Top positive review
Killer performance in a small format for a fair price! SERIOUS issues w/app, though...
January 17, 2017
I pre-ordered the LS50 Wireless in black & blue, waited for nearly two months, and just received them today. I've hooked them up, have been listening to them for a couple of hours now, and here are my initial thoughts.
First, here's a breakdown of my setup:
• Installed on Target MR60 stands (24-inch height), with spikes on Target pucks.
• Setup using the KEF app is simple and intuitive; I had no issues and everything was up and running in 5-10 minutes.
• Placed in a very large room, probably 28 x 36 feet, with lots of hard surfaces. Approximately 30 inches from the back wall, with a slight toe-in.
• Installed carefully and accurately measured to ensure placement, and I'm streaming over WiFi from my iPhone 6S. However, all the files on my phone are AAC at 24bits with higher than standard sampling rates. I'll be hooking up my ELAC Discovery server, at some point, as my primary source.
• After listening for an hour or two, I connected my REL Acoustics T-7i subwoofer using their Arrow wireless system. After tweaking everything to get the perfect balance, here are my thoughts on sound quality...
I expected the LS50 to sound harsh, given the number of hard, reflective surfaces in the room. However, this is where the sound settings in the app are invaluable. You can change high-frequency response in very small increments, and tune the speaker for proximity to the rear wall. You can either do this via the Basic menu, or go into Advanced to gain access to more settings. With this flexibility I was able to get the LS50W sound to my liking. Accurate, detailed, but smooth.
I feel the speakers image very well, but I need to widen my placement to better match the size of the room. I always start just a touch narrow, and increase the spread until I get the imaging nailed. I'll play around with optimizing that over the next few days.
I was also quite impressed by the bass response of the LS50Ws -- and that was before I added the subwoofer to the mix. They produce very tight and musical bass that is well-integrated into the speakers' overall voice; you never have the sense that many small speakers give of an emphasized bass curve designed to compensate for small speaker size. I don’t see how anyone could be disappointed by the bass response of this speaker on its own; it really is exceptional for such a small cabinet.
These speakers play cleanly and maintain their focus and tonal balance up to very high volume levels; I was quite impressed that they could do so in such a large space. Adding the REL sub to the mix just took the entire system higher; together this system has musical, tight, and fast low-frequency performance -- along with the ability to maintain articulation across the entire spectrum regardless of how high you take the volume.
After adding the Target spikes and pucks to the stand, I remeasured the distances to ensure perfect symmetry and slightly increased the width between speakers. WOW! I keep playing 2 tracks over and over: "Royals", by Lorde and "You Found Another Lover" by Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite. Incredibly different genres and recording styles; while "Royals" is all studio and mix work "You Found" is two great musicians, an acoustic guitar, harmonica, and solo vocals. The little KEF is incredibly articulate, detailed, images well, but is never strident. Ignoring the "cons" mentioned below, the LS50 is a true gem!
My only "cons" so far are the fragility of streaming music via the KEF iPhone app; I've had several issues with this. The app will show that a song is playing when there's no sound coming from the speakers. Even more confusing, it showed that Stevie Wonder was playing when U2's "Pride" was most definitely pouring from the speakers. Out of several hours of playing time (3-4), I've spent a solid 30 minutes dealing with that issue. Usually a hard quit of the app and restart fixes it -- but it's quite annoying and happens too frequently for a serious piece of kit at this price point.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: Wow. The LS50 App is really terrible, even after the update. Custom settings in the Advanced menu repeatedly disappear and restore to default, and the app consistently fails to connect to the speakers. Songs play but the app becomes unresponsive; you can see the controls but control nothing. I've uninstalled, reinstalled, updated, unpaired, repaired -- and this has to be one of the worst iPhone apps I've ever used. Do NOT buy these speakers if you'll be relying on the app. They work fine when fed by a wired source, but using the KEF app alone renders them next to useless. This is an outstanding product that's almost completely crippled by a terrible app. Even worse, KEF customer support has been unresponsive to this issue. KEF -- is this honestly the best you can do?
Are the KEF LS50 Wireless Speakers cheap? Absolutely not. However, when you consider how much money it would take to build a high-quality system around "regular" KEF LS50s, the Wireless version really starts to shine. It offers exceptional quality at a very reasonable price, is easy to setup and use, and it works with a variety of sources. If KEF gets the app to work as it should, I think this speaker deserves and extra star. My next step is to install my ELAC Discovery Music Server and use that connected to a 2TB SSD drive as my primary source. Running Roon on this system should take it to the next level! More to come...