The KEF LS50 Meta are the passive versions of the KEF LS50 Wireless 2, whose performance we praised in our KEF LS50 Wireless II: an iconic model revisited review. Apart from the integrated amplification and crossover system, the KEF LS50 Meta has all of the same features as the LS50 Wireless 2, including the Uni-Q coaxial driver with MAT technology, which uses metamaterials for a purer and more natural reproduction. The absence of an integrated amplifier allows the KEF LS50 Meta to be priced at €1,199, less than half the price of the active version. But is the listening experience the same? Can an external amplifier provide the same performance as the amp with digital processing specifically developed for the coaxial speaker of the active version?
KEF LS50 Meta: packaging & accessories
The KEF LS50 Meta both come in the same box, with each speaker held in place with pieces of styrofoam and protected by a synthetic fabric cover. They come with a set-up guide, as well as two foam plugs to block the rear ports to reduce airflow and allow them to be placed against a wall. This not only changes the sound slightly, but also makes it easier to place, by lowering the bass level slightly. An interesting accessory that the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 does not have.
KEF LS50 Meta: presentation
Launched in late 2020, the KEF LS50 Meta is the true heir of the KEF LS50s and shares its design, as do the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 and the small KEF LSX. It therefore has a tried and tested design, very elegant with its simple and refined silhouette. The rounded edges and curved enclosure are appealing and contribute to the speaker’s aesthetics by reducing its visual mass. The golden cone at the center highlights the speaker’s beauty. A detail that the British manufacturer doesn’t want to hide, as they haven’t included a grille. This aesthetic appearance, with finishes worthy of the finest sports cars, makes these speakers decorative objects in their own right. They will naturally find their place in any interior, placed on a piece of furniture or a shelf, but also on the dedicated stand KEF Stand S2, which can be color matched to the speaker.
The curved front panel of the KEF LS50 Meta sports the 12th generation of KEF’s iconic Uni-Q driver at its center. 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 Meta speakers also benefit from the same innovative technologies as the KEF LS50 Wireless II model, 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 channel 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. The result is a significant reduction of distortion for a purer and more natural reproduction. Therefore, the KEF LS50 Meta promises a more transparent and realistic sound than that of its predecessor.
Sealed or bass-reflex enclosure
The KEF LS50 Meta has a bass-reflex enclosure with a rear port. The latter was developed using multiple computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations to accurately calculate the profile and offset of the port in order to delay the onset of turbulence. Its flexible walls also prevent any resonance from coloring the sound in the midrange frequencies, once again contributing to the naturalness of the sound reproduction. It is also possible for this KEF speaker to have a closed enclosure by using the foam plugs to block the vents, making it easier to place the speakers in the room by reducing the required space between the speaker and the wall, unless you want to artificially boost the bass level.
Also on the back of the KEF LS50 Meta speakers are a pair of beautifully crafted screw terminals. They are compatible with wide gauge cables, spade connectors and banana plugs, after removing the polymer cover. With a sensitivity of 85 dB and a maximum power handling capacity of 100 watts, the KEF LS50 Meta is very demanding for a bookshelf speaker. Therefore, it needs to be paired with a powerful amplifier that has a good power reserve to reveal all its qualities.
KEF LS50 Meta: key specifications
- 2-way – bass-reflex
- 5” Uni-Q driver
- Frequency response (-6 dB): 47Hz – 45kHz
- Cutoff frequency: 2.1kHz
- Sensitivity (2.83V/1m): 85 dB
- Dimensions (HxWxD): 302 x 200 x 280.5mm
- Weight: 7.8kg
KEF LS50 Meta: listening conditions
For our review, we connected the KEF LS50 Metas to the NAD C375 BEE hi-fi amplifier using a pair of Viard Audio Silver HD12 HP cables mounted with banana plugs. With a power of 2 x 150 watts, this reference amp had no difficulty effectively powering the speakers. An amplifier of at least 2 x 100 watts, but ideally more, is therefore recommended to serenely power these speakers. The sources used were the Volumio Primo Hi-Fi Edition network player and the Zappiti One SE 4K HDR to play Hi-Res and Blu-ray audio shared over the local network.
KEF LS50 Meta: listening impressions
The KEF LS50 Meta speakers’ sound signature is very similar to that of the KEF LS50 Wireless 2, with a dynamic, transparent and spacious sound. However, the use of the NAD C375 BEE amplifier adds a little more warmth and fullness. The highs, which can seem a little dry on certain tracks with the active version, are smoother and softer here. One of the advantages of the passive version is that its sound signature is more easily customizable according to the associated amplifier, even though there is little to criticize about the integrated power supply of the wireless models.
Over the course of our listening sessions, the KEF LS50 Meta speaker demonstrated with great effectiveness its lively character and confidence in faithfully reproducing each track. With Chris Rea’s Looking for the Summer, the soundstage was spacious. At the center, the singer’s gravelly voice was reproduced with natural and subtle texture. The bass had nice reverb, which added a pleasant depth to the sound. The bass was tight and didn’t lag, but didn’t seem quite as robust as that of the KEF LS50 Wireless 2, especially with bass heavy songs. A subwoofer isn’t indispensable, but by adding the small KEF KC62, we gained more depth and enjoyed a more balanced sound. The music had more substance and richness. In a 2.1 configuration, the KEF LS550 Metas were a real treat for the ears.
The impulse response of the KEF LS50 Meta’s tweeter was remarkable. The highs were incredibly smooth and flowed freely throughout the soundstage. They were consistently accurate and outlined with surgical precision. This register benefitted from an impressive level of detail and naturalness. They were beautifully transparent and brightened the sound with a multitude of micro details.
The dynamic character and high responsiveness of the KEF LS50 Meta speakers are perfect for responding to the smallest musical impulses. With Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Tamacun, the guitar was vivid and smooth. Each plucked string was tangible. The rhythm was effective and the different chords were clearly identifiable. The clarity and the spaciousness of the soundstage made the track seem like a live performance, almost as if we were enjoying a private concert.
KEF LS50 Meta: compared to…
KEF LS50 Meta vs KEF LS50 Wireless 2
Available for €2,490, the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 offer a very similar performance thanks to the use of the same Uni-Q driver and the same technologies. However, they are active, with the integration of a 100 watt class A/B amplifier for the tweeter and a 280 watt class D module for the midbass driver. The advantage of this configuration is that it allows you to take advantage of a directly operational system and an amplification specifically designed to power the 12th generation Uni-Q driver. This design also allows you to benefit from connectors that are directly built into the speaker, as well as access to online music services. As far as sound is concerned, the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 is a little more powerful in the low register than the KEF LS50 Meta. However, the passive version has the advantage of offering a more easily customizable reproduction, as you can opt for an amplifier whose sonic character corresponds more to your tastes.
An iconic model of the Danish manufacturer, the Dali Menuet is a small two-way speaker sold at €1200. It features a 4.3” midbass driver paired with a 1” dome tweeter. The latter is the real tour de force of this speaker as it provides even more micro-details in the highs as well as a wider dispersion area. Although very dynamic, these little Dali speakers cannot compete with the liveliness of the KEF LS50 Metas. The latter also provide a clearer and more transparent soundstage.
KEF LS50 Meta vs Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia Jubilé
Priced at €1,150, the Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia Jubilé speakers are equipped with a 5” midbass driver and a tweeter with a phase plug. The sound delivered by the Jean-Marie Reynaud Folia Jubilé is a bit more mellow and has a softer character in the midrange, which is more nicely textured. The KEF LS50 Meta speakers, on the other hand, are more dynamic and transparent. The soundstage is clearer and more vivid overall.
KEF LS50 Meta: who are they for?
The KEF LS50 Meta speakers leave no one indifferent and are just as suitable for the most demanding music lovers as they are for those who enjoy beautiful objects. They are an alternative to the KEF LS50 Wireless 2 for those who want to enjoy a more versatile and modular system, as you can easily customize the sound according to the associated amp. To benefit from the same functionalities as the active version, it is possible to add a network player such as the Bluesound Node to access online music services, music shared over the local network and to retrieve the sound of the TV via HDMI ARC. Only this part of the system may have to be changed in the future as technologies evolve. Flexibility and durability are therefore the key words for these speakers.
KEF LS50 Meta: conclusion
The KEF LS50 Meta delivers an even more accurate, natural and transparent reproduction than the first generation KEF LS50. They are characterized by undeniable dynamism and unfailing liveliness. The soundstage is wide and spacious, allowing every micro-detail to be heard without being overwhelmed by other arrangements.
Although unchanged, the design remains as innovative as ever and allows these speakers to stand out from the majority of other models on the market with their more curved shape. The KEF LS50 Meta is therefore an obvious choice for any lover of beautiful objects, as is the KEF LS50 Wireless II. So why choose one model over another? Neither pair is better than the other and the choice will really depend on individual preferences. The KEF LS50 Wireless II provides a plug and play solution for enjoying multiple sources and streaming without a complex setup, while the KEF LS50 Meta can provide a more personal experience for the seasoned user who wants full control over the speaker, source and amplifier. However, it is essential to opt for an amplifier with plenty of power on tap such as the Magnat MA 900, Atoll IN100 Signature or Yamaha MusicCast R-N803D to achieve the same level of performance as the active version. Coupled with a network player or a DAC, the total cost of the system can quickly exceed that of the KEF LS50 Wireless II.
- The energy and vitality
- The transparency and clarity
- The spacious soundstage
- The iconic design
We would have liked
- More depth in the lows
- For them to have been easier to power