Kef Cadenza – 70s classic!


My dad set my brother and I on a life-long KEF speaker journey.

He was big into opera and Jazz… Played at high volume… Much to my mothers’ annoyance, when the sopranos started up, shaking the house. I would have been about 4, so I don’t recall the moment, but I know he turned up one day in 1976 with a pair of enormous Kef Cadenza speakers. I get the feeling my mum was not impressed. The setup was a Garrard turn table, Pioneer amp and Rotel tuner. At the time, the BBC started to do ‘simulcast’ broadcasting. Synchronized sound out of the radio and pictures from the TV. It was the era of analogue transmissions, therefore no digital delay between output streams. If you listen to DAB and FM at the same time, you will see that difference. In fact, if I have the radio on in the garage over FM and walk into the house with the same channel on DAB I can hear the same bit of music or speech over again, like a kind of radio time warp!

Anyway, back to the simulcast. My dad would warn us of the impending sonic attack, lights would dim and my mum would usually hide in another room for the onslaught. The event would begin, Kef speaker technology filling the sitting room and entire house with massive volume.

The sound was amazing. Tons of bass and a nicely balanced spread. Never too harsh. The Candenza could handle just about any sort of music you could throw at them.

Used for many years, eventually they fell silent and were relegated to the garage. (I know, not great for any speaker) Fast forward almost 20 years, and it is time to dig them out again. See what time has done to them and if they even work at all.

Man they are heavy! But intact by the look of it. The front grills are a light grey colour and you can see the speaker cones through them. It was fashion I guess but these days they do look very tired and dirty.

Behind the grill show the age of these classics:

Quite a lot of spider webs and dust. They did clean up kind of ok and it is time to give them a test! Enter my old faithful Rotal amp:

Had this for years and it is a serious beast. I got it to power my Kef Q35s many years ago. Dual stage amp and bi-wired into the Q35s. At the time it was very nice and I still have a soft spot for them. I know that is partly nostalga and still, they are a nice listen.

So hooking up the Cadenzas:

Most of the dirt has come off them. Not done anything with the wood and there are quite a few scratches on the cases, but they are almost 50 years old, so fair play.

Gradually over a few hours ran them in, [p;laying a wide selection of music, and they slowly came back to life. Boy, they sounded good… Well, most of the time!

The left speaker kept cutting out… Hmmm… It was not the cable, probably internal. Opening them up was easy, just a few screws. Removing the passive base-port it easy and with that out of the way there was plenty of space. Moving the foam out of the way, it was clear that there was a dry solder joint on one of the terminals:

Giving this a poke, you can easily make the speaker cut out. Well, that’s not a problem. Heat it up with a soldering iron and replace the solder with some fresh stuff. All good! No more cutouts. Such a fix was super easy. Luckily, these speakers are well-made and the cross-overs are working fine.

So with that done time to really crank them up! Bloody hell! Super bassy and loads of beef.

The Q35s behind are good and much more accurate, but the Cadenzas have a lot of beef. Easy to drive with bass that fills the room easily. Brings back many memories of drum and bass, heavy metal and all sorts pumping out at the parent’s house. They were certainly well known amongst my friends when my parents were out… Time to head downstairs and pump up the volume!

Next steps?

Well, despite them lasting a month in the house my wife made her feelings plain, and they had to go back in storage. I was going to sell them, but never got round to it… Well OK I chickened out and didn’t want to part with them. What to do? The cabinets do need some clean-up and polishing, but I am not sure how to sort the scratches and stains. Any suggestions?

The speaker grills do need to be sorted. They have faded and look terrible:

You can see they have sunk and show the wooden frame. Also, I don’t like the way to can see the speaker cones. It wouldn’t be that bad, but these are 70s speakers, and therefore they don’t look as sexy as more modern Kef speakers. I was thinking about getting a different material to replace the grills. Perhaps something darker or at least more opaque? What do you think? I don’t want to ruin the aesthetic.

Stay tuned for more! 🙂

5 thoughts on “Kef Cadenza – 70s classic!

  1. Ni idea when this was posted, but I just now came across it! My Cadenzas are about to come out of storage after a move and I look forward to hearing them again soon.
    Regarding the grills, they were originally backed with a thin layer of foam. Mine disintegrated long ago resulting in the see thorough look you’re lamenting. So you might explore adding that layer back to improve appearance.
    I also note you have the “newer” style logo on yours, mine has the older style you see on the label when the grille is removed.

    1. Nice to know there are still some of these out there ready to burst into life again!
      I hope everything works well for you, I was surprised how well they survived, they do seem to be well made speakers.

  2. My Dad had a pair of these and, like your experience, they attuned me to high-quality sound, which has been a constant pleasure since. My Dad’s didn’t go into storage. He sold them in the mid-80s and replaced them with slightly smaller speakers that weren’t KEFs. I do have old cine reel footage of me and my two siblings dancing around the living room in front of them circa 1977. I myself have a pair of LS50 Wireless IIs, which I get great listening pleasure from. Nice to keep the KEF tradition in the family 🙂

    1. It is great to have such fond memories.
      Music tends to stay with you. The LS50 look really nice!
      I have a pair of Q100s in my office that are lovely and still have my old Q35s rigged up in the house.
      My son will inherit those and I think I have might have converted him to be a Kef-head also…

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