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Spotify + KEF = high-end audio for mainstreamers

  • Ben H. from KEF HQ writes via email: “Just read your Sonos One news piece. Just to let you know, that the firmware update for LS50W (released 22nd May) allows you to adjust the auto standby. As standard, it’s 20 minutes, but if you hold down the “wall/free space” button on the back until the light flashes, you can disable auto standby completely, or hold down the “desk/stand” EQ button to set to an hour.

    Also, new firmware out today [9th October, my emphasis] adds Spotify Connect support and the ability to swap the speakers over.”

    The standby extension hack is well-known among forum feeders and being able to turn the left speaker into the right (and vice versa) is a helpful touch.

    However, the big news arriving at the DAR door ahead of a formal press release, is Spotify Connect: functionality that was first touted by KEF some five months ago at Munich High-End 2017. Its arrival will be a welcome addition to an already terrific product that runs the gamut from Bluetooth to UPnP to (soon) Roon.

    Spotify Connect differs from Bluetooth where Spotify streams must first land on the PC or smartphone, decoded and lossy re-encoded with the target device’s best sounding supported codec – e.g. aptX or AAC – because the stream doesn’t depend on the controlling device. Spotify Connect turns any Spotify app into a remote control with music sent directly from the cloud directly to the Connect-capable device, in this case the LS50 Wireless.

    We know from DAR polling that only 18% of respondents wouldn’t touch lossy encoded music if their life depended on it. That means 82% are happy to get down with Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora et al.

    Those who hold tight to lossless-or-die attitude are reminded that hardware changes must come before the audible differences between lossy (e.g. Spotify) and lossless (e.g. Tidal Hifi) encoding can be realised. Think of it this way: a KEF’s LS50 Wireless + Spotify is infinitely preferable to a Macbook Air’s in-built speakers piping hot Tidal Hifi. Or a Bluetooth speaker. Or (even a pair of) the Sonos One. No question, not ever.

    Furthermore, Spotify is a mainstream hook. One whose near flawless UI, like Roon’s, casts the in-house coded LS50 Wireless’ app into the shade.

    To update your KEF LS50 Wireless’ firmware to include Spotify Connect (and the speaker swap functionality), follow the download links for Windows or MacOS from KEF’s International portal here. Download and install the app to be walked through the update process.

    The LS50 Wireless continues to enjoy detailed coverage on DAR because they offer an unbeatable sound for the money, one that tramps the dirt down on similarly-priced self-compiled systems with passive speakers and outboard amplifier, DAC and streamer. An all-in-one system that calls for no hifi rack and no loudspeaker cabling. And one that might not appeal to tweak-o-philes but that throw their net far and wide into the mass market where considerably more numerous customers await.

    Further information: KEF International

    Written by John

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

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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