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The LS 50 Meta from Kef is an update to the brand’s hugely popular Ls 50 bookshelf loudspeaker and like the LS 50, the meta is still a two way bass reflex design that utilizes calf’s signature unique tube driver array which is now in like its 12th generation.
It’s no secret that two way bookshelf loudspeakers are a personal favourite of mine. I typically prefer them to three way designs and towers in almost every situation, but I did want to see if the LS 50 meta would fare any differently because I can’t recall the loudspeaker that’s been more hyped than the meta both among the press, as well as enthusiasts.
So shall we just cut to the chase, is the LS 50 meta really as good as everyone says it is?
No, it’s better. A few days ago after listening to the LS50 meta, I was telling my partner that in all my years, I don’t think that I have heard a better bookshelf loudspeaker than these. At least none that I could recall and that the metas just weren’t good speakers for money. No, no, they were legit, really good speakers and that if someone could find it in their budget to afford a pair, they could probably rest pretty confidently that they had arguably one of the best loudspeakers well ever made.
So, saying all of that I guess you could say review over. Right? Well, not quite. You see the LS50 metas are great, arguably one of the best ever made, but their sound can change rather dramatically based on what you have them connected to. So in order to get their best, you better bring your best.
Let’s get a couple of universal truths just out of the way first. The metas are incredibly coherent. What does coherent mean? Well that means that there is virtually no gap between its bass, mid range and high frequency response. In truth, it sounds a lot more like a single driver full range loudspeaker than say a lot of single driver full range loudspeakers.
And this is despite being a two way bookshelf design, everything that comes out of this speaker sounds so incredibly natural and organic and this is on full display when listening to vocals for they get at the emotion and those finer inflection points in an artist’s lyrics or an actor’s dialogue than almost any loudspeaker I can recall.
Second, the LS50 metas have bass and I am talking, real palpable nuanced bass, it may not be subterranean but it is completely satisfying. Even in larger rooms like ours. It’s so good in fact that at no point during our review period did I ever reach out for one of our subwoofers in order to augment their bottom and third; and this somewhat speaks to the metas coherence but they are virtually colourless. That is to say that they are neutral.
This is not a forward or bright sounding speaker, nor is it lush or warm. It’s neutral. So if you’re hearing a colour, it’s being given to the LS50 Metas by your associated equipment; specifically your source component or amplifier of choice. For example; if you like vinyl for its rounder, richer tones, then you’re going to hear that through these bookshelf speakers, but if you’re a fan of digital for its cleanliness and its attention to absolute detail, well these LS 50s will have your back.
The same is true of amplifiers; whether they be tube or solid state, both can have an effect on the overall sound or coloration of the meta LS 50.
Lastly, these are among the best imaging loudspeakers i have ever heard. Yes, I do recommend a fair amount of top end but once you get them dialled in the centre image and soundstage, definition is first class. Honestly, I would buy these loudspeakers on the strength of the centre imaging soundstage alone.
Because no matter what album I listened to, everything just kind of felt like a private show. So those are the universal truths about the meta LS50. So, what was that catch again? Well, the sensitivity of 85 db and an impedance that can dip well below four ohms, it’s not like they are difficult to drive per se but driving them properly takes some pretty decent amplification.
Best amp for Kef Ls50 Meta
We’ve actually had these speakers for a little while so we’ve been able to pair them with every single amplifier we have in house. I’m talking about the XLS Drivecore two from Crown (a little bit of a fan favourite), the XTZ edge, even the super affordable Sony 1080 stereo receiver, all the way up to our reference gear. You know what happened with the Sony receiver? Nothing.
Our house is still here, nothing burned down, because every amplifier we had in the house was capable of driving the LS 50 meta comfortably, up to say around 75 db. But if you want to get the most out of these loudspeakers, if you want them to really sing to hit at all that emotion, that sound quality I just got done saying was a universal truth, well then you have to bring the proper amplification and it wasn’t until we paired them with our musical fidelity M5si, or our Naim Uniti Atom, did we truly unlock that with these loudspeakers.
Anything less and you can start to erase certain attributes from the meta LS 50 performance, for example; the Crown was able to power them comfortably right up into their breaking point with the coherence largely intact and solid bass.
However, some of the finer details and the mid range and soundstage became muddy through the crown. Now, with the Sony DN1080, you know, the amplifier that’s supposed to explode when you connect anything but an 8 Ohm speaker to it, did very well; arguably better than the crown with mid range definition but it did limit the metas in terms of their overall volume and dynamic capability.
So it wasn’t until the Musical fidelity m5si entered the chat that we were able to really discern what these bookshelf speakers were capable of. And the Uniti Atom fared just as well. So it’s not about brute force with the LS50 metas, it’s about the quality of the component, and amplifiers are going to be pretty key to making sure that you get the most out of them.
The other catch becomes these speakers’ outright output and dynamic range. While I tend not to listen at the extremes, the metas don’t play all that loud either. Kef states their maximum output to be 106 Db; now that’s louder than I listen to. However, that is the speaker’s maximum output.
In the real world, I think they play very comfortably up into around 90 to 95 db; so if you’re someone that likes to hit 100-101 db peaks, don’t bother because this speaker’s butter zone is actually around 75 to say 85-89 db. You should understand that it takes quite a bit of power to get even to that point.
This means that dynamics can feel somewhat subdued at times. Dynamics are largely dependent on the type of amplifier that you choose to pair with these speakers; but they’re still not speakers that I would classify as lightning quick, agile, articulate and detailed. Yes, crack the whip quick? No, no, but I’m nitpicking. I’m nitpicking because for me and how I like to listen, the LS50 metas are nearest and makes no difference.
I also really liked watching movies through the metas LS 50. I found them very compelling as home theatre speakers and I hope to revisit them in the year as a five dot one channel system. Who knows? Maybe with a subwoofer in tow, it’s going to take some of the weight off of an amplifier and open up their dynamic envelope just a little bit, allowing them to be paired with more cost effective components like AV receivers.
LS 50 META VS Q ACOUSTICS CONCEPT 300
Let’s talk about comparable loudspeakers. Compared to our Concept 300s from Q Acoustics, the metas aren’t as easy to drive. They don’t play quite as loud and they’re just not as friendly to the widest range of source material, but in every other respect, I prefer them to the concept three hundreds. Not to mention I love that they’re smaller, and at 1499 US dollars a pair, they are cheaper even after you add in the expensive solid steel stands.
The meta LS 50 are outright scalpels compared to the warmer, laid back stylings of the Wharfedale den 85th anniversary edition loudspeakers. They even managed to pull a greater disappearing act than the Focal Chora 806’s which up into this point were some of the finer imaging bookshelf loudspeakers that I had ever heard.
And if we want to compare them to less efficient bookshelf loudspeakers with cult-like followings, the metas destroy absolutely anything I’ve ever heard. Honestly, the only question I have left with respect to whether or not the metas are the perfect loudspeaker for me and my needs is how they compare to the LS 50 Wireless twos, I don’t know. But you better believe I plan on finding out.
I think they’re great value at 1500 bucks. If they wanted to charge more they could. I do think that they are worth more, I mean, it’s a no brainer if you have that kind of money to spend on bookshelf loudspeakers and you can live within the confines of say, listening to music louder than like 90 Db or something like that. It’s like the biggest no brainer pick. I don’t think someone is going to not like these is basically what I’m saying. Yeah, yeah, yeah, if you don’t like them, then you’ve got some pretty high expectations. I don’t know that you’d be happy with anything. That’s true.
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