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# 249062 23-Apr-2019 13:34
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Note: this isn't a review. Can't really seriously review new audio gear that hasn't been properly burned in.

 

Both my wife and I are seriously trained classical musicians that have pretty sharp ears that also immensely value a reasonably minimalist lifestyle. Over the years we have been gifted hand-me-down audiophile gear but ended up giving up on them because we found having so much gear around the living room to be too annoying. Plus being hand-me-downs we would find that as we got the set right and are beginning to love the sound, something would break and then things wouldn't pair well again. So for serious music listening, we've resorted to a pair of Sennheiser HD6XX plus a Schiitt AMP/DAC. Needless to say, it's not the most social way to enjoy music. Bought a Naim Mu-So for the living room and whilst that's fantastic for our French/Italian pop and everything else, classical music on it was terribly disappointing -- your heart just sinks when the violinist sounds like she's sitting right next to the pianist in Schumann's Piano Quartet in E Minor. The lack of separation and soundstage just ruined our enjoyment.

 

Most of my music listening used to consist of passive background listening in a study with a Q Acoustics BT3 on the desk (approximately 4 feet separation; near field listening). The sound is pretty good as a <1K solution and typically "all round" speakers go but there's not much enjoyment when it comes to serious, active listening for us there. We both wanted more -- we wanted a study room listening solution that isn't dependent on having a PC around and turned on (we aren't going to get a NAS and all that jazz) and a set of active speakers (with the right soundstage for classical music) that has good DSP that can get us as good a sound as we can get within our study room environment.

 

Mind Blown

 

I stumbled upon some coverage of the KEF LSX, which is the little brother of the LS 50 wireless. Most reviewers described it as 80% of the sound of the LS50W, with obvious compromises in bass. Both sets are wifi-enabled speakers that enable streaming via Spotify and Tidal via Wifi -- the LSX do not even require a cable tethering the speakers together. We were so sure that we'd get the LSX.

 

Went to the shop, which proceeded to demo the LSX for us for about 30 minutes. We were amazed by the power coming from such little speakers but didn't find the clarity and soundstage that impressive. "Want to try the LS50?" We did. And within an hour, we bought a pair to replace the Q Acoustics.

 

John Darko and What Hifi's reviews pretty much match up with our experiences so far. All that I will add is that we both went and A/B tested whether we could discern the difference between 24bit and CD quality lossless FLACs across various genres of music being played by the LS50W. And we could, with about an average of 85% accuracy. The best way to describe our feeling towards the speakers is that we are amazed by how KEF has managed to achieve both an amazing unity of range of sounds from the coaxial drivers whilst retaining their detail. We've heard so many new things out of our favourite songs/albums that we'd truly never heard before (especially for those that we've never listened to using headphones).

 

Apart from the price ($2.6k) and the fact that they are pretty huge on the desk, our only complaint is that streaming via Tidal requires the use of a KEF app that is just a monstrosity in bad design in every way. Soon we'll look to move these down to the living room and see how they do. If they perform well, we might buy another pair. Someone save our wallets.

 

Happy to answer any questions.

 

 

 

 


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  # 2222712 23-Apr-2019 15:01
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All other things being equal, you really shouldn't be able to tell the difference between 16 and 24 bit, so almost certainly something else was going on in the a/b audio samples you were listening to. 

 

24bit has advantages for music production/editing, not distribution / listening.

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/24bit-vs-16bit-the-myth-exploded.415361/

 

Active (bi-amped) speakers offer huge advantages over passive speakers.  Wifi solves one of the problems that present with active speakers and conventional home hifi music sources, you're not stuck with unbalanced (RCA type) line level leads, which are okay only over short distances.

 

That coaxial design is used by some pro studio monitors, it has advantages for near-field listening.  FWIW, despite what some audio expert sites say, that you can't or shouldn't use nearfield speakers for midfield listening, that's just BS.  They might not be loud enough is the only issue. Conversely, using midfield speakers for nearfield listening may present issues, especially if the drivers (tweeter/woofer) aren't vertically aligned and close together.




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  # 2222719 23-Apr-2019 15:23
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Fred99:

 

All other things being equal, you really shouldn't be able to tell the difference between 16 and 24 bit, so almost certainly something else was going on in the a/b audio samples you were listening to. 

 

24bit has advantages for music production/editing, not distribution / listening.

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/24bit-vs-16bit-the-myth-exploded.415361/

 

Active (bi-amped) speakers offer huge advantages over passive speakers.  Wifi solves one of the problems that present with active speakers and conventional home hifi music sources, you're not stuck with unbalanced (RCA type) line level leads, which are okay only over short distances.

 

That coaxial design is used by some pro studio monitors, it has advantages for near-field listening.  FWIW, despite what some audio expert sites say, that you can't or shouldn't use nearfield speakers for midfield listening, that's just BS.  They might not be loud enough is the only issue. Conversely, using midfield speakers for nearfield listening may present issues, especially if the drivers (tweeter/woofer) aren't vertically aligned and close together.

 

 

I wouldn't necessarily know - all the A/B samples were straight off Tidal (Master v Lossless). I would not say the differences were massive but we definitely "got" them most of the time (she more than me). Maybe Tidal "coloured" the Master releases somewhat. And also you gotta bear in mind that it wasn't a massive sample size. But honestly we have been so happy with the performance of these things with anything that we've thrown at them. Of particular note is your point about midfield listening -- quite eager to try them downstairs soon. Just gotta ask the wife to take the speakers off for a while :P

 

It was also interesting how, for us, all the talk about these being "wasted" in near field listening turned out to be anything but. When it was demoed for us (and obviously how we run it at home so far), we found near-field listening to be most enjoyable. It is pretty obscenely big on the desk though. Oh well!

 

 

 

 


 
 
 
 


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  # 2222726 23-Apr-2019 15:41
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What's the Schiit DAC model?

 

I was looking at importing a Schiit Jotunheim.  It also would be perfect for "decluttering" if they made the Jotunheim with a DAC and a phono MM input, but you can get one or the other only as an optional module.  What I ideally want doesn't really exist in one small unit.

 

As for 16/24 bit playback. I'll opt out of discussion after posting the link above.  The subject's been thrashed to death, nothing will change my opinion.




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  # 2222728 23-Apr-2019 15:48
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Jotunheim with a balanced DAC. My wife's then boss gave it to her. The guy is practically made of money (former emergency department head and now Chief Medical Officer at a DHB) and apparently concluded that it sounded awful compared to some presumably-worth-10k-thing after ordering it in from the US. It's given us enormous joy. One thing to bear in mind is that we are fully digital-source music listeners.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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  # 2222740 23-Apr-2019 16:16
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dejadeadnz:

 

Jotunheim with a balanced DAC. My wife's then boss gave it to her. The guy is practically made of money (former emergency department head and now Chief Medical Officer at a DHB) and apparently concluded that it sounded awful compared to some presumably-worth-10k-thing after ordering it in from the US. It's given us enormous joy. One thing to bear in mind is that we are fully digital-source music listeners.

 

 

Yeah - hifi is like that - and in my biased opinion - a money pit for those who believe they've got "golden ears" and the ability to fund their hobby.  He probably should have got the Jotunheim with multibit DAC.  It costs an extra US$100, so it must be better. (I'd wager that a Jotunheim with balanced DAC as you have would be as close to perfection as anybody could hear)

 

I still have a turntable, it's mainly for amusement - it's fun playing old LPs sometimes, and IMO amazing that something so primitive can actually still sound okay / pretty good. So apart from that, all digital, all active speakers.  Sound source an Intel Nuc, with DAC in a cupboard out of sight, apart from the turntable, the only audio control in sight is a TC Electronics volume control knob sitting on the console.  I use a tablet to remote desktop to the PC, if the TV isn't on to use as PC monitor.

 

 




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  # 2222932 23-Apr-2019 23:07
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I am not that bothered by stuck up audiophiles, so long as they don't essentially go out of their way to spoil other people's enjoyment or mock their tastes/commitment to getting the best sound they can within the budgetary and other confines the other person has to work with. My wife's old boss fits perfectly with your "golden ears" type: he's absolutely convinced that he has amazing ears and musical discernment, despite limited evidence to support this. That said, I do have a hell of a lot of respect for how he so freely gives away his unwanted gear and also gives good advice to anyone who asks.

 

Realistically, as the two young employees at the store who demoed the speakers to us openly said (when the boss wasn't watching) -- they advise most people to go for active speaker/whole system solutions costing no more than 2K typically, because that is all most people ever need, want, or are willing to pay. And I think they are right. I am actually incredibly happy that most people can get really, really good sound for relatively little money, especially if they pursue a headphone-oriented option. To your point, the Jotunheim plus a HD6XX from Massdrop gives you significant change from 1K. For non-speaker solutions, most people who asked me (prior to my latest purchase) would have been told to get an Audioengine HD6 if they were okay with being more tethered to a PC/another intermediate device but the best sound quality possible under 2K. If they want simple and don't like being tethered, the Muso or Muso QB is great (except for classical), and now there are the KEFs.

 

What a great time it is for people who want more music for their buck but also want to keep things simple!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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  # 2223045 24-Apr-2019 08:57
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Out of interest, what store did you buy from?

 

Powered bookshelf speakers seem to sit on the shelves of Hifi stores and collect dust... I do like the sound of the DynAudio powered speakers, but I can't for the life of me remember the pricing.


 
 
 
 


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  # 2223140 24-Apr-2019 12:08
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Dunnersfella:

 

Out of interest, what store did you buy from?

 

Powered bookshelf speakers seem to sit on the shelves of Hifi stores and collect dust... I do like the sound of the DynAudio powered speakers, but I can't for the life of me remember the pricing.

 

 

I think there are a few reasons for that, it's a paradigm shift for the "home hifi business" and manufacturers, and meets some resistance.

 

Note also that bluetooth speakers, UEbooms, whatever, or smart speakers are still fundamentally "powered" speakers and they sell like hotcakes, everyone I know has one or more, and although most are far from "hifi", they have their place. 

 

Anyway, as far as hifi goes, I think there needs to be a distinction made or recognition of the fact that most good "active" speakers aren't simply "powered" speakers.

 

Philips commercialised "active" speakers back in the '70s, with "motional feedback" designs with built-in amplification.  These didn't sell like hotcakes - they were too expensive for general consumption, I would have liked to buy a pair, but couldn't afford anything but the smallest model, which IIRC had only 4" bass/mr driver and 1" dome tweeter and maybe 15 watts through small drivers, which was far too tame for my liking, bang for buck (bang = "loud") they didn't stack up.  The principle of operation is here:

Claims that they offered bass response way beyond what comparatively sized passive speakers were capable of was true, they sounded great at moderate listening level, but still limited by physics and speaker driver design/materials.  There are fan club sites for original motional feedback speakers.

 

These were sold by 1979:

 

These were bi-amped with (I think) 4th order LR crossover at line signal strength, and relatively affordable. Start of what should have been a pivot point for conventional HiFi IMO.  Instead of embracing the tech, they come up with increasingly spurious arguments to stay with what they'd always done, using passive crossover design etc, separate amps. 
OTOH for sound reinforcement portable PA systems and studio speakers, active design has pretty much taken over, not only much less complicated to set up, but they simply sound better.  Some still use motional feedback circuitry, although AFAIK not with a separate transducer but using impedance response from the voice coil (will increase with increased physical resistance to movement). Of course they also use DSP, phase shift/delay for alignment, most have protection circuitry that'll prevent distortion and damage from over-driving the speakers by implementing audio compression, usually with a red light flashing to let you know to turn the gain down, but at least this sounds a hell of a lot better than clipped/distorted sound and makes them reasonably bullet-proof. Many "bookshelf" hifi speakers used to use a festoon lightbulb in series with the drivers to try achieve the same protection, so that at higher sound levels the peak audio signal was compressed (the resistance of the light bulb filament increases as it gets hot), small bluetooth speakers probably do the same thing using electronic compression, so they give the impression of sounding loud, using a nasty (from hifi perspective) trick akin to "the loudness wars".  The festoon bulb trick is also used by some folks playing with guitar amps/speakers, as it offers a simple cheap sound compression method.

 

 




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  # 2223452 25-Apr-2019 00:18
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Dunnersfella:

 

Out of interest, what store did you buy from?

 

Powered bookshelf speakers seem to sit on the shelves of Hifi stores and collect dust... I do like the sound of the DynAudio powered speakers, but I can't for the life of me remember the pricing.

 

 

AVWorld in Auckland. They do seem to sell more of the little brothers (LSX) but my one came in a sealed box that had a pretty new delivery note on it IIRC. To some extent, it doesn't surprise me that the average type who visits such stores prefer separates but I really can't see your average millennial or Gen X showing similar enthusiasm into the future. Money issues aside, most young/young-ish people that I know (35 or under) really prefer simpler and more elegant solutions.

 

To Fred99's point (and expanding it a bit), amongst my professional mid-to-late 30s, professional friends I don't know anybody who doesn't have some kind of Sonos, B&W, Bose, or Naim bluetooth device and/or dock/streamer. All of these have some pretensions of reaching a higher sound quality (in the case of some, the purported quality is almost entirely imaginary - looking at you, Bose). I don't think any of them (or most of their friends, for that matter) have ever bought any hifi "separates". We are not normally the most social types but have had 3 sets of couples into our house since Saturday wanting to hear these speakers. Two of the couples have, like us, long expressed a desire for something simple that will get them better sound and one has already ordered their own set.

 

Maybe someone who is very patient, has lots of knowledge, and can be patient in building up their gear via the second hand market can get better/equal sound for less money but I just don't see that being many people that I know. Dynaudio speakers can be fantastic (have listened to the xeo 10s) but I noticed that their dealer network is pretty small in NZ and similar grade speakers to mine cost a lot more whilst offering less.


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  # 2223454 25-Apr-2019 03:18
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Interesting speakers, and I love the look of the white ones.

 

BUT this review makes me a little sceptical though, the main take away I had from the review is that the speakers are treble heavy.

 

 

 

 

My main speakers are some KEFs I have had for 30 years, so probably time to update them. But I am waiting for a truly wireless surround system. So I am waiting for a good quality (and not insanely priced) WiSA system to come on the market.

 

Would be great to have something like the KEF LS 50 wireless in such a system.





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  # 2223484 25-Apr-2019 10:09
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I'd expect anybody used to listening to typical hifi speakers may get the impression that "accurate" speakers with a reasonably flat response sound "treble heavy". People (including hifi zealots) seem to like music with a "smiley" shape EQ curve. Bose recognised that decades ago, they're a very good marketing company, not really "hi fi", and they worked out how well that concept sells.

 

I'd expect those Kefs to be much flatter, especially around the crossover frequency, than typical 2-way passive speakers. (this said deaf - as I haven't actually heard them).

 

I'm somewhat perplexed by the DAC quality discussion.  FWIW, I'm just using the DAC in a focusrite audio interface, because I had one handy.  I 've tried using a hifi DAC (with balanced output) but returned it, not because of audio quality issues but it didn't quite meet my needs.  I couldn't detect any audio playback quality difference between that and the focusrite interface which retails at less than 1/2 the price of the hifi device, and is obviously far better featured, not that it needs those features how it's used.  I think that's just another example of what I believe is possibly true - you can get much better value for money from pro equipment than hifi/home audio.

 

 




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  # 2235263 12-May-2019 10:19
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General/additional observations now that we are three weeks into life with these speakers.

 

     

  1. These are, in comparison with the Muso and our old Q Acoustics, far more revealing of crappy sources. My wife is a bit of a Shakira fan (mainly two songs) and Shakira is notorious for singing rather badly live (vibrato is a mess; intonation is way off) and many of her live albums are badly recorded/mixed. They are bad enough on the Muso and are frankly unbearable on the LS50W.
  2. Fred99 is right - this thing doesn't have a smiley EQ curve. I don't agree with people who say that it's treble heavy but the sound is flatter compared to your Klipsch and B&Ws of this world. I'd say it's fantastic for acoustic, unplugged and classical music especially. 
  3. If you want the bass to knock your socks off, get something else.
  4. That soundstage - it just gets better and better. With a well-recorded violin concerto piece, for example, it sounds like the soloist and orchestra is playing right in front of you.

 

All up, I think this thing deserves its hype (so far) but it's not for everybody.


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  # 2235266 12-May-2019 10:39
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If you think Klipsch push the treble too far, you're listening to the wrong models.

 

Leave the Harvey Norman / big box store versions behind and listen to some Heritage versions.

 

The Cornwalls still rank as some of my favourite loud speakers to date, with the Forte's a much more 'reasonable' proposition.

 

Like the KEF's the Heresy's are certainly not forgiving of poor recordings, but I'd rather hear an accurate representation of the music and not a 'people pleasing box'.

 

The KEF's have never been my cup of tea, but with the press they get in What HiFi? they sure do know how to get column inches! They've taken a page out of the Bose / Sonos playbook, no doubt about it.




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  # 2235288 12-May-2019 11:27
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Dunnersfella:

 

If you think Klipsch push the treble too far, you're listening to the wrong models.

 

 

Err, when did I say that? A flatter frequency response just means less colouring. If anything, I would say the Klipsch that I have heard (and no I haven't just heard what's in HN but thanks for assuming) lean towards a warmer sound. That's not "wrong" but it's not my thing and doesn't suit the kind of music that I enjoy. 

 

 

 

The KEF's have never been my cup of tea, but with the press they get in What HiFi? they sure do know how to get column inches! They've taken a page out of the Bose / Sonos playbook, no doubt about it.

 

I am not sure you really are getting what the appeal of this set is, if you are insinuating that people are getting taken in by a similar approach to audio from two companies that (in particular) produce a very different sound signature to the KEFs.

 

 

 

 

 




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  # 2235290 12-May-2019 11:37
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FWIW, I've heard the Heresy IIIs - my wife's old boss has a set in a holiday home that he goes to twice a month (and we've stayed there a couple of times), which is presumably driven by an insanely expensive amp. It's soundstage is amazing for classical music and the sound signature quite natural to my ears but the full cost of running that system exceeds the kind of prices that we want to pay and, most importantly, we don't want any kind of floor-standing solution with two curious and rather determined cats around.


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