KEF launched the LS50 standmounting speakers in 2012 as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations - the model name was a nod to the LS5/1A monitors it built for (among others) the BBC in the 1960s and 70s. The speaker proved an absolutely brilliant combination of looks, performance and value for money – which is why it managed to stay in production, and fully relevant, for almost a decade.
Time waits for no man, though – and for no loudspeaker either. This is the replacement/upgrade (delete as applicable) to the LS50 but unlike Facebook’s recent rebranding, ‘Meta’ in this instance refers to the ‘metamaterial absorption technology’ that represents this speaker’s biggest upgrade over the model it replaces. It involves a hand-sized puck with an extremely complex maze-like pattern on it that sits behind the tweeter and absorbs the backward-moving energy that would otherwise bounce forwards again.
It’s not the easiest of sells when the biggest difference between products is invisible, though. So is ‘Meta’ by name better by nature?
A nap hand. An all-court game. Whatever your favourite cliché when suggesting absolute dominance, choose it now. And then apply it to the KEF LS50 Meta. If you have £1000 or so to spend on a pair of standmounters, you absolutely, positively have to have these on your shortlist.
We’ll be deploying words like ‘clarity’, ‘eloquence’ and ‘precision’ here. Also ‘transparency’, ‘dynamism’ and ‘control’. Lots of other deeply positive words apply but these will do to be going on with.
From the (deep, textured and rigorously controlled) bottom end of the frequency range to the (clean, open and straight-edged) top, the KEF LS50 Meta is a model of organisation and entertainment. And that’s equally true of the midrange, which endows a vocalist with character and individuality. The entire frequency range is integrated beautifully, and the Uni-Q driver array (which positions the tweeter in the throat of the mid/bass driver) ensures believable, natural timing. The LS50 Meta delivers music as a unified whole, rather than as a collection of individual events.
They have the finesse to describe a solo instrument with articulacy, but also the powers of resolution to make sense of a complete symphony orchestra in full attack mode. They’ll hit as hard or soothe as tenderly as your choice of music requires. And while they won’t go out of their way to make a poor recording sound poor, they’re not about to roll it in glitter either. If you’re looking for a speaker that’s more interested in getting out of the way of a recording rather than sticking its oar in, these could be just the ticket.
In visual terms, there’s a lot to like here. The LS50 Meta will sit happily on a stand (or a shelf, if you absolutely must) – it features a bass reflex port at the rear, though, so a little care taken with position relative to the rear wall will help keep the low frequencies clean and controlled.
The choice of finishes (black, white, grey or deep blue) all complement the curvaceous cabinet – the curved front baffle offers low diffraction as well as looking good. And the cabinet materials– mostly MDF with a polymer resin front – make them tactile as well as clean-looking.
It’s not a particularly taxing loudspeaker to drive any more than it’s tricky to position, so don’t imagine that you’ll have to renew your entire system straight away if you decide the LS50 Meta is for you. Mind you, they’re so very capable it would be a shame to partner them with electronics that can’t exploit their prodigious talent.
It would have been difficult to blame KEF if it had decided to leave well enough alone. But the LS50 Meta is a decisive step on from the speaker it replaces, which by extension puts it high among the class-leaders. It’s comfortable with any sort of music, it’s unfailingly insightful and eloquent, and it looks the business. We’re tempted to ask “what more do you want?”
Neil Young My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)
Acoustic guitar, tapping foot, harmonica and robust-yet-fragile voice – the LS50 Meta takes these ingredients and delivers a brilliantly unified, utterly convincing performance with tonality convincing enough to make a listener weak at the knees.
Moderat Bad Kingdom
In which the KEF speakers describe the grimily analogue grind of the low frequencies with complete conviction and no little momentum. The uncomplicated propulsion of the recording allows the LS50 Meta to make their case as dancefloor experts unequivocally.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Skeleton Tree
The KEFs absolutely lap up the loping tempo, and demonstrate powers of resolution sufficient to differentiate the intensity of one snare-drum shuffle from the next. The vocal here is not the most technically accomplished, but the LS50 Meta makes its intensity and commitment absolutely plain.
The simple answer is: because you want the best stand mounting speakers this money can buy. The more complicated answer is very similar, but it dwells a little on all the very clever engineering you can’t see. You’ll hear it, though, never fear.