Upgrading Speakers During Coronavirus

To Doug Schneider,

I am a really happy and quite active reader of SoundStage! Solo.

I hope not to bother you asking a suggestion on speakers, as I usually do with Brent on headphones in the comments area [of SoundStage! Solo]. I haven’t found a similar place on the other SoundStage! sites.

I have a pair of KEF LS50s and a subwoofer. As you said, this is my mantra: “placing the tweeter at the center of the midrange . . . once you’ve experienced it, it’s tough to live without it.”

That being said, my biggest complaints are: a not quite-tall soundstage (I would like voices on top and bass at the “bottom” to mimic a stand-up band) and a not super-airy treble. I would also like a less-muddy upper bass. Which speaker companies or specific products should I consider? Right now I have seen these used products that got me intrigued at around €1500: KEF R500, Quad ESL-988, Amphion Xenon II.

Are these significant upgrades or would you suggest a different product that can blow my socks off?! :)

Thanks very much for your publication, I really enjoy it!

Cheers from the troubled Lombardy, Italy.


You’re right, we don’t have a comments sections on our sites other than SoundStage! Solo. Brent Butterworth asked us to implement it there more or less as an experiment, which seems to be going well. Why we generally avoid them is because comments sections quite often can become vitriolic the way traditional audio forums do, so we are still being cautious. For this site, how you contacted me, by e-mail, is still the right way.

As for your question, I can understand your criticism of the LS50 -- if your stands are low, you’re not going to get a tall and blossoming soundstage, and the treble, while extended, is not as airy as with some speakers. The bass issue I understand as well. KEF is asking the LS50’s midrange-woofer to do a lot, so its low end doesn’t have the articulation of, say, a traditional three-way design, which will have a dedicated midrange and one or more woofers.

I can’t tell you anything about Quad’s ESL-988, since I’ve never heard it. The KEF R500 I can tell you about, since I reviewed it several years ago and found it to be a great speaker for the price. I think you’ll find the bass improved over the LS50 because the R500 is a true three-way design, but the soundstaging and imaging, as well as the treble, will be similar to what you have. You may still want to try it, though. The Amphion Xenon II is an interesting one. I’ve long liked the look and sound of this speaker, but don’t know why Amphion discontinued it. I always thought it was a killer model in their line. Definitely consider it.

As for other speakers you could consider -- there are too many to list and comment on. I can only say Paradigm, Revel, PSB, GoldenEar Technology, Totem Acoustic, Monitor Audio, Axiom Audio, Bowers & Wilkins, PMC, etc., all make speakers people really like. Your options are almost limitless. . . . Doug Schneider