A week is a long time in politics, and four years is an eternity in home entertainment. Given that KEF launched its original LSX all-in-one streaming stereo speaker system nearly four years ago, then, a replacement/update is most certainly due - especially when you consider the original LSX inspired a few flattering imitators.
At first glance, though, the LSX II looks to be identical to the model it replaces/updates. The price has risen, though - that’s a given. So how exactly does KEF hope to justify asking more money for a product that doesn’t seem different to what went before?
Just because the technical highlights - 11th generation Uni-Q driver array with 19mm aluminium tweeter bull’s-eyed into a 115mm aluminium mid/bass driver, 200 watts of Class D power - are unchanged from the LSX, that doesn’t mean they’re not impressive. And when the LSX II is up and running, it becomes obvious the specification is entirely fit for purpose.
In sonic terms, this is a focused, dynamic and very informative system. It doesn’t have the out-and-out bass extension of a bigger alternative, naturally, but it hits good and hard while controlling its bass presence well. It communicates torrentially through the midrange, and the better-recorded a vocalist is, the more the KEF will allow them to express themselves. The top end is shiny but never hard, with substance and body to accompany the bite.
The Uni-Q arrangement has long been held up as a master of focus and precision, and that’s exactly how it performs here. But there’s decent dynamic headroom to go along with the more scientific stuff, and a level of well-supervised attack that seems frankly unlikely from such a compact system.
You’re sacrificing outright scale here, of course, but the gains - both sonic and decorative - make up for it. Unless you’re determined to fill a biggish room with sound, there’s really no reason not to hear the LSX II in action.
Despite the similarities - the same driver array, the same power output, the same cabinet dimensions - where the LSX II has improved on the original LSX it has done so decisively.
The addition of HDMI ARC and USB-C inputs makes a big difference, of course - now your laptop and your TV can join your system. The change of control app from the ‘OK I suppose’ KEF Stream app to the ‘really quite impressive’ KEF Connect alternative is both welcome and necessary. And the upgraded control software and switch to KEF’s W2 streaming platform brings both greater operational stability, as well as Chromecast and Roon onto the list of wireless options.
What KEF hasn’t improved is the build quality, fit and finish of the speakers - because, honestly, it’s hard to know how it could meaningfully have done so. The LSX II look great, and are available in five quite different finishes (‘lava’ red, ‘carbon’ black, ‘cobalt’ blue, ‘mineral’ white and a finish called ‘soundwave’ that’s the result of one of the late Terence Conran’s final collaborations). Black and blue finishes feature tactile Kvadrat acoustic cloth, while white is satin matte and red is glossy. There really should be something to suit even the most demanding interior decorator.
Positioning is straightforward, as long as you bear in mind the rear-firing bass reflex port on each speaker. KEF has developed a range of LSX II supports, too - the S1 stands, P1 desktop pads and B1 wall-bracket. Each of these is a cost option, though, obviously.
The speakers need plugging into the mains, of course, but that can be the end of the wiring if you so desire. You may wish to consider joining them together physically, though, using the supplied CAT 5 cable - when they’re wirelessly paired, the speakers must downscale all higher-resolution stuff to 24bit/48kHz, but if they’re hard-wired that number rises to 24bit/96kHz. ‘Higher resolution’ in this instance refers to a maximum of DSD256 and 24bit/384kHz - and the LSX II are also compatible with MQA, AAC, FLAC, LPCM and plenty more besides.
If ‘having your cake and eating it’ sounds like an ambition rather than an impossibility, the KEF LSX II could well be the audio system for you. It combines diminutive good looks, in-no-way-diminutive performance, ease of use, breadth of connectivity and value for money in a manner very few rivals can lay a glove on.Once you’ve made your mind up regarding the finish you fancy, it’s approaching ‘no-brainer’ status…
Chick Corea Return to Forever
A fearsome test of soundstaging, dynamics (both broad and subtle), tonality, focus, control… you name it, Chick Corea and his collection of crack supporting musicians are here to put the LSX II through its paces. That the KEF is resolute throughout this virtuoso onslaught is quite a testament.
Peering into a dense, foggy mix to return with all of the details of tone, timbre and texture is a big ask when the recording in question is as uncooperative as this one. But the LSX II seem game no matter the challenge - and in this instance they bring order and clarity to a pea-souper of a recording.
Otis Redding & Carla Thomas When Something is Wrong with My Baby
Two of the most direct and eloquent communicators in the business throw down at Stax Records’ behest, and in the hands of the LSX II the result is one of the most thrillingly articulate examples of midrange eloquence this sort of money can buy.
You want something approaching full-on full-system performance from a good-looking pair of speakers compact enough to be serious candidates for desktop use. And because you’re a sucker for some vibrantly coloured speaker cabinets.