KEF HTF8003 Passive Home Theatre Sound Bar - Review

KEF HTF8003 Passive Sound Bar Front View and Connections
KEF HTF8003 Passive Sound Bar Front View and Connections. Images provided by Amazon

If you are looking for loudspeakers for your home theater, but don't want all the speaker and wire clutter, then check out the KEF HTF8003 Passive Home Theatre Sound Bar system. The HTF8003 combines three non-amplified front channel speakers (left, center, and right) into one 38-inch long housing that is designed for table or wall mounting.

NOTE: As mentioned above, HTF8003 is a passive sound bar, which means it does not have its own built-in amplifiers, nor does it provide direct input connections for external sources (TV, DVD, Blu-ray Disc player, etc...

In other words, although the KEF HTF8003 is designed to complement flat panel LCD/Plasma/OLED TVs it requires connection to a home theater receiver for amplification, source access, and any audio decoding and processing.

However, just as you would with separate speakers, this sound bar can also be combined, using a home theater receiver, with a subwoofer (recommended) and a set of surround speakers.

Features and Specifications

  • Design: 3-driver, 3-channel Closed-Box (Acoustic Suspension).
  • Tweeters: .6 inch Aluminum (3 - one for each channel).
  • Midrange: 3 inch (3 - one for each channel).
  • Bass Drivers: 3 inch (3 - one each channel).
  • Auxiliary Bass Radiator (Passive Radiator): 3 inch (3 - one for each channel).
  • Frequency Response: ±3 dB from 70 Hz - 22kHz.
  • Crossover Frequency: 2.8kHz (represents the point where frequencies higher than 2.8kHz are sent to the tweeter).
  • Sensitivity: 87 dB (represents how loud the speaker is at a distance of one meter with an input of one watt).
  • Impedance: 8 ohms.
  • Suitable Amplifier Power Range: Up to 100 watts.
  • Magnetically Shielded for use near older CRT TVs.
  • Height: 4.7 in, Width: 37.8 in, Depth: 3.1 in, Weight: 18 pounds
  • Available Finishes: High Gloss Black
  • Suggested Price: $799

Setup and Use

The KEF HTF8003 Home Theatre Sound Bar is a single housing, about 38-inches long, that includes Left, Center, and Right channel speakers.

To set up and the KEF8003, you need to connect the left, center, and right channel speaker output terminals of a home theater receiver to the corresponding connection terminals on the 8003. After you make those connections, you use your home theater receiver to increase or decrease the volume, or make any additional tone adjustments.

Also, if your home theater receiver incorporates an automatic speaker setup program, you can use that to balance the level output for the left, center, and right channel speakers in the 8003. Consult your home theater receiver user guide for details.

Once set up and operating, I found that the center channel delivered a very good vocal and dialog presence from both music and movie material. However, the sounds from the left and right channels, although clear and detailed, did not project a sound image far beyond the physical sides of the sound bar.

I listened to the KEF HTF8003 Home Theatre Sound Bar in three different types of setups:

1. As a single, standalone (L,C,R) sound bar speaker system.

2. As a sound bar combined with a separate subwoofer, in this case, KEF provided the KEF HTB2SE-W Wireless Subwoofer.

3. Same as setup #2, but adding two left and right surround speakers, the 2 EMP Tek E5Bi's (borrowed from my EMP Impression home theater speaker system).

When used alone, the KEF HTF8003 does not provide deep bass or an enveloping surround sound environment as it does when it is used as part of a system with an external subwoofer and additional surround sound speakers such as in setup #3 outlined above.

However, in a space-saving setup with just the sound bar paired with a subwoofer and no additional surround speakers, HTF8003 delivers good detail within a narrower soundstage, and the subwoofer adds deeper bass. My suggestion: Use the KEF HTF8003 with a separate subwoofer, even if you do not use additional surround speakers.

Also, if you currently have separate left, center, and right channel speakers and replace them with the HTF8003 Sound Bar in combination with separate surround speakers that are placed far apart, you may notice that while the rear surround image will still maintain a wide sound field, you will experience a narrowing of the surround image with sounds that are combined in both the front left and right and surround speakers, especially with rear to front sound movement.

However, the KEF HTF8003 offers very good mid-range and high frequency response for music and movies, can easily be used in a small-to-medium size room, and is a great design and size match for use with up to a 42-inch Plasma or LCD flat panel television. However, at $899 it is expensive when also consider that you need to add a subwoofer for best results.

What I Liked About The HTF-80003

  • Clear and distinct midrange and highs.
  • Comes with both table/shelf and wall mounting hardware.
  • 38-inch width fits matches well with flat panel televisions up to 46-inches.
  • Easy-to-Use push-in speaker wire connectors.

What I Didn't Like About the HTF-8003

  • Not a substitute for a multi-channel surround sound speaker system in a large room.
  • Need to use a subwoofer for best full-range frequency listening.
  • Expensive if you consider the addition of a subwoofer and home theater receiver.

The Bottom Line

If you are looking for loudspeakers for your home theater, but don't want all the speaker and wire clutter, then check out the KEF HTF8003 Home Theatre Sound Bar system. The HTF8003 combines three front channel speakers (left, center, and right) into one 38-inch long housing that is designed for table or wall mounting. The KEF HTF8003 complements flat panel LCD/Plasma TVs and can be used alone, or combined with a subwoofer (recommended) and a set of surround speakers.

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Additional Components Used In This Review:

Home Theater Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR705 (set for 3.1 and 5.1 modes for this review).

Sources: OPPO Digital BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player and OPPO DV-980H DVD Player

Blu-ray Discs: Across The Universe, Avatar, Hairspray, Iron Man, Shakira - Oral Fixation Tour, The Dark Knight, and UP.

Standard DVDs: House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Lord of Rings Trilogy, Moulin Rouge, and U571.

CDs: Al Stewart - A Beach Full of Shells, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.