Born out of a collaboration between Porsche Design and KEF are three mass-consumer products – the Gravity One portable Bluetooth Speaker, the Space One Noise-Cancelling Headphones and the Motion One sweat-resistant earbuds. But at this special media pow-wow on 21st March, they weren’t the main event. That accolade goes to the new KEF LS50W Stereo Speaker System, KEF’s latest effort to seduce our ears and our hearts with a complete wireless music system.
The LS50s were passive bookshelf speakers launched in honour of KEF’s 50th year anniversary. Using KEF’s famous Uni-Q dual concentric speaker drivers pioneered by industry guru Andrew Jones, the LS50 promised to deliver point-source fidelity in a compact and polished product, made wholly in the UK. But you still needed to hook them up to your own amplifier, which may not deliver the sound or user-experience that KEF wants you to have. Especially important in a digital age where everyone’s either downloading or streaming their tunes! And who likes to deal with unsightly black boxes and messy cables?
With the new LS50Ws, KEF has gone further than simply making an amplified, wireless version of the LS50. Each speaker is driven by a combination of Class D and A/B amplification, backed by an active crossover and custom DSP to ensure peak KEF-grade performance. So that everyone gets to enjoy the speakers regardless of their music source, they’ve built in a suite of wireless and wired connectivity options – DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0, Optical, Digital Coax and even Phono-Input for Turntables. Hi-Res files up to 192kHz/24-bit are supported as well to please even the most finicky of audiophiles. It just happens to free up a ton of space too.
During the demo, we were played a variety of Hi-Res music and indeed, the speakers performed quite well. In David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’ we were treated to tight bass and pristine clarity, with his vocals emanating from a spot between the speakers. Choir music recorded in Paris’ famous Elise St. Germain Cathedral had wide reverb and a deep soundstage. To convince us that the versatile LS50Ws can juice up our weekly binge on Netflix, the speakers belted out clean dialogue and heavy atmosphere in a short scene from ‘House Of Cards’.
At times, I did feel that the speakers sounded a little boomy, too hot and tensed up. But I’m sure that can be fine-tuned to my own preferences through the KEF app (iOS/Android). The app also helps you to tap into any DLNA or uPnP supported WiFi music sources. And yes, that includes your 8TB NAS server!
Before I commit S$3299 on a pair, there are some things I wish to see implemented for the LS50Ws. Here’s hoping that Spotify and Tidal support will be added soon, that I won’t have to rely on a separate device/app. And it would be awesome if it had multi-room support, a standard feature in many competing wireless speakers. But aside from these, the LS50Ws are on the right track as a complete space-saving music system, built for music lovers.
From mid-April 2017, you may audition the KEF LS50Ws at KEF’s swanky new showroom at Adelphi, CK Tangs (Orchard) and Robinson’s Singapore. Retails for S$3299 and comes in three fetching flavours: Titanium Grey/Red, Gloss Black/Blue and Gloss White/Copper.
I also took some shots of the other stars of the show. Enjoy!