Speakers: price and size

I was just reading a thread on here by someone with some Kef IQ90 speakers. I looked them up and they cost £999. They are over three feet tall and have three large drivers, and weigh 16.3kg each.

I then consider my little speakers, which are only a foot high, have two small drivers and weigh only 5.5kg each. Yet they cost £1,495, and then you need to buy some stands to support them.

I’ve pondered this dilemma before - can the big ones be any good, as surely they are made from cheaper components? All that extra wood, those extra drive units, bigger packaging, higher storage costs. There are loads of really large and pretty cheap speakers - £1,000 can get you a lot of bulk. On the other hand, maybe the small speakers are overpriced and massive money earners for the manufacturers? Do they have super expensive drivers? Better quality cabinets? The big cheap ones always look well made to me.

There is probably no answer, but you can see how the big ones look like much better VFM.

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A valid observation, my take is the smaller ones in reality are probably overpriced and the larger ones in many cases are manufactured in countries with lower labour costs. Also the likes of Kef produce high volumes of speakers whereas Proac would be a smaller outfit with overheads to cover


I wouldn’t Say there Is no answer… but It probably has to do with the law of diminishing returns.
Costs to reach a given result may still be controllable to a desired/commercially acceptable level compared to quality but to really improve the investment is certainly higher… To which extent depends only to what we want to achieve.
I recently bought a pair of Aria 926 and considering the p/q ratio I have to recognize that 15/20 years ago we could not have this level of quality at the same price level.
However, the price difference from Aria to Kanta floorstanders Is remarkable… To me it means that project, materials, processes and most probably time spent on development has been Stretch further, beyond the Aria. Is it worth? I cannot tell now, only a serious and committed home demo can tell. Seriously IMHO :relaxed:

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Bigger - and more drivers - looks more impressive -and seems to offer more VFM.
More flash, less cash - IMO. YMMV…

In this case, I would take the smaller, more expensive ones…


KEF speakers are not the same higher end as they used to be back in the early days
The mid & entry level stuff is made in far east & they seem to be built for a price & visual impact…
I know someone with the IQ9, the previous iteration of the IQ90 (I believe)
They are not my taste, a bit too much overblown mid & bass at all but low volume & as for visuals, they look & feel cheap (IMO).

But to your point, yes a difference that is hard to quantify, I guess the same/similar question can be asked about the price of a perceived quality car vs a mass market bling job

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I’ve considered the same thing about nearly every consumer product. Only we can decide the value of something.

A Dacia is as much a car as a BMW etc, the BMW may have more depth in terms of quality (they still go wrong) but people like the perceived quality more than the ability to just get somewhere.


Lots of large speakers on the market at cheap prices.
Size tells nothing about performance really.
Thats known wisdom for ages.

What has changes during the decades are cost down and maximize profit.
Manufactures are becoming better at implement cost down in production while profit are more in focus.

I’ve had a look at the KEF IQ90 and can’t seem to find the model on KEF’s website. Further checks on What Hifi forum suggest that these were discontinued.

Prior to checking the comments on the internet, I suspected that the IQ90 were meant for Home Theater rather than 2-channel, judging from the looks and cost. My suspicion was proven to be true as the IQ series were claimed to be KEF’s entry level speakers built for home theater. Most people match them with receivers rather than 2 channel amp.

Personally I would take small quality speakers such as the Proac Tab 10 Sigs over the KEF any day. In real life, I suspect the build quality of the Proac would be a level or two up from the KEF. Sound quality wise is another matter.


IMO, the quality of the drivers and crossover components has more to do with the pricing than anyting else.


One thing that has always bothered me is the price differential between different finishes for the same speaker. The scale of the difference really does expose the way hifi prices are frequently unjustifiably high.
You can make an argument about development costs, component selection etc. to justify high prices but the only difference between say cherry and rosewood is the extra cost of the veneer itself, which is not several hundred pounds!

The quality of the drive units, crossover and cabinet construction all far superior in the Tab 10 Sig.



Oh come on HH, you must be really bored today… Vinyl wrapped, made in China, with made in China drivers.

ProAc made in the UK real wood veneer, book matched, Scanspeak drivers, better crossover parts.


Would you accept this comparison from this perspective: is the sound coming out of the speakers “larger” than expected (while keeping my eyes closed)?

It’s not the size. It’s the (quality) impact.

I prefer a smaller speaker , with a quick / open sound, over a bigger scale of spectrum (provided by a bigger body) , if comes with a cost of a blurring one

This is a difficult comparison i think, because for example:

For a larger speaker it is easier to sound ‘big’, so a smaller speaker would need a relatively better and stronger construction, as well as higher quality drivers to achieve the same sense of space as a larger speaker. Making small speakers sound big takes effort, and it would then also likely require a more capable amplifier.

So if the end result is more or less equal in terms of sound, would the smaller speaker still be considered better quality, just because it requires better components and construction, and is perhaps twice as expensive, to achieve the same effect?

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You are right. Mea culpa. Didn’t make myself understood.
I was thinking (speaking ) specifically regarding bookshelves. There are some who can appear to have a bigger sound, compared to others of same size. And that’s because the quality of components and design are great.

When comparing them , with floorstanders , with bigger size ( and scale ) and smaller price , we should evaluate if the different approach
Translate in better sound.

If the results are , like you say, more or less equal in terms of sound, for me , the smaller speaker will be considered better as a speaker because achieved the same with less visual impact/ footprint. So it’s visually more appealing and more flexible.

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This must be much more confusing for a young budding audiophile.
When I bought the then budget line cresta kef bookshelf for £140, the giddy heights of £400 for the top of the cresta range model seemed unobtainable.
That kef IQ90 speaker is a bit of a beast. For a young chap this is quite a statement to have in the room compared to a mini lifestyle setup and shows commitment to the good cause of audiophilia.
Thus the road to esoteric enlightenment begins in realising better is more than skin deep.

And yes - given the same budget price constraints, a good little one will always be better than a good big one for obvious reasons.
Throw the budget out the window and things obviously gets much more complicated.

I posted this some time back, which may be relevan:

is in the mind of the beholder…

Inevitably for a given sound quality it is cheaper to build speakers with limited or no low bass, than it is to build full range. I’ve posted before on this, the following I think this is of relevance, posted in a discussion on a similar theme:

As a basic principle, with identical components etc., a larger speaker is made from more material and has a larger external finished area, and will weigh more and take up more shipping and storage space. As a consequence the larger speaker will be more expensive - therefore it follows that at the same price the smaller speaker is likely to be of better quality because to be the same price something will have to be skimped in the larger speaker.

From a different angle, the basics of physics dictates that all else being equal, a larger speaker can achieve deeper bass than a smaller speaker, so from that point of view, a larger speaker is better.

And from another angle, whilst mid and high frequencies are easy to reproduce at high quality, the lower the frequency a speaker tries to reproduce the greater the hurdles to doing so while maintaining accuracy (e.g. fast attack and no overhang), greater design hurdles translate to greater cost.

Putting these all together, if anyone wants want full range bass (and a surprising number of people don’t seem to, even rejecting it as too much when they hear it), then big expensive speakers are necessary. If low bass isn’t inportantthen smaller cheaper speakers can give the same sound quality over the range that they can reproduce uncurtailed.


Absolutely not. The drivers and crossovers in your little speakers will deliver a much more accurate representation of the source than the larger cheap speakers. The downside is obviously the lack of bass and the ability to play loud.

Naim go to great lengths to ensure that the components in their products are of a high quality. This should definitely be rewarded with a good quality speaker on the other end, even if that means the speaker must be small one. I’d take a quality mini vs the big cheap speakers any day of the week.

Your little proac’s are a lovely speaker. I am sure they sound really nice and are really well driven from your equipment. For me…. take that level of quality and turn it into a 3 way design with a 10” driver and now were talking.


I have a set of Kev surround speakers (including a sub) that I use with my AV system. I’ve had them for about 10 years, they’re made in China and weren’t that expensive, I’m always pleasantly surprised how good they can sound.