Originally Posted by superbnerb
...I wish that the web had a comparison website where i could "compare" like priced speakers, based on technical spec level... there is nothing worse to me then straining to hear Frodo say something and get knocked on my ass when they start battling in mordor.
Comparing speakers based on technical specs might be an okay way to start but it should not be the sole determining factor. They are only a part of the story. If possible, you should listen to several brands before you buy.
Kef makes a great speaker. For your budget, you will get better sound if you piece together a system from the iQ series--maybe the iQ5's up front, iQ2 center, and iQ1 surrounds. Or possibly bookshelf's all around and get the better center speaker. That should give you enough left over for a sub from HSU or SVS--excellent values for subs.
Internet direct brands can be a good value, but the problem is that most people don't compare them directly to other brands. They purchase them, listen to them in their homes, like them and decide to keep them. If you can get opinions from people who have done actual A/B comparisons with some of the ID brands, then those are the opinions you should seriously consider...But again, listen yourself whenever possible.
I would recommend looking at speaker systems in your budget that include a center channel that will perform well both on and off axis. If you're struggling to hear dialogue and then being blown away but an action sequence following it, it's because the center channel isn't well designed.
With the said, I think KEF is a great choice. Their coaxial center speaker will sound great and consistent throughout your room.
Other brands to consider that meet this criteria (And in this price range, there aren't many):
Aperion Audio (An ID brand. The 5 and 6 series are well reviewed.)
Infinity Beta (With the 360 center)
Revel Concerta (Bookshelf's and center...might be slightly out of budget with sub.)