KEF has carved a reputation for superb speakers that make use of their trademark ‘Uni-Q’ driver that mounts the tweeter in the middle of the mid/bass driver. The LS50 came about as a technical exercise to optimise a speaker around this ‘single driver’ concept and the Wireless II version is basically an LS50 that has been skilfully turned into a rival to all-in-one speakers and soundbars – while having some attributes that neither can match.
The basic design of the standard LS50 Meta – which needs to be connected to a separate amp – is retained by the LS50 Wireless II. Each cabinet still contains a 150mm Uni-Q driver, which now features ‘meta materials’ designed to reduce reflections back from the driver itself, at the very centre of a thick, shaped front baffle. But, instead of needing a separate amp, each speaker has a mighty 380 watts of on-board amplification to drive it. That means, however, that both speakers require their own mains connection.
What they don’t need is any physical connection between the two units. One cabinet has a selection of inputs; UPnP, HDMI ARC, digital coax and optical connections and a standard stereo RCA input supported by AirPlay2, Google Cast and Bluetooth. This information is sent wirelessly to the other speaker at 24/96kHz making for a simpler installation (people with more faith in physical connections can still wire the two speakers together if they want). At a stroke, this gives the KEF the means to accept a wide selection of partnering equipment with no other boxes or supporting material.
To control the Wireless II, KEF supplies a remote handset and a control app which is a bit basic compared with some rivals but is stable and works well. The KEFs are fully compatible with Roon multiroom control software and the result is a wonderfully intuitive partnership. The build quality is superb and classy touches such as the row of touch controls on the master cabinet help to make the LS50 Wireless II something special.
As well as the burly internal amplification, KEF has fitted the LS50 Wireless II with software it calls the ‘Music Integrity Engine.’ This comprises a set of Digital Signal Processing algorithms optimised for the Uni-Q driver and, after an hour or so of listening, it’s clear that this is the best implementation of the LS50 to date. The speaker is effortlessly powerful (although, you might be surprised at how easy it is to live with, despite having the best part of 400 watts at its disposal) but the control and cohesion from those Uni-Q drivers is sensational.
The scale and impact that this relatively small speaker can deliver is profound. The LS50 Wireless II has a level of bass impact that some floorstanders would kill for but wields it with a speed and articulation that is addictive. With music, it ensures you are swept up in the timing and drive. With film and TV material sent over HDMI ARC, there’s no on screen event that the KEFs cannot do justice to. And it’s not only about the volume on offer. The LS50 Wireless II is not the most forgiving speaker you can buy but the clarity and tonal accuracy is astounding.
The LS50 Wireless II is an exceptionally spacious and three dimensional performer and, provided a modicum of care is taken with how they are placed, there are precious few single-chassis speakers or soundbars that can get anywhere near the soundstage these speakers can create. Combine this with that extended headroom and you have a speaker capable of filling almost any room with an effortless performance.
The KEF’s striking design divides opinion and some might find it jarring with traditional furniture. The wide range of colour options helps to to manage this, though, and the dedicated stands are a smart (if pricey) option, while the comprehensive streaming service support and useful connectivity make them simple to integrate with other equipment. But bear in mind, although the LS50 Wireless II does away with the need for speaker cables, any wired components need to be able to reach the inputs on the main speaker and that can be a little more involved than when your amp and other kit shares a rack.
The KEF is a great idea brilliantly executed. The combination of all-in-one virtues with two physical cabinets bridges the gap to more conventional hifi in a way that very few rivals can.
Dead Can Dance Song of the Stars
It only takes a few seconds of the opening huge, low note to realise that the LS50 Wireless has a low end weight that is extraordinary for a standmount. The control and definition of this bass is top notch too.
Jorge Ben Ponta De Lança Africano (Umbabarauma)
Power is nothing without control and the manner in which the KEF’s slice their way through this picosecond perfect piece of Brazilian funk is a demonstration of their immaculate timing and rhythmic ability.
Robert Plant Silver Rider
The KEF’s outstanding tonal realism is on display here as Plant’s vocals are locked to the centre of a performance that builds around him with supporting vocals and instruments sounding rich and clear without a trace of unwanted congestion.
If you want the convenience and 'it just works' phenomenon of a wireless speaker but with more serious hi-fi credentials, the KEF is a fabulous solution, combining the best of both worlds with an assurance that very little else gets anywhere near