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Ajax

What source and amplification would you use to drive KEF LS50 speakers?

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Hi All,

 

My nephew, who loves music but is neither an audiophile or technically inclined, is building a new terrace house in an inner suburb of Sydney, and asked for my advice on how to set up his entertainment system. The house is really small and his entertainment room will encompass the living room, dining room and kitchen, about 10' x 20'. The speakers will be directed across the short side of the room, i.e. he will be sitting only 8' from the speakers themselves.

 

We visited a couple of retailers and he fell in love with the KEF LS50 speakers and has his heart set on them. Having now heard them I now know what all the fuss is about. In such a small space I'm convinced they will not require the assistance of a subwoofer.

 

Assuming a total budget of $US1,000 (not including the KEF speakers) what source and amplification (separate or integrated) would you suggest to drive the KEFs based on the following assumptions:

 

1. Small listening area 90% of the time but will want to play reasonably loud when the patio doors will be opened for parties but less than 100db

2. Music source will be a combination of local files ripped to a hard drive and streaming (Spotify and maybe Tidal in the future)

3. He has an Apple TV 3

4. They are not IT proficient and need something user friendly, however, both are competent with apple computers

5. Wants to play media from cable, Apple Movies and Netflix through the "system" via the "optical out" from his smart TV.

6. We have wired the house with CAT6 and do not require wireless

 

Specification for KEF LS50 speakers

 

Design Two-way bass reflex

HF: 25mm (1in.) vented aluminium dome

LF/MF: 130mm (5.25in.)

Frequency range (-6dB) 47Hz - 45kHz

Frequency response (±3dB) 79Hz - 28kHz

Crossover frequency 2.2kHz

Amplifier requirements 25 - 100 W

Sensitivity (2.83V/1m) 85dB

Harmonic distortion 2nd & 3rd harmonics (90dB, 1m) <0.4% 175Hz-20kHz

Maximum output 106dB

Nominal impedance 8Ω (min. 3.2Ω)

Dimension (H x W x D) 11.9 x 7.9 x 10.9 in

 

We are considering simply adding a MAC Mini but really would appreciate opinions about other sources such as the Auralic Mini, and would really like to hear your thoughts on the level of amplification required to properly drive the KEFs. My initial thought is that we run HDMI from the various sources (cable, apple TV, Mac mini) into the smart TV and then optical out to the "system" for the sound. This way you can select everything using the TV remote without having to change the system's inputs.

 

Thanks in Advance.

 

Ajax


LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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Do TVs these days allow you to do that with the screen off? If so, that sounds great. If not, I would suggest a decent AVR. You'll only be driving two channels so it should do a very nice job, and if they do decide to add a sub, a center channel for TV, etc, they are already set with a device that can do that. We have an AVR upstairs as part of a 3.1 system and it's decent. The nice thing about it is with HDMI pass through we don't have to have the TV on to listen to music. Ours is a Denon, which I like because they've always had a decent mid- to hi-fi reputation for their gear.

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I'd support David's suggestion of an AVR as one option ... though I would suggest a Marantz over a Denon. A simple, user friendly option, the AVR supports streaming of most formats from a simple NAS (such as QNAP or Sinology) perhaps running Minimserver. It will also support AirPlay and Bluetooth for easy playback from phone / tablet devices.

 

At $1,000 you're not going to get much better (IMO).

 

If you had a higher budget you could look at something like Naim UnitiQute but I think thats around $1700. Your alternative would be a DAC and amplifier but for something user friendly (read remote control) you're going to spend most of your budget on the DAC and not leave a lot for amplification.


Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Hi David and Eloise,

 

Thanks for your replies.

 

Yes David the TV has to be on.

 

My concern with using an AV, whether Denon or Marantz, is that it will not be powerful enough to properly drive the LS50s and that the internal DACs will not be of significant quality. Jimmy powder wrote in a another thread that the Arcam A19 integrated amp (rated at 50 watts) was insufficient to properly drive them. From all reports this is actually a very good amp.

 

Question: If I play the LS50 via an AV in 2 channel stereo is there someway I can redirect the "spare" power from the surround channels that are not being used to the the LS50s, knowing they have only one + and one - speaker inputs i.e. they cannot be bi wired.

 

My nephew's emphasis is on music playback and I was thinking that such fine speakers, that are fairly insensitive at 85db, deserve an excellent front end to reach their potential. If I can convince my nephew to increase his budget to say US$1,500 would that help?

 

My current thinking is:

 

1. Auralic Mini ($550) with RCA out into an secondhand stand alone power amp of around 125 watts such as the Parasound Halo A23 ($550 say) or

 

2. Mac Mini into an Integrated AMP with built in DAC like the Marantz PM 7005, which produces 60 watts and a decent DAC, with USB, optical nd coaxial inputs.

 

He has an Apple TV he can stream via.

 

Thanks again for taking the time to reply, your thoughts are much appreciated.

 

Ajax


LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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I use a pair of LS50's with an Auralic Mini and a NAD D3020 and it is plenty loud enough in a 14x25' room. In fact, I would venture to say it rivals the best systems I have heard in this room which included a $10K Audio Research system with Vandersteen 2Sigs. I use a Geek Pulse Infinity DAC with a USB output from the Mini and a pair of Regens with a Curious Cable link. You might be surprised what 30-40 watts will do with the KEFs.

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Ah, I've just done the searching, QualiFi who imports Marantz into Australia don't seem to be stocking Melody Media M-CR511 (which I believe to be good contender and easily found in HiFi stores alongside KEF LS50s for auditioning if QualiFi had ordered...

 

Sadly, same as America who didn't trust itself to be able to successfully sell it :

And also' date=' of this current [b']Melody Series[/b], the USA have not ordered any M-CR511 aka Melody Stream :

Marantz-M-CR511-3.jpg

 

M-CR511%20N%20GN%20photo_DNTXILgfeubpib.jpg

 

Sigh, official-importers (too) are idiosyncratic... Will mention New Zealand's another day

It's UK listing, Overview :

This easy-to-use unit is your open doorway to an endless supply of new digital media. The network features a Wi-Fi connection at the touch of a button (upgraded to high speed 11n, for a faster and more reliable connection), a new digital input for TV, a USB connection on the front, and a second rear USB for extra convenience. It will charge your iDevices even when in standby mode. It also supports ALAC, 192kHz / 24bit high resolution WAV, FLAC, AIFF files, and Gapless playback. With the M-CR511 you can now enjoy Spotify Connect, as well as a host of other digital media and streaming features. Alongside listening to millions of songs on the world’s most popular online music service, the Melody Stream allows playback of music libraries stored on a NAS (Network Attached Storage) or a computer, provide access to thousands of free internet radio stations, and even support Apple AirPlay. Listeners can also take control via an Android and iOS compatible Marantz Hi-Fi Remote app. Flaunting an extraordinarily stylish and elegant design, the M-CR511 also features a new acrylic top cover, providing an anti-scratch coating to help keep the system in pristine condition.

If really keen, perhaps bring it into Oz like people do from neighbours like Singapore...


 

«

an accurate picture

Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza,

 

ma ottimista per la volontà.

severe loudspeaker alignment »

 

 

 

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I use a pair of LS50's with an Auralic Mini and a NAD D3020 and it is plenty loud enough in a 14x25' room. In fact, I would venture to say it rivals the best systems I have heard in this room which included a $10K Audio Research system with Vandersteen 2Sigs. I use a Geek Pulse Infinity DAC with a USB output from the Mini and a pair of Regens with a Curious Cable link. You might be surprised what 30-40 watts will do with the KEFs.

Thats a really interesting system... given the OP's budget restriction, would you advocate using the Mini direct into the NAD?

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I don't have personal knowledge of the KEFs, but have read various reviews that suggest the respond better to higher power (even if you don't listen extremely loud), or at least to an amp with LOTS of current.

 

NuPrime Audio - IDA-8

 

If you don't go for an AVR, I'd second the NUPrime IDA-8 - it is an integrated amp and DAC, has some power, plays just about any format, and has all the connections you need. It's also simple to use.

 

The NAD 3020 is also a good choice, as the previous poster says it can easily drive the KEFs - it's known for not a lot of power in watts, but with a lot of drive.


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Audiolense DRC>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup and a RB Pi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Question: If I play the LS50 via an AV in 2 channel stereo is there someway I can redirect the "spare" power from the surround channels that are not being used to the the LS50s, knowing they have only one + and one - speaker inputs i.e. they cannot be bi wired.

If you use a pair of speakers with an AVR (vs 5/7 speakers) you can't redirect the spare power (unless you can bi-amp) however the usual limitation of an AVR (IMO) is its power supply so feeding only 2 channels gives more power to supply the 2 speakers.

 

My current thinking is:

 

1. Auralic Mini ($550) with RCA out into an secondhand stand alone power amp of around 125 watts such as the Parasound Halo A23 ($550 say) or

This will work for music, but as far as I know there is now input to the Auralic Mini for external sources (such as everything fed through your TV).

 

Eloise


Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Thank you all for the references.

 

By chance the NAD d3020 was my original choice for the front end but I thought it would have insufficient power at 30W and discarded it. For some reason NAD products are very well priced in Aus and I can get the d3020 for the equivalent of US$400. Better still its big brother the d7050 (at $900) will be within budget and I think this machine will do nicely with the additional power (50W) as it also has built in Spotify and Airplay so initially they can simply stream from their phones.

 

I had a quick look at Firedog's (and alligatorman) link to the Nuprime IDA-8 and it also looks like an exceptional piece of kit at US$995 and an even more impressive 100W. It also has all the connectivity my nephew will need.

 

Finally the Marantz M CR511 recommended by Wilhelm is not yet available in Aus, but the CR 510 is, so it should be soon. It to looks like it has all the connectivity required, and my only reservation would be whether it has sufficient power to drive the LS50s.

 

If I sourced either of these DAC/AMPS with an Auralic Mini (US$550), and then onto the LS50s (us$1,500), I believe together they would make an incredible system for around US$3K. HiFi may have once been the bastion of snobbery, with the need to pay super high prices to guarantee sound quality, but with the advent of digital audio that is no longer the case.

 

Thinking out loud I will endeavour to convince my nephew to choose this better amplification / DAC combination and to initially stream from his phone and then add a Mac Mini or Auralic Mini later when he can afford to.

 

I do understand that power rating measurements of 50W vs 100W are not necesarily indicative of how well an amp will drive a difficult load so I will endeavour to hear each of these alternatives with the LS50s.

 

Please keep the alternatives coming, I'm finding this a really interesting exercise and hopefully it will help others keep up to date with the quality of amplification and versatility in connectivity that is now available at very reasonable prices.

 

Thanks again - very helpful and much appreciated.

 

All the best,

 

 

Ajax


LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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If you use a pair of speakers with an AVR (vs 5/7 speakers) you can't redirect the spare power (unless you can bi-amp) however the usual limitation of an AVR (IMO) is its power supply so feeding only 2 channels gives more power to supply the 2 speakers.

 

 

This will work for music, but as far as I know there is now input to the Auralic Mini for external sources (such as everything fed through your TV).

 

Eloise

 

Thanks Eloise,

 

I understand your comment on the powered supplied from the AV. My nephew's focus is on music so I think the integrated amp / DAC combinations above will be more in keeping with that focus.

 

Your right - I can't send a digital signal to the TV from the Auralic Mini (unless it has an optical or coaxial in) and will need to go directly to the AMP/DAC digital input (either USB, optical or coaxial), and therefore a second optical in on the SAMP/DAC could come in handy.

 

I have an Auralic Mini and it has the capability to play music via streaming or a NAS, using either ethernet or wireless, and also has a USB for local files stored on an external hard drive. The Mini has its own internal DAC with RCA out, which you can by pass using its optical, USB or coaxial out puts. Its a very smart and inexpensive little machine. I've listen to it for two weeks now, via its LS Lightning app on my iPhone, and the sound quality is great but the app "looses" the music library now and then, however, that could be the fault of the very basic wifi network that I am currently using.

 

As always thanks for your advice.

 

Ajax


LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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i had a pair of ls50s that i tried with a creek evo 50a (speced at 55 watts/channel @ 8 ohms). i found this pairing to not work at all, making the sound of the ls50s thin, congested and uninvolving. i'd definitely make sure that whatever you choose clearly has the ability to handle the load (gets down to a rather low 3.2 ohms) and the relative inefficiency (85 db).

 

as a qualifier, i wanted to use the ls50s as desktop speakers and they were less than 6 inches off the wall. according to what i've read, performance seems to skyrocket when you get them at least a foot or two off the back wall.


source:  intel nuc8i5 (roon rock) > intel nuc6i5 (win 10, ao, roon bridge, dirac v1) > schiit yggdrasil (gen 5, analog 2)
headphone rig:  bryston bha-1 > senn hd600
two-channel rig:  luminous audio axiom ii xlr walker mod > parasound a21 > monitor audio gx100

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The Kef ls 50's need plenty of power period . Absolutely nothing less than 125 watts , better at 200 watts or above . Tube amps like the Primaluna or Rogue Audio don't need that type of wattage .

 

The Rogue Cronos Magnum II is a terrific pairing with the Kef Ls50's and a good dac .

 

I prefer the Kef ls50's with a tube amp versus solid state any day .

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Thank you all for the references.

 

By chance the NAD d3020 was my original choice for the front end but I thought it would have insufficient power at 30W...

 

 

Ajax

 

I read somewhere (perhaps over at the AVS forums??) that that little amp is underated and actually measures with significantly more power (particularly as the ohm's drop), so perhaps that is what would give it a fighting chance with the LS50s? In any case that IDA-8 seems like it has enough power, functionality, and is priced right - that is what I would try first. Well, I first would try something from Emotiva but I am not sure if they are an option way down under...


Hey MQA, if it is not all $voodoo$, show us the math!

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I read somewhere (perhaps over at the AVS forums??) that that little amp is underated and actually measures with significantly more power (particularly as the ohm's drop), so perhaps that is what would give it a fighting chance with the LS50s? In any case that IDA-8 seems like it has enough power, functionality, and is priced right - that is what I would try first. Well, I first would try something from Emotiva but I am not sure if they are an option way down under...

 

Not enough juice . I have one .

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I am following several posts on different forums regarding these speakers.

By the way, I thought you were in Brisbane, now I see you are in Sydney? I am in Grafton :).

Anyway all reviews indicate that you need serious power for these speakers. If you message me I will direct you to a guy that has a pair which he has tested with several integrated amps, which may just help.

Also re AVR's: AFAIK they have a bigger output when only 2 channels are used compared to when all channels are used.

Personally, I would look for something second hand which will be much better value than new.

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1. Small listening area 90% of the time but will want to play reasonably loud when the patio doors will be opened for parties but less than 100db

 

Ajax

 

My concern would be that 10% of the time. Most of the amplification options under discussion are, IMO, marginal but probably at least adequate for the vast majority of the proposed use. However, attempting to provide music for parties where the ambient noise floor is higher and many of the guests are outside the house with the patio doors open could very easily lead to disaster.

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Thanks all for everyone's thoughts and alternatives.

 

Based on what I've read here most seem to feel he LS50s need a bit more power than the average speaker to shine. It appears that I will need to encourage my nephew to increase his budget for the front end.

 

We need a source that can play local files and also stream so I am considering either a

 

1. Apple TV + pre/dac + power amp combination

 

2. Aural Mini + power amp

 

I recently purchased a 5b year old second hand Parasound Halo A23 power amp (125W) i saw on eBay for only US$200 and wanted to keep it for myself but I think that combine with say a used Benchmark DAC1 or a iFi Micro( alternatively an Auralic Mini) should do the trick.

 

Any other thoughts?


LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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Thanks all for everyone's thoughts and alternatives.

 

Based on what I've read here most seem to feel he LS50s need a bit more power than the average speaker to shine. It appears that I will need to encourage my nephew to increase his budget for the front end.

 

We need a source that can play local files and also stream so I am considering either a

 

1. Apple TV + pre/dac + power amp combination

 

2. Aural Mini + power amp

 

I recently purchased a 5b year old second hand Parasound Halo A23 power amp (125W) i saw on eBay for only US$200 and wanted to keep it for myself but I think that combine with say a used Benchmark DAC1 or a iFi Micro( alternatively an Auralic Mini) should do the trick.

 

Any other thoughts?

 

The Parasound should be a good choice for the KEF LS50. I have read KEF used the larger A21 Parasound when they first demo'd the LS50 in the states. So that with a good DAC/pre should be quite nice. Benchmark of iFi should do the trick.


And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Doubling power to speakers only results in 30% increase in volume (SPL). IMO get the best sounding amp with enough inputs in your price range as opposed to one with a few more watts.

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