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Digging your scene: Tidal and the KEF LS50 Wireless

  • Per their unofficial announcement at Munich High-End 2017, loudspeaker manufacturer KEF have today made official an update to the company’s LS50 Wireless control app, one that adds support for Tidal streaming to their future-facing LS50 Wireless loudspeaker (reviewed here and here). Update your existing app from within or seek out new versions from the Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store.

    From yonder press release: KEF proudly announces its partnership with TIDAL, the global music and entertainment streaming platform, and its integration into the KEF LS50W app. The highly-anticipated inclusion of TIDAL makes high resolution audio enjoyment easier than ever, bringing high quality music to KEF LS50W users.”

    “The KEF LS50W’s incredible ability to reproduce sound is perfectly complemented by TIDAL’s streaming of detailed, uncompressed, lossless streaming music files. Unlike other streaming services, TIDAL provides more options for music lovers and shares KEF’s dedication to high resolution sound. All of TIDAL’s vast music selection is easily enjoyed by LS50W users without compromising on sound quality.”

    “TIDAL is now available in the navigation drawer of the LS50W app after a simple app update. Users with a TIDAL subscription need only to tap on TIDAL and log in to begin enjoying their enormous catalog of music on the LS50W.”

    Tidal might be the mainstream press’ whipping boy when it comes to music streaming services but it’s popular with audiophiles because of the US$20/month lossless tier, one that now also offers hi-res streaming for selected titles via the ever-controversial MQA technology.

    Users are advised that music is streamed from Tidal servers directly to the KEF app and is then sent onwards by the app to the LS50 Wireless speakers themselves over the LAN via UPnP.

    Digging deeper we note three additional points:

    1) As Tidal streaming relies on UPnP here, gapless playback with Tidal remains MIA. That won’t be fixed until KEF introduce a fix via a firmware update, applied via their desktop app. A Windows version can be downloaded here whilst the MacOS version is presently stuck in Apple’s app store-approval bottleneck. KEF say that the corresponding gapless firmware fix won’t land until “later this year”. How much this matters to you depends on your streaming habits: are you an albums guy (like yours truly) or are you a playlists guy (like those pesky millennials)?

    2) Turn off the phone or tablet running KEF’s Android/iOS app whilst Tidal streaming and the music will soon stop. This is a Tidal limitation, not KEF’s. Tidal don’t yet offer a Spotify Connect-like service that turns their app into a remote control and has music streaming directly from cloud to speaker. A Google Chromecast Audio hooked into the LS50 Wireless, digitally via TOSLINK or analogue-style via twin RCAs, is one workaround. However, the Chromecast Audio doesn’t do gapless playback either.

    (An aside: Spotify Connect does offer gapless playback and remains on the LS50 Wireless development roadmap. Expect to see a firmware update adding it in the next 6 – 8 weeks.)

    3) Tidal’s own mobile apps don’t yet support MQA so don’t expect to see it in KEF’s LS50 Wireless app. There’s no unfolding of MQA content to 24/96 hear here and don’t expect to see MQA rendering within the speakers anytime soon either. KEF’s official line on MQA is one of wait-n-see.

    Further information: KEF

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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