KEF LS50 Wireless Nocturne Active Loudspeaker System

Go for the Glow

Equipment report
KEF LS50 Wireless
KEF LS50 Wireless Nocturne Active Loudspeaker System

As for my initial sonic impressions of the LS50 Wireless speaker system, right away I was struck by its high degree of detail and general naturalness of timbre—particularly through the midrange—though you can also expect a touch of sweetness and warmth on some recordings. In some respects the Nocturnes can sound more expensive than they are, especially on well-recorded material. Also, these smallish speakers aren’t shy; they pump out punchy bass that delves deeper than expected while still maintaining composure. They’re quick-stepping and snappy, and relentlessly musical across genres. Dispersion and dimensionality proved to be other strong suits, especially for a compact. And they sound bigger than they are. Also I’ve had mixed sonic experiences with (and sensitivity to) metal drivers but found that this array practically never skewed harsh or aggressive.

In my hasty excitement to hear these LS50s I began with the closest source at hand—the one in my hand: an iPhone 8 Plus. Via the Tidal app and Bluetooth, I queued up Andrew Bird’s Are You Serious in Tidal’s HiFi mode. The speakers seem to present just the right mix of detail balanced with substance—a pleasing sense of weight and body. The quite realistic tone and timbre of vocals and sweet violin wowed me on “Puma.” Imaging, including the placement of the singers and their string instruments within the soundstage, had compelling presence and immediacy on guitar strums and violin bowing on the more stripped-down track “Left Handed Kisses.” Chimes and other percussion were rendered with quick attacks with sustains and decays ringing out beautifully. It’s also a good sign that I was only going to listen to a track or two but found myself so engaged in the music that the album played on. Given that I’m also an analog lover, this was quite remarkable.

Next I plugged my MacBook Pro (circa 2012) laptop in via USB and queued up Roon. A listen to LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean” delivered expansive dispersion and some rather impressive lower-octave oomph. I never really felt tempted to bring out the subs. We’re not talking nightclub-level, cage-rattling bass here, but still far more depth than expected, especially from compacts. Of course, when I turned up the volume a few notches, some edges and aspects softened slightly in the bass, but the big picture didn’t fall apart. Per the specs, SPL maxes out at 106dB but I didn’t push that far. The LS50s conveyed this track’s broad-spectrum layers and gave all a great sense of groove and potent energy. I switched to Lila Downs’ “Aqua de Rosas” from La Cantina (Red Book CD rip), where multi-layered percussion was reproduced with crispness and clarity within a pleasing sense of airy openness. There was a rich smoothness to her smoky contralto vocals.

The LS50 Wireless speaker system packs big sound—along with plenty of technology and cool style—in a little box. And yes, this Nocturne edition brings extra fun to late-night listening in a dark room. Day or night, it’s been a delight to have around.

Specs & Pricing

Type: Active loudspeaker
Driver complement: Uni-Q concentric array with HF 1" vented aluminum dome, LF/MF 5.25" magnesium/aluminum alloy
Frequency response: 45Hz–28kHz; ±3dB, measured at 85dB/1m
Amplifier output power: 2x 230W (LF, 200W; HF, 30W)
Inputs: 2.4GHz/5GHz dual-band WiFi network, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX codec, USB Type B, TosLink optical, RCA analog line-level, 10/100Mbps RJ45 Ethernet
Output: Subwoofer output
Streaming options: Spotify, Tidal, Roon
Dimensions: 7.9" x 11.8" x 12.1"
Weight: Right speaker (master), 22.5 lbs.; left speaker (slave), 22 lbs.
Price: $2500, Nocturne edition; $2200, regular LS50 Wireless (passive LS50 is $1500)

10 Timber Lane
Marlboro, NJ 07746
(732) 683-2356

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