How to follow-up an immensely popular DSP-active loudspeaker derived from a near-iconic passive? If you’re KEF you wait until you have something worthwhile to add. In the case of the recently-announced LS50 Meta (£1000/€1199/US$1499 per pair) and the LS50 Wireless II (£2250/€2499/US$2499 per pair), that meant a Metamaterials-based absorber placed behind the tweeter to catch and kill its back wave. Catch up here, here and here.
I’ve yet to get my ears on the LS50 Meta but for the LS50 Wireless II, the audible improvements over the original version include more intelligible vocals plus better upper-midrange lucidity and more abundant micro-dynamic flicker — the latter two qualities combining to better expose music’s minutiae and properly animate it.
The second-generation model also features a more powerful streaming board upon which runs a commensurately more powerful operating system, reportedly too resource-hungry to be backported to the original version’s more limited streaming hardware spec. The upshot for the incoming model is a considerably better user experience.
With the original LS50 Wireless, I would sidestep KEF’s somewhat rudimentary Stream app with Spotify Connect and Roon (Tested) and dodge the equally agricultural Control app by connecting the loudspeakers to my router with Ethernet cable. WiFi network onboarding would make me use Control – but only once.
For the LS50 Wireless II, any KEF app allergy gets an antihistamine. The streaming system overhaul means we only have to contend with one app – dubbed KEF Connect – whose real-time search across streaming services, Live Radio and Podcasts is zippy enough to challenge any existing app of choice.
KEF Connect also bakes in streaming support Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon Music and Deezer so that we’re not forced over to Bluetooth or AirPlay 2, where the music’s data stream travels through the smartphone on its way to the primary loudspeaker. With KEF Connect, the data stream travels directly from cloud to primary loudspeaker. Bluetooth nerds take note: KEF has dropped aptX to leave us with the more universally supported AAC.
For LAN streaming that isn’t powered by the LS50 Wireless II’s in-built Roon Readiness – uncertified at time of writing – we might look to Audirvana (MacOS/Windows) and its associated remote control app. This French software has matured into a very tidy local playback application and UPnP server that integrates Tidal and Qobuz for which gapless playback is never in doubt.
And for listeners who aren’t troubled by momentary gaps spliced between songs, the addition of Google Chromecast Built-in is a most welcome addition, one that will most likely ink the deal for newcomers to the LS50 Wireless platform. For our video, we go back to basics:
Further information: KEF
Camera: Olaf von Voss | Editor: John Darko | Motion Graphics: John Darko | Ad Segment: Jana Dagdagan
The KEF LS50 Wireless II earn Knockout Award: