Official Kef LS50 owners thread

Discussion in 'New Gear - Values' started by canuckaudiog, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

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    It depends on so many things. To me if the speakers were initially very good but taper off, that sounds like a room and/or placement problem. I found this before I got into room treatments, EQing and distributed bass. I'd get a new pair of speakers, and they would be exciting for a little while, and then after a while I would get bored of them. After dealing with the room that changed completely.

    It also depends on what your criteria is for a good loudspeaker and what you enjoy most in sound reproduction. For me it's detail, sound staging, clear midrange and articulate bass (in that order). I want my music listening to be an experience, and superb detail and sound staging do that for me. I like to close my eyes and forget I'm sitting in front of a stereo. To achieve that it takes two things for me, one is a speaker exactly like the KEF LS50, and two a properly tuned and treated room.

    Also, don't discount your mood in these things, and what music you are playing. Are you playing the same music you always listen to? Or are you finding new tunes to listen to? Listening to the same music over and over again gets boring. Try to find some new albums and music to listen to and it may revitalize your interest in the speakers and your stereo.

    Why do I say this? Not to defend the LS50, but to perhaps stop you from making a mistake like I did. I sold my LS50s the first time around because the room they were in was horrible acoustically. I knew the speakers were great, but the room was just awful. I always regret that sale because now I am in a larger room, and have far better acoustics. However, it took me some years but I finally got back there. And, I learned a lot along the way, which I am now applying to my new experience with the LS50s. There is no other speaker I would want at the helm of my stereo than the LS50. It's just that good.

    Of course at the end of all of this, the LS50 may just not be your cup of tea. That's always a possibility.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2018
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  2. Hawkeye83

    Hawkeye83 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Keep in mind too that these are $1,000 speakers. They ain't the end-all, be-all...if money is no object, anyway. They are great though, for what they are. And I've never even heard a pair "optimized." I've owned two pair now. Both times hooked to a Peachtree Decco which is good-but-not-great, probably a little underpowered for the LS50's. And absolutely zero room treatments. And sitting on a credenza, not even on stands. And they still sound quite good, at times amazing. They definitely compete with my KEF 107's, which were $4500 in the 1980-90's...not in the bass so much, but the clarity and speed and high end extension are definitely superior in the LS50's.

    You're right though, many speakers for many tastes. You'll know sooner or later whether they are keepers for you or not.
     
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  3. roadie1

    roadie1 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    You two, I really do appreciate the tips and advice. Solid and informative. You've both given me a new perspective......
     
  4. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

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    No problem, I'm always glad to share my experiences. I've been at this for 6 years now and have tried many, many things. If you want any help with placement or how to organize your stereo, feel free to share details of your space and room and I can give you some pointers that would help.
     
  5. crn3371

    crn3371 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I happen to have a similarly sized room and I’m getting along just fine with a single REL T5
     
  6. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

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    2 subs will always be better than 1. It's not about increasing bass output, it's about evening out the peaks and valleys in your bass response. You can really only do that with multiple subwoofers. In my case, I run three and when the bass is EQ'd, I get flat bass from 20Hz up to 150Hz. It sounds incredible, especially with the LS50s.
     

     

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  7. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

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    Day 3 and 4 with the LS50 Wireless...

    Day 3 was a bit of a revelation for me. As I mentioned previously, I was still finetuning the set-up which included the subwoofers and placement of the LS50s. Well, by golly, I think I've got it! At least, I'm about 90% of the way there now. I was having some difficulty achieving a flat response with the three subwoofers because I recently changed out one of them, and the one I changed is now facing downwards instead of facing forwards like the previous subwoofer. This meant the way it affected phasing and bass in the room would be different. As a result, the settings on the subwoofers needed to change. After about an hour of running sweeps and playing around with the phasing, I managed to find the response where I had no nasty peaks or valleys. Perfect. I then applied a parametric EQ and flattened the bass.

    Next, I decided to tweak the placement a bit. When I first set up the LS50s I put them 70" apart, and then the listening position was 80" away from both speakers. According to KEF, they recommend about 2.5-3 meters distance apart, and the same for the listening position. 80" works out to being about 2 meters, which while not 2.5-3, is close. I decided to move the speakers apart 5" each to achieve an 80" equilateral triangle.

    I don't think I was prepared for what was to come. I sat down and wow! Moving the speakers out just that little bit and tweaking the subwoofers pulled everything together. The sound became more spacious, with better definition between instruments. The stage became immense, spreading to the far outer reaches of the speakers. Bass was taut with great tone. It was like visiting the eye doctor and finding the right lens. Everything became coherent and clear. Of course, beforehand it was not like it was muddy or undefined. But, there was a sense of "squish" in the middle - with voices sounding a bit too strong and the stage was not quite as large. I listened and very much enjoyed this for another couple of hours and decided to call it a day.

    The next day I sat down and fired up the stereo again. It was another "wow" moment. This solidified for me that I had in fact found the right placement and settings for the LS50s. One telling piece was the live recording of Heart playing Stairway to Heaven. Holy smokes. With the huge soundstage it was easy to believe I was sitting in the front row hearing this played live. Separation was very good, even when the recording hits the high point and gets quite loud. With a lot going on the LS50s managed to hold on without any sense of falling apart or smearing. Most importantly though is they conveyed the emotional context of the piece very well. I could feel the soul in each instrument; especially Ann Wilson's voice. At the end of the song I felt elated. And when it comes to enjoying sound reproduction, there is really no better feeling than that. It was right then and there I knew that these speakers and this system are pretty damn good.

    After that I decided to change gears and threw on Infected Mushroom - Becoming Insane. This electronic song is produced well and has fantastic bass. The LS50s did not disappoint. Again, wow! I don't know if I've ever heard this song sound this good before. It was a foot-jamming, head banging experience from beginning to end.

    I feel I've pretty well come to understand what the LS50 Wireless is all about. They are, without a doubt, one of the greatest products I've ever owned. The biggest draw for me was the all inclusive system. However, it was also my greatest concern. Could something so compact really provide the experience that a great component system could? Yes, it can. KEF spent three years perfecting this system and the results speak for themselves. The benefits of components matched to the speakers, active crossovers and DSP technology are in full force here and have made a very good case for why this ought to be how more loudspeakers are made. It brings to mind what will be next for KEF - are they going to introduce active versions of some of their other loudspeakers? Imagine an active, tri-amped Blade.

    In summary, so far I would have to say the LS50 Wireless is incredible. There don't seem to be any compromises with the captive system, and instead many benefits, both functionally and sonically. There's no doubt in my mind they are an improvement over the passive version, and that says a lot. I can't think of a single downside to them in terms of sound. Functionally, I can think of a few improvements. But if you are considering the wireless model and you know you like the passive model, I'd say go for it. You will not be disappointed.
     
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  8. prighello

    prighello AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Canuck, thank you for your detailed write ups this is really good info.
     
  9. bleu

    bleu New Member

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    *panting*

    I just accidentally the whole thread! Great stuff!

    The comic irony is that I swapped my D3020/LS50 setup for the LS50W about two weeks ago.

    The LS50(W) has certainly made my passion for music all the stronger.

    I guess I’ll go check out the LS50W chatter now. Cheers.
     
  10. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

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    Welcome to the club! The Wireless LS50s are fantastic, aren't they? I love mine.
     
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  11. bleu

    bleu New Member

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    Thanks! Yes, I’m very happy after 50+ hours.

    I was actually quite happy for 3+ years with my NAD/LS50 setup, but I kept reading about how the speakers would do better with more power, so that was always a nagging thought. A friend of mine bought a pair of LS50s and tried them with the D3020. He said he wasn’t satisfied and after trying a couple other amps, including a Rogue Sphinx, he settled on an Anthem 250wpc beast (can’t remember the exact model). Unfortunately, I couln’t hear his system because he lives in TX but all that talk gave me the upgrade bug, big time.

    Initially, I thought about just getting a different amp and the Peachtree Nova 150 looked very appealing. The new Sky Decco actually looked perfect with its built in WiFi streaming but the Nova just looked a lot more robust. Then of course, there was also the LS50W (should be called active instead of wireless). When I read the design specs I was really impressed. It makes a lot of sense to tailor the amp to the speakers; it’s been very common in pro audio for decades now. Also love how each driver gets its own amp and DAC.

    But hearing is believing, isn’t it? The only true test. There’s a dealer near me that carries both KEF and Peachtree, so I thought I’d audition some stuff, and maybe even conclude that the NAD setup was fine for me after all. The LS50W was the most appealing option on paper but an amp only upgrade would have been easier because I wouldn’t have to sell the LS50s if I went that route.

    Anyway, the dealer in question didn’t offer me an audition but just said I should pull the trigger on the LS50W. So I did, but not through them, because I don’t really understand why they’re in business as a brick and mortar shop if they can’t demonstrate their wares. I bought ‘em on KEF Direct instead and sold my passives to a friend in NC.

    Right off the bat I was impressed with the improved bass. Yes, the passive does great for its size, but I was missing more than I thought in that department. Rock is my favorite genre, but I like a lot of stuff and I’m having a little hip hop/reggae renaissance with all this glorious bass right now. I will say that this improved low end has very mildly ‘excited bass issues’ as someone here so eloquently put it earlier in this thread, so I’ll probably experiment with a couple of bass traps behind the speakers and see if I can get my wife to go along with it if it helps.

    Initially, the actives seemed a bit less pleasant or weaker in the highs but I got over that impression quickly; I think it was purely a result of the improved bass. The low end is the most prominent difference between my old and new setup, but I think the actives are proving to be more satisfying, more ‘palpable’ sounding, and more smoothly integrated across the spectrum as they break in. They offer *even more* insight into how well a recording was tracked and mixed. Just more and better from top to bottom. They’re also shockingly satisfying at low volume.

    Of course, it is possible that I’d be this happy with an amp upgrade and the passives. But having pretty minimalist preferences and a small house I absolutely love having this fantastic performance in such a tidy package. iOS + LS50W and I’m done! Mostly streaming Spotify right now but I will try Tidal soon and see if I can hear a significant improvement with lossless over 320—haven’t really been able to so far through my headphone ABX tests so far.

    I can see how the LS50W would ruin a lot of the fun for hardcore audiophiles that enjoy mixing and matching, wheeling and dealing, acquiring, liquidating, and re-acquiring...I could go there pretty easily too but I’ve got enough other hobbies like guitars and recording gear, don’t need another! :)
     
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  12. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

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    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, bleu. Your findings line right up with mine. I didn't spend as much time with the LS50 as yourself, but it definitely resonates with how I felt about the wireless model over the passive model. Palpable is a great word to use, I'd say that is exactly the difference. I always felt like the LS50 was similar to sticking your head right into the recording space. The wireless is like throwing your whole self in there! You get the crystal clear sound, but there's a greater sense of impact and texture with the wireless model. It's just as you said, you get more insight into how well the music was made. In some ways it's a downfall when it comes to poorly recorded music, but even then it's still fairly enjoyable.

    Like yourself having everything in one neat package is compelling. I have lived with component systems for as long as I have been in this hobby (6 years now) but over time I've thought, the less stuff I have, the better. Not just for sound, but looks too. I really enjoy the way a minimalist set-up looks and the LS50W will get me there. Eventually I want to buy the performance stands KEF made for the LS50 and get rid of my component stand, mount my computer monitor to the wall, and hide the PC. Then it'll literally be just the room, room treatments, subs, and the speakers. Very clean in looks, but sound too.
     
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  13. bleu

    bleu New Member

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    Location:
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    Definitely count me among those who love the LS50’s looks!

    I got my speakers (or should I say ‘system’) in white/copper and ordered the matching performance stands—as part of getting my wife onboard with the purchase. Unfortunately, the stands are on backorder with no specific ETA. Not thrilled about spending $400 on stands plus another $50 on inert filler and hardwood protection discs, but they do look really nice and choices in white are awfully limited. Right now they’re mounted on stands that my dad gave me with the NAD/PSB Alpha system he gave me back in...’94. I could paint them, but they don’t have cable management built in, which will be nice to have. Will post a pic when it’s all finalized.
     
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  14. neevo

    neevo Super Member

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    Thought I’d update on my experience with my LS50’s as I’ve recently changed amps and it’s had a marked change to the sound. Trying to find the exact combination I have was not pulling any info off the web so hopefully this serves as info for others.

    Originally I was powering my speakers with a 1970’s Kenwood KA-7100, rated at 65wpc but in reality they tend to actually deliver 70-75wpc especially after they’ve been reworked like mine was.

    Sound was great!

    Or so I thought...

    I’ve kept a same era amp but upgraded the wattage to 80wpc on paper (and again probably closer to 90wpc in reality although this amp is awaiting a refurb): a Kenwood KA-8100.

    The change in sound is incredible! I’m still not 100% happy with how it’s dialed in as I have a small hole in the bass area (as it integrates with my stereo subs) but there’s 2 clear differences:

    1. THE BASS!!!!!!! Jeez I read about how these speakers punched out bass but I’d never experienced myself. No change other then a different amp and the bass is deep, rumbling, tight and warm. I actually couldn’t believe it, even after turning subs off, myself and a mate struggled to hear the subs effect at all. Crazy!
    2. The woofers hardly move, whereas before they would noticeably react to music, now they hardly move at all and this is even with the huge change above, maybe they’re linked and the lack of control before was killing the bass response.

    Can’t comment broadly but obviously these are not very efficient speakers and within the Kenwood KA range I can confirm that more power is definitely a better thing. I wonder how they’d sound on something like a Kenwood Supreme 600 at 130wpc :rockon:
     
  15. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

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    I'm currently using a very cheap pair of Target audio stands. They're thin and lightweight, but are doing the job for now. I'm curious to see what sort of difference a good pair of stands will make. I'd really like to hear your impressions of the performance stands over what you have now, if you notice any significant differences.

    What kind of flooring are your speakers on? Is it floating floor, concrete, or wood? I've been doing a bunch of reading on speaker stands and I understand that using the spikes and the way the speaker is loaded on the stand can make a difference depending on the flooring they reside on.

    It sounds like the bigger Kenwood has better current capability. With the LS50, because its impedance gets fairly low (I think as low as 3.2 ohms), having an amplifier that is capable of higher currents opens up the LS50s more. Current is, in my opinion, more important than WPC when it comes to something inefficient and harder to drive like the LS50. When I had my passives years ago, I used a Primare i30 for that very reason and it was a big upgrade over the Marantz power amp (not a vintage one, a modern one) I was using. Part of that was quality and circuit, but I always felt that part of the difference was the current capability.

    For your bass, so you are running two subs then? That's great! Are you using a PC as a source by chance? If so, I have something I can show you that will elevate your set-up.

    One thing I definitely recommend is finding some way to measure frequency response in your space. I use a miniDSP UMIK-1 myself (a USB-powered, calibrated microphone), but there are other options. It has been indispensable for tuning my subwoofers and finding the right settings. You'll be able to nail that "hole" right away and dial everything in to perfection. Having flat bass has been a big, big upgrade for me. It not only improves the bass, but everything else sounds excellent without any emphasis on a certain frequency. Bass is by far the most troublesome frequency range for sound quality.
     
  16. neevo

    neevo Super Member

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    No PC as a source. I’m running a turntable and SONOS Connect. I’d be keen to hear some thoughts on how I could dial in the subs though. Currently I’ve had no way of measuring changes other than seat of the pants and using music.
     

     

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  17. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

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    I have to run out for a bit here but I will write more on the subject later.
     
  18. bleu

    bleu New Member

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    Will be happy to report once I have the new stands set up. I don't expect a big performance boost from them; I really got them for their looks and feel like I'm overpaying, but I didn't see a lot of good options available in white. Maybe they'll surprise me, or maybe using the spikes+ protector discs will make a difference. Right now I've got my old buckshot-loaded steel stands, with their T-bases, on felt pads because I plan to give them away. Until recently, I was using them with rubber pads kind of like the LS50's on my floating bamboo floor with premium underlayment that provides pretty good sound absorption. I didn't really hear much difference between felt and rubber though the latter held them in place when Roomba, now retired, bumped past. Haven't used spikes since I was renting. It seems like using discs with them might alter the coupling characteristics--I imagine this has been discussed before.
     
  19. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

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    Okay so as far as dialing in the subwoofers and the best way to do it.

    I like to follow the method used here: https://mehlau.net/audio/multisub_geddes/

    Basically you work on one subwoofer, get it dialed in correctly, then add the second subwoofer.

    The keys to getting good bass with multiple subwoofers are:
    • Placing them in the right spot in your room; and
    • Picking the correct volume level and phasing.
    It's tough to do by ear, but if that is all you have. then give it your best effort. Perhaps a calibrated SPL meter might be handy here too. Personally, the ultimate solution is a calibrated microphone and some measuring software (like Room EQ Wizard). But, with that said, if I were to do it by ear this is how I would tackle it.

    First listen to what your system sounds like without subwoofers. Find a few reference bass tracks you intend to use, and play them. Add the one subwoofer, and get it dailed in. Listen again. Place the second subwoofer in what you consider a great location (and, some tips here would be, along the rear wall near the middle, or perhaps along the other side wall but not in the corner. First sub I think is best in one of the corners). Another tip - get your subwoofers off the ground. I haven't done this yet but according to the literature and measurements I've seen it makes quite a difference.

    Anyhow - after you place the second subwoofer, dial it in, and listen again. For a reference track I really like Flight of the Cosmic Hippo. It has a huge variety of bass frequencies and you can easily tell when it starts to get louder or softer. It should sound, more or less, even throughout.

    If you cannot get a good bass response doing this, then I would start by moving the second subwoofer to a different location. For me, my subs are located like so. Sub 1 is located in the northwest corner. Sub 2 is located on the south wall, about 3' from the west side wall. Sub 3 is located on the east side wall, about 4' from the south wall. When I was dialing in my system, I found it was really important to have the third subwoofer facing the listening position. If I placed it somewhere else I would always get huge valleys around 60Hz. Once I moved it to be facing the listening spot I was able to eliminate all the valleys.

    That would be my advice. In my case, I could not manage a flat frequency response with two subwoofers - I had to have three. Every room is different, though, and you might be able to do it with two.

    Finally, my last piece of advice, is to apply a parametric EQ to your system somehow. If you venture down the road of taking measurements of your system's response, you can get your bass all the way there with a parametric EQ. This is what I've done - using my PC and Room EQ Wizard (which is my main source), I use software called Equalizer APO, and what it does is apply a specified EQ to the output device on the PC. So, I take measurements in Room EQ Wizard, and in Room EQ Wizard create a parametric EQ. It's very easy, too, as the response is simulated while you apply each EQ setting you create, so you can get to a flat response without much guesswork. After that, I apply the EQ to the output, and voila - flat bass!

    You can, of course, get pretty close by just adjusting placement, phasing and volume level on each subwoofer. But it's something to consider. I believe miniDSP sells some products where you can import an EQ setting to it and you can chain it into your system.

    On another topic completely, back to the audio stands, it turns out @bleu I'll be joining you in seeing how the performance stands are. I've had the KEF GFS-124 stands on order for a month, and both times they showed up, they were missing pieces. Apparently the KEF canadian warehouse is not doing so great and has a lot of stuff missing. So, to placate me, KEF offered to sell me the performance stands at their cost. For about another $50 over what I paid for the GFS-124s, I'll be snagging the performance stands. I don't know if I can say what I paid or not, so I'll just say that I'm getting a very good deal on them. I'm extremely happy. I have no idea when I will receive them but I'll now have the matching stands like I wanted in the first place.

    And just to add a few comments about my impressions of the LS50 Wireless now that I've had them for over a week. I still feel the same way I did about them when I first heard them. Of course, they're more dailed in now, especially my subwoofers. But my overall impression is the same. They are really amazing. It still blows my mind just how little these cost for the experience I am getting.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2018
  20. neevo

    neevo Super Member

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    @canuckaudiog brilliant read, thanks for that. I’ve bitten the bullet and ordered the MiniDSP UMIK-1, I’m struggling to get imperical results (just subjective) and believe this will let me truly work out how it’s performing in all my listening positions and with various speakers and subs in various setups too.

    Without 3 subs I’m a little at the mercy of speaker and sub placement however getting good bass out of the LS50’s has certainly helped with more options as I’m not reliant on the subs only to fill in the bottom end (I’m still blown away by how much bass the LS50’s produce!).

    I’ll be interested to see:

    1. How my impressions of my current setup compare to a proper measurement (I feel a bit of a mid bass hole I would guess around 150hz)
    2. How my everyday listening setup compares to my audio setup/position (I think there’s a sub bass hole below 80hz)

    I’ll also be keen to see if recapping my KA-8100 does anything to the frequency response too. I have some interesting times ahead.
     

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