The Gearhead: Imaging Machines

What is imaging? A term so often thrown around in hifi audio, it is actually a bit more self-descriptive than some audio terms. It’s the ability for speakers to create a convincing mental image in the listener, thanks to careful speaker setup, correct time arrival and the lack of competing waves which might blur that image.

Picture a trumpet hanging in midair between the speakers, which sounds so convincingly trumpet-like that you start to imagine the player standing in your listening room. Thinking about Chet Baker Trio’s This Is Always as a good example of that kind of presentation which a pair of speakers good at imaging can support.

One of the biggest contributors to a blurred sonic “image” in speakers is the effect of the baffle, which is the front of the speakers. In general, the wider the baffle and the more sharp the edges around the sides the less focused and clear that picture will be.

Sharp edges on a speaker can cause what’s known as “diffraction,” where waves traveling sideways along the surface of the speaker (sound waves don’t just launch forward — plenty move transversely when you’re playing music, too) hit the end of the baffle real estate and tend to fan out around the sharp edge.

Often, the smaller the baffle and the more rounded the edges, the less diffraction a speaker will create. Go a step further and remove the “lobing effects” of multiple drivers by putting them inside each other, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for imaging.

British speaker maker KEF knows this very well, and has been designing speakers around these principles for many years. Their speaker drivers are often concentric, meaning the tweeter is mounted in the middle of the midwoofer, so all of the sound comes from one spot rather than two or three, spaced out.

In the case of the visually and sonically impressive Blades you see above, this "point source" approach is supported below by four ultra fast woofers in a unique arrangement that couples low frequencies to the middle of the room -- and not just the floor like most modern approaches.

Combining the precision of point source imaging with room filling bass, the KEF Blade 2s are for the imaging lovers, which in the audiophile hobby should mean, as the British would say, the entire lot of you.

Take a look at the amazing Blades before they're gone. 

Shop These CPO KEF Blade 2s