The Rose Gold finish of the Uni-Q driver, along with the curved front panel, gives the LS50s an unmistakable look.
We don’t generally get excited about anniversary products. Often more marketing driven than worthwhile product, they tend to be either overly retro to hark back to when the company started, or a technological exercise so advanced that no-one can actually afford them. Not so the KEF LS50s.
The classic Uni-Q driver array
The LS50s, naturally, feature a version KEF’s Uni-Q driver array. Here it consists of a 25mm dome tweeter sitting inside a 13cm magnesium/ aluminium-coned mid/bass unit. The design is intended to improve integration, while the so-called tangerine waveguide over the tweeter improves treble performance and dispersion. We’re rather partial to the ‘Rose Gold’ finish of the drivers, although we could imagine some people being put off by the slightly ostentatious look.
The curved front panel that the array sits slap-bang in the centre of is made of Dough Moulding Compound (DMC) inert effect. The rest of the cabinet is made from heavily braced and damped MDF to minimise resonances. Needless to say, those old BBC monitors were nowhere near as technically advanced as this.
And we’re delighted to report that all of the design effort has been worth it — the LS50s sound absolutely fantastic. The first thing that strikes you is the depth and power of the bass. And, unlike the majority of bassy little speakers, the LS50s don’t over-egg things — those low frequencies are agile and they are nicely balanced with the rest of the frequency range.
Speaking of which, the expressiveness of the midrange allows vocals to emerge with disarming energy and insight, and the whole presentation is both vast and securely focused.
Above all, the LS50s are fun to listen to. So much so that we gave them our 2012 Product of the Year Award for stereo speakers. These little units are so talented that they could just be on course to repeat the trick.
The Uni-Q driver
If there’s one technology upon which KEF hangs its corporate hat, it’s the Uni-Q driver. Actually, driver isn’t quite correct — there are two units here, with the tweeter sitting at the centre of the mid/bass unit. This arrangement means the output of the two drivers appears to come from a single point. Also, the speaker disperses sound in a more consistent manner, with the result that the listening sweet spot is a lot broader than it would be in a conventional alternative. Downsides include increased tonal coloration — something the tangerine wave guide helps to minimise.
Type Standmounter • Sensitivity 85dB/W/m • Impedance 8 ohms • Max power 100W • Biwirable No • Finishes 1 • Dimensions (hwd) 30 x 20 x 28cm
FOR: Transparent, detailed presentation; loads of bass considering the size; lovely build and striking finish
AGAINST: Any partnering equipment needs to be up to scratch
VERDICT: Forget legacy, these are forward thinking and simply fabulous sounding speakers
Positioning and partnering
The LS50s sound best when placed on dedicated stands in some free space, but they’re pretty flexible over positioning and even sound good reasonably close to a wall. They’re fussier with partnering kit: any flaws in your electronics will be exposed. We’ve tried them with a variety of amps, but you can’t go wrong with the disarmingly simple Heed Audio Obelisk.
Our current Products of the Year are brilliant-sounding, versatile all-rounders
Apple MacBook Pro from £1000
With hard disk space so cheap, there’s no excuse not to have high-res musical files
Arcam FMJ A19 £650 ★★★★★
This wonderful little amp will play to the strengths of the impressive KEFs
Arcam irDAC £400 ★★★★★
The ideal way to take the tunes from your laptop and run them to the A19 amplifier
Total build £2850