KEF LS50W Active Speaker Review
Be forewarned the LS50W Active audio system from KEF takes the coveted top spot in our Best Wireless Speakers comparison table. To sum it up:
- The aesthetics are a home decorators dream
- It's loaded with audiophile grade components and has high-end sound quality
- OLED touch control, physical remote and KEF app
- They are sold in stereo-making pairs!
- The combination of value, high-end performance, ease of use, tweakability, and comprehensive connectivity options seal the deal
There are 50 beautiful images on our KEF LS50 Photo Album Facebook page.
We are now delighted to let you take a closer look at this amazing audio system from KEF, a true British stalwart in the design of high-end stereo speakers. Here is a selection of the avaiable variations:
KEF LS50 Wireless Speaker Comparison Table
KEF LS50W Active Speaker First Look at CES 2017
The January CES in Las Vegas is the largest consumer electronics show in the world and is also the mother of all Hi-Fi, TV and Home Theater trade shows. The electronics trade show begin in New York City in the early 1970’s, moved to Chicago for a short period, and then found its home in Las Vegas. We are not surprised for 2017 KEF picked CES for the worldwide launch of the LS50W Active speaker system.
In the search for everything new or coming in the very near future for Hi-Fi can be found at CES and "Something Old and Something New" is the KEF motto for the 2017 show. The slogan sums up KEF's long history of accomplishments in the field of home audio music systems and what KEF has in store for audio-heads in the future.
KEF and the BBC
You've got to love that KEF have had enough commercial and critical success over the years to have its own hi-fi speaker museum devoted to the company's legacy. You’ll find KEF speakers are designed in a province of Britain and are renowned in audiophile and professional circles as the creator of some of the very best hi-fi speaker systems available.
KEF’s long time success in delivering flawless sound is an amazing story and worth learning a about if you're interested finding the best of audio systems.
Our amazing story about KEF happened long ago and across the pond. It began when the global broadcaster BBC needed a partner to design full range speakers for proffesional use and KEF’s success started by satisfying the needs of professional organizations.
In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, this global broadcaster had both demanding standards for sound quality and many specific use cases for the speaker systems they imagined KEF building for them. Our story is very similar to the challenges you will face building your own home music system, so please listen up. Back to our story.. The BBC was commitment to research and development with the goal of excellence in sound reproduction. It was serious business and was decided KEF was to design and build all of the pro monitor speakers they would use in the field and studio.
The result of the relationship is KEF/BBC designed and built rugged speakers in both large and small enclosures that were built for inside and outside use. Most of these monitors would be used by the BBC for monitoring and recording broadcasts, mixing live shows, events, and concerts.
These pro speaker monitors had to meet tight tolerances because they needed to exactly reproduce the sound and dynamics of cannon fire, symphonic or popular music played live, and actors dialogue. The audio technicians needed speakers to hear all of this with the greatest of accuracy, across the audible sound spectrum, and at various output levels.
All this professional design work eventually led to products designed for to be part of home music systems. With KEF’s meticulous designs music lovers at home were in for a very big sonic surprise.
It all started with the diminutive KEF LS3/5a broadcast monitor designed to be used in cramped BBC broadcast vans. When presented to consumers the BBC LS3/5a monitor speaker turned out to be KEFs breakthrough home Hi-Fi product. KEF sold 50,000 pair worldwide because something was very different sounding, in a very good way, when it came to these diminutive KEF's.
The audiophiles who coveted large speakers suddenly got some bad news. The bigger and heavier the wooden cabinet (that were all rage, and still are) sounded distorted and confined inside the cabinet compared to the open sounding LS3/5a! These big speaker enclosure sounded "boxy" or even worse, a bit muffled sounding compared to this petite box called LS3/5a.
Back then, the big floor standing speaker market was replete OEM tweeters of high quality. Unfortunately, the other speakers matched with the tweeters combined with the large wooden enclosure created an audio disconnect. The best speaker designers knew, the bigger the speaker the bigger the audio problems.
Like a live performance, listening to these tiny KEF speakers the music sounded alive, all in sync, with the sound hanging in thin air. With that set of abilities, the KEF LS pro mini-monitor was born and is still here today for you to cherish and enjoy.
It’s not surprising that KEF moved on from the LS5 with future designs. Although, it is a testament to brilliance that even though the L5 was designed in the sixties, the sound is so amazingly good that right now you can buy contemporary clones of this lauded speaker from commercial hi-fi companies including Harwood, Spendor, Falcon and others.
KEF LS50W Wireless Speakers At CES 2017 [Video]
Not All Active Wireless Speaker Systems are Built for Greatness
KEF’s classic speaker design meets the future with the LS50W Active. Knowing a bit of KEFs history should tell you the company is almost the point of origin for audiophile grade monitor loudspeakers. Now we will talk more about what lofty goals in speaker design looks like.
Uni-Q Tweeters and Drivers
When KEF designs something new we always take notice and have always been amazed by the sound of the KEF tweeters - In the LS50W Active, the tweeters are part of the company's latest aluminum/magnesium Uni-Q time-correcting drivers used throughout the KEF speaker lineup. Simply stated, it has musical detail and disperses a large sweet-spot giving you placement flexibility in your living space. For the desktop or in a larger listening space you'll enjoy punchy drivers tight bass performance and transparent tweeter sound giving you a “multi-dimensional soundstage experience”.
LS50W's are uniquely tuned for either listening as a desktop setup, in an open living room or near a wall. If overall sound quality (SQ) is of importance to you make sure your systems tweeters are up to the job. Don’t compromise on the excessive brightness associated with many cheap tweeters. If you listen all day to music a good tweeter like the 11th generation Uni-Q drivers will provide a rich detailed sound signature and will make long listening sessions a true pleasure.
A Complete Audiophile System is Built In the KEF LS50W Wireless Speakers
Bringing professional studio monitors to the home music system continues with the LS50W Active. With KEF’s meticulous engineering and the addition of active power and a wireless connection delivers high-end Hi-Fi for your music, games and films.
Audiophile demands meets modern convenience best describes KEF’s LS50W power for lifestylers in need of hig-end audio. It is all about your ears and KEF boasts it has one of the most sophisticated audio systems ever built into a pair of speakers. Setting new standards and combining state of the art acoustic design with a built-in streaming preamplifier, four dedicated DAC’s covering each channel, and four dedicated bi-amp dual mono amplifiers that are all factory-optimized components built-in the LS50W.
These individual amps provide 400 watts of Class D power for the bass and midrange and 60 watts of Class A/B power for the superb Uni-Q tweeters. The four separate amplifiers are applied to each Uni-Q driver and the crossover is via customizable EQ and DSP (Digital Signal Processor) with end-to-end 192kHz 24-bit digital signal path let you tailor the sound for your room and speaker placement.
KEF's Control App
You’ll have flexible user control with the LS50W via a dedicated iOS or Android app, OLED onboard touch controls and a physical remote control! Using the onboard controls and the app allows detailed adjustments for all the audio corrections for the speakers location and the room type. It's super helpful giving the home decorator in the house more positioning options.
The KEF LS50W downloadable KEF Control App is well suited for intial setup, changing settings, and DSP (Digital Signal Processor) tuning. The setup wizard will get you to your WiFi network and using Wireless Streaming Mode you will be able to do multiple levels of phase correction and room equalization.
What's a Digital Signal Processor?
A DSP is a computer processor that lets you tune your audio system. DSP components were created because audiophiles and sound engineers wanted to adjust the sound for room effects and the location of speakers. The LS50W custom designed onboard DSP along with using the Control App lets you correct for these room variances.
You'll be able to tweak and experiment with adjustments that allow you to set the room size and speaker location. You'll select and adjust room-types. From rooms with low ceilings / heavily furnished to high ceilings / minimally furnished and everything in between. Take your time and listen to your music and no matter if your room is dampened or lively you'll have a simple slider lets you precisely dial in the perfect sound for your room.
Also packed inside the KEF app via DSP is the ability to turn on Phase Correction. The DSP using processing and works with the Uni-Q drivers to time align the music signal with excellent sonic results. To get an idea of of what this tweak adds just listen to music you're familiar with and when correction is active the result is greater resolution and the stereo soundstage will widen in three dimensions.
Do I Need a Subwoofer?
To begin with, you will not find a lot of musical information below 50 Hz in recorded music. TIP: The KEF's also have Bass Extension controls that you can tweak and you should absolutely experiment with before even thinking about adding a subwoofer. Remember a poorly set-up or mismatched sub frankly can ruin the sound so tread carefully and do your homework before adding a subwoofer. Still, for music connecting a subwoofer will benifit the bass end extension with some modern electronic, rock, and classical recordings.
Now when it comes to movies and console games sound effects often times you'll have sonic information below 50 Hz. If you're looking for maximum impact with console games and film sound a subwoofer would be the coup de grâce for this KEF audio system. If you add a subwoofer the KEF Control App is very handy for setup and integration allowing you to adjust all of the subwoofer parameters.
For CD, Turntable, TV, and game consoles you have a cornucopia of connection capabilities including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, USB, TOSLINK Optical and RCA Analog connections. You can easily connect up to 12 devices including multiple Bluetooth devices and also switch your inputs using the touch bar on the right speaker, with the bundled remote, or the KEF Control App.
Once that's all done, we suggest using the streaming app or music app of your choice. With our LS50's we used Roon Labs for our music management and Tidal and Spotify for music streaming.
KEF LS50 Wireless Speakers The Ultimate Mini Monitor [Video]
The LS50W small enclosures with expert acoustic design is ideally suited for both small and large living areas. With gorgeous aesthetics and a decorator friendly look you can have the LS50W in Gloss White and Copper, Titanium Grey and Red or Gloss Black and Blue.
These speakers have a small footprint and the near perfect Uni-Q drivers disperses sound evenly delivering a big listener sweet spot and monitor accurate sound. Also, the ability to then optimise and personalise the sound experience via the app during intial setup will make a real world difference in overall sound quality.
We were all impressed with KEF LS50W's technical performance. The speakers are packed with powerful amplifiers offering near state of the art digital performance at half the price of a pair of Devialet Phantoms. It was easy to become deeply impressed with the sound quality of the KEF's and are among the very best luxury wireless music systems available.
The Ultimate Mini Monitor LS50
At Rate Your Sound we want to help modernize your Hi-Fi music system particularly with wireless streaming speakers of the best quality. We also want to suggest and recommend systems for different use cases such as replacing a stereo system, adding a system to a room, or upgrading something in particular. If that happens to be around replacing speakers - which we believe is your most important component - that is our passion to help you find the best.
We love the LS50 Wireless because they are a completely contained, fully controllable WiFI powered speaker system. We know many of you do have Hi-Fi systems you care about so if you may want the LS50 sound but don't want to replace your Home Theater AV receiver or Integrated Amp, you can easily upgrade your speakers with the original LS50’s at about half the price of the LS50 Wireless version!
You really shouldn't need anything more than these KEF LS50's but if you want to peruse the rest of the items on our Best Wireless Speakers list then happy browsing.