From the KEF LS50 Wireless to . . . ?

To Doug Schneider,

For the past few years, I’ve been mostly listening to Spotify on my KEF LS50 Wireless loudspeakers. I have a second bedroom in my apartment now, which I’ve converted into an office (roughly 12’ x 12’). Rather than get a second pair of the same speakers, would you have a recommended upgrade pick for, say, $5000 for the speakers alone? I don’t need them to be active or wireless. I promise to get what you recommend.

Thank you so much!

Doug F.
United States

I will give you some advice, but I definitely don’t recommend that you simply go out and purchase anything based on what I say here. No two speakers sound alike, which makes choosing difficult enough. What makes it even more difficult, however, is that everyone’s tastes are different, so what speaker I might like or love, it’s possible that someone could dislike or hate. As a result, take this as rough guidance only.

I also want to caution you that, in your situation, making an upgrade is not as easy as simply plunking more money down. The LS50 Wireless and the LS50 it’s based on are both exceptional speakers capable of competing against designs costing much more. As a result, it’s not that hard to find speakers that retail for $5000 or even $10,000 per pair, active or passive, that you won’t like as much as what you have right now. That’s not to say you can’t or won’t find something you like the sound of better -- it’s just that it might take some searching, as well as serious listening.

I’m going to assume that because you’re in an apartment, you want bookshelf-type speakers again, since they’re smaller and oftentimes easier to place. I know you said the speakers don’t have to be active, but one active speaker I do want to recommend looking at is the DALI Rubicon 2 C. It retails for $5799/pair, which is, of course, a little above your budget, but it doesn’t need an external amplifier, so you might be able to swing it. My recommendations for passive speakers are a little more plentiful, but I’m going to keep it to the three that immediately popped into my mind when I read your question. The first recommendation is the KEF R3 ($1999.99/pair), mostly because you have KEF speakers already and seem to like what you have. For the price, it’s really a steal of a deal. The second is the Revel PerformaBe M126Be ($4000/pair), which is really a sonic benchmark for bookshelf-type speaker designs. The third one I’d suggest looking at is the Sonus Faber Minima Amator II ($4000/pair). There are two reasons for this model. One reason is the sound -- Sonus Faber has a distinctive sonic signature that many find pleasing, including me. I heard this speaker at High End 2019, in Munich, and really liked what I heard. The other reason has to do with appearance. Like all Sonus Faber speakers, the Minima Amator II, with its real-wood cabinet and great styling, is like a work of art. I guarantee that if someone walked into your office and saw a pair, they’d immediately ask about them.

I hope that helps, but, as I said, don’t take my word and buy something you can’t hear first. All of these speakers sound as different as they look and only careful auditioning will allow you to find something that’s truly special, as well as better than what you already have. . . . Doug Schneider