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    The Computer Audiophile

    KEF's New LS50 Collection

    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. 

     

     

    20-KEF-LS50WirelessII-TitaniumGrey-Uni-Q-Close-0920.jpgThe 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. 

     

    And 

     

    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. 

     

    20-KEF-LS50WirelessII-Mineral-White-TopDetail-0920.jpgTo 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.

     

     

    20-KEF-LS50-Meta-Product-Info-Sheet.pdf 

     

    20-KEF-LS50-Wireless-II-Product-Info-Sheet.pdf
    20-KEF-LS50WirelessII-Finish-Assortment-Group-0920.jpg



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    Hopefully they have worked out the bugs.  I have the original LS50W and LSX.  Both have had complete failures and had to be replaced.  Kef did take care of things so that is great.  I have had nothing but trouble with the Kef speakers though, wireless never worked basically with any consistency.  I ended up with a bluesound node 2i going to the digital input and they work fine.  I've also had Dynaudio Xeo 3 and 4.  the Xeos have never failed to work, no glitched no issues no dropouts nothing.  I think they sound better too, they are missing the connectivity options though you still need a streamer.  If Dynaudio could ever add Roon ready and spotify etc.  to the connect box they would really have something.  

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    1 hour ago, OldBigEars said:

     

    LOL My wife would insist we sell my system and get these, if she knew they existed.  

     

     

     

    Whats her number, i'll help you out!

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    I have a gorgeous pair of original white LS50W’s in my living room. I considered replacing them but my SO adores their looks and sound. So I upgraded them myself, using an Allo USBridge signature and an SMSL Sanskrit 10 V2, hooked into the auxiliary input. The Allo Ethernet input is via fiber optic converters. ROON upsampling still maxes out at 192, but to my ears the combination surpasses a straight connection to the speaker’s internal DAC. 

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    22 hours ago, ejlif said:

    Hopefully they have worked out the bugs.  I have the original LS50W and LSX.  Both have had complete failures and had to be replaced.  Kef did take care of things so that is great.  I have had nothing but trouble with the Kef speakers though, wireless never worked basically with any consistency.  I ended up with a bluesound node 2i going to the digital input and they work fine.  I've also had Dynaudio Xeo 3 and 4.  the Xeos have never failed to work, no glitched no issues no dropouts nothing.  I think they sound better too, they are missing the connectivity options though you still need a streamer.  If Dynaudio could ever add Roon ready and spotify etc.  to the connect box they would really have something.  

    Well, I have to say that my pair of LSXs have been flawless in terms of connectivity. Now that I'm working from home due to Covid-19, they are streaming for perhaps 10 or 12 hours a day. And they look great too - I have the piano gloss white. 

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    Just ordered a pair! I have been mightily impressed by the LS50 since it was introduced. A good friend was an early adopter and he still has his original set. Best sound to price ratio on the market bar none.

    I needed a decent pair of speakers for our vacation home. Given that no other components other than my phone is required these fit the bill in spades. If I bring my laptop I also have Roon and all my musical files (>4k)! 

    Now if they make a pair of Blades with the same abilities I might give up the 60K spent on McIntosh and B&W's I have invested😁

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    On 9/22/2020 at 6:37 PM, AudioDoctor said:

    So correct me if I am wrong,but this thing will accept DSD, but it will be resampled down to 24/192, at best, no matter what?

    I belive you are right. Regardless, In my experience anything above 24/96 is just numbers. Over 96 the difference you hear are dictated more by the fidelity of the master than any computer manipulation of the recording.  Regardless of of format I still have to find any digital format that con dethrone a 45 RMP analog record as far soundstage and nth degree musical reproduction is concerned. Even my kids can A/B it 100% of the time! The best digital file always sounds as a facsimile of the original master. Please don't make me explain why it just does. Also note: that type of vinyl release is rare, usually limited and quite expensive. In addition, it takes equally expensive turntables, cartridges and preamplification to be able to reproduce it.

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    I owned a pair of the original LS50w’s and had them connected up to my iMac via asynchronous usb output

     

    The new LS50a’s do not have a USB input - I would of presumed that the best possible sound connectivity wise would be wired via the Kefs USB??

     

    Why did they remove this and is there a better connection available than USB?? - remember the iMac does not have any digital outs or HDMI outs.. just a headphone out limited to 96khz?

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    1 minute ago, kwb1 said:

    The new LS50a’s do not have a USB input - I would of presumed that the best possible sound connectivity wise would be wired via the Kefs USB??

     

    In my experience your presumption is incorrect. There is no single best interface.

     

     

     

    1 minute ago, kwb1 said:

    Why did they remove this and is there a better connection available than USB?? - remember the iMac does not have any digital outs or HDMI outs.. just a headphone out limited to 96khz?

     

    My guess is that it was removed because the platform KEF is using doesn't have a USB input. I guessed that the StreamUnlimited platform is being used. no confirmation or denial from KEF in the email I received back. 

     

    Just use the Ethernet or WiFi input and call it a day. 

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    I have the original LS50W on stands in a rather large room with 22 foot ceiling and they sound amazing.  They worked quite well with Roon and an Aurender.

     

    I will say, they stopped working when I changed to an Eero mesh WiFi system 4 months ago.  Just all sorts of issues, but in short, I cannot get their app to even recognize the speaker, or in occasions when I can, it does not show up as a Roon endpoint and I have just streamed Tidal from the KEF app.

     

    I have worked with their tech support and been told, in short, that it does not work well with Mesh networks.  I was told to try and assign a fixed channel (36,40 or 44), set a static IP to the LS50W, and for the Eero to push WiFi to the LS50 only on 5GHz but could not figure out how to do all of that in Eero app.  I then got separate tech support for the Eero and was told it cannot do that and the IT person thought that the problem might be that the Eero  will flip back and forth between 2.4 and  5GHz ultimately looking for the cleanest channel and he could see how that could be a problem for the speaker.  Very frustrating as Mesh networks are really not anything new.  My situation is either change the network or only use the Aurender (which I hope to sell).  Even when I tried hardwired ethernet connection with KEF tech support it did not work because  the speakers ultimately need be controlled through there app which is of course needs the WiFi.

     

    The Eero works great BTW- not a single bug or hiccup besides this

     

    My hope, and prayer, is that the LS50 V2 plays nice in the proverbial sandbox with Mesh networks.   The KEF support person I was working with thought that the V2 will work with Mesh networks and I had word from my dealer  that he believes it should work with Eero - but no solid confirmation.

     

    So, I am more sending this out as a FYI,  as I am assuming others have similar not works and, there is a fairly high likelihood that others use Eero.  I don't think it is unreasonable to expect a WiFi product at this price range to work with a mesh network, and Eero is a rather popular one, so hopefully that is corrected in the LS50 V2.

     

    Otherwise, besides this frustration, it is an amazing product.    They sound great, and image on par with almost any speaker I have heard.

     

    Wishing all the best of health and happiness in these unique times - have a great weekend

     

     

     

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    I had a pair of LSX that I used in my living room, and I began with low expectations - just better than the single box solutions for social background music. They won me over big - enough that I thought, I'd be shush-ing guests if some favorite came on.

     

    To reduce total pieces and wires, I decided to try a set of wireless LS50s in our master bedroom. (Replacing a Peachtree Audio integrated, B&W CM2 plus subwoofer speakers, different wireless DAC's rotated in and out.) Sold everything after two weeks. One week for the speakers to settle down, and then... those two speakers slayed the competition in the room. The imaging... yikes.

     

    Side effect. The sound characteristics of the KEF driver setups is very seductive. I have one high end system in my studio I've loved for almost 20 years, another in our family room... but the sound of the KEF and their character are quite different from both, and have put me in questioning the longstanding favorite systems. That uni-Q setup is quite seductive in many ways.

     

    Would I upgrade my existing KEFs? Don't think so, but would I upgrade my studio system from its current big floor standing speakers, oversized integrated amp, streamer plus DAC? Yeah, that's crossed my mind more than once.

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