A week and a half ago I published a review of a system that I use in my dining room. This system had to meet many requirements including aesthetic considerations, size limitations, great sound quality, limited cabling, Roon Ready, etc... The final price of the system is over $10,000 and it is fabulous.
(To be read in a Walter Cronkite voice) Hold on, I'm being told KEF has just announced something for a quarter of the price that may meet all my requirements, as of 2:00 AM Central Daylight Time.
The KEF LS50 series has been a game changer of sorts for KEF. I'm not basing this on any official numbers, but I'm going on my own experience. Everyone talks about the LS50. Everyone recommends the LS50. Everyone has looked at getting a pair at least once. I could go on, but that's history. What's new are the LS50 Meta and LS50 Wireless II.
The LS50 Meta is certainly a nice passive loudspeaker using Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) and what I assume will be that great KEF sound for $1,499. However, the LS50 Wireless II is what has the wheels in my head turning. This looks like a king of the hill type of speaker, with all of its features, for $2,499. I can't wait to get my hands and ears on these.
The LS50 Wireless II is an active speaker with a new wireless platform engineered fro the ground up. I'm working on an interview with KEF to go over this new digital platform that includes new DSP and the new KEF Connect app. If I had to guess, I'd guess KEF is using a StreamUnlimited module inside the LS50 Wireless II.
Have a look at these features.
LS50 Wireless II gives you direct access to your favourite music services, including Spotify (via Spotify Connect), Tidal, Amazon Music, Qobuz and Deezer. You can even tune in to Internet Radio Stations and catch up on the latest podcasts through the KEF Connect app. AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast seamlessly connects your compatible Apple or Android device, whilst Bluetooth expands the options even further. There are also wired connections for your TV, turntable, CD player and games console, via the HDMI, analogue, optical and coaxial inputs.
Support for streaming music files up to 24bit/384kHz, as well as MQA Decoding, DSD256, and Roon Ready (RR coming soon) (UPnP working out of the box).
On first blush the LS50 Wireless II seems too good to be true. Support of extremely high PCM and DSD sample rates, UPnP, Chromecast, and Roon Ready, for this price and this size etc... is crazy. I won't say it's too good to be true, but readers should know that there is a limiting factor, the interspeaker connection. The KEF LS50 Wireless II will accept up through 384 kHz and DSD256, but this material will be resampled to 192 kHz if using the wired speaker-to-speaker connection or to 96 kHz if the speakers are connected to each other via wireless.
To me, this limitation isn't a major issue in this scenario, but purists should be aware of this digital signal processing. Speaking of DSP, it's probably crazy to assume high rate DSD and 384 kHz PCM would stay I their native rates anyway because speakers like this use DSP that doesn't operate at such high rates. In other words, even if the interspeaker connection was native (384/DSD256), the music would go through resampling for digital signal processing anyway. Thus, it's a non-issue and I'm happy to read KEF released this information publicly. I love transparency.
Another nice feature of the LS50 Wireless II is support for 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and both 2.4 and 5 GHz (LS50 Wireless version 1 supports 5 GHz but not 802.11ac). This has nothing to do with sound quality, but everything to do with moving HiFi forward and supporting technologies that high end brands should support. I have a few devices at home that require a crowded 2.4 GHz network and only support older 802.11 standards. These devices get annoying when I make network changes or try to improve my network performance, then realize I need to keep a certain configuration just so these devices can connect. Nice move supporting 802.11ac and 5 GHz. I really don't care about WiFi 6 yet and neither should you :~)
Anyway, I'm very excited about the new LS50 Wireless II and I'm working on a pair for review as soon as possible. Here are accompanying details straight from KEF.