They are six-feet tall, made of super vacuum-formed solid aluminum and boast six 250 mm woofers, a 250 mm midrange speaker and a state-of-the-art 165 mm tweeter. They’re called "Muon," and they just might be the best sounding speakers money can buy – if you have $140,000 to spend on a pair speakers.
On July 10, a crowd of lucky audiophiles filled Jerry’s Video and Audio store in north Scottsdale to listen to a pair of Muon speakers made by United Kingdom-based KEF. Potential Buyers with the wherewithal to withstand the price shock had better act fast: only 100 pairs were made, 44 of which have been sold, and in September, KEF plans to raise the price to $165,000 because of rising prices in gas and raw materials.
Jerry Kowitz, the owner of Jerry’s Video and Audio, said although the Muon speakers are capable of reaching levels far beyond our hearing ability, they do have sound discernable characteristics that set them apart from other speakers.
Comparing speakers on paper might be an objective way to measure sound quality, but actually listening to them is a subjective matter, he said.
“There is no doubt that they are the top three or four speakers in the world. Maybe they’re the best, but we wouldn’t know unless we got a bunch of enthusiast together and took a vote or something,” Kowitz said.
Besides the jaw-dropping sound, the Muon are arguably the best looking if not most technologically advanced speakers ever made; a result of hiring Sony Walkman and Apple I-Mac designer Ross Lovegrove. The speakers' aesthetic form has a functional purpose as well. Lovergrove and KEF sound engineers designed the Muon shape to enhance the sound quality and dampen residual noise.
Paul Egan, vice president for sales and marketing for KEF in North America, said that while the feminine look of the speaker happened by chance, everything else from the choice in the aluminum shell to the placement of the speakers to the tiny granules of carbon placed inside the speaker, which absorb shock and reduce the pressure on the speakers, was all very much on purpose.
Hiring on Lovegrove (who is also English) to design the speakers opened the door to new ideas on the relationship between design and sound.
“The serendipity of this project was that he came up with a design while working with our engineers, which as an acoustics company, we would never have the ability to do,” Egan said.
The design and sound quality even impressed skeptics who came out to see what the hype was about.
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“The aesthetics are very unique,” said sound enthusiast and owner of Celestial Audio store Bill Goodman. “It has a fleshed out and warm sound. Even in this huge room the lower and upper ranges balance nicely.”
Goodman said that it’s not unusual for serious audio connoisseurs to spend $40,000 to $80,000 on a high-end system. High quality speaker wires can cost $15,000 alone.
“The premise of spending $140,000 is that the artistic design of the speakers is part of the expense,” Goodman said.