reference is to recordings I sent):

Were you able to hear the sound?
Since my last email, I did substitute the new uni q you sent for the old one: the result is the same, if not slightly worse.
The effect is not limited to Mary Chaplin Carpenter, but (1) it is the worst found so far, and (2) I get identical results with the CD and a Bluesound Node 2 (same song, same places and times).
I’ve looked for sympathetic vibrations and discovered none. It is in both speakers, and clearly in the speakers, not a sympathetic source. By playing only one channel at a time, and standing directly in front of each, about a foot away, there is no mistaking it: it is a raspy, ripping sound, produced by each speaker, with the same music, in the same place or time, hence I must conclude it is either a design or fabrication defect in EITHER the uni Q or some OTHER component.
Believe me, I’ve tried what 50 years experience suggests and I can’t solve it.
Finally, to help others, be sure to inform them FIRST that there are TWO pairs of speaker connections, with Four connectors, not two. It helps to anticipate this on disassembly.
I must reserve all rights. I’m doing my best to mitigate but suggest there may be nothing more I can do.
By the way, my preamp is a Rotel RC 1590, and amp a Rotel RB 1590, connected with new Cardas XLR clear lights, and the speaker cables are new Transparent Plus. I got the same result in the left channel initially with a McIntosh c15 and mc202, with a Transparent music link, gen 1 speaker cable. I believe I overlooked testing the right side, but who knows....
I can’t justify throwing more money at better components when experience and reason strongly evidence a design or fabrication defect in some Component that makes up an R900 speaker unit.”

What at can I say, doc, I got burned. It certainly doesn’t make me feel better to state or imply the error in judgment was mine....😱

Of course, a component design defect would manifest in a similar manner, under similar circumstances, in all R900 speakers, though a fabrication defect would more likely be limited to contemporaneous components.

Hey, doc, can you write a script for idiopathic distortion?  🏦🏨😩
Maritime, I can assure you there are 0 design defects with the current Kef R series, 

Please remember Kef is a very large company with extensive engineering resources, you may or may not like their sound but they do not design products which have eggregious flaws. 

Any company which has the engineering talent and testing and fabrication resources of a $100 million dollars plus a year company is going to make a pretty good product.

If you are having problems with the speakers it could be a bad crossover part perhaps or it could be something else with your chain. 

Perhaps the raspy quality is in the recording? 

It also might mean the clarity and voicing of the R 900 is not to your taste.

The R series is a very clean uncolored sound, you may prefer a less resolving loudspeaker.

This is why we sell mutlitple brands of loudpeakers and why we suggest buying from a dealer is always the better way to go.

Dave and  Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
Hey doc, I love the sound. Read closer: it manifests on other recordings.

Sum: they sound great until....

impeaching me begs the question, and the net worth test does, too. 

Thanks for your comments. 
I should reiterate that the condition was first discovered with a McIntosh C15/MC202 combination and persisted unchanged with the Rotel RC 1590 and RB 1590.

Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone for trying to help. While the cause and origin may remain a mystery, I can’t live with it. In any event, I otherwise love the sound of the R900 and believe that KEF designs and manufactures great products. But, as with all manufacturers, things can happen....

The Doc is right: there is inherent risk in buying direct, and if you can accept that, it is fine.
Hey OP, I hope you are able to figure out a solution that doesn't involve the nearest dumpster, and am delighted to read you used the word "idiopathic".

Thanks! I have my opinions, and others theirs’, though I’ve decades of experience in the field of defending products.

I replaced a 20 year old pair of Martin Logan speakers with the R900, and offered a bargain price to the buyer so they didn’t go to a dumpster.

I may do the same with these as otherwise they are lovely to listen to, but I can’t live with this-it is as irritating as nails on a chalkboards! 😱

Unless someone has some non speculative opinion on cause and origin, I suggest we treat the issue as unresolved, but done. 
It’s a big risk to buy without demo,if you don’t like the Kef sell them .what you're describing is typical to overbright speakers .Next time make sure to make a demo before buying.
Uh, what does overbright mean in this context?

I did hear them at a local Magnolia. 
This sounds more like some kind of distortion, as one moment the sound is detailed, focused and beautiful, and the next it is a harsh, ripping or raspy, edgy sound bearing no “resemblance” to a human voice. Again, note this first happed with my original Mac gear, and continued....
If it happened to one of the speaker it must be defective one but you are saying both speakers have thisamdvit never distortion and that you never experienced this before so it's very strange,Did you try to change cables?

Read above postings for content viz music link to plus, clear light, etc. 
To reiterate, the condition has remained the same despite total and complete changes in the preamp, amp, CD player, speaker cables and interconnects, hence my opinion that a component in each speaker “unit” is defectively designed or fabricated (either as assembled, or manufactured). But, I’m only a layman who started this journey in 1968 or 1969 with an AR integrated amp and Rectilinear speakers....🤯
Today, from KEF:

“Good Afternoon,

I was not able to hear the sound in the recordings. Again, my concern is that there is no issue with the drivers themselves, and you may be hearing something picking up vibrations in the room, possibly on or within your entertainment stand. When there are issues of distortion in speakers you will not hear it only part of the time. I am very happy to work toward a solution with you, but so far there has been no clear indication that the speaker is in any way defective. Also, we have had no reported manufacturing defects associated with this speaker that I am aware of. 
Again, I would like to assure you that I am taking your complaint seriously and trying to consider what might be the cause of the sound you are hearing. Would you be able to send me pictures of the speaker with the grilles off--specifically some images of each driver?
Best Regards,

Technical Services Agent”

My reply:

“Nothing is vibrating in sympathy. Standing in front of each speaker makes it very clear each is making this sound. I’ll try recording again. I reserve all rights.
The right speaker is first shown. You will see small scratches on the trim ring done while switching the uni q.
Again, this is NOT created by anything in the room. It is the Uni q drivers, and I’ll not be keeping them even if KEF abandons me. It is unacceptable. “

Looks like I’m SOL 

Note the standard of proof KEF applies, I.e., clear indication. Wow. 💩
Do friends or family hear the same sound you do?  Just curious if it’s something you are sensitive to or plainly heard by others.
I have only a wife, who hears it, too. When I play one channel, it is in the center of the speaker. Playing both channels, it is more or less centered between them. A sympathetic vibration would not appear to move, but would be an unmoving point source. 
Try to change to upmarket power chords cables sometimes it can make the sounds better and smoother.Because you have this disturbance on both speakers I assume that there is some misfit between your system to the speakers that can be solve.
I am pretty sure that if Kef have had problems with this specific model they would be aware of it and change your speakers immediately.
Please go back and read for content, and your response otherwise begs the question. The new cables and interconnects are from Transparent and Cardas, and are system wide.

Your assumption is mistaken as the condition remained after all cabling was replaced.

I’d be most appreciative if you would not further confuse matters.


1. The condition persisted after changing McIntosh gear to Rotel-the sound is identical;

2. The identical condition persisted after changing all cabling from the speakers and interconnects to Cardas or upgraded Transparent; and,

3. The condition appears to emanate from inside a speaker if one is used, and between them if played in stereo, something a point source, sympathetic vibration will not do.

This appears to mean the most likely competing inferences are:

1. The condition exists in both speakers under limited circumstances, either from a design or fabrication defect;

2. There is a latent room or other condition that results in a sympathetic vibration that appears to move from speaker to,speaker when one is used, or remains fixed between them when stereo is used; and,

3. The condition is subjective and shared between two people married 42 years.

I have only an IPhone and IPad to record it, though I believe I have, and KEF claims I have not.

I opine the condition exists, that it is likely a design or fabrication issue since it exists in both, and that it is not a peripatetic sympathetic vibration.

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“Good Afternoon,
Since I am unable to hear the issue you are reporting in the recordings you have provided, I would suggest sending the speakers back to us for testing. If we should determine that there is any defect in the speakers we will have them repaired under warranty. Please follow the instructions below to send your speakers back for testing, and if needed, repair.

Please pack your speakers securely, with all original accessories, in the original box if you still have it, and send to the following via UPS:
KEF America
RA *****
10 Timber Lane
Marlboro, NJ 07746
Please take all steps to ensure that the speakers will not move within the box, and that sufficient packing is added to secure the speakers from external damage as well. KEF will not be responsible for damages caused by shipping and damaged packages may be refused.
The RA ***** in the address is your return authorization number for future reference.
You will be responsible for shipping the speakers to us. We will cover labor and parts needed, if repair is required, as well as return shipping.
Please let us know when the speakers have been shipped.

Technical Services Agent”

Well, there it is, I’m in the Pacific Nortwest. So, it will cost me about Three hundred dollars just in freight, probably the same or more to get them packaged, and I’ll have no music for an indefinite time. I’ll never do business with KEF again, and the Doc was right, buy direct and you may be buying a problem with no practical solution. 

I’ll try to sell these locally and move on. I appreciate the comments of those who truly tried to help. 
Kef offered you  a reasonable solution and will fixed the problem under warranty but you are not willing to go into this process,I can understand your frustration I would probably do the same and change the speakers to other brand.
There is nothing fair or reasonable about it, given the distances, costs and loss of use. 
As an owner of a perfectly working pair of R900s, I feel your pain. But...what is your idea of a fair solution?
Is it possible that your speaker cable is so low impedance that they are causing your amps to oscillate like could happen with Goertz Alpha Core cables used without the supplied Zobel network?

thanks, and I’ll consider and post a complete answer, preserving all my legal and equitable remedies in the hope that KEF decides its position is uncionsionably harsh under my circumstances, and that its warranty limitation fails of its essential purpose since, without limitation, in several phone conversations with sales, I was never warned it had no repair facilities West of the Rockies and in fact was told that Magnolia was a very large retail seller with three nearby stores. Being a lawyer, albeit retired, I have and continue to reserve all rights, remedies and causes of action.

Now, subject to my later or subsequent answer, with my plenary legal and equitable positions, KEF did not limit or exclude Washington state from its marketing activities, and from the circumstances NECESSARILY implied it had some equitable or rational (not uncionsionably harsh) means of effecting repairs, even by means of an independent contractor or local dealer. In fact KEF earns substantial sums by availing itself if the benefits and protection of Washington law. Without limitation, it would have been simple, fair and rational to hire or call upon a local retail seller to come to my home (on lake Washington, a stones throw from where Curt Cobain shot himself, a nice, convenient neighborhood) and listen for, or to the condition. I’m certain we could, in good faith, agree on a qualified person, and I’d pay reasonable travel costs, and split a reasonable fee so they didn’t have a financial interest in the transaction. Instead, I first got a diy, and then the unfair or unconscionably harsh assertion of a warranty limitation which, given the circumstances, I reckon is beneath KEF’s commercial reputation for fair dealing.

I will answer fully soon, asserting Washington and New Jersey’s rights, duties and remedies under Article 2 of the UCC, showing that no conflict or choice of law need be made, and that the limitation is void, or voidable as unconscionably harsh and fails of its own terms, and that I’m entitled to contract recission or cancellation.

Finally, absent a warning to me, Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, prohibiting deceptive or UFAIR practices independent of the sale contract terms, likely applies since my remedy is patently unfair under my circumstances, nor was I warned. 

Thanks for asking and standby.

Since the above posting (which I can no longer edit), you got me started in my legal research under Article 2, et al. Rather than relying on my ancient memory, I’m starting to look at the statutes and decisional law for the rule of decision, and thank you for motivating me.

This will show you public policy in Washington state, which is a measure of commercial good faith viz local repairs:

“RCW 62A.2-719Contractual modification or limitation of remedy.(1) Subject to the provisions of subsections (2) and (3) of this section and of the preceding section on liquidation and limitation of damages,(a) the agreement may provide for remedies in addition to or in substitution for those provided in this Article and may limit or alter the measure of damages recoverable under this Article, as by limiting the buyer’s remedies to return of the goods and repayment of the price or to repair and replacement of non-conforming goods or parts; and(b) resort to a remedy as provided is optional unless the remedy is expressly agreed to be exclusive, in which case it is the sole remedy.(2) Where circumstances cause an exclusive or limited remedy to fail of its essential purpose, remedy may be had as provided in this Title.(3) Limitation of consequential damages for injury to the person in the case of goods purchased primarily for personal, family or household use or of any services related thereto is invalid unless it is proved that the limitation is not unconscionable. Limitation of remedy to repair or replacement of defective parts or non-conforming goods is invalid in sales of goods primarily for personal, family or household use unless the manufacturer or seller maintains or provides within this state facilities adequate to provide reasonable and expeditious performance of repair or replacement obligations.Limitation of other consequential damages is valid unless it is established that the limitation is unconscionable.”

N.B.: “maintains or provides within this state....”

So, obviously, our legislature thinks my expectation reasonable and my position fair, but more important to KEF is that this may be a PER SE violation of Washington’s CPA, and I could seek treble damages.

Again, I reserve all rights, remedies and causes of action ex contractu and ex proprio vigore (yeah, even retired, ....)
Oh, and before you ask, Tony, if there is a forum selection clause, it is violative of Washington public policy, and unenforceable. 
Well, I would say that having someone local check into it seems more than reasonable. Perhaps it requires a little work on Kef’s part, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to accommodate you. 
Too late. KEF spit in my face. I’ll go to the mat on this one. Clearly, these are deceptive or unfair trade practices under Washington law, and I’m determined to show it.

Thank you, Tony, for lighting up my old interest in legal research and remedial law. 👍
Per the New Jersey Secretary of State, KEF Direct appears to be a trade name for GP Accoustics, Inc. I’m going to give it all I’ve got. I’ve provided the seller notice that 1. All rights and causes of action are reserved, 2. The sale agreement is cancelled or rescinded, 3. Acceptance of non conforming goods with latent defects is revoked, and 4. The assertion, without limitation, that I must return the goods to New Jersey for return or repair is either a deceptive or unfair trade practice in light of Washington’s statute.

Next, I’ll start drafting complaints.

I really feel quite strongly that I’ve been treated very harshly.
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Well, that’s your view. Actually, it may be more than that, and then I’ve got to pay to have them packaged, and find a way to get these monsters to the carrier (rent a van?). They came on a pallet, and the guy who delivered them had an electric dolly. I reckon close to $650 in the end, and the insurance will be a couple of hundred.

Also, if you read for content, It is necessarily implied that if KEF continues to conclude there are no repairs needed, I’m on the hook for return shipping and insurance if I want my speakers back. So I send them to the other side of the U.S. at some risk....

Finally, I won’t have speakers for at least three or four weeks.

Sum: if KEF had local (“maintains or provides...reasonable and expeditious”) repair facilities (in state), as contemplated in the statute, this whole burden would be greatly reduced to inconvenience.

Relative to the cost of the fruit, the likely cost of the juice is unconscionably high, and unreasonably difficult to pick from the tree, as well as extremely bitter to the taste.

So, your view isn’t mine, nor do I intend to get treated this way. But, thanks for your comments.
Oh, it’s a simple proposition, really. KEF chose to market and sell in Washington, both to me and many retail sellers, and like it or not, Washington law allocated these risks and burdens to KEF, the party who should, and most ably, can bear it. After all, KEF did set this whole thing in motion.

Between two parties, a consumer and a manufacturer, who should bear the burden under these circumstances when the manufacturer voluntarily submitted itself to Washington law to get the benefits of its market?
Just received, which ignores it is a latent defect, and I did as KEF asked, initially:

”Thank you for your email. We understand you have recently been having some issues with the KEF R900 speakers delivered on April 18th (Tracking ESTES: 1169292478). At the time of checkout you agreed to the terms and conditions set forth for completing your transaction. Customers have thirty days from the time of delivery to return products due to any defect that could arise. As three months had past since your delivery before any complaint was made you are no longer eligible for return. Having sold countless R900 around the world with no issues there is no inherent design or fabrication issue present in the R900 speakers. Thousands of customer and professional reviews will attest to this. As of this date, August 27, 2018, the KEF service department has provided a replacement R900 driver, as well as has offered to fully repair or replace your speakers under warranty. If you have any additional questions or concerns please let us know. We look forward to continuing to provide exemplary service to our customers. Sincerely, Dan Sheinbaum KEF America Inc., E-Commerce Manager”

Bitter fruit indeed.

maritime51, please understand up from that I am completely on your side and would love to see KEF pay the $300 freight for sending the speakers to them for repair. I have read everything you wrote, but look at it from another point of view. First, it is weird that you are having a problem with both speakers. Second, if this was a true latent defect I personally don’t think KEF would blow you off.

You did not acknowledge what I wrote above and have copied right here, as it seems like one of the only possible explanations remaining: "Is it possible that your speaker cable is so low impedance that they are causing your amps to oscillate like could happen with Goertz Alpha Core cables used without the supplied Zobel network? Do you have another brand speaker cable to try, even if its Home Depot lamp cord?

KEF did not explain this to you as they should have, but I had a similar thing happen to me (not with audio) where I wanted someone to do something special for me and not blindly follow the company’s stated policy. They explained that if they made a special exception for me, then all the other customers that had a similar issue would be able to pretty much have grounds to sue the company (or whatever) that the same special consideration was not made for them.

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