KEF’s LS50 Wireless speakers: Our first take

KEF's LS50 Wireless speakers boast elegance, convenience, and superb sound

Something old and something new is KEF’s motto at CES 2017, as the company has given its popular LS50 bookshelf speakers a modern upgrade for the new KEF LS50 Wireless active speakers.

Before we proceed, we should clarify for those unaware that wireless is a relative term in this case. Like virtually all Hi-Fi speakers, the LS50 must be plugged into a wall outlet to source power for internal amplification. In addition, the two speakers must be adjoined by a CAT5 or CAT7 cable to communicate with one another for stereo sound. That said, KEF’s new setup cuts out a lot of the clutter – i.e., outboard amplification, speaker wires, and the necessity for a wired sound source – all while maintaining high performance and a gorgeous aesthetic.

The goods

The speaker cabinets come in three shades — black, sparkling silver, and John Lennon piano white. Their small profile makes them an ideal solution for smaller areas. Inside the cabinets, each speaker boasts a 1-inch vented aluminum dome driver set inside a 5.25-inch magnesium-aluminum alloy driver, with KEF’s Uni-Q time-correcting DSP crossover designed to sync the sound for reduced latency and phasing. The ported metal backside reveals a mess of connection options, from optical and USB to RCA, as well as a subwoofer out. Adding in Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi over both 2.5GHz and 5GHz frequencies makes for a cornucopia of ways to play. The speakers are impressively hefty when you pick them up  – usually a good thing when you’re talking about Hi-Fi performance.

The right speaker also harbors a touch keypad for onboard control. The speakers themselves connect to Wi-Fi via DLNA, allowing you to source a hard drive via UPnP for high-resolution tracks. Apart from the great sound (which we’ll get to in a moment), perhaps the best thing about the LS50’s new wireless makeover is the extremely intuitive app. Sourcing hi-res files at up to 24bit/192kHz looked like child’s play in the presentation suite in Las Vegas’ Venetian casino, and that was just the beginning. We watched the presenter get deep into the settings to do everything from equalization to phase correction — and much more. It was also brilliantly simple to pause, skip, and rewind music with very little delay — not always an easy task for wireless playback, especially with large hi-res files.

The sound

When it comes to sound performance, the speakers wowed us with a smooth, detailed, and punchy sound signature, with a lot more bass than you’d expect from a pair of bookshelves, even without a sub, though we’ll add that those looking for room-shaking sound may want to add a subwoofer into the equation — there’s only so much you can do with a 5.25-inch woofer.

The sound signature is comfy and smooth, while hi-res tracks expose plenty of detail. A Ryan Adams track we pulled up was full and creamy, with a glinty cut to the guitar and plenty of sparkle in the top end. Overall, we walked away impressed — and ready to add this convenient and stylish system into our everyday routine.

Conclusion

Pricing is $2,200 — a hefty fee that floats well above the $1,500 price of the original LS50. That said, the addition of both active power and wireless connection makes this pair a one-stop shop for convenient, Hi-Fi audio at the press of a button. The speakers are expected to ship this month. You can find out more and pr-eorder your own pair at KEF’s website.

Highs

  • Rich, detailed sound signature
  • Elegant aesthetic
  • Brilliantly intuitive app
  • Ample connection options

Lows

  • Pricey for bookshelves
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Project Alias is a ‘smart parasite’ that stops smart speakers from listening

Two designers chose to do something about nosy smart speakers. The result is Project Alias, a "smart parasite" that whispers nonsense to Google Home and Alexa until it hears a specific wake word.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Computing

Intel vs. AMD: Which chipmaker stole the show at CES 2019?

Intel and AMD have been competing for years, but rarely do they both debut something exciting at the same time. Intel vs. AMD at CES 2019 saw both companies step up to the plate. Who served it better?
Home Theater

What are HDMI ARC and eARC? Here’s how they can simplify your home theater

HDMI ARC is one of the coolest TV features at your disposal. But if you're like most folks, you have no idea how it works, if you even know what it is at all. Here's our primer on HDMI ARC, as well as the next generation technology, eARC.
Features

Netflix’s latest price increase heralds the end of streaming’s golden age

Netflix’s recent price rise is just the latest in a string of signs that streaming’s golden age is nearly over. As more services enter the fray, content will be further partitioned, signaling the end of streaming’s good old days.
Home Theater

Walmart abandons its plans for a streaming Netflix killer

Rumored plans for a Walmart owned, Vudu-labeled Netflix streaming killer have been shelved according to a new report from CNBC. The billions it would have needed to invest in order to compete apparently gave the mega retailer cold feet.
Home Theater

Looking to cut cable? Here’s everything you need to know about Pluto TV

Pluto TV offers plenty of entertainment in a fashion similar to live internet TV services, only at no cost — you don’t even need to register. Too good to be true? Here’s everything you need to know.
Home Theater

Want to mirror your smartphone or tablet onto your TV? Here's how

A vast arsenal of devices exists to allow sending anything on your mobile device to your TV. Our in-depth guide shows you how to mirror content from your smartphone or tablet to the big screen from virtually any device available.
Deals

Need a smart speaker? Amazon knocks $50 off Sonos Beam soundbar with Alexa

If you're looking to add some oomph to your home audio setup, then through February 3, the Alexa-enabled Sonos Beam is on sale for $50 off, bringing this excellent smart sound bar down to just $349 on Amazon.
Home Theater

Dolby’s secret recording studio app may soon exit stealth mode

In secret testing since June, Dolby's stealth recording and social network app may soon be ready to make an appearance. Dolby 234 blends unique noise-canceling tech with Instagram-like audio filters.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Plex is the latest player to contemplate the subscription streaming game

With massive reach thanks to its client app being supported virtually every media device on the planet, Plex is now looking at the future of its media curation platform. A future that may include free and subscription services.
Home Theater

Yamaha’s MusicCast Vinyl 500 turntable spreads analog joy throughout your home

It can be tough to listen to your favorite analog tunes anywhere besides the room where your turntable is located. With its MusicCast Vinyl 500 turntable, Yamaha allows you to stream your tunes throughout your home.