The Definitive KEF LS50 Review – Is it Worth the Price Tag?
The KEF LS50‘s are high quality studio monitors designed to bring professional level audio into the home and smaller workspaces. Their design was somewhat driven by the LS3/5a, although they have much different characteristics and noticeably different sounds. The LS50 model provides greater depth of bass, as well as drive and comes at a very affordable price (relatively speaking).
The LS50’s offer a cabinet design, along with a coaxial driver similar to Blade Speakers, which are in a totally different atmosphere in terms of price range. However, that is a small hint KEF was serious when designing the LS50’s, with clear intentions of ensuring they deliver top-notch performance compared to other loudspeakers in the same segment.
When you evaluate speakers, you have to be a bit cautious about rushing to a decision too quickly. If you test speakers in a store, part of the results will be based upon how the store has their listening area set up. Smaller rooms will help some speakers sound better, just as larger areas can have a negative effect on certain models.
Two channel speakers need a fair amount of space to get an accurate sample of their sound quality, so if they are packed into a tiny area they will probably not sound all that great. The LS50’s need the right space and the right equipment to perform up to their full potential.
The speakers have a classy look coming in piano black with gold trim or piano white with blue trim. They are certainly not intimidating in pure size, but the construction is top notch, along with a fit and finish that is smooth to the touch.
While appearance doesn’t make any difference in the sound quality, it shows KEF paid attention to every detail when designing these speakers. These loudspeakers are 12 inches x 8 inches x 11 inches and are primarily composed of MDF, which helps to maximize inertness.
Overall, the KEF LS50 features a sleek and compact design.
The Uni-Q Driver looks very similar to the driver used for the Blade speakers, with the tweeter positioned directly in the center, allowing an excellent source point. The midrange-woofers are just under 5.3 inches in diameter and the tweeter’s measure almost exactly 1 inch. Each component is aluminum and they are crossed over to one another at 2.2kHz.
KEF took great care in the way they designed the front baffle of the LS50. The baffle is constructed with engineered polymer and is contoured to minimize diffraction effects almost completely, providing a seamless wavelaunch.
While ports are not often a focus of many loudspeakers, the LS50 port is something special. The advanced design of the port assists in eliminating turbulence, as well as resonances. This results in bass, which is free of distortion or unintended sounds.
- LS50 Frequency Response
- 79Hz-28kH/ -+3dB and -6dB point of 49Hz
- LS50 Sensitivity
- LS50 Nominal Impedance
- 8 ohms and a minimum 3.2 ohms
- 2nd/3rd Harmonic Distortion Under 0.04%/175Hz-20kHz
- Max Output 106dBs
The LS50’s are capable of providing amazing audio, but they need to be paired with a quality amplifier. If you use them with a cheap $500 amp, they won’t give you anywhere close to the same experience. The amplifier does not have to be of the $10-$20,000 variety, but it should be in a mid-range of quality with specs most $1,500 and up pieces come with.
In a series of audio tests a pair of LS50’s were hooked up to 3 different amps to determine how much the sound quality and performance would vary using equipment in three completely different price ranges. The results were impressive.
While the tones and exact flavor of sound the LS50’s produced varied to a small degree, depending on which amplifier was being used. The power, clarity and overall performance were remarkably consistent. There was almost no drop-off at all in total speaker performance.
Additionally, if you are looking for power and volume, the LS50’s will almost blow you out of the room. I hate to even say it, but at times, they can almost be too loud. These speakers offer amazing voicing and deep, full bass you are unlikely to find with any other speakers in its class. In fact, these speakers perform close to the level of monitors priced twice as much the LS50’s.
While the LS50’s performed amazingly well, there are a couple of faults, although very minor in the big picture. The bass response can run a bit loose at times and at higher volumes, voices or mid-range piano tones can lose some of their audio integrity. Neither of these present large enough variances in quality for most people to notice, but even though they are slight, they are there.
KEF LS50 Price
About $1,500/pair as of this writing (For the latest prices and discounts, check here)
|Amp required||25-100 Watts||Frequency resp. (/3dB)||79Hz – 28kHz|
|Drive unit||Uni-Q driver/ vented aluminummagnesium/aluminum alloy||Harmonic distortionsecond & third/90dB- 1m/||(0.4%/- 175Hz-20kHz)|
|Frequency rge.||47Hz – 45kHz||Max out||106dB|
|Weight/kg/lbs.||7.2k/15.8 lbs.||Colors||Piano white or black|
|Nominal impedance||8 (min. 3.2)||Price||About $1,500|
KEF LS50 Awards & Recognition
KEF has gained plenty of recognition for their efforts in designing and bringing the LS50’s to the marketplace. In the last 3 years, they’ve accumulated more than 20 awards and various types of recognition from many different media sources and industry guides as top bookshelf speaker. Below are only a few of the numerous accolades KEF has collected.
Magazine / Issuing Body: Hi-Fi Choice
What Hi-Fi? Sound/Vision Category – Product of the Year
Magazine / Issuing Body: What Hi-Fi? Sound/Vision
Product of the Year 2013
Magazine / Issuing Body: Stereophile
Speaker of the Year 2012
Magazine / Issuing Body: CNET
KEF offers a warranty on all of their products and typically, the warranty is backed by their local distributors and KEF themselves. The warranty period varies depending on what type of product is concerned and details are below.
- All warranties cover flawed materials or workmanship. The warranty period begins on the day of purchase and is good for one to five years, as follows:
- Passive loudspeaker systems are warrantied for 5 years.
- Active loudspeaker systems, subwoofers/motorized speakers are warrantied for 1-2 years based on the individual product. Please contact your local distributor for details.
Best Feature of the LS50
The best overall feature of the LS50 is its exceptional value, meaning the price and the performance it delivers. There is a reason it has won so many awards over the last couple of years and has been the talk of the industry in many ways.
The clear, powerful studio quality sound it delivers and the $1,500 price tag, offers an exceptional value to users looking for premium audio quality for their music or home entertainment system.
Worst Feature of the LS50
There are no glaring flaws with the LS50 that create significant issues. As mentioned above, the bass can lack tautness and some of the mid-range tones can lose some of their definition at high volumes. However, these are minor variations in quality and do not take away from the overall audio experience.
Final Thoughts – Is it Worth the Price Tag?
You will be hard pressed to find another loudspeaker in the same segment and price range as the KEF LS50’s that can offer similar performance. KEF clearly put a significant amount of resources behind the LS50 project and could easily expand the LS model into a full line of products.
However, reading several interviews of upper management at KEF, they appear committed to keeping the LS50 as a standalone loudspeaker. They obviously know they have something special, so perhaps they believe it is best to keep things simple.
It is easy to recommend the LS50’s to almost any user who is looking for a high quality pair of loudspeakers, given its superior performance and value. However, users should be aware it is important to match the right equipment and space with the LS50’s.
Speaker placement, room size and style, along with the type of amplifier used, will all have a significant effect on the sound quality. Pairing the right amplifier with the LS50’s is especially important and users would be wise to avoid trying to “get by” with a cheap amplifier.
Overall the KEF LS50‘s get a two thumbs up, 5 stars and a highly recommend from this reviewer! Hook your LS50’s up to the right amp and you will have an amazing system capable of delivering high fidelity studio quality sound right in the comfort of your home.