So far in my show reports from High End 2019 I’ve used the word ubiquitous at least twice. No brand in high-end audio currently fits that adjective more than KEF, something that might have started with the introduction of the LS50 bookshelf speaker. I was proud to be a part of that now iconic monitor’s debut in the US when we shared a room with KEF at the California Audio Show back in 2012, and we supplied the Unison Research Unico integrated amplifiers to run those tiny transducers and watched the audiophile community go just a little bit nuts. Since then, I’ve heard the LS50 on numerous occasions–at shows, at dealers and in the homes of audiophiles who were grateful to have this much performance for $1500 per pair.
At High End 2019, the KEF LS50s were in full force with an awesome array of colors and styles, and in both passive and active versions. The first time I saw the LS50, back at that show, I was mightily impressed with the performance yet slightly indifferent toward the black and orange color scheme–I called them Halloween monitors. As you know, the color palette expanded significantly since then, and now LS50s come in a wide variety of colors and schemes, including one that seems patterned after the Death Star in Star Wars. I loved seeing all these LS50s lined up, mounted in rows on the walls and even plugged into systems and making beautiful music.
KEF was featuring one of their newer models, the R11 ($5000/pair), in the main demo system. Impractical listening chairs aside, I was impressed by the big sound coming from these tall, slim towers, as well as the impressive colors and veneers. KEF was also excited about the expansion of the LSX Wireless Music System–those tiny speakers had more color options than the LS50s. A pair of these wondrous little speakers, which run off Apple AirPlay 2 and can be managed from any Apple device, can fit almost anywhere and therefore deliver satisfying sound in the tightest of spaces.
The KEF room at High End 2019 was bustling with activity–like the McIntosh room, it was crowded with excited showgoers who already seemed to be KEF fans and yet were still awestruck by all of the new possibilities. For me, it was all about the color, in one of the finest “lifestyle” approaches I’ve seen, and I can see why this legendary British manufacturer has found so much love and admiration in the 21st century.