KEF LS50 Anniversary Model loudspeaker Sam Tellig May 2014
The Croft Phono Integrated amplifier and KEF LS50 loudspeaker made a spectacular combination in my listening room. I welcomed the Croft's warmth, immediacy, and tonality. Once again, Sam's maxim is proved: You can have excellent hi-fi for very little money; you just can't have a lot of it.
The KEF LS50 retails for $1500/pair. You'll need to sit them on stands 2022" high. I think they're best suited to rooms of small to medium size. I found them very flexible in terms of room placement. Their Uni-Q concentric drive-unitsa 1" tweeter nested inside a 5.25" mid/woofermake them ideally suited for nearfield listening. (I would like to see a protective cover that I can place over the speakers when they're not in use.) They sounded as one, even from close-up. They also worked well spaced far apart and close to the sidewalls. (But avoid room corners.) Placed just right in a room, the LS50s could deliver surprising bass: down to around 50Hz.
Sensitivity (2.83V/m) is a claimed 85dB. The nominal impedance is 8 ohms, with a minimum of 3.2 ohms. At higher listening levels, that might put a strain on the Croft in a larger room. Flea-watt SET amps seem out of the question. (KEF suggests amplifiers with outputs of 25100Wpc.)
I found the LS50's tonality spot-on, more neutral than sweet. Soundstaging and imaging were top-notch. Definition was superb, ranking with the very best speakers at any price. I haven't had such great sound in my listening room since the departure of Quad's ESL-2805 electrostatics.
Despite the "LS" designation, the LS50 is not a minimonitor à la the BBC LS3/5A, with a pumped-up midbass and a soft treble. Brass could bray; strings could sound wiry when they should. Percussive sounds were quick and clear.
The LS50 was introduced in 2011, to mark KEF's 50th anniversary. The good news is that although the 50th-anniversary year has passed, it will remain in production. Sam Tellig