The second iteration of the industry’s most iconic wireless speaker, the KEF LS50 Wireless II arrives with a new acoustic design, extended connectivity and easier operation. The result of three years of research and development, the KEF LS50 Wireless II builds on the new acoustic platform pioneered by the KEF LS50 Meta speakers, including MAT technology that uses metamaterials for a purer, more natural reproduction. This second generation of the KEF LS50 is the first truly wireless model from the British manufacturer, with communication between the two speakers via WiFi. It also features an HDMI eARC port to facilitate association with a TV, in addition to the optical, coaxial and auxiliary inputs.
The amplifier section of the KEF LS50 Wireless II has also been updated with the implementation of two modules for a higher power output of 380 watts per speaker. In addition, there’s everything that made the first generation successful with digital signal processing (DSP), Bluetooth, Chromecast, AirPlay 2 and WiFi connectivity with support for all major streaming platforms. Hi-Res file playback shared over the local network is also possible up to 24-bit / 384kHz as well as MQA and DSD256 formats. Finally, the new KEF app promises a more user-friendly and intuitive experience.
KEF LS50 Wireless II: the brand
KEF is an iconic British hi-fi brand founded in 1961 in Maidstone, Kent (to the south-east of London) by the electronics engineer Raymond Cooke. The brand is named after the Kent Engineering and Foundry workshops where the brand’s history is rooted. From the outset, KEF focused on designing unconventional loudspeakers, using materials and designs that were unheard of at the time. The company made several technological advances in the development and manufacture of drivers and speakers. Its first success was the KEF K1, a three-way speaker whose low frequency and midrange drivers use a vacuum-molded polystyrene cone reinforced with a metal sheet. The tweeter uses a Mylar membrane. In 1963, KEF speaker production was booming with the KEF Celeste model, which paved the way for the manufacturer’s compact speakers.
In the 1970s, KEF took advantage of the introduction of the 4-bit microprocessor to become the first manufacturer to harness the potential of computer-aided design. This allowed KEF engineers to run simulations to design speakers and cabinets with greater precision. During this decade, computer-aided design benefited the KEF Reference Series, which still includes some of the manufacturer’s most successful models. This led to a collaboration with the BBC in 1980, when KEF installed no less than 36 Reference 105/2 speakers in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall to broadcast the performance of an organ in a nearby church while an orchestra played.
In 1988, KEF created its first UniQ driver, a coaxial model equipped with a high-field magnet powered by an alloy that had just been developed by NASA: neodymium. This type of driver is now one of KEF’s distinguishing elements, the twelfth generation of which is used in the KEF LS50 Meta speakers and the KEF LS50 Wireless II of this review.
KEF is now a renowned manufacturer of both hi-fi and home theater equipment and continues to stand out for its use of innovative technologies. It has a comprehensive catalog composed of floorstanding speakers, subwoofers, bookshelf speakers, satellite speakers, in-wall speakers and Atmos speakers. In 2016, the brand revolutionized wireless listening with the KEF LS50 Wireless, an amplified version of its iconic KEF LS50 speakers. This wireless model was a leader in its category and received the 2017-2018 EISA award for best wireless speaker. It was followed in late 2018 by the KEF LSX Wireless, a more compact model designed to be installed anywhere in the home. This small speaker still tops the list of best stereo wireless speakers on the market, with extensive connectivity and great musicality. After four years of loyal service, the KEF LS50 Wireless made way in late 2020 for the MKII version, which features new acoustic technologies and extended connectivity and provides a revised user experience to offer even more powerful and user-friendly speakers.
KEF LS50 Wireless II: packaging & accessories
The KEF LS50 Wireless II both come in a single box inside of which each speaker is held in place using polystyrene blocks and protected by a white synthetic fabric cover. In between the two speakers is another box that holds the accessories: two power cables (one for each speaker), an RJ45 Ethernet cable for network connection or to connect the speakers to each other, a remote control, batteries and an information leaflet concerning the warranty. There is no user manual, but the setup for the KEF LS50 Wireless II is explained in detail in the KEF Control mobile app, which guides the user through the various configuration and control steps.
KEF LS50 Wireless II: presentation
At first glance, this second generation of KEF LS50 Wireless speakers appears unchanged. The tried and tested design that is partly responsible for the success of these connected speakers has been reimplemented by the British manufacturer. The only difference is that the lacquered colors of the previous generation have almost all been replaced by matte colors, with the exception of the red KEF LS50 Wireless II. This coating is much more stylish and discreet, but still attracts fingerprints.
Other than that, the build quality is exemplary, with a thick and robust cabinet with rounded edges. The front panel, on which the Uni-Q driver takes pride of place in the center, is also rounded. This contributes to the speaker’s aesthetics by reducing its visual mass. One has to admit that the KEF LS50 Wireless II are relatively large for wireless bookshelf speakers, at 200mm wide, 305mm high, 311mm deep and weighing 10kg per speaker. This is a far cry from the extremely compact format of the KEF LSX Wireless.
Despite this, the KEF LS50 Wireless 2s are easy to integrate into any decor thanks to their undeniable aesthetic qualities. They are a decorative object in their own right, with appealing curves and a design reminiscent of a beautiful sports car. The golden cone in the center of the speaker enhances this beauty. A detail that the British manufacturer doesn’t want to hide, as they haven’t included a grille with the KEF LS50 Wireless 2. In addition, they can be placed on a sturdy piece of furniture or shelf, but also on the dedicated KEF Stand S2, which can be color matched to the speaker.
Controls and ergonomics
The KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers can be controlled in several ways. The first is to use the touch interface on the top of the main speaker. This allows you to quickly turn on the speaker, adjust the volume or select the source.
These different controls are all also available on the infrared remote control that may be used to change tracks (previous and next track) as well. The grip of this remote is good, but the design is quite basic for a pair of speakers of this category. It is made entirely of plastic and the buttons are relatively noisy. A more robust design, a more pleasant feel and backlighting would have been welcome. Fortunately, this does not detract from the charm of the KEF LS50 Wireless II. Adjusting the volume from the remote control or the touch interface is more restrictive, however. It is not very smooth and the volume level is almost doubled with each press. It is difficult to reach the desired volume with precision… unless you use the mobile app.
Aside from the few controls accessible from the touch interface or remote control, the majority of the KEF LS50 Wireless MKII speaker’s settings are found only in the KEF Control mobile app for iOS and Android. For the first time at KEF, a single application provides access to the different settings, as well as to the streaming services. Until now, KEF had two separate apps: one for the settings and one for streaming. This new version of the application is a clear step forward in making the speaker easier to use and more user-friendly. From this app, you can configure the KEF LS50 II, adjust playback using the equalizer, select the crossover frequency of the subwoofer outputs (between 40Hz and 250Hz), play music shared on the local network or access numerous online music services. We’ll come back to these last points in more detail later on in our review of the KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers.
The KEF LS50 Wireless MKII’s connectors have been updated with an HDMI eARC port that can be used to retrieve the soundtrack from a compatible TV or projector. This feature was frequently requested by users of the first generation KEF LS50 Wireless. The implementation of eARC technology rather than ARC allows a higher bitrate to maximize the reproduction up to 24-bit / 192kHz. However, the KEF LS50 Wireless MKII does not feature DSP modes to extend the movie soundstage and is only compatible with PCM streams. It is therefore necessary to configure the TV to convert all Dolby or DTS streams to PCM, otherwise no sound can be delivered.
The KEF LS50 Wireless MKII speaker also supports the CEC protocol, which allows you to adjust the speaker’s volume using the TV’s remote control. To do this you must also activate the feature on the TV. It may have a different name depending on the manufacturer: Simplink for LG or Anynet+ for Samsung, for example. Lastly, this type of connection allows the KEF LS50 Wireless MKII speaker to be turned on or off at the same time as the TV, with a single press of the TV’s power button.
The rest of the main speaker’s connectors include an optical input, a coaxial input and a 3.5mm mini-jack auxiliary input to connect a CD player, an HD player, an FM tuner or a pre-amplified turntable. The USB-B input of the first generation KEF LS50 Wireless has not been carried over, which means that this pair of speakers can no longer be used as a USB DAC with a MAC or PC. This is really unfortunate, but thankfully it is still possible to stream music from a computer using the DLNA, AirPlay, Chromecast and Bluetooth protocols.
There is also a subwoofer output as well as two RJ45 Ethernet ports: one to connect the speaker to the network without having to use the WiFi, and another to connect the speakers to each other when you don’t want to use a wireless connection to enjoy the best possible definition. When connected via a wired connection, the communication between the right and left speaker is done in 24-bit/192kHz, whereas in WiFi, it is limited to 24-bits/96kHz. Finally, a second subwoofer output is available on the secondary speaker, which limits the amount of cables needed depending on the location of the subwoofer in the room and allows you to use two subwoofers.
WiFi, Bluetooth and DLNA
In addition to its connectors, the KEF LS50 Wireless II offers a host of wireless features. It provides direct access to countless online music services including Spotify (via Spotify Connect), Tidal, Amazon Music, Deezer and Qobuz. However, the integration of the latter service could be improved by offering an experience more similar to the native Qobuz application. When playing Qobuz music from the KEF application, it is impossible to know the resolution of the files and searching for songs and artists isn’t very intuitive. On the positive side, playback no longer stops when the smartphone is locked, as was the case with the previous control app for the KEF LS50 Wireless.
With the KEF Connect app, you can also enjoy Internet radio stations or find your favorite podcasts. When connected to the local network, the KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers support Hi-Res Audio streaming up to 24-bit/384kHz as well as MQA and DSD256 formats. ROON compatibility is also included. In addition, support for AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast ensures a simplified connection with a smartphone, computer or tablet. Finally, a Bluetooth controller is also provided to establish a direct connection to a smartphone without going through the local network.
Support for AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast also allows the KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers to be used in a multi-room system. This is particularly useful for playing the same music on a pair of KEF LSX Wireless speakers in another room or on any other pair of speakers that supports either of these two protocols. The management of the various devices is then done directly from the Home app for AirPlay 2 multi-room or Google Home for Chromecast multi-room.
The acoustic design of the KEF LS50 Wireless II has also been updated, with the integration of the 12th generation of the brand’s iconic Uni-Q driver. The latter is the result of advanced simulation and analysis tools combined with decades of driver development knowledge and experience. This coaxial driver features a 5” aluminum midbass cone with a 1” vented aluminum tweeter at its center. This configuration creates a point source of sound that provides a more accurate and detailed three-dimensional image. The sound distribution is uniform throughout the room, so there is no single sweet spot: the sweet spot “follows” you wherever you are in the room.
The KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers also benefit from the same innovative technologies as the KEF LS50 Metas, including the use of metamaterials (Metamaterial Absorption Technology MAT). They are made from composite materials that are specifically structured and have special properties not found in natural materials. The MAT technology used here adopts a very complex maze-like structure in which each of the “paths” or channels is responsible for absorbing a specific frequency. When combined, these channels act like an acoustic black hole, absorbing 99% of the unwanted sound coming from behind the tweeter. This innovative material eliminates distortion, resulting in a purer and more natural reproduction. Therefore, the sound delivered by the KEF LS50 Wireless II is more transparent and realistic in the mids and highs than ever before.
To harness the dynamic qualities of the Uni-Q driver, each KEF LS50 Wireless II speaker features two amplifier modules. Each tweeter is powered by a 100 watt Class A/B amplifier that delivers smooth, detailed highs. The midbass cone is powered by a dedicated 280 watt class D amplifier. This type of amplification is used for its small size, its limited heat emission and its high efficiency that allow fantastic upswings, a dynamic sound and great range. This amplification was developed entirely in-house by KEF engineers to ensure that it fully respects the abilities of the Uni-Q driver. With this design, each KEF LS50 Wireless II speaker is powered by a 380 watt amplifier, for a total power output of 760 watts for the pair.
These integrated amplifiers have many advantages. First of all, there is no passive crossover in the KEF LS50 Wireless II, so the audio signal is not degraded by the electronic components used in a conventional passive speaker. The crossover is actively performed by processors built into the amplifiers, which also allows very steep rolloff slopes. As a result, the tweeter is more effectively freed from unreproduced frequencies than the passive model. Its dynamic behavior is increased. Also, the bass-midrange driver is better attenuated past its crossover frequency and does not encroach on the tweeter’s performance. Finally, the wiring from the amps to the speakers is extremely short, which preserves the quality of the amplified signal.
KEF LS50 Wireless II: key specifications
- Uni-Q: 1” vented aluminum tweeter with MAT technology and 5” aluminum midbass cone.
- Frequency range (-6dB), measured at 85dB / 1m (variable depending in the equalization of the speaker): 40Hz to 47kHz (more bass extension)
- Frequency response (±3dB), measured at 85dB / 1m (variable depending in the equalization of the speaker): 45Hz to 28kHz
- SPL: 108dB
Amplifier output power (per speaker)
- Midbass: 280W
- Tweeter: 100W
Wireless streaming features
- AirPlay 2
- Google Chromecast
- ROON Ready (coming soon)
- UPnP compatible
- Bluetooth 4.2
- Spotify via Spotify Connect
- Amazon Music
- QQ Music via QPlay (coming soon)
- Internet radios
- Network: up to 384kHz/24-bit
- Optical: up to 96kHz/24-bit
- Coaxial: up to 192kHz/24-bit
- HDMI: up to 192kHz/24-bit
Connection between the speakers
- Wireless: all sources resampled to PCM 96kHz/24-bit
- Wired: all sources resampled to PCM 192kHz/24-bit
Supported formats (all inputs)
- MP3, M4A, AAC, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC, WMA, LPCM , Ogg Vorbis
Supported formats (network only)
- MQA, DSF: DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, DFF: DSD64
Main speaker connectors
- HDMI eARC input (PCM only)
- TOSLINK optical input
- Coaxial digital input
- 3.5mm auxiliary analog input
- Type A USB port (maintenance)
- Ethernet RJ45 port (network)
- Ethernet RJ45 port (connection between the speakers)
- RCA Subwoofer output
- Network standard: Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11a / b / g / n / ac, IPv4, IPv6
- Wi-Fi network bandwidth: Dual-band 2.4GHz / 5GHz
Secondary speaker connectors
- Type A USB port (maintenance)
- Ethernet RJ45 port (connection between the speakers)
- RCA Subwoofer output
- Dimensions (H x W x D) per speaker: 305 x 200 x 311mm
- Weight (pair): 20.1kg
- 2 x power cables (one per speaker)
- 1 x RJ45 Ethernet cable
- Warranty card
- Infrared remote control
- 100 – 240VAC 50/60Hz
- Energy consumption: 200W (working) / <2.0W (standby)
KEF LS50 Wireless II: configuration
The KEF LS50 Wireless II speaker system is extremely simple to operate so that every user can enjoy the best possible listening experience, without the slightest knowledge of hi-fi or electronics. When installing the KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers, we have the choice of connecting them together with the supplied network cable (Ethernet – RJ45) to enjoy the best possible definition (24-bit/192kHz) or wirelessly with a resolution limited to 24-bit/96kHz, which is still quite satisfactory. The KEF LS50 Wireless II are therefore true wireless speakers, unlike the first KEF LS50s, which must be connected to each other using an Ethernet cable in order to function.
Next, you need to connect each speaker to the mains and then download the KEF Control app from the App Store for iOS or the Google Play Store on Android. If the speaker is connected via Ethernet to the home network, it is then instantly detected and functional. For a WiFi connection, you need to connect to the “KEF LS50 Wireless II” network in the smartphone’s network settings, then continue the setup in the KEF app to fill in your WiFi password.
It is then possible to customize the speaker’s sound using equalizers, add your favorite music services or activate the exit standby mode when a signal is detected on the input of your choice. Another advantage is the ability to swap the stereo channels of the speakers. The main speaker housing all the connectivity can therefore be placed on the right or on the left, depending on the location of your devices. The balance can also be adjusted to correct the sound when the two speakers are not symmetrically positioned in the room.
KEF LS50 Wireless II: listening impressions
- DLNA 24-bit/192kHz – Sultans Of Swing – Dire Straits
The KEF LS50 Wireless II has the same dynamic character as its predecessor. With the song Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits, the sound was lively, spacious and swarming with details. The resonances and reverb of the guitars offered marvelous acoustic texture. The guitarists’ performance was energetic and expressed freely and with ease. The lows were powerful, well structured, and benefited from a nice extension down to approximately 40Hz. The KEF LS50 Wireless II don’t sound as deep as one would expect when using a subwoofer, but they are still pretty impressive for a speaker of this size.
- Spotify Connect – True Sorry – Ibrahim Maalouf
With Ibrahim Maalouf’s track True Sorry, the notes of the French musician’s unique trumpet playing were perfectly defined. The instrument was expressed with great smoothness and benefited from beautiful apogees. The tweeter’s impulse response was remarkable. The highs were consistently distinct and significantly resistant to distortion. However, they sometimes sounded a bit harsh at high volume, but this was also due to the track. Apart from that, this range displayed a striking level of detail and naturalness. The transparency of the soundstage was also remarkable and every tiny variation of the trumpeter’s breath was nuanced.
- Qobuz – Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
The KEF LS50 Wireless II displayed a consistent spectral balance, even at low volume. The sound reproduction was always lively, clear and detailed. With Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, the drumming was very well reproduced and the various percussion instruments had clear impact. The stereo effect was at its peak here with the electric guitar that navigated with ease on both sides of the soundstage and seemed to expand the space. In the center, Freddie Mercury’s voice was embodied with authority and enjoyed a beautiful luminosity.
- HDMI eARC – Tenet
Finally, we decided to take advantage of the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 speaker’s eARC HDMI port to pair it with an LG OLED65CX TV. The cable used was the Audioquest Carbon 48 HDMI, a model that optimizes digital signal transmission through silver plating. The sources were the Panasonic DP-UB820 4K UHD Blu-ray player and the Zappiti One SE 4K HDR network player. With Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, the KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers were particularly convincing. Their dynamic character and high responsiveness were perfect for responding to the slightest demands of the soundtrack. The soundstage was wide and airy, and the various effects extended well beyond the limits of the screen. Despite the absence of a virtual surround sound system, the sound enveloped the viewer nicely and the experience was much more immersive than with the TV’s speakers. During action scenes and explosions, the bass was powerful and realistic, but showed its limitations. Adding a subwoofer like the KEF KC 62 would be ideal to enjoy better lows. Nevertheless, the sound remained well balanced, natural and immersive. However, even with this audio quality, Tenet’s scenario was still as confusing…
KEF LS50 Wireless II: compared to…
- KEF LS50 Wireless vs KEF LS50 Wireless 2
The innovations introduced with the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 are not only technical accomplishments, but also contribute to the precision and finesse of the reproduction. The sound of this second iteration is even more natural and pure in the midrange and the highs. The soundstage gains in transparency and spaciousness. The lows are also a little deeper and more dynamic, while the midrange is more natural. The slight coloration noted in this register on the first generation KEF LS50 Wireless speaker is completely erased here. In addition, the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 speaker is more user-friendly. Its new KEF Control app offers better control, and smoother navigation and is more intuitive. It has the advantage of integrating the various settings of the speaker and the streaming services in a single application. The integration of Qobuz could be better, but at least the music does not stop when the smartphone is locked. The addition of HDMI eARC is also a great step forward and makes the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 more versatile, as it can be used to optimize the playback of a TV or a projector. Finally, the biggest selling point of the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 lies in their ability to communicate with each other wirelessly up to 24-bit/96kHz, where a wired connection was essential with the first generation of these KEF speakers.
- Q Acoustics Q Active 200 vs KEF LS50 Wireless 2
Launched at €2,099 and now available for €1,799 per pair, the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 Google wireless speaker is a 100-watt model that works in tandem with a remote hub whose role is to centralize and broadcast the sound of different sources in 24-bit/96kHz thanks to its RCA, optical and HDMI ARC inputs. It supports Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 and provides access to many online music services. This Q Acoustics speaker is more user-friendly thanks to its compatibility with Google Assistant. Volume adjustment is also more precise, both from its remote control and its physical control interface. Soundwise, the Q Acoustics Q Active 200 Google is even more generous in the lows, providing deeper and more powerful bass thanks to the use of a dedicated 5.5” driver at the back of the speaker. The soundstage is also wider. That said, the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 can hold its own thanks to an overall more pleasant listening experience, due in part to greater smoothness and finesse in the highs. It is also more dynamic, livelier and better balanced.
- Dali Callisto 2 C vs KEF LS50 Wireless 2
The €2,400 Dali Callisto 2 C wireless speaker has to be used with the Dali Sound Hub transmitter and preamplifier. It has a three-way design with three drivers, including a hybrid tweeter combining a 1” dome tweeter and a ribbon model. This layout, typical of the Danish manufacturer’s high-end speakers, provides greater harmonic richness and a better transition between the upper midrange and the highs. The listening experience is a bit smoother and even more subtle in the high frequencies. The KEF LS50 Wireless 2 speakers, on the other hand, are more generous and energetic in the low frequencies. Its dual amplification also makes it more responsive, more powerful and more versatile, allowing it to be used in large rooms. Finally, the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 also has the advantage of natively integrating numerous streaming technologies, unlike the Dali Callisto 2 C which still requires an additional module, thus rapidly increasing the cost of the system.
KEF LS50 Wireless II: who are they for?
The KEF LS50 Wireless II are aimed at music lovers looking for a pair of high-quality wireless speakers that can perform as well as a conventional hi-fi system. Although KEF quality comes at a price of €2,490, this is still less than the price of a hi-fi system of equivalent quality consisting of a pair of passive speakers, a stereo amplifier and a network player. It is also a guarantee that all the acoustic and electronic elements are in perfect harmony. Their powerful sound allows them to be installed in any room of the house, although we recommend pairing them with the KEF KC 62 subwoofer for larger rooms (living room) or for fans of powerful and deep bass who want to use them with their TV. In addition, the KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers are intended for installations where there are not too many physical sources to connect and where wireless connectivity and HD streaming are predominant. Lastly, their unique and meticulous design, in particular the more trendy matte color, will appeal to lovers of beautiful objects.
As with every new version of a speaker, one may question whether it is worth upgrading to the latest generation. Although the KEF LS50 Wireless II provide an even more accurate sound reproduction, with greater transparency, less coloration and better bass control, we don’t think that this warrants switching to another pair of speakers for owners of the first generation KEF LS50 Wireless. Where the update becomes much more interesting, however, is in how the speakers are controlled. The new KEF Control app is much more user-friendly and intuitive, bringing together both speaker settings and streaming services, as well as DLNA playback. You no longer have to use two separate applications, as was previously the case. Playback also no longer pauses as soon as the smartphone is locked. Finally, the addition of the HDMI eARC port is useful as it is a more efficient way to optimize the sound of a TV than an optical connection.
KEF LS50 Wireless II: conclusion
The KEF LS50 Wireless II arrived with the ambitious goal of surpassing the refinement and musicality of the first generation KEF LS50 Wireless. A feat that the British manufacturer has achieved with flying colors by effectively optimizing an already exemplary system. The result is an even more precise, natural and transparent reproduction. The gain in the lows is also impressive for such small speakers. The management system of this second generation benefits from an update with a much more functional app. For the application to be perfect, the only thing left to do is to perfect the integration of Qobuz by optimizing the search and providing more information on the resolution of the tracks. We also regret the lack of finesse when adjusting the volume with the remote control or the touch interface. The application is essential to adjust the level to your liking. Despite this, the KEF LS50 Wireless II speaker has many advantages and stands out as an essential reference among high-end connected speakers.
What we liked
- The impressive dynamic range
- The impulse response
- The transparent and clear soundstage
- The new control app
- The wide range of connectors including HDMI eARC
- The natural tones
What we would have liked
- For Qobuz to have been more efficiently integrated
- Even deeper bass
- For the HDMI eARC to have been Dolby and DTS compatible
- The USB DAC feature of the 1st gen speaker
- More precise volume adjustment with the remote control