Today I’ll be reviewing the KEF LS50 wireless speakers, which are high end pro audio speakers that are best appreciated by audiophiles such as myself. Hence, I’ve been saving up for these speakers for months and they finally shipped last week. So, I’m excited to talk about them, as you can imagine. These speakers are by no means cheap – I bought mine for around $3000. But when you know what these speakers do, you’ll understand why someone would spend that kind of money on some audio speakers. Here is what they look like, if you’ve never seen a pair.
Mini KEF Comparison with Dynaudio and KRK
First let me say that I’m used to high quality audio. It’s gotten to the point where if I hear lower grade audio, I run for the hills. Which means I basically can’t go anywhere, as most audio and specifically the devices that play audio are build for non-audiophiles. The speakers I was using before I got my new KEFs, and which I still have, are high end Dynaudio studio monitors with an extrenal dac. To your average music buff, these would be quite enough. But not for me! Before the Dynaudios, I had some sweet KRK speakers, that had great sound, but I sold them in an effort to upgrade, which is when I got my Dynaudio speakers by a stroke of luck when a friend of mine sold them to me for a song. Now, with my KEFs, I feel like I’ve levelled up once again.
Why Did I Buy These?
My reason for the upgrade from KRK to Dynaudio is that those KRK monitors I had just didn’t cut it audio-wise, especially compared to my Dynaudios, not to mention these KEF’s I have now. To touch on Dynaudio briefly, if you’re not too familiar with the brand, yes, they do build high end speakers for audiophiles, but they also make studio monitors for regular folks who don’t want to spend a whole lot. The studio monitors I had were nearfield, with a small sweetspot, and overall they were not as musical as Dynaudio audiophile speakers, but that’s when I started looking at the KEF LS50’s. Dynaudio built to lower price points, for non home environments, and that’s what I had. They were good, but not great. They weren’t quite audiophile grade enough to stave me off from wanting something with real hi resolution. What I mean by high resolution, is that they will decode and play hi rez digital files, and I can plug analog turntable direct into it. And when I say “audiophile”, its the whole signal path you are trying to protect, and because so much it is controlled at the speakers by one design team, is awesome for me. And we are only talking speakers and amps. What I have here with these 2 KEF LS50’s is an integrated system, designed for a full hi end sound reproduction. I was talking to a guy at a fine audio store in Ottawa, and he said that the whole staff was blown away. If I was a record producer, I’d use these for sure. Great sound. The speaker they have built this system into, is already considered on of the very best standmount speakers ever developed. It’s trickle down technology from that 299,000 speaker system. KEF have been one of the biggest most legitimate high end speaker manufacturers since the sixties. I’ve had other models from them, and they sang beautifully.
My Audio Space and Why It Is Perfect For KEF LS50’s
My main living room, being acoustically very good on its own, sounds really really great with the right speakers. Why? Basically geometry and materials, ie. thick carpeting, and the room has cubic dimensions. Here’s sort of how dimensions work as it pertains to pro audio gear and how audio travels in the space. Generally reflective square rooms are disasters. Sound will reflect and create standing waves, particularly in high frequencies. Or cancel out. Basically depending on where you sit, and where your speakers are set up, you will get various degrees of too much these frequencies, and not enough of those…usually the ones you want because the reflections. Say a bass wave is 10 feet long, and you are in a 10 foot cube room. That frequency is going to double and cancel every time it reflects. So both of the rooms I use to play audio are pretty great that way. Also there’s and isleway, I have a virtual bass trap in my closet and crawlspace, and a port (if you think of a room like a speaker box) from on level to the other. Basically they both sound great. My house would make an awesome fine audio store location. As such when people drop by to visit, they are quite literally amazed at the audio quality I get with my speakers. I’m talking about the Dynaudio’s I had before. Wait until they hear the Kefs! I have a lot of gatherings, and music is usually a big highlight of those gatherings, and so next time anyone is at my place, they’re in for a real treat audio wise.
Features of the KEF LS50’s
The KEF LS50’s are not just biamped studio nearfield monitors, but biamped coaxial reference grade audiophle speakers, with build in dacs, dsp and various preamp inputs. If you don’t know these terms, like dac, and dsp, a dac is a digital to analogue converter. Its the part of your average pre amp, that takes whats been digitized on your computer, and turns it back to analog. These KEF speakers do just that, right at the amplification stage with no latency.
You can plug a turntable directly into them, but also stream via bluetooth from whatever tablet or phone is in the room with you (communal sound access, perfect for parties) plug a computer in via usb, inputs for line level..ie cd plare, or mixer I guess, but these are maybe a bit too audiiphile to take a chance on possible hot signals, etc. All the room mode dsp, and integration with subs, if I ever buy one, which I won’t because I dont listen to pipe organs or hip hop, is controlled by an android app, which doubles as remote control. Pretty good, right?
Vinyl VS Digital – They Both Win!
Let’s say you’re like me and you love listening to vinyl. What will make you a bigger fan of these LS50’s, I suspect, is hearing vinyl properly done. If the phono preamp stage of these speakers are at the same level they say the system performs at. We are talking amazing. However, hi rez digital, can be just as good. What the mainstream echo of the industry insiders repeat, are opinions of non optimized vinyl vs non optimized digital. Digital now has changed a lot since it was demonized in the late 80s and 90s by audiophiles. Now the software and hardware is so much better, it will out perform vinyl, if it’s not a good table, arm, cartridge, phono preamp combo. So if I can just plug this in without a decent phono preamp and it sounds like I remember my old system I had in the early nineties i’ll be astonished. I’ll even buy the same turntable!
I need audiophile grade gear to maximize therapeutic effect listening to music. Time coherency at low level details reconstructs recordings in much more natural ways. The trouble for me was, how can I ever afford the gear? On the second hand market, which holds its value, it would still cost me a couple grand per component, at least 10 grand to get to this systems performance, and then not have the versatility this has. That said, these KEF LS50’s integrate everyone into the speaker, and so my music therapy sessions are going to be a lot more rewarding from now on. (I’m both the therapist and the subject, so this was a prescription from me to me – I needed these LS50’s!)
From a design point of view its almost flawless. They are using analog amps for high frequencies and digital for low, but its all tuned through dsp. Digital signal processing to fine tune crossovers, amps, room position, dimension, and subwoofer integration. The tweeter sits in the middle of the woofer, so the sound-staging integrates immediately, which means, the have a huge sweet spot for listening, and you don’t have to be on axis for balanced sound.
When set these up a foot from the wall, they intelligently adjust for neutral. Quite impressive. I’ve mostly been reading about them up until recently on some of the audiophile sites, but if you even read the purchasers comments on that article, you see the continuity. All in all, I think I’ve made a very solid purchase here.