KEF R100 vs LS50 [Dec 2019]: Which is Better Value?
Last Updated on
KEF makes some of the best speakers around, with an attention to detail in build, innovative design, and undeniable looks.
The LS50s come in as both the newer set of speakers and the cheaper set of speakers. While both feature the same passive design and Uni-Q driver array, they certainly aren’t the same speakers. We break down if the extra $200 is worth it for the R100s over the LS50s
Bottom Line Up Front: While both speakers are excellent sounding, the LS50 available hereis the clear winner in my book. The sound, build, and overall look are superior to the R100s in just about every way.
|Frequency Response||56Hz – 28kHz (±3dB)||79Hz – 28kHz (±3dB)|
|Amplifier Requirements||25W – 100W||25W – 100W|
|Weight||14.5 lbs||15.9 lbs|
|Price||$1,199.99 (check this listing for the latest live prices)||$999.99 (check this listing for the latest live prices)|
The R100 comes out as a speaker that is small, but packs a big punch. Coming smaller in terms of both weight and size, this speaker cranks out some serious low-end. A slightly dodgy high-end blemishes this speaker, but not by much.
The R100 is just about as bare-bones as speakers come. The Uni-Q driver array and Z-flex surround bracing go a long way to help the sound, but there isn’t much else to note on this simplistic design.
First is the Uni-Q driver array. It’s two drivers, placed in the same spot, and acting in unison. While the front of the speaker only gives the appearance of one driver, there is actually two. This leads to a more natural sound when listening, so the highs and lows are split up.
You can, however, split them up with amplification. You have the option to use a single amplifier as your source or to bring in a second amplifier to handle certain frequencies. It’s a laborious setup, but one that the R100 affords you the option of completing.
Jumping back to the driver array, a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter sits in the center, with Z-flex bracing sitting around the whole array. This, combined with the ‘tangerine’ waveguide, will help project audio into your space, widening the sweet spot. As always with bookshelf speakers, placement is still very important.
There isn’t much to talk about in terms of features of the R100, but there doesn’t need to be. This simple speaker has enough going on internally to produce great audio that it doesn’t need to meddle in extremities.
The look of the R100s isn’t as crazy as KEF has gone before. In fact, it’s pretty minimal. The boxy design accents the Uni-Q driver array in a beautiful way and the choice of four different colors ensures you can a find a speaker that is perfect for you.
Let’s start there. The speakers come in gloss black, gloss white, rosewood, and walnut. Thankfully, the wood finishes don’t come at a premium. Instead, all four designs are the same price across the board.
The wood designs are the best. Instead of being too bright and fake looking, it’s clear that KEF has taken the time to make these finishes look beautiful. They’re slightly darker and feature some of the imperfections that wood comes with.
The speaker is also very small. This is perfect for a surround setup, clocking in at just over seven pounds per speaker. You can easily through a couple of these bad boys up on stands without having to worry about them falling down.
Everything in the design draws you toward the center driver array, and that’s a good thing. While the speakers may stick out when combined with others, it’s an undeniably beautiful look when implemented with other R series products.
Despite the small size, these speakers feature a full response. KEF’s Uni-Q driver array does a lot in both imaging a low-end response, coupled with smart venting and plenty of impact for those who crave it.
There are only two drivers in the array, one for the mids and one for the highs. However, their construction is what makes the difference. The midrange cone is made from a rigid magnesium/aluminum construction to reduce breakup problems from the speaker being overextended.
The tweeter is vented to reduce pressure behind the dome. This increases the bandwidth the midrange can occupy and lowers the overall distortion.
The geometry inside of the cabinet helps reproduce the lows that this speaker is known for. Internal vibrations are reduced on the secondary radiation, while initial vibrations are enhanced. You’ll get a better low-end from the size that’s also much cleaner.
While KEF has the tech down, not everything is perfect. The highs are a bit too brittle for my tastes. The speaker has excellent imaging and is very transparent, but it may be a bit too much for you. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely not a warm sounding speaker.
Overall, the sound is excellent though. If you like a bit of a hyped higher region, then you’ll find a real winner. Bass response is second to none for a speaker of this size, and imaging is excellent.
The R100 is a great speaker for those that want a lot of impact in a small package. While the highs are a bit too extended, it’s a small fault of an otherwise excellent looking and sounding speaker.
The LS50s come from a different bloodline. These speakers are intended to be used in a studio as a monitor and not in a home theater setup. However, they can be used there and no matter where you stick them, they are fantastic performers.
The LS50 borrows a lot from KEF’s flagship Blade loudspeaker. This mini studio monitor is built for professionals and enthusiasts a line, with a beautiful design and plenty of acoustic thought throughout.
Like the R100, the LS50 features the Uni-Q driver array. This extends the listening sweet spot and helps for a fast, clean, and responsive sound from the speaker. It cleans up the front of the speaker and helps the sound immensely.
The winner is the construction of the cabinet, though. The front baffle is shaped to reduce impact at the front of the speaker and lead vibrations to the driver itself. That combined with the smooth rear-porting help to reduce secondary vibrations in the cabinet and clean up the sound of the speaker.
With a passive design, there isn’t much else to note on the LS50s. The construction and driver array sell this speaker, with little fussing in other areas. That, however, is a good thing with a clean and responsive sound through smart design.
While the R100 is a simple box, the LS50 has a bit more finesse. The vibrant colors demand that these speakers be noticed in any room, and the curved front baffle is sure to stick out (literally and figuratively).
The speakers come in three different color combinations. There is a gloss piano black paired with an orangish/gold driver, piano white with an electric blue driver, and matte red with a flat black driver.
These colors won’t be for everyone, but I love them. The contrast between the driver and cabinet on each of the speakers is beautiful. They’re going to have a difficult time looking cohesive with other speakers, but I think the look alone is worth looking into KEF’s line.
One exception to this would be Klipsch’s reference line of the speaker. The iconic copper-spun woofer on that line of speakers would pair very nicely with the black/gold combination of the LS50s. If you have some Klipsch speakers, I would seriously consider these as an addition to the setup.
The colors are very loud but in a good way. KEF isn’t afraid to go out and make speakers that walk the thin line between unique and beautiful. While the R100s look great, they don’t manage that same special thing that the LS50s do.
However, the hype surrounding these speakers is in the sound. While the bass extension isn’t as good as the R100s, everything else is superior. The LS50s sound like they should be exponentially more expensive.
While the rated bass response is lower, these speakers can still kick out some low-end. They won’t replace a sub, but they do a lot down low. The bass is tight, with just a subtle punch to satisfy.
The bass is clean, and that is due to the roll-off in sub frequencies. KEF isn’t trying to push frequencies too low out of them, and that goes a long way for these speakers.
The midrange is natural with excellent imaging and reproduction. These speakers are very transparent, and the midrange is where that shines. Nothing sticks out too offensively while also not meddling in “scooped” territory.
However, the highs set these speakers apart from the R100s. The top-end is smooth, with fantastic detail. From low volumes to high, these speakers don’t become too brittle or harsh which is a feat at the price and size.
At the price, you’re unlikely going to find a better speaker. There is a lot of hype behind them, but for good reason. The sound is simply amazing.
From the look to the sound, the LS50s clock in as a near perfect speaker. They provide excellent value at the price with sound rivaling speakers four or five times for expensive.
While it may be difficult to integrate these speakers with others, the hassle is well worth it.
However, the R100s still have their place. The minimal design is still beautiful, and the extra high-end may sell them for you
What speaker would you go with? Let us know in the comments and, as always, thanks for reading