KEF Reference 5 vs. B&W 802 D3 speakers - which one better? your knowledges & opinions

I'm considering buying KEF Reference 5 or B&W 802 D3 speakers. I currently have McIntosh MC2152 power amp and C70 for preamp. Which one of these set of speakers will give me the best sounds. Please share and enlightened me as much as possible.  No recommendation for other speakers.  Tell me which one is better sounding.  Much appreciated.
If those are your choices, I would probably lean towards the KEF.  The McIntosh sound is very laid back on the attack and the B&W D3 have a soft attack in the midrange (due to their woven midrange design).  It's a soft flexible cone that is designed to dampen itself (it has no surround).  The combination of McIntosh and B&W will likely lead to a "too boring" sound.  That being said, I would not choose KEF speakers either.  I have heard them at RMAF and, like every other speaker with metal dome tweeters, they have a slightly bright edge to the highs that takes away from the realness.  My own personal opinion.  I think they are much faster responding speakers than the B&W.
i have the KEF Reference 5s and really like them.  I listen mostly to classical music and they are like musical instruments to me. They took a long break in time and lots of setup adjustments. I considered B and W at the time I bought the KEFs but obviously preferred the Kefs. My equipment is different and so are my ears, but that’s my opinion.  I believe kef is still offering the Ref 5 in piano black, rosewood and walnut finishes for a big ($6000) discount..$13,999. 
yes, the sale is why im drawn to buy the kef.  So i am like u, contemplating on which one to buy.   The 802 i can get used for $15k. 
The stereophile review should be helpful. There's a pair for $6k on the other site but 1 woofer needs to be replaced.
I somewhat casually listened to a head-to-head of these two speakers about 18 months ago. I believe the electronics were Anthem separates. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good recollection of the demo, except that I wasn’t floored by either speaker (perhaps that was due to the relatively lower quality electronics, and the room wasn’t great either). I didn’t have a strong preference for one over the other - but they do sound very different, that’s for sure. Neither speaker really my cup of tea, I guess (personal preference). Sorry not what you wanted to hear and probably not helpful at all. For what it’s worth, the salesmen at the dealership all seemed to prefer the Kef (so maybe that is a little bit of useful info).
it took several (6?)  months for the KEFs to break in. When I bought the Ref 5s, I had never heard them because no dealer within hundreds of miles had them (not the best way to buy speakers). I heard the Ref 3 multiple times and really liked the imaging, soundstage and other properties.  As  one salesman commented after demoing multiple speakers: I noticed that, when I play the KEFs, you smile.  I finally was persuaded that the properties of the Ref 5 would be similar to the 3 but with increased bass.  After the 5s were delivered, I thought for a while I had made a big mistake.  They just didn’t have the same magic in my setup and I wasn’t sure if it was the 5s, the room, my equipment, the setup.  I even borrowed some competing to compare.  I’m very glad I was patient because I love them now. 
Now that you mention that, I think when I heard the Kef Ref 5 vs the B&W that the Kef's were mentioned as having recently arrived at the dealer (like a week ago), and so were probably not fully broken in when I heard them.
@fast  so i came across your post about the Ref 5 last year in this forum.   Can you tell me the pros and cons of the reference 5? You own the speakers and I’d love to hear from an actual owner.  It’s my first big purchase at this price and i wanna know if im making the right decision here.  I dont wanna buy the speakers and regret it later.   Give me your advice... thanks in advance.  

IIRC some reviewers claim the Ref. 1s are the best of the lot, with a more integrated sound than the 3s or 5s. In my setup the in-room response of the Ref.1s measures pretty flat to 30 Hz then rolls off sharply. I augment them with a pair of Velodyne HGS-15s, because I like to hear/feel pedal notes from organ recitals, but subs really aren’t necessary for the jazz and classical music I prefer. I use Ayre 5/20 series preamp and amp.
I’ll do my best to give my perspective. Of course, speakers are very much a personal thing, we have different ears, and may listen to different kinds of music on different equipment in different rooms. 
I listen mostly to classical music. As I mentioned before. i was drawn to the Ref 5s for the imaging and soundstage.  Set up properly, the sound seems to come from behind and around the speakers, providing a pretty realistic concert hall effect.  I like the uni-q tweeters which, to me, capture the sound of instruments...especially string instruments... very convincingly.  The bass is well integrated and not obtrusive but it’s definitely there. My speakers are white and they’re beautiful looking and well finihed.  As for cons, I already mentioned the long break in time. Setup and positioning are critical and finding the optimum placement, toe in, etc. can be time consuming. You need comparable quality associated equipment.  
There are literally dozens of competing speakers and I can’t choose for you.  It would be great if you have a dealer where you can audition them (and even greater if you could negotiate a return/exchange privilege if, in the worst case, you don’t like them.  I’m not sure how else to help.  Good luck.  I hope you’re happy with your choice and will post your experience here.  
@fast, thanks so much for the review.  I placed the order through Kef for $13k and will get it next week.  I hope with the price im paying is worth it for this speakers.  Its a big purchase for me and I prolly wont buy another speaker for a very long time.  I’m highly into audio and with the experience i have, i may not able to call myself an audiophile yet but i do enjoy the sounds of these high quality speakers.  They do make a big difference in sounds.  Reason im asking so much is because i bought this speakers without listened to them.  I was deciding between the 802D3 but decided on this one because many people said this sounds better than the 802D3.  I currently own the R900 and this will be a big upgrade and i hope $13k is worth it for the sound Quality this speakers offered.  I just dont want to feel regret after, resale and lost money later.   Thanks again for your input.  I will test it next week when i get it and will update everyone here.  
Congratulations! Hopefully, you’ll love them immediately. If the risk of being patient. I almost wasn’t. I had the same fear about being out so much money but started checking out other options anyway . My dealer came over along with the regional person from KEF to advise on speaker placement, break in, etc. I’m very glad I waited.  I think you will be happy. Good luck. 
@fast which bass port did you used? Which one give more bass?? Also, do u think $14k is a good deal?? Thanks
I’ve experimented with the bass ports. Right now, I’m using four long ones and I’m pretty happy with the results. I think this is very system and room dependent so your preference may be different. You got a 33% discount on speakers that usually aren’t discounted.  I’d say that’s a good deal. But only if you like them. Don’t get buyer’s remorse...they haven’t even arrived yet.  
Congrats from another KEF Ref owner (3’s in my case).  I, too, compared the KEFs against the B&Ws and while I really respect the engineering prowess behind B&W, I greatly preferred the KEFs. I was also considering Sonus Faber Olympica 3s, (very different sound, but I like classical music and some jazz and they’re easy on the ears - and very easy on the eyes)), but again preferred the KEFs.  

FWIW - I had a chance to compare the KEF Ref 3s against the KEF Blade 2s using the exact same system and cables - we just moved the speaker cables from one to the other.  Yes, the Blades were better, but they were a lot closer than you might expect considering the Blades 2s are 2x the price. Let your Ref 5s fully break in and run them with decent source and electronics and I think you’ll find you enjoy them very much.  
@fast does that longer tubes give u more bass?? 
someone told me they got it for 11,000 euros.  To be honest, I’m already feeling buyer remorse because someone said not much of a difference of sound improvement coming from the R900.  What do u think?? 
@mgrif104 thanks for your information.   I was contemplating on which speakers to buy and i dont know if i made the right decision by choosing Kef Reference 5 over the B&W 802D3.  Its my first expensive speaker and i want to get it right without regret later.  My equipments are McIntosh MC2152 (tube 150 watts per channel) and C70 (All tubes preamp) Cambridge Audio Streamer/DAC Azur851n.   I’m already feeling buyer remorse because someone said coming from my R900 wont give me much of a sound improvement and the price I got it at $14k is couple thousand higher.   What do you think? These people’s opinions makes me feel buyer remorse. 
kentrent: you need to chill out!  This is supposed to be fun. You should be happy that you made a decision and also got a big discount. The euro price, assuming it was for a European purchase, is irrelevant to you since you would have to pay shipping and customs, and probably wouldn’t get a US warranty. Be excited about getting some of the best speakers available and looki forward to many years of enjoyment. 
@fast, you are absolutely right. This is suppose to be fun and enjoyable. So im getting a lot of good feedbacks for Kef Reference 5 over the B&W 802D3. Many people said Kef technologies way surpasses B&W.  They said Ref5 sounds a lot better than the 802D3.  I cant wait to get it. I will share with you my experience setting it up and how it sounds with my McIntosh. Thanks for your encouragement.
@fast someone selling the Ref 5 for $6000 but one of the bass driver got indentation.  I was about to buy that but Someone told me not to because the Reference series each pair of speakers are built by one engineer from beginning to end which yield better sounds and avoiding the errors from multiple people like a assembly line.  Because of this, even though replacing new bass driver will not make the speaker back to normal and up to the original performance.  What do you think??  I bought brand new for that peace of mind. :)) 
What I think is that it’s irrelevant because you’re past that point. You have ordered some excellent speakers, brand new and with a warranty. Now you need to look ahead and stop looking back. 
Kentrent:  while it’s true that the R900 is a very good speaker and its tonal balance is similar to the Ref 5, there is indeed a significant difference between the two.  I have heard the Ref 3s against the R900s (they didn’t have the Ref 5s but it stands to reason the 3 and 5s are similar tonally and in resolution).  While they Reference and R series have a similar “voice”, the Reference offered significant improvements in resolution (detail), and clarity that was very easy to hear in comparison.

Speaking with a KEF representative and reading some of their literature on the Reference series, it would appear that some of the improvement in clarity is due to a significantly better coincident driver and crossover for the midrange and tweeter, and some is due to better (non resonant) cabinet construction. KEF are thoughtfully engineered speakers - you get what you pay for at each price point. 

I would actually suggest the gap is much wider in performance between the Reference series and the R series than it is between the Blade and the reference. I have done this exact comparison.  The Blade is 2x the reference in price.  As in all things - diminishing returns as you move up.  

Make sure you let them break in.  If you don’t love them after a few hundred hours, then you can consider what next.  But, I’d politely suggest it won’t be the speakers that will be your weak link.  

My $.02.
@mgrif104 thank you so much for your insight.  The deminishing return is greatly different from the R900 to the Reference 5, unlike from Reference 5 to Blade?? That’s good to know.   KEF is thoughtfully and well engineer and highly technological speakers is part of the reasons why I chose KEF over the B&W.  Thank you for your post. This is the kind of feedback i need to hear. 
So I’ve been listening to the Reference 5 for 3 days now and I’m liking it so far.  
I’m upgrading from R900.  The R900 is a very good sounding speakers itself.  Comparing to the Ref5 it’s definitely not catching up.  Listening to the R900 makes me feel like I’m in front of a small limited stage where each instruments are cluttered close together whereas the Ref5 is a large stadium and instruments are good distance away from each other - its like you can walk thru each instruments and hear each of them distinctively.  The soundstage is incredible on the Ref5 - very holographic.  I’m using the long ports and the Bass is tight and deep- u can feel its thundering in your chest.  Bass is much refine, tight and more responsive but at the same time soft and free of distortion.   Treble is much more sharper and clearer.  The best part is I can hear some other instruments in the song that i didnt hear it on the R900.   Overall, I’m really liking it and starting to falling in love.  I’m glad I chose Kef - Ref5.  Although, i still wanna compared it with the BW 802D3 one day.   

Im also curious to see how this speakers sounds with the solid state McIntosh MA8900.  What do u guys think?? 
Mine is the Rosewood and it just looks so beautiful with my McIntosh Mc2152 and c70 equipments.  Love it guys!! Thanks again 

Very glad you like the Ref 5s, especially after all the worrying and second guessing . As we’ve discussed, they will get better over time. The holographic soundstage is what  initially sold me.  The Rosewood finish is beautiful. Since I’m spending lots of time at home these days , I’ve been listening to my Ref 5s for many hours every day. Several months ago, I replaced an older Audio Research tube amp with a solid state Krell. Both amps produced great sound and, if anything, the Krell is better. The more I listen, the happier I am with the sound of the KEFs. I predict it will be the same for you.  Enjoy them. 

what ARC tube amp you did used before? And what’s the current Krell model you’re using now?  Im interested in solid state too and not sure if its can improve the sounds over my current set up (MC2152 and C70 with the Cambridge Audio Azur 851N DAC/streamer).  
Yea this speakers holographic soundstage is amazing.  I feel like im immerse in the concert and actually hear those instruments and vocal in front and music around me.  Glad i chose it over the BW. 
Kentrent-It’s been a while since your KEF Reference 5 speakers arrived.  I know you were very anxious about whether you would like them.  Wondering how you’re feeling now.  I hope you’re enjoying them as much as I like mine. 
hi @fast 

i have to say that i love this speakers and without regret that i bought it.  The speakers now fully broken in and it sounds much smoother.  Very airy and wide soundstage.  The sounds always seems like its coming from the center and wider across the room elsewhere.   Excellent holographic images.   Also the speakers works well with all types of songs, from classical, jazz, instrumentals, rock, pop, even raps and most importantly it doesn’t colors the sounds.   Very neutral tonality.  
I also compared it to the Rogers LS3/5a and although the LS3/5a has so much hype but its no where near the Ref5 (of course they’re not in the same category for comparison).  

I love it... i always look at it while listening and its just so beautiful to look at.  :)) 

how about u? Have u acquire any new speakers?? 
swap out your mc2125 for a mc462 your sound will improvekef speakers sound better with solid state amp with low output impedance, highs get bit strange sounding to my ears at least with my experience with the ref 1 and a mc275
Glad you like them. I got the reference 5s a couple of years ago and also am very pleased, so no thoughts of replacing them.  I did have a guy come over and spend a day positioning the speakers and optimizing my system—expensive but glad I did it. I also had a dedicated 20 amp line installed and got Isotek Gaia footers for the KEFs.  All this was just before the pandemic hit-very good timing as I am spending countless hours enjoying the music. I got a new amp (Krell), Innuous Zenith 3 server, PS Audio Directstream DAC, Wireworld cables, Rega turntable so I’ve been busy. My preamp and phono stage (Audio Research LS22 and PH3) are about 25 years old, so I may replace them some day.  Right now, I’m just happy to relax and listen to beautiful music. 
@d2girls i have tried it with the MA9000 and its sounds very crystal clear and details.  Very responsive too.  However, with solid state the bass is harder than tubes.  I love the tube sounds, even though it’s lesser detail than solid stare but the sound lot warmer and bass is deep and soft.  


sounds like you have it optimally set up.  When i have money, i will try to swap out the mc2152 because this tube amp is a little weak for this speakers.  When i play heavy bass song and crank up the volumes the amp clips and shut down.  My amp is 150 watts.  I need a more powerful amp.  
Limited nice comments about 802 d3, kinda surprising. Stereo listening is superb with 802s, very articulate.  802 need a solid amp like McIntosh and a tube preamp.