Auditioned some speakers ~£800 (KEF, Monitor Audio, Rega RX1, Dali)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by robertzombie, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    About a year ago I set about upgrading my vintage hi-fi components to all new kit. At that point, I'd been into the hi-fi hobby for about two years and had heard a decent mix of '70s/'80s vintage components from the likes of NAD, Technics, Pioneer, Sansui, Sony, HK, and Wharfedale. I liked the idea of getting everything up to date and set about firstly finding an amplifier. After hearing quite a few amps in the sub-£1000 range, I settled on the Rega Elex-R which I still love one year on. Shortly afterwards I got the Rega DAC-R to handle digital duties. I haven't felt inclined to upgrade my SL-1210 and most of my present listening is digital. Now the time has come to upgrade my speakers (currently using a pair of twenty year old Mission 752f floor standers) and complete the puzzle.

    I really like my Missions, they have a wonderful mid-range and a smooth treble. They also sound really good with films. The issue I have though is one of size. Even though the 752f's are fairly small speakers the amount of sound they produce is too vast for my little 3x4 living room. I decided I needed a bookshelf speaker, fairly polite sounding (don't want to overwhelm my room with bass), and good at imaging in a small space. I was pointed in the direction of KEF, who I hadn't considered before but I'm glad I was; Monitor Audio; Dali; and obviously I wanted to hear the Rega RX1. I auditioned some speakers at a shop with a Creek amp, then I went to my main dealer where I listened to some more with the same Rega gear as I have at home.

    The winning speaker was the KEF LS50. I liked it's even frequency response, radical design, and the research that's gone into it seems to match my current ideas about good sound. An even sounding speaker that can throw out a few hi-fi tricks. Looking forward to getting it set up soon!

    I thought I'd post my subjective listening opinions...

    KEF R100: Nice sounding speaker and probably the perfect size for my room but I found the bass to be a little rudimentary and "one note" sounding. Especially in comparison to the other speakers I heard.

    KEF R300: This speaker sounded fantastic in the mid and low end. Hefty bass weight but detailed at the same time. Perhaps a bit too rolled off up top, it might send you to sleep. Much too big for my room however!

    KEF LS50: The winner! When I first heard this with the Creek I have to admit, I wasn't totally blown away. I was aware that this was an award winning speaker but hadn't read into too much detail. It sounded fine with the Creek but nothing more. However, when I heard it with the Rega Elex it was a completely different story. The LS50 sounded very even throughout the frequency range, the bass was detailed and resolving without clouding the room (kind of reminds me of my AKG K550 headphones in that respect), the mid-range was perhaps a little lacking but I think that's actually a symptom of the speaker's neutrality compared to others, the top end was clean and accurate without being harsh. It can also do sound stage and separation well, but it doesn't make a big song and dance of it. I think its hi-fi tricks are accurate to source, it doesn't manipulate anything. I'm really looking forward to getting this set up at home and hearing my music through KEF's "hi-fi monitor" concept.

    Monitor Audio Gold 50: This speaker was thrown in as a wildcard after hearing a load of KEFs. I really enjoyed the ribbon tweeter (hadn't heard one before). The top end was remarkably clear and resolved, not harsh at all, the soundstage was REALLY wide. A very lively and enthusiastic speaker. I was scared that I might get fatigued by it, but it was certainly fun to audition. It felt like it was tickling my ears, but did I really want that for hours of listening at home? Not sure.

    Rega RX1: This is the speaker I wanted to buy before going in and auditioning everything. Surely, I thought, this would be perfect for my Rega system and it is the right size for my room. I had wondered though why I hadn't seen any reviews for it, now I think I know why. Honestly, the speaker did absolutely nothing wrong. It played the songs fine but it just didn't connect with me at all. The sound I associate with the rest of my Rega kit (I also have their Ear head-amp) is one of a warm bottom end with a clear but non-fatiguing top end that really makes me enjoy music. I was expecting the RX1 to give me this in spades but it just sounded dull and boring. My wife and I sat their listening to some songs and by the end of the selection we just went "meh". The LS50 was plugged in next and that was end of the RX1's audition!

    DALI Mentor Menuet: This was another wildcard but it barely lasted three songs. This is the first speaker I've heard where I actually thought the tweeter was a separate entity from the woofer. The mid/bass sounded fine, but the tweeter was so spitty and glassy it set me on edge. I'd just finished playing St. Thomas on the LS50 when the dealer swapped in the Menuet, I decided to replay St. Thomas for an instant comparison. With the LS50, I had a huge smile on my face and almost spontaneously applauded the drum solo, the Menuet made me feel nervous throughout the whole song as if something was drastically wrong! I played Sweet Dreams and Lennox's voice sounded hideous. Another '80s production, Pale Shelter, confirmed the speaker to be really fatiguing in our demo. Halfway through Pale Shelter I swapped back to the LS50s and everything sounded right again!

    So there we go, I should have the LS50 in a week :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
  2. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    Completely true statement in my experience.

    I've used the LS50's with a Yamaha CR-1020 solid state receiver - it sounded crisp, clean and a bit analytical/etched/dry, with very detailed, extended bass - and I've used them with two different restored Fisher tube amps, a 400 and an X-100, which sounded fulsome and rich in the mids, clean on top, and somewhat round in the bass. The LS50's also clearly allowed me to distinguish the subtle differences in character between the two Fishers.

    These are very revealing, accurate speakers. With the right source in an appropriately small room, they can be quite impressive.
     
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  3. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    I've read that the LS50's are revealing of partnering equipment, so your ability to distinguish differences between amps feeding them would make sense :)
     
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  4. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    They reproduce exactly what they are fed... for better or worse!
     
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  5. Wasatch

    Wasatch Forum Resident

    I've owned MAs, heard some Rega and Dali. All very good speakers.
     
  6. everton

    everton Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    My experience with the LS50 is different. I've owned them for a little over 2 years. I found their midrange to be too loud, especially when I paired them with an amp that emphasizes midrange such as an NAD. This may be good for vocal or instrumental music. But most of the music that I listen to is pop-rock, and I found the exaggerated midband to be unnatural.

    Subsequent to my purchase of them, I came across a review on 6moons.com on KEF X300A that says:

    "Shoppers ought to know right off that a core strength of any UniQ array no matter the model range still results in a most precise occasionally scalpel-sharp rendering of the midband. This makes for brilliant speech intelligibility and near 3D capture of vocals. If you arrive here from another maker’s conventional compact box, you could feel nearly irritated with your own because it could seem restrained and soft by contrast. And that’s factual. All KEFs I’ve ever heard express this very immediate very present vocal range. But one very quickly gets used to it."

    What the reviewer said matches my experience. The only difference is that I find it hard to get used to it.
     
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  7. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    Interesting. My current speakers are quite mid-heavy so I'm used to that sound, but in the audition the LS50s seemed more restrained in the mid-range compared to other speakers like the Monitor Audios.

    Here's the frequency response from Stereophile:
    [​IMG]

    I wonder just how revealing of partnering equipment these speakers are? Perhaps the mid-range emphasis you experienced was down to the NAD?
     
  8. Erik Tracy

    Erik Tracy Forum Resident

    Location:
    San Diego, CA, USA
    After reading @everton's post - that is what I was hearing at THE Show when we spent some time in the KEF room. We weren't listening to the LS50, but a tower based on a UniQ driver.

    The vocals/mid-range were exactly as described - mesmerizing in presentation - eerily holographic.

    Unfortunately, the musical selection did not include anything more diverse or dynamic, and there were other rooms to visit, so we didn't stay too long.
     
  9. everton

    everton Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I've seen the graph for the frequency response of the LS50. It looked pretty even to me. But if you compare the sound to that of my Paradigm S2 (V.1), whose frequency response is also pretty even (as far as I remember), you'll notice a difference. In fact, the difference is there when you compare it to other speakers such as B&W as well. Frankly, I now believe that the main reason why the LS50 sound so good and transparent with voice is that they somehow jacked up the midband.

    When I first got the LS50, I paired them with an NAD amp. But I couldn't stand the sound. So now I use them with a cheap Sony AV receiver just for listening to Spotify. The Sony receiver doesn't emphasize midrange, and so the sound is more tolerable. I know that most people here think of Sony AV receivers as junk. But I claim that their current models (even cheap ones) have superb tonal balance, and I like their sound better than the NAD sound.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
  10. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    At twice the price I'm sure you would! :righton:
     
  11. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    ETA 1 hour! :goodie:
     
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  12. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    Awesome!

    Of course, be prepared for a long break-in period. In a few months, they will really start to open up and the nuances will start to come forth.

    Which color did you go with? Basic gloss black or maybe something more exciting??
    (I kinda wish they offered British Racing Green too...)

    [​IMG]
     
  13. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    To be honest they sound great right out of the box. Very accurate with my own studio recordings so if they get any better I'll be well pleased!
    I went with standard black/gold. The gloss matches my Rega kit and the gold my Nakamichi :) my dealer says the other colours are limited edition and running out fast!
     
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  14. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    I'm amazed at how even the sound is on these speakers. I ran a frequency sweep to see if my ears perceive them as flat. They do, with the exception of a slight peak around 2 kHz which, as it turns out, was also documented by Stereophile. Cool!
     
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  15. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    Got about 20 hours on the speakers now, so far so good - really pleased with them! I've not owned a brand new set of speakers before so it'll be interesting to hear how much they "break in" vs how much my brain gets used to the different sound. Compared to my previous speakers, these have a much more even frequency response which is bringing out additional recorded detail. I ran a frequency sweep and they stay pretty much rock steady through the whole spectrum, my previous speakers were all over the place in that regard. Certainly they are very honest, I can hear more of the recording studio in my band's recordings which bodes well for other recordings. The imaging is solid and they look superb!
     
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  16. Squiggsy68

    Squiggsy68 Well-Known Member

    I've had a pair of these for around 15 months now - never regretted the purchase.

    However - I did change my amplifier - was previously running an Exposure 2010s2 and whilst the detail was all there it felt a bit out of control - the LS50s acting like an unruly teenager with a lot of energy to burn. Keeping the amplifier for a second system as I think in its own right its very good.

    Got a Hegel H160 4 months ago and now every time I listen to music it's hard to keep from grinning. For whatever reason (the Hegel on specs has a VERY high damping factor which is probably the reason) the Kefs now sound like they're absolutely under control and the imaging is the best I've ever owned. Very resolving, but it does mean there's a few cds I can't even listen to now as they are so horrible sounding (Naked & Famous amongst others).

    But - playing the latest Melanie de Biasio (Blackened Cities) release on vinyl at the week-end? Could almost reach out and touch the band. Marvellous...
     
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  17. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    After the solid sound stage, I'd say resolution is the most prevalent aspect of these speakers just from my first impressions. I can definitely hear more of the recording environment than with previous speakers, for better or worse! I played Nocturne and the sound of the Royal Albert Hall was unmistakable (I was there just last week). The drums sounded alive, the guitars visceral, and of course Siouxsie's off pitch warbling was laid bare! I also played Saxophone Colossus which sounded faultless. My wife and I played that record during the speaker audition and she, being a saxophone player, picked the LS50s as being the best of the bunch for reproducing that instrument. Late last night we played The Wonderful World of Jazz. The LS50s resolved the piano really well (it's played subtly, but you can still feel the instrument's percussive underbelly), with just as much clarity as with the drums on Nocturne, but the LS50s also conveyed the more intimate recording setting with just as much realism as they did the Albert Hall on Nocturne. It was interesting hearing them create a vast space and a small space all in the same room!

    Glad to hear you're still enjoying them after 15 months, I'm sure I will too!
     
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  18. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    I'm hitting the 40 hour mark with these speakers now which is the amount of time my dealer said it would take for them to break in. That 2 kHz peak seems to have smoothed out based on my crude smartphone measurements, I also finally got round to spiking my stands. The sound is becoming more authoritative and defined where it was perhaps a pinch brash before?
    Cracking speakers. Been using them with my TV as well, watching the Euros, films, and of course the news. They seem to be best suited to jazz, with a real sense of power on attacking musical elements such as bass plucks and piano hits. Very *real* sounding.
     
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  19. rpd

    rpd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nashville
    So, I just got the LS50's but have yet to hook them up. How do you guys think they will work with the Rega Exon 3 monoblocks? I have those paired with the Rega Cursa 3 preamp. I could also hook these up to my older but lovable NAD 2600A amp...

    Thoughts?
     
  20. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    I'm not familiar with those earlier Rega products, but I have mine connected to Rega Elex and DAC R. No complaints or problems.
     
  21. robertzombie

    robertzombie Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    London, UK
    Six months on... I LOVE THESE SPEAKERS!
     
  22. I got a pair in the spring. They certainly make very nice sounds via a Kenwood L-1000T tuner and JVC AX-Z1010TN amp :)
     
  23. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

  24. matteos

    matteos Active Member

    Interesting you listened to both the R100 and the LS50, which should really be quite similar as they basically use the same exact driver. Just the crossover and cabinets are different. How did you feel they differed? Or is it too long ago to really remember?

    I really love KEF's UNI-Q driver. I can't imagine owning a different design. Their center channels are crystal clear. Excellent for movies. My R900 are basically perfect speakers. I can't imagine how they could be improved (Though I'm sure there is something). Glad you are enjoying the LS50s!
     
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  25. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    "just the crossover" is the key understatement. the crossover determines the voicing and frequency response (and other attributes) tailored to the design intent, marketing intent and enclosure baffle.
    the LS50s sound completely different than the entire R series and there are significant differences in sound among the R series.
    they could have (and I wished they would have) made some of the larger R series sound like the LS50. sadly they did not.
     
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