KEF LS50 50th Anniversary Edition Page 2

Feeling it
Wycliffe Gordon's big band jazz kicked butt, and with this recording's uncompressed album played back at (near) realistic levels the sound just about bowled me over. The drums and tuba rhythm section was unstoppable, and soundstage focus was razor sharp. I was present at the Chesky Records sessions for this album, "Dreams of New Orleans," so when I heard the LS50s reproduce not only the sound of the players, but also the church's acoustic they were playing in I knew these speakers could get the quietest, low-level room sounds just right. The brass' tonality was spot-on, downright luscious when they played sweet and mellow, and the hard-hitting transients were all there when the spirit demanded it. "Dreams of New Orleans" is an audiophile recording, but Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton's "Plays the Blues" CD isn't nearly as va-va vroom real, but it's loaded with terrific big band performances. The sound is more closed-in and two dimensional, so if you really want to know what's going-on in a recording the LS50 will reveal those sorts of resolution differences in a hurry.

Another Chesky artist, rootsy folk singer Amber Rubarth, also put the LS50s through the paces. Her clear voice and presence on her "Sessions from the 17th Ward" CD were fully realized over the LS50s, she was there, all there. This woman inhabits the tunes, she's really expressing the feelings and emotions of the songs' lyrics. The LS50s' imaging again and again surprised me, the stage was broad, deep and spacious.

Beck's remix of Philip Glass' "NYC: 73 -78" projected a dense ambient environment on my desktop! The soundstage extended beyond the actual locations of the speakers, and that open quality made it easy to forget about the speakers as point sources, they were gone! The mostly electronic washes of sound bubbled and throbbed, with bits of Glass' signature keyboard patterns emerging and then fading out of view. The LS50s bass was tighter and punchier then the Harbeth P3ESR speakers I reviewed here on Inner Fidelity a few months ago. The clarity down there was superb, but it's not a forgiving speaker, feed the LS50s harsh and gritty recordings and they're going to sound harsh and gritty.

Harry Connick Jr.'s funky groove on "All These People," a heartfelt tune about the abandoned folks in the wake of Katrina sent chills up my spine, and I love the way Arthur Latin's solo drumkit sets the tune in motion. The players' pulse was so damn solid and loose at the same time it was impossible to sit still in my chair, the LS50 communicates rhythm and pace with rare skill.

The LS50s locked onto the percussive bass jolts coursing through Jan Jelinek's "Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records" CD. Spatial density was extraordinary, and the LS50 decoded the intricacies with ease. The speakers sounded great at low, moderate and loud levels. I rarely crank the volume up, but the LS50s' freewheeling dynamics encouraged higher than average listening levels. The LS50 likes to party!

Summing up
The LS50 is the best desktop speaker I've heard at home, I wish I could have compared the LS50 with the Mini Maggie desktop speakers I reviewed and loved here at Inner Fidelity in 2011, but I never heard those incredible speakers at home. The Maggies need a lot of space around them, three feet minimum, which I don't have for my desktop; the LS50s were doing fine six inches away from the wall behind them.

The KEF LS50 truly is an auspicious model, worthy of a 50th anniversary of a legendary brand. Here's to the next 50!

Editor's Note: Thanks Steve! In rooting around for other information on these speakers I found this KEF video. It's got a good bit of marketing hype, and you can skip to 1:30 and not miss much, but I found the technical info fairly informative and interesting.

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732 683 2356

Bobolaclune's picture

Great review Steve - could you tell us what you were using as a Preamp ? Or did you just use the Mac Mini's volume control ?

Steve Guttenberg's picture

I used a NAD passive control with the Bel Canto amp, the others had their own controls.

Currawong's picture

...and they were fantastic. I expected the price to be much higher. They blended the best of what I liked about the Harbeths I demoed, but with a better overall balance. I fear my desk may be too small for them, however. 

Naamanf's picture

Now if you can just get a pair of the X300a to compare to....