Anyone have the KEF LS50s?

I’m sure many of you have a 2 channel or home theater setup besides the headphone rig. If anyone has some experience with KEF, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

I’m looking to replace my Paradigm Studio 100 v4s with matching Center with something a little smaller and more wife friendly. We just moved, and we are looking for something to integrate into the room better (instead of dominate). The LS50 (especially those new Metas in matte royal blue) looks to be a good pick. I will probably pair this with a Q series center channel. The Paradigms are efficient and have worked decently with my Denon 3805, but the KEFs impedance drops down to 3.5ohms. The sensitivity is much lower on the KEFs (85db I think). I’m guessing I will need something better to push the KEFs to make them really open up. I don’t have a lot of experience matching amplifiers, so if anyone has some experience with the KEFs, I would appreciate your thoughts. I don’t have any hi-fi stores in my area, and COVID has hampered my ability to travel. I will need something to push my front three channels with out breaking the bank. Thanks in advance.

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I have the LS50W. Absolutely love them. Considering a second pair for another room. Extremely smooth and articulate. I don’t know how much difference there is between the active and passive versions. With the release of the new Metas, the prices on the original passive and active LS50s are an absolute bargain now.

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From what I’ve read the wireless often sounds better, but only because the amp is designed for the speakers. The built in DAC can be an improvement for some. I think it just depends what you’re connecting to it. If you have good gear this may not be the case, but a lot of people looking at the LS50 are just getting into the hobby which makes the wireless a really nice choice.

What do you have powering your LS50s? Have you tried different amp pairings?

I’ve had the LS50s passive and have the LS50W active speakers. To avoid fussing with amplifiers and DACs and because they’re not easy to drive speakers I would highly recommend you to go with the Wireless version, an all-in-one solution.

Based on my experience with the passive LS50s, it wasn’t until I got to amplifiers costing north of $2.5k-$3k that I got the best sound from them. They need clean and decent power to shine, so a well designed amp with a good power supply >800 VA would be my recommendation.

There’s a LOT of people offloading their LS50W on Audiogon (www.Audiogon.com) - 7 active listings as I type this…this is most likely due to the announcement of the new LS50W II and LS50 Meta. You can scoop a pair with stands for less than $1.8k which is an absolute steal.

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By the way, this video just dropped if you’re wondering how the new LS50 Meta sound.

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I briefly owned a pair of LS50s – they were damaged in shipping so it turned into a demo rather than ownership. Main findings:

  • Precise, impactful, glassy delivery similar to Focal Elear/Elex
  • Incredible imaging and localization. Instruments can be ‘seen’ with ease
  • No bass to speak of – really need a subwoofer for balance
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This is where the amplification requirements matters the most with the LS50 series. Check out the video I shared above with headphones and you’ll hear them shining from top to bottom thanks to the synergy with the amp used. Don’t expect floor standers bass-like but they do pack some good bass when properly driven.

PS: they have the same drivers as the OG LS50 except the Uni-Q which is the 12th generation and the new Meta material to reduce distortion figures.

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I have the powered version for the reasons you mentioned. I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole of constant wonder of how a given amp or DAC compares to the next. The only drawback with the powered option is center channel integration. Not sure how to go about that. I did add a 12" Rythmik sub which really helped the low end extension.

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I should add that if you’re planning to use them for movies, a subwoofer is a must. I got the SVS SB-2000 and it works really well on my secondary system.

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Had these for over 3 years, after Stereophile rated them A (restricted LF) and a few auditions. I am primarily a headphone user but the imaging of these KEF LS50 in a small office creates the illusion of incredible space. Sometimes I listen to my Abyss or HiFiman with the LS50 playing at a low volume. Especially with classical.

Not really sure I use the sub much when playing the KEFs.

I drive them with a Cary 300B amp that is rated at 15W. Pretty powerful bass response in my tiny office.

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I love my ls50 passives. They do require good current to get the the best out of them and also a subwoofer. Given that, the stereo imaging is pinpoint and soundstage is great. The metas sound like it takes this to a new level and may have to trade up or wait for the R3 meta version.

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I’m leaning towards the wireless for the reasons given, but how would you integrate a center channel?

Some considerations that might drive/inform the ultimate selection (to the extent an LS50 iteration is not concluded):

What is the breakdown of your listening time between music vs home theater? Which one is a priority?

Will the electronics be used for headphones also?

What kind of music do you listen to?

Do you want a presentation that is bright and detailed vs balanced vs warm and smooth? Forward and engaging vs laid back and relaxing?

Is having a subwoofer required vs preferred vs flexible?

Are you committed to bookshelf only and floorstanding is off the table?

What is the size of the room, and intended speaker distance from walls and listening position?

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What is the breakdown of your listening time between music vs home theater? Which one is a priority?

With the family using it, probably 70% Home Theater.

Will the electronics be used for headphones also?

No

What kind of music do you listen to?

It’s diverse. Jazz, rock, electronic, folk, and some classical. I just like good music, but I do especially enjoy listening to jazz.

Do you want a presentation that is bright and detailed vs balanced vs warm and smooth? Forward and engaging vs laid back and relaxing?

I like detail in the HF if its not fatiguing. I really enjoy a good soundstage, and don’t like mids that are recessed. Probably more of a balanced output. I haven’t listened to enough equipment know where my equipment falls on those extremes. I’ve been happy with my Studio 100s for home theater.

Is having a subwoofer required vs preferred vs flexible?

I have a subwoofer but its not required. I generally only use it for HT. Might be different with a bookshelf.

Are you committed to bookshelf only and floorstanding is off the table?

I’m open to anything that isn’t overly large. The LS50’s peaked my interest because they review well, and because of the aesthetics. I want something that integrates into the room instead of dominate. My Studio 100s are very deep and take over the room. Others in the family look down upon this feature. I find that a bookshelf speaker on a stand has less of a visual impact. White also integrates well with my room where my current speakers are all black. The LS50s also have some color options (Royal Blue) which would match nicely with our color scheme. If the cabinets had a small enough visual impact, I would consider floor standing.

What is the size of the room, and intended speaker distance from walls and listening position?

Its big. Its an open design that connects the kitchen. Its 25’ wide and 19’ deep, but if you add the kitchen its about 32’ deep.

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Thanks, this is helpful. I’ll revert back in the next day or so. You might want to check out crutchfield.com and use their SpeakerCompare feature that lets you listen to certain speakers.

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That’s a large room. It’s possible that 2 5.25 inch stand mount speakers might not provide enough volume/sound. Possibly consider 6.5 inch stand mount speakers (your Denon receiver appears to have 120 watts per channel at 8 ohms, which should be enough).

Since your usage is primarily home theater, a receiver is convenient and appropriate. It might not be necessary to upgrade your Denon receiver. If you do upgrade, consider preamp/processor and power amp separates, or a receiver with preamp outputs. Some suggestions: Parasound, Emotiva, Outlaw, and IOTAVX.

KEF speakers have great detail and an energetic presentation; at its extreme and depending on the system/room, some might find them fatiguing (more relevant for music). Some options to consider that might be more balanced and have white center channels (blue is not as common): Wharfedale, Dynadio, Elac, and Triangle (adorama.com).

I’m not certain if it’s possible to have the main left/right speakers be active and the center channel be driven by the receiver. You might want to contact Crutchfield and explain to them your use case and see if they can make a recommendation, especially where they sell all of the speakers above except Triangle I believe.

Many sellers are now offering free returns within 30 or 60 days. I recently bought 2 sets of speakers and returned 1.

Good luck.

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It looks like I found a solution to my problem. I found a pair of Paradigm Signature S-2 monitors today and decided to buy them. I haven’t seen a pair at a reasonable price for some time, but I happen to have a single S2 that I can use as a center channel. I will have no problem powering them and I’m familiar with the sound. I should even have money left over to put towards a larger sub. I ‘m still very interest in the LS50s, but I would have liked a larger driver for my sized room. I appreciate everyone’s input.

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