Focal Kanta No1 or KEF LS50 Meta?

To Doug Schneider,

Wow, just read your reviews of the Focal Kanta No1 and the KEF LS50 Meta speakers.

Why you ask? Because I’m about to swap out my Metas for the No1s and I was curious about your take on both speakers. Given the stellar reviews you gave them both, I would really value your opinion on the differences between these two and what I should expect to gain, lose, or find to be similar.

I noticed quite a bit of overlap in your description of the sound and ability to cast a wide soundstage for both speakers, which is something I love about my Metas. BTW, I will be pairing the No1s with two JL Audio E-Sub e110 subs, so the low end shouldn’t be a problem!

Anyway, like I said, I would value your unvarnished opinion if you have a few minutes to spare.

Thank you!
Michael Hubbard
United States

Hello Michael,

Here’s the thing about the KEF LS50 Meta—it’s a small two-way priced at about $1500 per pair, which is pretty low for high-end hi-fi, but its sound quality compares favorably with similarly sized speakers that cost much more. Just like the regular LS50 before it. That doesn’t mean the LS50 Meta will be better than all those more expensive speakers, but the LS50 Meta is definitely worth listening to before spending more.

You own a pair of LS50 Metas, and from the sounds of it you’ve made up your mind to move up to a pair of Focal Kanta No1s—which are about four times the price of a set of Metas. Thankfully, you’ve chosen a good speaker to spend that much more on. When I reviewed the No1, I was really impressed with its clarity, as well as its neutrality. In fact, I wrote about the pair: “These are the most neutral-sounding Focal speakers I’ve heard.” But that didn’t mean that the No1 was so neutral that the pair ended up sounding boring—the No1, like other Focal speakers I’ve heard, has some liveliness inherent to its treble that made the pair come to life in my room.

Where the No1 falls short is also where the LS50 Meta fails—both speakers can’t reproduce really deep bass. If I recall correctly, when it came to low-frequency extension, the No1s fell off a cliff at around 50Hz in my room. I was kind of surprised by this because the Kanta No1 has a 6.5″ midrange-woofer in a cabinet quite a bit larger than most stand-mounted two-ways, so I thought it might go deeper in the bass than most. But it didn’t. Still, you have those JL Audio subs, so they’ll give you the deep bass you need.

Insofar as what you expect in sound, I think that you’ll find that since both speakers are voiced to have a relatively neutral tonal balance, they’ll sound more alike than different. But they definitely won’t sound exactly the same—I’ve never found two speaker designs that, even if they look almost identical, sound the same. Unlike, say, solid-state power amplifiers, which can often be difficult to distinguish by their sound, there are always noticeable differences between loudspeakers. And since these speakers aren’t even close to looking the same, I think you’ll hear quite a few differences.

One area that I suspect might be flat-out better with the No1 versus the LS50 Meta is the ability to play more effortlessly at higher volume levels. I say that because the No1 is quite a bit bigger than the LS50 Meta, both in terms of the size of its cabinet and its midrange-woofer driver, so it’ll move air more easily. That, however, is about all I can tell you. Instead, I’d rather hear from you after you’ve listened to the Kanta No1s so you can tell me how you find the two pairs of speakers differ.

Doug Schneider