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double award winners for 2012 KEF LS50

“The LS50s are simply a brilliant achievement and a fine way to celebrate KEF’s 50th anniversary”

KEF R Series

“The KEF R Series looks gorgeous and sounds fantastic. What more could you want?”

www.kef.com


www.kef.com

stereo speakers FIRST TESTS

top tip

KEF LS50 | Stereo speakers

KEF’s quality still golden after 50 years

While the KEF LS50s aren’t particularly fussy abo ut positioning – they eve n sound acceptable clo se to a wall – they’ll perform at the ir best with ample room to breathe.

In our experience, Anniversary products tend to be either high-end

Stereo speakers From desktop mites to full-size floorstanders, the speaker market is brimming with quality kit. And there’s a pair to suit every budget

mega-money statements to show just what the company is capable of, or distinctly retro to show where it started. KEF’s new LS50 is neither. The marketing blurb goes on about connections to the fabled BBC LS3/5a mini monitor (which used KEF drive units), but the fact is that there’s little technical substance to link the two.

Best standmounter £700-£1500

That shouldn’t matter – the LS50

KEF LS50

remains a blindingly good speaker for the money.

KEF has an enviable habit of winning our Product of the Year Awards. This year is no different with the LS50 picking up where last year’s winner of the title, the Q300, left off. Given a little space to breathe and mounted on a pair of solid stands these monitors sound terrific. The first thing that strikes us is the quality of the bass performance – for a box that stands just 30cm high, these speakers deliver impressively deep, agile and powerful lows with the likes of Bob Marley’s Concrete Jungle. But the LS50s don’t over-egg things; everything sounds in balance, and that’s important.

Fine balance and bounce The drive unit complement is the latest evolution of KEF’s trademark Uni-Q array. The Uni-Q may look like a single unit, but it’s really a 25mm aluminium dome tweeter in the centre of a 13cm magnesium/ aluminium–coned mid/bass. The idea is to improve the way the speaker disperses sound and help integration.

Articulation with emotion

What looks like a grille in front of the tweeter is in fact a waveguide that improves

it’s flexible. This helps to reduce any

its high-frequency performance. Even

unwanted midrange distortions.

without that opinion-dividing colour

We’re impressed by the speaker’s seamless integration too, as we are by the

Given a little space to breathe and

– KEF calls it Rose Gold – this is one

mounted on a pair of solid stands (see

distinctive driver complement.

below) these monitors sound terrific. The

The engineers have worked hard on the

drive in a piece of music brilliantly.

first thing that strikes us is the quality of

cabinet. That curved front panel is made

the bass performance. For boxes that stand

of DMC (Dough Moulding Compound:

just 30cm high, these speakers deliver

For boxes that stand just 30cm high, these speakers deliver deep, agile and powerful lows. But everything still sounds balanced

way it sets up a huge stereo image

USE IT WITH Leonard Cohen Old Ideas A beautifully recorded album full of subtle layering and nuance. Sounds great with the KEFs

populated by securely focused sounds. And, perhaps most importantly, these speakers are fun to listen to. It’s not something (we think) KEF has always managed with its products. Here it has. Of course, the LS50’s innate transparency means that any flaws in the partnering kit will be apparent. But get it right and you have what is one of the best standmounters below £1000, and easily one of KEF’s most

a polyester resin combined with glass

deep, agile and powerful lows from the

fibre and calcium carbonate). DMC was

likes of Massive Attack’s Flat of the Blade.

chosen for its mass and inertness.

But, unlike most small speakers that deliver

The rest of the enclosure is made from MDF. It’s heavily braced and strongly damped to minimise any resonances. We don’t tend to go on too much about

big bass, the LS50s don’t over-egg things – everything sounds balanced. Move up the frequency range and these KEFs continue to impress. Kate Bush’s

reflex ports. The elliptical one used to tune

vocals on 50 Words For Snow are as clear

the bass on the LS50 is unusual, though.

and articulate as you could wish for. These

Put your fingers inside and you’ll feel that

speakers communicate the energy and

Reproduced from What Hi-Fi Sound And Vision November Issue 2012 www.whathifi.com

Move up the frequency range and these KEFs continue to impress. Kate Bush’s vocals on 50 Words for Snow are as clear and articulate as you like, and there’s no shortage of insight or emotion. The LS50s communicate the energy and drive in a piece of music brilliantly. We’re also impressed by the speakers’ seamless integration – as we are by the way it sets up a huge stereo image populated by securely focused sounds. Perhaps most importantly, these speakers are fun to listen to. You can thank a sure-footed sense of timing, class-leading cohesiveness and strong dynamics for that. Put it all together and you have one of the finest standmounters below £1000, and a worthy winner of our Product of the Year title.

musical efforts in years. That’s the way to celebrate half a century.

Rating ★★★★★

These monitors sound terrific. For a box that These terrific. For a box that standsmonitors just 30cmsound high, these speakers deliver stands just 30cm high, these impressively deep, agile and speakers powerful deliver lows impressively deep, agile and powerful lows

FOR Transparency, impressive resolution; excellent bass for size; fine build and finish AGAINST Demanding of partnering equipment VERDICT The LS50s are simply a brilliant achievement and a fine way to celebrate KEF’s 50th anniversary

Reproduced from What Hi-Fi Sound And Vision Awards Issue 2012 www.whathifi.com

Reproduced from What Hi-Fi Sound And Vision Awards Issue 2012 www.whathifi.com


www.kef.com

EXCLUSIVE

stereo speakers FIRST TESTS

KEF R100 | Stereo speakers

Killer KEFs deliver a superb soundstage

KEF R100 5.1 | Speaker package

Gorgeous looks, gorgeous sound, gorgeous package

news, especially when it comes from a

USE IT WITH

We raved about the KEF R100 speakers in

soundfield. The KEFs are relatively

October, so we couldn’t wait to get our hands

compact, but deliver heaps of easy

on a cinema system assembled from the rest

dynamics that fill our generously sized

of KEF’s R Series.

listening room. Play the Romulan attack

First things first. The system is made up

The launch of a new speaker range is big

5.1 speaker package FIRST TESTS

Marvel

scene and you’ll be amazed at the system’s

of two identical pairs of R100 speakers for

ability to convey the movement of such

the front and rear channels, a R200c centre

large objects moving in the vastness

channel, and a R400b subwoofer.

of space to such a impressive degree.

The construction of each speaker unit

It’s not just show-stopping explosions

Avengers Assemble The superhero event of the year, Joss Whedon’s Marvel masterpiece is finally out on Blu-ray.

We can’t end without mentioning the KEF system’s looks: in short, it’s stunning. The entire system has a sleek and clean design, with magnetic grilles negating the need for any unsightly fascia holes. The cabinets are sturdy and feel like high-end quality constructions that belie their price tag. The ‘tangerine’ tweeter looks shiny enough, and we rather love the high

demands a closer look, thanks to KEF’s

that get all the attention. It’s an immersive

gloss piano white finish. Other equally

distinctive Uni-Q driver arrangement. The

experience no matter what the scene: every

good-looking finishes include glossy piano

speaker technologies, and that’s the case

R100 standmounters each contain a 25mm

sound effect can be easily tracked across a

black, rosewood or walnut veneers.

here. The nine-model line-up calls on some

aluminium dome tweeter that uses

spacious and detailed soundstage.

of the design philosophy behind KEF’s

refinements borrowed from KEF’s

state-of-the-art, £20,000 Blade speakers –

state-of-the-art Blade speakers, siting at the

channels, with all three working as if a

spend extra money on quality speaker

for example, the 25mm aluminium dome

centre of a new 12.5cm magnesium/

single entity. Dialogue is crisp and clear,

stands is the only thing that comes to mind,

tweeter is a vented design. It sits in the

aluminium alloy mid/bass driver.

with a startling directness.

and that just goes to show how talented

manufacturer with KEF’s pedigree. With a new range usually comes new

centre of a new 13cm magnesium/

The centre speaker is a three-way design

We’re struggling to find any fault with

Integration is stunning across the front

The compact sub is a key element,

this KEF speaker package really is.

aluminium alloy mid/bass driver, in KEF’s

with the same Uni-Q tweeter/mid driver

delivering precision and punch to all sorts

trademark Uni-Q driver arrangement. Inside

(with a slightly different surround) in the

of impactful effects. More impressively, it

the cabinet, special damping techniques

middle, flanked by two 13cm bass drivers.

maintains that steady hum of the ship’s

have been used to prevent unwanted

Twin 250W Class D amps power the

engines without ever being obtrusive.

internal vibrations.

subwoofer’s side-firing 22.5cm drivers.

With just the Uni-Q driver in the centre of the gloss-black cabinet it can take a little

Astounding performance

time to acclimatise to the looks, but the

And the effect is astounding. We’ve watched J J Abrams’ Star Trek a few dozen

In some instances, music is flung so wide and high that you’d almost swear there were extra speakers in your system

times, but played through this system the movie felt fresh and exciting all over again. The first thing you’ll notice is the incredible scale of this package. That

magnetic speaker grilles, which keeps the speaker’s fascia hole-free. And, instead of having binding post links on the outside of the speaker, they’re hidden on the inside:

Rating ★★★★★ FOR Great scale and fluid dynamics; seamless integration; excellent definition; expressive midrange; cohesive and engaging sound AGAINST You’ll need to budget for stands VERDICT It looks gorgeous and it sounds fantastic – what more could you want?

The vented design aims to disperse the higher frequencies evenly across the room,

The R100s are available in Piano Black, Rosewood and Walnut finishes

There’s a fine sense of space, with the

scale and a shrunken soundstage. in any

vocals and instruments clearly positioned

case, it only happens rarely and it’s

and well-defined. Integration between

something that we’d be happy to live with,

midrange and treble is seamless.

considering the KEFs’ admirable – and quite

The KEFs project Emelie Sandé’s Daddy in fine style. There’s also a great sense of

If you want a speaker that sets the

two knobs on the rear of each speaker.

scale and authority as the track switches

musical scene, the KEF R100s can do

from a relatively slow-paced intro before

it like no other at this price. The scale

Driver design means great dispersion

hitting a more vibrant, dynamic groove.

and soundstage are of show-stopping

One of the benefits of KEF’s Uni-Q

This shift in attack is communicated easily

proportions, which many rivals will really

arrangement is that it encourages more

and explicitly and this translates well when

struggle to match.

consistent dispersion than a tra0ditional

switching to The Dark Knight OST. Highs are

driver arrangement. And in the R100 this

as sweet and delicate as we’ve heard from

effect is immediately – and dramatically –

KEFs at this money. For the most part, the KEFs deliver low

with a wonderfully full and expansive

notes with far more power and authority

soundstage. In some instances, music is

than you’d expect from a speaker of this

flung so wide and high that you’d almost

size. There is a slight trade-off: with some

swear there were extra speakers hidden

tracks, bass notes can sound just a touch

away. And, there’s an impressive order and

overblown. Placing bungs inside helps

precision to the various elements of a track.

lessen the effect, but then there’s a loss of

Reproduced from What Hi-Fi Sound And Vision August Issue 2012 www.whathifi.com

which results in a wide and unified

remarkable – strengths.

you engage and disengage them by rotating

obvious: the speakers present the listener

Integration is stunning across the front three channels, and dialogue is crisp and clear with a startling directness

Is it worth every penny of its asking price? Without a doubt.

tweeter is a key ingredient to the sound.

overall fit and finish certainly befits the £600 price tag. Neat touches include

this system: the fact that you’ll need to

Rating ★★★★★ FOR Excellent build and finish; expansive soundstage; sweet highs; expressive midrange AGAINST Just a rare, slightly compromised low-end performance VERDICT An extremely talented speaker: we can’t wait to see what the rest of the range has to offer

Reproduced from What Hi-Fi Sound And Vision Awards Issue 2012 www.whathifi.com


KEF 2012 What Hi Fi Award Review