Price (RRP): $1,895
There was a certain point in the 1980s when English loudspeaker makers introduced a new category: small, but extremely high-quality models. You can draw a line directly from there to the KEF LSX powered speakers.
Those were speakers like the original Wharfedale Diamond. They were like super high-end speakers without their woofers. But they were designed so that the bass they produced was tight and controlled, while the rest of the sound would satisfy any audiophile.
A more recent manifestation of this is the LS50 speakers, introduced in recent years by British firm KEF loudspeakers. These are glorious little speakers, featuring KEF’s Uni-Q driver arrangement. That has a 25mm tweeter located right at the centre of a 130mm bass/midrange unit. Fine materials and careful design help contribute to their near $2,000 price, and to their exceptional sound.
I know, because I use a pair of LS50 speakers myself on my desk for all manner of critical listening.
Since then KEF introduced the LS50 Wireless, which added an amplifier, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as some impressive tuning which enhanced the bass performance. We talk about those ones here.
Most recently it has launched the KEF LSX speakers, which are essentially a smaller version of the LS50 Wireless.
These still use the Uni-Q speaker arrangement, but the larger driver is now 115mm. The speakers only measure 250mm tall (by 155mm wide and 180mm deep). Despite the size, they are heavy at around 3.5 kilograms each. As with the LS50 and LS50 Wireless, the KEF LSX speakers don’t have a grille over the front. That makes the metallic look drivers part of the aesthetic. They are available in five colours: white, red, green, blue and black, with a metallic look at the front on each. Three models have the drivers finished in contrasting colours. All feature a tweedy cloth wrap around their bodies.
Each packs two amplifiers. A 70-watt amp runs the bigger driver, and a 30-watt amplifier drives the tweeter. They connect with each other wirelessly, but you can use a standard Ethernet cable to connect “Master” and “Slave” if you prefer. They can be configured either way around for Left/Right purposes.
The Wi-Fi is dual band 802.11a/b/g/n. The Bluetooth supports the aptX codec for higher quality. There’s also an optical input and an analogue one. I used a couple of different source devices, including a turntable, plus Bluetooth and network audio. The latter included streaming stuff using DLNA software, and also Spotify music. I don’t have a subscription, but the KEF says that the speakers work with TIDAL as well.
Setting up the KEF LSX speakers
Aggghhh! I hate insistent redirections. I had a problem. I was after more information. These speakers weren’t yet listed on KEF Australia website (au.kef.com). So, I tried the US website (us.kef.com). But it redirected automatically to the Australian website. Fair enough. Lots of people type things like kef.com and would rather come to their local site. So, I explicitly typed in the UK site: www.kef.co.uk. And it redirected to the Australian site.
I had to fire up my VPN and pretend I was in the UK to get there.
Anyway, there were a couple of setup wobbles. You install the “KEF Control” app on a phone or tablet (Android or iOS is fine) to set up and control the KEF LSX speakers. Then using it or using your device’s Wi-Fi settings you look for the speaker and connect to it. It seemed very slow to appear. Perhaps I was just impatient. It was this that sent me looking for a full manual on the KEF websites. It seems that there isn’t one.
Anyway, with a bit of persistence and after a couple of repeated goes, including pressing the indented “reset” button on the speakers, they finally appeared in the Wi-Fi listing. After that things went smoothly. You select them as your Wi-Fi access point on your phone, enter the necessary Wi-Fi connection information for your home and the speakers connect.
The KEF Control app lets you select inputs, adjust the volume level, and change some deeper settings. I’ll be talking about subwoofer settings later. The main things you’ll choose is whether you have the KEF LSX speaker on stands or a desk, the size of your room and how “bright” your room is. All those things are factored into the sound profile so that the speakers produce sound well fitted for their environment. For example, if the room is “bright” – it has lots of sound reflective surfaces – then the speaker pulls back the treble a little to keep a good tonal balance.
First, a summary of what you’ll experience with the KEF LSX speakers: you’ll hear what audiophiles are after in their loudspeakers. Not all of it, but a huge chunk of it. What you get is a look into your music as it is recorded; as it is supposed to be heard. It’s hard to describe, but there’s a difference between a steak-and-veggies presentation of your music, and what these do. There’s nothing wrong with steak-and-veggies. It’s nutritious and satisfying. But it’s not all that there is.