More KEF: R500 vs. LS50

To Doug Schneider,

I have been reading all the reviews on SoundStage! Hi-Fi praising the new KEF R500 loudspeakers. My first “real” speakers were the original KEF 104s. My current speakers are Thiel CS1.5s, which have a good midrange and are spectacular for female vocals. Once again it is time for new speakers -- and I still prefer the KEF sound (or lack thereof). How would you compare the sound from the KEF R500s versus the smaller KEF LS50s augmented with a sub-bass unit? I listen mostly to jazz and jazz vocals. The room is 9' x 13’ x 24’. [I have a] Bel Canto DAC2 and an SET amp. The current combo easily drives to moderately loud volumes (85-88dB at the listener’s position).

Thanks, and I look forward to continued information on affordable hi-fi in your publications.


I haven't reviewed the LS50 yet, but KEF says I'll have a pair here in a couple of weeks for measurements and review (I did listen to them at High End in Munich earlier in the year when they were introduced, but not since). As a result, I can't give you a direct comparison, but I can point out some things that might help.

One has to do with sub-speaker integration -- the sound quality you get from the LS50 will depend on the sub you choose and how successfully you integrate it with the speakers. Work like this isn't necessarily easy, particularly since you're not using any equipment with bass-management-type features. With the R500s, you don't have to worry about integrating the bass with the mids, since the woofers are built in and KEF's designers have done that for you.

But that doesn't mean you should dismiss the notion of using a sub. You mentioned having a single-ended triode (SET) amp, which is probably low powered and load sensitive, since most are. As a result, they tend to partner best with highly efficient speakers that don't present a demanding load. The R500s are only of moderate sensitivity and their impedance goes as low as 4 ohms. I don't expect the LS50 to be much different, but a powered sub could reduce the strain on your amp and might yield superior results -- providing you get that integration with the speakers right.

Thanks again for writing in and also reiterating the importance of reviewers writing about affordable equipment. I think it's vital for the growth of hi-fi, and too many publications neglect affordable stuff in favor of the equipment basically no one can afford. But if you want to read about only affordable gear, make sure to bookmark GoodSound!, our SoundStage! Network sister publication now headed up by Hans Wetzel -- GoodSound!'s sole mission is reviewing affordable audio gear. . . . Doug Schneider