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 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.
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.
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.
- Rich, detailed sound signature
- Elegant aesthetic
- Brilliantly intuitive app
- Ample connection options
- Pricey for bookshelves