Great speakers are usually made by great companies. They see innovation and excellence as important issues in design and performance. In that way, they produce the high-end speakers some will need.
Is KEF one of these companies? Are the KEF LS50 speakers good enough to be considered high-end?
We’ll answer those questions and more in our KEF LS50 Review. But first, let’s find out a little about the company.
Who is KEF?
KEF is a British speaker manufacturer founded in Maidstone in 1961. They now have a worldwide presence. Its creators were Raymond Cooke and Robert Pearch. Cooke had been a design engineer working for the BBC, and he knew what he wanted to create.
Much of KEF’s early work was for the BBC, but as the innovations increased, they started to expand their market. Through the 70s, their reputation became established, and they won a Queen’s Award for Industry.
The company was acquired by GP Acoustics in the 90s after a period of financial problems. They are now producing great systems again, and the LS50 is one of those products.
KEF had its fiftieth anniversary in 2011. To recognize that they released the LS50 a year later. It quickly became a sensation as a reference monitor that was compact but with great sound transparency and definition. It became what you might call a cult product.
Nothing had been seen with this much quality at its price point before. It still startle you with its quality today, despite it having one or two detractors.
Still getting rave reviews…
An overwhelming number of consumers and critics alike, those without an ax to grind that is, still rave about it. But we have a little insight to those who complained. We will discuss that a bit later on.
A listening experience that is going to move you is as easy as just plugging it in. Music deserves the best sound you can give it. Sit back and plug the LS50 in and hear what it really sounds like.
They have a very distinctive design that is not just for aesthetics. The design and construction of these cabinets, inside and out, has a major influence on the sound they create. They are compact but not what you would call lightweight.
They each measure 12 by 7.9 by 11.8 inches. The Left speaker weighs twenty-two pounds and the Right twenty-two and a half pounds.
The rather impressive front panels have a graceful curve. They’re made from a polyester resin that has glass fiber added along with calcium carbonate.
At the rear of the speakers are some very heavy binding posts. The toughness of those posts reflects the physical feel and capabilities of the cabinets as a whole.
The nuts and bolts…
The internal design is more than interesting. The two-system bass-reflex cabinet has a Uni-Q coaxial speaker built-in. This connects the tweeter and the midrange. It is a 5.25-inch Uni-Q driver with a magnesium alloy cone.
The membrane design is an interesting mix of aluminum, lithium, and magnesium alloys. The tweeter is an aluminum dome one-inch vented that has two layers to give it greater strength.
The tweeter is given what many consider to be the ideal acoustic position. That is located at the center of the midrange. Behind this system is a design to remove any distortion and any sound pressure from the rear of the tweeter.
KEF used its own patented technologies called the Tangerine Waveguide. This has the effect of giving the tweeter a much wider sound wave dispersion compared to other speaker systems.
Each cabinet contains two amplifiers. These will power both of the channels of the two-way system. They produce 230 watts output for each speaker.
It is an impressive setup and design that goes way beyond any system remotely similar.
We can wax lyrical about the quality of the build or the technical design. But what everybody wants to know in this review of the KEF LS50 is how they sound.
Designed for home enjoyment…
They have a frequency response of 45Hz – 28kHz with a maximum SPL of 106dB. It is a sound design that delivers a very large listening sweet spot. Despite the power and sound dispersion, they are still small compact speakers.
Therefore, they are going to struggle a little in very large rooms. But that’s not what they were designed for. These aren’t meant for large-size rooms; they are for use at home. And in that environment, they excel.
Needs a good amp…
But let’s return to an earlier observation about comments made by some detractors that we mentioned. For some speakers, you can only experience their extra qualities by attaching a decent amp. This helps them create a good sound. The KEF LS50 doesn’t ask you for a good amp; it demands one.
If you are going to attach even average level equipment to these speakers, do you think you’ll hear their quality? Do you think you will get the best out of them? If you do, you’d better think again.
To hear these in their glory, you will need a quality amplifier and quality sources attached to them. Anything less and you will be wasting your time.
Incredibly detailed sound…
The sound is rich, pulsating. It reaches clear and defined lows with sparkling highs. But the mids are exceptional. This means that the vocals and drums and the midrange orchestral instruments will shine. And they do.
All genres of music sound good, but it is when you sit in the middle of a symphony orchestra you get the real benefit. With the wide sound dispersion of these speakers and a wide frequency range, that’s where you are – right in the middle of the orchestra. Close your eyes, and you are there.
A stunning sound developed from years of innovative research. These speakers do the job.
The controls are basic and easy to use. There is a touch-sensitive control panel that is located on the top of one cabinet. You also get a remote control unit.
KEF exercises a nice design feature with remote control. The remotes are color-coded with the speakers. Order white speakers, and you get a white remote control with its brass-colored printing.
Control over the functions and features can also be exercised from the iOS or Android-based app.
One of the big points about this system is that it is wireless. We shall discuss that a little further in a few minutes. And we can see that the term ‘wireless’ is actually a misnomer.
Quality app functions…
Connections can be made through Bluetooth 4.0 or the dual-band WiFi. These connections are good and secure. We have already mentioned the iOS and Android app. This will allow you to make adjustments to the sound in a very detailed way.
It’s something that is not always the case with app-based operations. With the app, you can even make sound adjustments to cater to the environment in individual rooms.
Wireless, up to a point…
So let’s return to the ‘wireless’ thing. The LS50W, as we have seen, does feature Bluetooth and WiFi connections. The usual description of ‘wireless’ technology. However, for everything else, it needs wires.
Each speaker has to have a wire for power. The speakers need to connect with each other through a wire. It has a USB connection that needs a wire. Likewise, the digital input and RCA analog inputs need wires.
And of course, it isn’t just this system. Most are the same. Sometimes, the ‘wireless’ description is rather confusing.
Add your devices…
On the rear of one cabinet are the connections for physical attributes. Aux in left and right, Optical and PC connections, plus a socket for a wired subwoofer if you choose.
It is a wireless system in terms of WiFi and Bluetooth, but hardly ‘wireless.’ But as we said, this is not just a problem with this system.
KEF LS50 Review Pros and Cons
- Amazingly detailed and rich sound.
- High-quality construction and materials.
- Stylish and compact.
- Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
- Excellent price pint value.
- Requires a good amp for optimal sound reproduction.
Looking for Something Else?
In the market for a non-wireless sound system? Take a look at our reviews of the Best Floor Standing Speakers, the Best Bookshelf Speakers, the Best In Wall Speakers, the Best Home Theater Speakers, and the Best In Ceiling Speakers you can buy.
Or if you prefer wireless, then check out our reviews of the Best Wireless Outdoor Speakers, the Best Solar Powered Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Tailgate Speakers, the Best Party Speakers, and the Best Wireless TV Speakers currently on the market in 2020.
KEF LS50 Review Final Thoughts
If you are going to be hyper-critical of this system, then it is fair to say you could find better drivers. You may also be able to get better streamers, a better DAC, and better amplifiers. That is if you went out and bought individual items.
But unless you are about to sell your house to do it, we wouldn’t bother. You could find those elements. But what you won’t find is a company that has put them all together in one speaker system. And one that creates this level of performance at this price point.
And please don’t misunderstand us. These are no budget or cost-effective systems. They are going to cost you, make no mistake.
Setting a standard…
It has been eight years since KEF said to the speaker world, this is how it’s done. They set the bar at a new height and challenged them all to jump over.
No one could.
This speaker system has entered the realms of a select group. Qualified to be called the best audio products ever produced.
What was the name of that famous Tina Turner song? With these speakers, it is ‘simply’ applicable.