RMAF12: Hear No Evil brings me the best KEF ever?

I almost hate to say it, but I’ve never been that big of a KEF fan. It’s not that I hate on the brand, or hate on the sound, or had my kitty kicked, or any of that. If I have to confess, my “issue” with KEF has always been an imaging thing — specifically, I’ve just never heard a KEF that could image its way out of a paper bag.

Look, I’ll freely admit that this is my problem. KEF loudspeakers are interesting, storied, and well received. So, fine, it’s just me. But the demos I’ve heard of the their current top-of-the-line (-ish) Blade have been something of an interesting exercise in frustration and disappointment. Again, it’s probably fair to blame the show conditions I’ve heard them in. And the fact that it’s been half-a-dozen shows, and that it’s always the same story, is, I’m sure, purely a coincidence.

So, the first clue that I was, in fact, clueless, was actually not KEF — but a KEF driver in a Soundfield Audio Monitor-1. I heard these guys at AXPONA and was blown away — amazing sound for the money. And … it started me wondering about KEF. Maybe … maybe I was wrong?

Enter the KEF LS50.

Okay, long story short. The LS50 is an amazing loudspeaker. It sounds way bigger than it is, and the imaging? Spotless. $1,500 is not pocket change (assuming you’re not Mitt Romney), but it occurs to me that this may be a really good way to spend it. Got a small space? An apartment? A hotel room? And … want to fill it with great sound? Well, I can think of only a couple of ways to get this level of sound, but from a major brand? Not so much.

What I heard in this room was delicate, refined, raucous, dynamic and altogether wildly entertaining. Best I’ve heard from KEF and among the best I’ve heard at RMAF. Lovin’ this little guy.

Parasound electronics drove the room, including a ZDAC ($450), CD1 used as a transport ($5,000), P7 preamp ($2k), A21 amplifier ($2,300).

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  1. KEF’s R series is also getting a lot of praise. This new driver seems to be a big improvement over the one used in the expensive and frankly mediocre XQ series.

  2. From 6moons:
    Following in the show-report footsteps of Doug Schneider, Roy Gregory and our own Aussie contributor John Darko—I’m quite late to the party but this type of outrageous find can’t be highlighted often enough until people actually act on it—the small KEF LS50 with its Blade Uni-Q/Tangerine waveguide driver really was the dog’s bollocks as our friends in the UK like to say. Whilst the svelte Blade flagship model has spilled all the ink and pixels—it was playing on Soulution gear when I entered—it was this far smaller box with the curvy baffle fronted by affordable Arcam gear that had my undivided attention. So I asked for a demo. The big rig was muted, the ordinary one fired up. Forget ordinary! This sounded warm, ballsy, spacious as sin, coherent and had sufficient testicular fortitude (well dawg again) to be a bona fide music maker well above its £800/pr sticker station. Don’t let size fool you. This is a seriously capable speaker with more hi-tech engineering thrown at it than its exterior gives away or smaller companies can levy at their very best. This was my realsization or everyman highlight of the show!

  3. “It’s not that I hate on the brand, or hate on the sound…” Dear audiophile, correct your English!

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