What Hi-Fi Winners 2018 KEF LS50W
Oct 10, 2018
KEF LS50W awarded Best All-in-One System of the year.
Martins HiFi Introduces KEF LS50 Wireless (£1999)
The original KEF LS50 was released in 2012 and with its arrival saw the beginning of its current status as a modern classic. Commanding such brilliant performance from a small passive box is no mean feat. However, by scaling down the technical abilities of the Iconic Blade speaker and approaching the design with a forward-thinking understanding of modern listening habits, KEF had made what is now considered one of the best small format loudspeakers in our time. Rightly so, 6 years on, it still demands to be a contender at its unchanged price point (£799).
Rather than resting on the laurels of success, but whilst also considering the LS50’s integrity so important not to change, KEF has made an addition to LS50 family in the only way that seems relevant to our ever-developing industry. They have made it an active system, The LS50 Wireless (£1999).
Active speakers aren’t a new concept, the idea being that at the very least, a speaker’s amplification resides inside the speaker cabinet and more importantly the amplification circuitry is ideally optimised for the design of the loudspeaker. We are talking about squeezing the absolute performance in technical ability and musical synergy as designed by KEF Engineers. Each speaker has its own power amp, with a 30w class A/B amplifier for the tweeters and a massive 200w to the mid/bass bringing the kind of authority you would expect from a much higher cost option.
Moreover, these speakers aren’t just uniquely amplified and this is where they really excel. They also each incorporate two unique DACs (digital to analogue converters) running the tweeter and mid/bass in complete isolation. One considerable benefit of designing a speaker in such a way is that the incredibly sensitive crossover function, splitting the signal between the mid/bass and tweeter, can be processed in the digital realm eliminating the damaging effects on phase and tone associated with analogue crossovers. This really is one example of how the engineers at KEF have perfected one of their very best speakers.
Whilst we now are now familiar with the speakers digital inner working its relevant to mention that you can plug in various digital sources such as; Optical- usually reserved for Televisions, Ethernet- to connect directly to your Router for internet access and USB for 192 kHz, 24 Bit computer Audio. Analogue signal are treated to their very own ADC or Analogue to Digital Converter which digitises the incoming signal at 192 kHz, 24 Bit so that it can be processed inside the speaker. In fact all inputs are up sampled to 192 kHz, 24 Bit. In short, these speakers are also a digital/analogue/streaming pre-amp.
Another incredibly powerful feature of this Hifi system is DSP control. Whilst keeping all signals in the digital domain the engineering team at KEF has developed a series of tonal controls and dynamic acoustic modelling features that allow the LS50 wireless speakers to be ‘tuned’ to the unique space that they reside. For example, for most people the practical place for a speaker in a room is often not the best for sound, frequently acoustic un-pleasantries are amplified by misplacement which can destroy the ability for the speaker to sing. KEF has made the compromise easier with DSP controls helping tune out what you don’t need and more of what you do.
So far these speakers are providing incredibly good performance with a vast array of options when it comes to plugging in existing kit and room tuning. However they wouldn’t be called ‘Wireless’ for nothing, Aptx Bluetooth adds to the list of inputs as is a 96kHz 24 bit Wi-Fi streamer (also Ethernet connected), giving direct access to Hi Res quality streaming via UPNP, Tidal and/or Qobuz subscription. If you are already a Spotify user the ‘connect’ feature becomes available in the Spotify app. Better yet, all of these features are operated using the two dedicated ‘KEF Control’ and ‘Kef Control’ APPs and if you are very lucky to have investing in the new ‘Roon’ Music system, they double up as a ‘Roon endpoint’, taking advantage of the many features ‘Roon’ adds including the ability to send unpacked MQA audio to the speakers. The streaming feature set transcends what the units seems on the outside as no extra kit is required to play back high quality audio from many favourite sources. In fact this qualifies the speakers to be considered a fully-fledged stand-alone Hi Fi system rather than just a set of active speakers.
Whilst this system is elegant it isn’t devoid of cables albeit as minimal as KEF could make it. Each speaker needs its own power supply via an IEC power cable. The ‘Master speaker’ which holds the processing electronics and inputs also needs to be connected to the ‘Slave’ Via Cat6 Cabling. This is a far cry from Hi-Fi systems of old and for those who wish to keep the look as minimal as possible, a dedicated stand is also available (£400) in black and white. The stands are dedicated sonically and styled to this very speaker and also include cable management to extend the attractive nature and keep the system as neat as possible.
Available in three colour variations; Black/Blue, Gloss White/Copper, Titanium Grey/Red,
These speakers would suit someone looking for a boundless sound in a refined and elegant package or someone downscaling from a larger system where compromise on sound quality needs to be kept to a minimum.
Please get in touch regarding a demonstration if you think this system would suit you.Read more Articles