KEF’s LS50 loudspeaker was introduced in 2012 to celebrate the English manufacturer’s 50th anniversary. Usually, anniversary models are large, floorstanding “statement” designs with a price to match, but the LS50 was a minimonitor, priced at $1500/pair. I reviewed the Anniversary Edition LS50 in December 2012 (footnote 1), writing that it was rare to find a loudspeaker that offers this combination of clarity and neutrality and concluding that within its limits of dynamic range and bass extension, the KEF LS50 “will provide Class A sound for those with small rooms.” Read on for KEF LS50 Meta review here.
KEF LS50 Meta Review
The LS50 Metas don’t look any different from the LS50s, and in many ways they aren’t. The company considered revising that beautifully made enclosure but concluded that little could be improved.
The cabinet shape and size still works well, and the curved front panel – made of Dough Moulding Compound: a polyester resin combined with glass fibre and calcium carbonate – continues to make for an impressively rigid and well-controlled foundation for the Uni-Q drive unit array.
The rest of the box is made from MDF, which is heavily braced and carefully damped to minimise any resonances. The LS50 Metas are available in four finishes – Mineral White, Carbon Black, Titanium Grey and a Royal Blue Special Edition.
The only obvious changes are to the back panel, which has been tidied up. The fixing holes for the front baffle retention bolts have disappeared, and there has also been some cosmetic detailing to make it all look neater.
The one area ripe for improvement was the LS50’s Uni-Q driver array, where the tweeter sits in the throat of the mid/bass unit. This has been thoroughly reworked, taking in all the refinements that KEF has developed over the past eight years and adding something new in the form of Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT).
MAT is KEF’s way of coping with the sound that comes off the back of the 25mm aluminium tweeter dome. In a conventional design, this sound usually fires into a chamber behind the dome where it is mostly absorbed by damping material. But some sound energy always bounces back through the dome to add distortion.
There have been tweaks to the crossover to take all the drive unit changes into account. Aside from a slight shift in crossover frequency – from 2.2kHz to 2.1kHz – the specifications look identical.
These aren’t particularly sensitive speakers, at a rated 85dB/W/m, and the minimum impedance is just 3.5 ohms, so it makes sense to partner them with an amplifier that has a bit of grunt.
We suggest Cambridge’s CXA81 integrated with a suitably capable source, though such are the LS50 Meta’s capabilities that you could easily use the likes of Naim’s SuperNait 3, and the speakers wouldn’t be limiting.
At just 30cm tall, these KEFs are pretty compact, but don’t be tempted to stuff them in a bookshelf or right up against a wall. They won’t sulk if you do, but they will sound a lot better if placed around 50cm into a room and well away from the sidewalls.
In a room of about 30 square meters, the small LS50 Meta can emit plenty of energy. Even if the symphony is replayed, it gives an incredible feeling. The music space has a strong sense of three-dimensionality, and the high and low distances seem to extend out, making people unable to believe that the sound is emitted from this pair of LS50 Meta. And, because the mid-frequency is thicker, the sense of depth is particularly strong, which is great for expressing the layering of such large scenes.
In terms of the new speakers’ energy, the new LS50 Meta outperforms the previous generation LS50. In addition to midrange frequencies, clear high frequencies also have an important impact on spatial performance. It can make the space more ethereal and expansive and more transparent. LS50 Meta can reproduce the most subtle information. Especially for the appreciation of pastoral symphony, this kind of light, which seems to be transmitted from the top of the church, can better integrate the human spirit and music.
The tone of the LS50 Meta is generally neutral. The beating on the piano keyboard and the reverberation on the violin strings are so fresh, real, vivid, and embossed. Moreover, the audio-visual form and orientation presented by LS50 Meta are as clear as if they are right in front of you. To make an analogy, if the previous generation LS50 was a 1080P HD projector, then the new generation LS50 Meta has been upgraded to 4K Ultra HD, and the picture details are more vivid.