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Torxx
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KEF LS50 Need Help

I have been auditioning the KEF LS50 for a week now. Very nice speaker overall and clearly understand why it is so well reviewed. The speaker sounded very poor out of the box and loosened up after about 2 hours and finally started to sing. I have 25+ hours on them now (of course KEF says 100-200 needed????).

Bottom line for me is they do not have enough bottom end, and the vocals can seem too loud and a bit harsh at times, it almost seems like there is buzz going on at all times, just below the surface on high octives. My gut feeling is that they will change much more from now? This is a reference type speaker in my opinion. I guess there is always a thin line between perfect detail and rich soulful sound.  I am looking for both (like most people) with a slant towards the rich and soulful side for my taste. This is a dedicated listening system. I had already prepared myself for the need of a sub with the LS50 speakers before ordering, hoping to be satisfied (based on other comments).

I am considering two options going forward.  ($3,000 budget max and prefer closer to $2,000)

  1. Try a sub (and soon) before my return window expires. SVS SB it most probable to due generous demo policy. The KEF R400 would be nice to try but cost more than the speakers?? I would consider it if gave me the results I want.
  2. Return LS50 and find a suitable floor standing that will not need a sub, like Salk Song Tower ($160 shipping each way), or possibly KEF R line, or others? Fritz speakers just hit the radar as well?

I guess I am hoping for some input from those with similar experiences and the choices you ended up making.

My set-up

McIntosh MC 2150 solid state

Parasound Halo P5 pre-amp

Airport express via Toslink to Preamp DAC

Rotel CD player via digital coax to Preamp DAC

 

I currently use Tributary A1 Silver RCA cables and Tributary 12AWG Speaker wires.   14 x 19 room carpeted 75% or the area

Torxx
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KEF Need Help Help

TYPO "My gut feeling is that they will change much more from now? " What I meant to say is that I do not think they will change much more from here?

Torxx
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ls50 help

also curious about Walsh Tall  OHm 1000 or 2000

commsysman
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Sound Quality

You need to realize that what you are hearing is diametrically opposed to what the whole world says about those speakers! The DO NOT sound like that unless you are feeding CRAP to them.

Your problem is what is driving them!

Parasound electronics sound like that, with a few very expensive exceptions. I have auditioned some Parasound gear and thought it sounded awful. The P5 and A23 were especially bad. A $500 NAD C325 amp I have sounds way way better.

As long as you have that P5 you will hear crap.

A good integrated amplifier from Arcam, Musical Fidelity, or Creek will make your speakers sound 300% better. That is the way to go!

Or you could maybe get decent sound with that power amp IF you dump that crummy preamp. Vincent makes a good preamp that is not too expensive. The Audio Research LS17 is also excellent.

Garbage in....garbage out.

Keep those speakers!

Everything else in your system is junk compared to those speakers. You have Class A speakers and everything else is Class D or worse; a horrible dis-service to those fine speakers!

commsysman
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Sound Quality

 

Garbage in....garbage out.

P.S.- The Musical Fidelity M3I is one amp that really sounds good with those speakers. I heard that combo at my other home recently. A friend bought those speakers and brought them over.

I use the Musical Fidelity M6PRX power amplifier with the Audio Research LS-26 preamp for my system now, but i have an M3i to sell from my other house which is for sale.

It is like new, cost $1500, and you could have it for $900.

Send PM if you want it. It WILL put a smile on your face with those excellent speakers.

 

P.P.S.- An OPPO BDP-103 will sound 300% better than that Rotel, too (with direct ANALOG connections to your preamp or amp, to get rid of all those unwanted and redundant  DACs). Actually, running direct ANALOG connections from the Rotel to the preamp might help some. The way you are connecting it now strikes me as a very bad idea.

Torxx
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sound quality

thanks for the kind words about my system commsysman. you have an interesting approch at a sales pitch?? maybe i should return the speakers due to the lack of worthyness of my feeble compenents.

for those on my planet, the speakers do respond well to high quality sourse material a do seem to be improving overall as they continue to break-in. as mentioned, some vocals and other high end can be bit pronounced which hopefully will relax??? a sub would be mandatory for my taste. i may give it try before looking to floor standers.

commsysman
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SYSTEM CHOICES

I would suggest that you keep the speakers. There are not a lot of floorstanders that don't need a subwoofer anyway, although the KEF Q900 IS one that has a ton of low bass and would not.

There are several good amps made by Arcam, Creek, and Musical Fidelity, among others. I just threw mine in there because I KNOW it is very good and it would save you money compared to a new one; no big deal.

I use the NHT B12D sub and recommend it highly. I bought it to use with some PSB Image T6 speakers, and it worked well with those. I now have Vandersteen Treo speakers, which have so much bass of their own that I only use the subwoofer for music with huge kettledrums or pipe organs. I don't use it a lot.

Most reviewers at Stereophile have condemned the poor quality of Toslink, so you might want to heed that and consider alternatives. I have no personal experience with it. I have always used coaxial connections for digital signals.

I will reiterate that I think the harshness and negative sound quality you are hearing is IMO coming from the P5 preamp, but the only way to prove that to your satisfaction would be to get a better preamp or integrated in there and see what you hear.

Torxx
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KEF LS50 break-in

I realize that higher end gear will bring out more noticeable changes in the sound when you start switching things up, and i also realize that my gear is probably considered to be entry level separates for most on this forum, however, when I add a sub it will be $5,000 +/- system which for me is a significant outlay. I know many spend more than that on cables, but, that is not me.

I use the toslink for the Airport Express and a digital coax for the CD player. I also have teh CD player connected via analog through the parasound which allows me to compare the two. I am hard pressed to hear any difference, the optical connection comes in a little bit louder so it seems to sound better if the loudness was not considered (in other words , not seeing a real deference). Using blue jeans cable dig coax and monster cable RCA that I have laying around, not great , but not cheapo like comes with DVD players from the factory. I need to try some decent RCA’s without breaking the bank on them, probably $150 max for me.

I have been running a CD player straight through the MAC amp up until now (had no preamp before) and have never thought it sounded harsh. My direct comparison to adding the parasound vs running the straight amp is no negative changes at all. It does not seem logical, however, the sound seems to have more dynamics with the preamp hooked up??? So very pleased with the sound, although, have nothing to compare to except straight amp hook up.

The LS50 have running non stop for the past few days and they have definitely mellowed nicely. I think the harshness was a result of more break-in time needed. I am 95% sure I will be ordering a sub in the next few days. Bottom line, these are nice speakers, and well-reviewed. I need to give them a fair chance with a sub.

JohnMichael
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Cables can also throw off the

Cables can also throw off the balance of a system. What cables are you using? When a speaker is revealing what happens before the speakers is important. Your components may be fine but they may not compliment each other. Synergy is important among components and speakers. I have a Krell S-300i that sounds best with my Focal speakers. I also own Monitor Audio RS6's which did not suit my ears. Keep the speakers and work toward system synergy. 

commsysman
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Cables

As far as interconnect cables go, I have found that sometimes the connection between unit A and unit B sound just as good with some $10 cables as some $1000 cables; totaly non-critical.

But then the connection between unit A and unit C will sound totally different with 4 different cables. Very critical.

Fom what it's worth, i have had the best results, in general, with Audioquest cables; especially the Diamondback and Copperhead cables.

Several Monster cables I have tried sounded like crap; worse than the generic cables that come free with equipment.

That's just one pilgim's limited experience, for what it is worth.

Torxx
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KEF LS50 plus subs

After much investigation and trepidation I ordered and received a pair of SVS SB12-NSD subs in the piano black finish (which matches the KEF LS50). As some had indicated, the sound just opens up incredibly by adding the subs. The combination is impressive across the entire listening range. I have more than adequate bass availability, however, I am glad I got two subs. I experimented listening sessions with one sub and with two subs, and found the two sub set up to be much more musical. It is like replacing a par of full range speakers with speaker separates. I would / could be happy with this route from a sound quality perspective, it really sounds great. The customization of the low end is a nice bonus, i.e., change to various music styles, etc..

My only issue at this moment is aesthetics. I like the look of LS50, but, not head over heels with it. I wish there was a grill available… Also the subs look nice, and match the speakers nicely, but, they are pretty big. I can’t help but wonder if something like a Salk Song Tower (beautiful looking floor stander) would have similar quality sound as I have put together??

pablolie
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LS50

like others, i am puzzled by the fact you hear any harshness out of the LS50. it is *not* the character of the speakers at all. it is doubly strange because i think you have a pretty well-put together system.

i paired them with a Velodyne Minivee, but honestly i keep the Velodyne at 5% so it doesn't intrude with the absolutely pristine music that flows out of the LS50s. my LS50 stand about 2 feet from the back wall, so bass is plenty, and clean to boot. i guess it depends on your music choice and whether you often listen to a giant kodo drum recording at real-life volume levels. :-) i pair my LS50 with a Creek Destiny poweramp these days, and a Benchmark DAC2 HGC provides DA and preamp duties. i get a sound out of this combo i think i shall be happy with forever, but i am curious about the new Benchmark power amp. i am not going to claim it's a system that murders systems 4 times the price (though it sure does the one i used to own, which i mostly credit the LS50 with), but it is a very sweet mix of accuracy and yet musical enough to not be either tiring  or distracting from the overall performance. i listen to mostly jazz and classical (that i like to FLAC) and R&B (and for that MP3s are perfectly fine, anyone that claims a 1960/70s motown album sounds better as a FLAC was dropped from a second floor as a baby :-D).

as to cabling, i stick with AnalysisPlus, i think the balanced cables from preamp to power amp are $300 and the loudspeaker cables about $700. good cables but nothing esoteric, because differences -to me- are minute. my only issue with cheap cables is they may introduce EMI with poor shielding and/or contacts. i'd rather spend some extra to make sure i get clean, transparent, shielded interconnects between components. so as long as cabling is decent i think it's the last thing one should go after for enhancing sound.

power filtering is important. i have an expensive power brick in storage, but I seem to get very clean power where i am now - so a simple Furman Power Station seems to do the trick. i do upgrade power cables to $70 or so for the same reason i do with other cables - shielding. simple stuff.

because i don't think any of your compoenents or cabling could be causing your issues (Because they shouldn't and seem like they ought to play nice together), i'd simply urge you to simply wait and see if the new sound grows on you. i am not sure what speakers you had prior, but maybe you simply need to get used to a more revealing and accurate speaker. make no mistake: the LS50 is a keeper, unless you have a *really* large listening room.

other than that, i'd check out the power quality; and then would look into the pre-amp and amp.

JoeE SP9
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Motown on FLAC

Since MP3 throws out part of the music when it compresses why bother with it? Why not use FLAC for any music that you rip to "whatever" medium. I've ripped 1500+ CD's to a 500GB USB HDD, all in FLAC format for use with a Netbook and USB DAC as part of my portable DJ system This includes a whole slew of Motown and other LP's that aren't "audiophile" quality. Storage space is so cheap that IMO it doesn't make sense to throw away any of the music.

My Sandisk ClipZip is a different situation because I'm not trying to carry an entire music collection with me. I only have a couple hundred specific selections on it because of that. The 4GB on board storage and a couple of 32GB micro SD cards do it for me. Besides, I can only listen to a couple hundred selections before the battery runs down anyway.

So, no, I don't have any MP3 files and have no intention of acquiring or creating any.

pablolie
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single format convenience - not sound sound quality

i utterly and fully understand if people make a conversion to whatever - for convience, to use the same conversion process... there are a dozen reasons. for many popular music recordings, though, soudn quality is not one of them. to not distract this too much from the LS50 topic, audiophiles are quick -in many cases justifiably so- "garbage in, garbage out". the same applies to a majority of recordings, sadly. 1960s motown recordings are not going to sound any better in FLAC because the recording was horrible - great as the music was. there all a large number of re-masters that sound a bit better, but are still horribly compromised. that was my point. the recording will not sound any better in FLAC than in 256k VBR MP3 (and aguably you could go lower) - clearly for many vintage recordings (note it did never say "all"), and arguably for many examples in popular music these days, too.

hence, since MP3 music is much easier to acquire than FLACs, i said that i am perfectly fine with MP3s i download. MP3 at >256k VBR sounds pretty sweet and is entirely enjoyable through an audiophile system - not saying it sounds better, not saying i wouldn't prefer to have a FLAC for whatever reason - just saying the MP3 sounds good enough if getting the FLAC entails much more work, in many cases. for jazz and classical i will go that extra mile.

finally, the convenience of MP3 is universal support. sure you can transcode to MP3, but again, that entails an amount of work i am not sure many recordings justify. note i am not stating my way is *better*, it is just more convenient for me, and i am convinced i am not scarificing sound quality for the recordings i pick good MP3 compression for.

JoeE SP9
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Dowwnload

I suppose where we really differ is downloading. I don't download music unless it's in one of the high(er) resolution formats. I'm simply not interested in any "crippled" music sources. If there is any crippling to be done I'll do it myself. At least I'll have un-crippled originals to refer to.

In addition, I have no interest in one selection here and another selection there. I only want a recording if it's the entire CD or LP. I don't even bother with the free MP3 files that Amazon routinely offers with most CD purchases. The price of easily available used CD's, often <$5, makes them actually cheaper than downloading half a dozen MP3 files.

I would probably feel quite different if I didn't have 46+ years of collecting recorded music. I have the original LP's of all those "lo-fi" Motown, Stax, Atlantic and other early recordings.

With all that said, IMO those KEF's sound superb. For some they may have more than adequate bass despite their small size.

pablolie
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To JoeE - you *are* right

I think we agree whole-heartedly. I am not new to this - been collecting music since the early 80s (vinyl) and switched to CDs prolly around 89/90 (some HORRIBLE recordings in xxD those days ugh). i think  the only difference is while i am really hard-core about making sure i have key recordings in non-lossy format, on the other hand i am also OK with keeping others as a CD-quality MP3 (>VBR 256k) - either when i subjectively deem them unworthy of being FLAC(1) or when they are unattainable in another format. I'd rather listen to more music I like than artifically limit my experience to ONLY unceompressed music I guess.

when i ripped my entire CD and LP collection, i did mostly into FLAC, hey, why not. same workflow. do all albums warrant it? no. but it was easier. as you said, now we talk about online downloads: i will check amazon for new stuff, and if i care about the recording, i'll check HDtracks or other higher resolutions sources, and if it is not there, i will get the MP3 on amazon. and with 256k+ VBR i can hear when there is a recording where i should really make an effort to get it on FLAC - and where i shouldn't bother :)

(1) I think that is a highly personal approach to it - I guess I use FLAC as an expression of how much I care to get the utmost out of a performance that is *really* important for me. FLAC is audiophile shrine stuff, MP3 shows i am less passionate about it. makes sense to me - don't expect it to make sense to anyone else. Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson... so many more... I need them as FLAC to make sure I get every nuance and convince myself I am doing my utmost to juice every drop out of it. With other stuff I am OK listening to a good enough pasteurized version. :)

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Running time is pretty long

Running time is pretty long for the KEF LS50's to run in and loose their slight treble edge - the bass can be extended if necessary by placing them on stands close to the room boundaries, takes some time to find the best location but well worth it. Stick with them and you will be rewarded with superb sound quality.

JoeE SP9
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MP3

pablolie:

Since I've never downloaded any music files I've never acquired any MP3 files. All the music files that are on my player or music server came from my collection. Storage space is cheap and I see (hear) no reason to compromise my listening in any way.

Using only FLAC for music stored on my computer and portable player seemed to me the only way for a couple of reasons. Having a couple hundred of my favorite selections on my Sansa ClipZip is more than adequate for my portable use as I have no desire to carry my entire collection with me. In addition I'll never listen to 1600+ CD's or 3500+ LP's while I'm on the go anyway. Although I've ripped my CD collection to FLAC files on my music server I've not started on my LP's. I may rip some of my favorites but I simply have too many to rip all of them. All the CD's easily fit on a 1TB HDD as FLAC files. I use another identical drive for a backup. They are certainly cheap enough at less than $100 each. 

I don't really like headphones anyway. Extended hospital visits with chemotherapy treatments are what prompted me to get a portable player. I'm big on having a good sound stage. Many confuse a sound stage with imaging. I don't. Unfortunately no headphones I've ever tried (I've tried plenty) have ever produced sound that was anything but a straight line from one ear to the other. That results in great imaging but absolutely no sound stage. Besides, having the sound come from a line directly from one ear to the other has always seemed sort of creepy to me. Nevertheless the Sansa and a pair of Grado headphones have made chemotherapy reasonably tolerable.

Back  to Torxx:

Stick with the LS50's. Just have some patience. If you find you still want more/better bass I suggest you give an REL sub woofer an audition.

Torxx
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final update

Final update: I did determine that any harshness or listening fatigue I was experiencing was due to room acoustics and the HVAC return vent which causes some ear response when music is playing. I spent some bucks on acoustic panels / bass traps which helped quite a bit, however, did not completely eliminate all issues. The LS50 are NOT harsh sounding at all and they are a fantastic speaker for the money. In the end I in-home demoed the Atlantic Technology AT-1 (idea was to eliminate subs) and The B&W CM-5 and the LS50 out performed them both.

I made the mistake of spending a couple of hours listening to the B&W 805D at a dealers listening room and quickly convinced myself that the 805D is the level of sound quality / realism that I require. Unfortunately The LS50 is not in the same league which is understandable as the 805D retails for $5k. The LS50 and subs got returned and I am at square one.  

commsysman
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SYSTEM CHOICES

There are a lot of ways you could go, since you are back at square one. The sound quality refinement and lack of harshness you are looking for seems similar to my preferences. I personally find that, as you have noted, this is only available from B & K if you go to their most expensive speakers. This is why I seldom recommend that brand. There are many other possibilities to consider.

I suggest that you consider a pair of Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II speakers, which are $2395. Vandersteen routinely wins "Best of Show" at the various high-end shows all over the world, and have always been known for their sonic purity and lack of undesirable colorations.

They are by FAR the best-selling high-end speakers in the world for all time; over 200,000 sold (documented in a Stereophile article a while back); and very few people who buy Vandersteens ever go to anything else...except more expensive Vandersteens...lol.

I started with the 2B many years ago, and moved to the Model 3 and 3A later, and now have the Treos (sound to die for...but $6500).

If you want bookshelf/monitor type speakers (not floorstanders), I suggest that you consider some of the excellent speakers made by Focal.

The Focal Electra 1007 speakers were $3500, but are reduced to $2000 now at Music Direct. Those are very nice-sounding speakers. Music Direct will give you 30 days to decide whether to keep them.

Torxx
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system choices

Thanks commsysman for the recommendations. Interestingly, I have been considering the Vandy 2Ce; however, the recommended distance from the rear of the speaker to the wall is a deal breaker for my room. About 2 feet is the max I have to work with in that regard. The Focal sounds like worth looking at.

Bill B
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2 ft fine

2 feet out from the wall behind them is fine for those Vandy's. That's about the distance I arrived at for mine. Best balance between room gain and clarity.  

commsysman
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Speakers

I don't think 2 feet is any problem at all for the Model 2.

I had my Model 2 speakers closer than that, and that was the best position I found.

That distance is strictly an issue for bass quality, and there are other room issues that are actually more important. Putting them closer to the rear wall will usually INCREASE the amount of bass, but possibly with some slight loss of bass clarity.

The effect of the rear wall distance also is changed when you tilt the speakers somewhat (as most people do), or toe them in a bit. You just have to follow the detailed setup instructions in the Owner's manual.

When I went to the Model 3 speakers they needed to be about 3 feet out for the best bass quality, but the model 2 doesn't need anywhere near as much.

 

 

Torxx wrote:

Thanks commsysman for the recommendations. Interestingly, I have been considering the Vandy 2Ce; however, the recommended distance from the rear of the speaker to the wall is a deal breaker for my room. About 2 feet is the max I have to work with in that regard. The Focal sounds like worth looking at.

musicaddict
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Wow- LS50 to a Vandy 2Ce?

That is one heckuva proposed change-night and day to my ears.  Despite all the hyperbole about the LS50 speakers (and I've heard them a few times) I don't think I could ever be happy with them, unless you had a phenomeneally integrated sub (REL?).  The LS50 sound did not appeal to me-I just wanted to turn them down (I forget the electronics the dealer had hooked up but it was good stuff). 

Of course moving from what I consider to be a highly analytical speaker to a highly 'musical' (that's a nice way to express it...) Vandy is interesting.  I've always thought they were a bit too warm but perhaps the latest Ce version is different (I have heard their higher end stuff and found it great).  (No offense intended but 'selling a lot' is the kind of line Bose might use to claim their speakers are great.)

From my experience with Focals, I'd consider them in between the KEF and Vandersteen sound.  You might really enjoy them as I have in the past at shows and dealers.  Hang in there; finding the pair you love is worth a little time and energy!  Good luck.

bwright
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LS50

I had the same experience when auditioning these speakers - they had particularly harsh treble when I first heard them, and had written them off completely. A few months later I returned to the same dealer, who told me they had finally broken in. I reluctantly gave them a listen with the same components, and was surprised to hear a now-smooth treble and a nicely integrated high, mid and bass (as much bass as possible, anyway). Like Audio Research gear, these things need a good 250+ hours to sound as they should, which is really quite good.

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