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KEF LS50 Loudspeaker Review Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 November 2013
Article Index
KEF LS50 Loudspeaker Review
Set Up and Listening

Set Up & Listening

I used the LS50s in two separate systems, and with three separate amplifiers. KEF told me to make sure the speakers get 100 hours of break in, and to provide them with decent power. I used the McIntosh MA6600, 200 wpc and the Electrocompaniet ECI-3 70 wpc integrated amplifiers in system one. The speakers were installed on 26-inch Sound Anchors stands, with Transparent speaker cable. In system two, they were put on 26-inch sand-filled Atacama stands driven by the new Rogue ST 100, 100 wpc tube amp, with a CIAudio PLC-1 MKII passive linestage.

KEF’s break-in advice turned out to be spot on as, out of the box, the speakers were a bit reticent. This is very common for speakers outfitted with drivers made of advanced materials.  Once the driver relaxed a bit, I heard the same spectacular coherence experienced at various trade shows (as driven by Parasound electronics). I also heard dynamics that were simply thrilling for speakers this size. And the icing on the proverbial cake? The LS50s’ dynamic capabilities seemed effortless.

KEF LS50Contemporaneous with the review period for the for LS50s, I received my copy of the Deluxe Edition remaster of Van Morrison’s monumental 1970 album, Moondance. Through the LS50s, horn lines were perfectly brassy, bass lines were amazingly precise, and Morrison’s vocal gyrations were startling at times. It almost seems like the LS50s were designed for music made from this era, with vibrant tonal colors and an analog soulfulness.

The LS50s were also a perfect match for classic, well-recorded jazz. Wayne Shorter’s Night Dreamer -- 192 Khz, 24 bit download, HDTracks -- was a sheer joy to listen to, especially with the Rogue ST 100 driving the LS50s. It was hard to believe this recording was nearly fifty years old. The KEFs exhibited the best vibrancy and midrange purity I have heard at this price point. The Shorter recording also illustrated the way the KEF produced the natural timbre of acoustic instruments.

A newer recording that I have really taken to, Sting’s The Last Ship, is a very pure sounding production. Sting’s voice is recorded very naturally, and the mix on this interesting song cycle is very dynamic and warm. This was a case of feeling drawn into the music by the LS50s, and not being able to listen while multi-tasking. These speakers demand a listener’s attention because of the organic musical presentation they provide.

On the other side of the spectrum, Paul McCartney’s musically excellent NEW, his first album of originals since 2007’s Memory Almost Full, is not a great recording. It suffers from a Pro Tools sheen, which is a shame since the songs are great fun. The LS50s did the album no favors in exposing its brittle production, but nonetheless, the music rose above, and the speakers’ coherence made the sound tolerable. The LS50 was able to contrast these two recordings, which showed its transparency to sources.

Speaking of transparency to sources, the LS50s sounded slightly different with each amplifier I used them with. The McIntosh MA6600 was evenly balanced, if a bit polite. The Electrocompaniet was a bit warmer, and offered up a soundstage that was a bit wider. My favorite pairing was with the tubed Rogue ST 100. This combo was the most holographic, tonally rich, and musically satisfying for me. 


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