KEF Reference 3

KEF Reference 3. Looking for some views. How well would these go with my system as Follows: Linn LP12, Project carbon arm, Linn Adijt cartridge, Bluesound Node 2i using Tidal, Legacy Philips CD610ii through NAC-N272 and then NAP 300. The KEFs would be replacing my existing Castle Kendal speakers which have given good service having had new base units in 1991!! Listening to 1960 to 2020 rock and Indi music. Up until recently mostly vinyl but increasingly streaming via Node 2i. Looking for good sound stage and detail, room is 17 feet long and 13 feet wide. need to listen at relatively low volumes. Any help appreciated.

I auditioned the KEF Reference 3 together with my Nova. I found them very detailed, with a very good soundstage and with a tonal balance. I ended up getting the KEF Reference 5, as I got “an offer I couldn’t refuse”. In retrospective, maybe staying with the Ref. 3 would have been a better choice as the Ref. 5 can become very bass heavy depending on the recording. What I can say about my Ref. 5 is, that in addition to what I stated earlier, they are very revealing, sounding absolutely fantastic if the recording is right and poor if the recording is not so good. I have added a 250 dr, which is driving the highs/mids and I subsequently use the Nova to drive the bass section of my loudspeakers. I am listening mostly to Qobuz HiRes streaming, and mostly at low to very moderate volume.

Hello @ErnN,

The KEF Reference 3 would be a superb choice. They a very “easy on the ear” and great detail and authority. Personally I really like the looks and the build-quality.

I auditioned them when I was looking into new loudspeakers. In the end, I choose the Focal Kanta 2 over the Kef Reference 3 and Sonus Faber Olympica II. The Kanta’s to my ears had slightly better imaging and were faster. I could imagine - bearing your music taste - you’d like to audition Focal as well.

Keep us posted !

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Can you tell me roughly the size of the room you have your KEFs in?

That’s an awful lot of money to be spending on speakers with a bare 272 at the system’s heart. I’d be looking at a 555PS and more modest speakers.

Can you elaborate on your way of reasoning as I have a different approach, driving my KEF Reference 5 with a Naim Nova and a 250dr. To my ears, and with my listening preferences, they sound wonderful. This been said, I do no not argue against that my speakers could sound better (…or worse) with a different set up, giving me the possibility to upgrade my system if I one day decide to do so and at the same time keep my Ref. 5’s that I enjoy so much.

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We have an open plan living room and kitchen, which is around 45 square meters.

Over all my years with Naim equipment I’ve found that a really good source and amplification, with modest speakers, is far more musically enjoyable than vice versa. I’ve used nSats on the end of a CDS3/552/300 and they were brilliant. I’ve heard an ND5XS2/SN2 through £30,000 Focals and it was dreadful, and lots of other examples too. The Nova simply isn’t designed to drive that sort of speaker. It’s all about balance. But I’m not saying I’m right, but I wouldn’t use a Nova with Kef ref 5, I wouldn’t biamp and I certainly wouldn’t use one speaker cable for the bass and a totally different one for the treble. But each to their own.


I never stop being surprised, reading persons absolute opinions about set ups they never tried or heard. :smiley: That’s what so great with this Forum. You get to hear from all kind of walks of life with different views and experiences. Thanks for your feedback and if you ever pass by Frankfurt, Germany you are more than welcome to pass by and listen to my system…


If it’s an opinion it cannot be absolute. I’m constantly surprised that people buy unbalanced systems despite all the advice to the contrary. But you did ask and now seem somehow irritated by the response. If you are happy that’s all the matters but my advice to the OP is unchanged: add a power supply before spending a big sum on speakers.

I am just amazed that someone can have an opinion about a system that they never listened to. I am definitely not irritated, just amused…:smiley: I tried the Ref. 5 with a Hegel H590 and to my ears, even though the Hegel sounded fantastic and “on paper” should have been the better choice, the Nova with the250 dr was better. In regards to the loudspeaker cables, let’s not go there as I guess that there are so many different opinions in regards to cables in general…

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Sorry for the distraction…:+1:

I agree about system balance, but didn’t you once have 272/250 playing into SL2s, speakers that today would likely be priced at or more likely well above KEF Reference 3s? And the OP does have a 300 in play. I don’t disagree about getting a PS for the 272, though.


@ErnN Buy the speakers that sound the best to you. The Reference 3 are a wonderful choice. You can always change out hardware if need be. Ignore the noise makers. FWIW in my many years of working in retail Hifi in building a great system one always starts with the speakers.


I’ve got Reference 1’s on the end of my 250 DR. Absolutely stonking. Kef are overlooked in my humble opinion.


Meanwhile, in the land of common sense, one starts with the source.

I have the opposite experience in my 30 years of hifi. Allocating more $$ to the source is the better way to go typically. I’m a fan of Kef and used the 104.2 in my system for years. I can’t speak specifically to the OP’s current speakers or any of the modern Kefs. But if funds matter and the Castle’s are good speakers I’d go with 555PS on the 272 like HH said. It’ll be a much better use of funds that he will notice immediately whereas the speakers aren’t likely to make much difference unless the Castles are awful.

I guess I’m just wrong Nigel. I’ve been going about it all backwards for years. Maybe I should start all over?

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Further to my original post. This is to be my retirement system. So I had allocated some money to (a) Changing speakers as there should be some better than my loved Castles. I have all ready listened to ProAc K3, which whilst I liked the performance there did not seam as big a difference to my existing for the money as I hoped. Also tried the PMC Twenty5 26 and did not like those at all. Thus proving to my self the need for home listening tests. K3 In store sound grate and I have arranged to have a home trial of a pair using my system.
(b) to upgrading my source, originally this was to be an upgrade to my LP12, however since the retiring I have been streaming from Tidal HiFi via the 273 and via the Bluesound 2i Tidal Master using the analog output. So am not sure which way to go with upgrading my source. As a point of reference (may be) listening and comparing between LP12, Tidal stream via 273 and Tidal Masters stream via
Node 2i using the same tracks; Castles little difference, using ProAc K3 significant differences with my LP12 being the worst source which I felt disappointed about as a I like the moment around picking through LPs and chilling with the album etc.

This brings me to the points raised in the responses to my original post which suggest the 273 is not very good? Is this as a pre-amp or Streaming device? As I understand it this is still a current Naim device?

There seams to be support for investing in a power supply. Am I really going to “hear” this investment, i has all-ways thought of this as a final tweak and a bit of luxury! Can you tell me if I am likely to be able to get a home trial of a Naim power supply? Does that happen?

So which way to go?

Thanks to all for the comments so far, which have been good, may be I should have not called this post KEF and I would have had more inputs, can I change this?