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KEF LSX (long ramble)


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Pros
They do sound better than you'd think for the size.
They are flexible with setup
They do declutter
 
Cons
The noise around the apps is true. It's ready for a new release...
Add in better integration functionality - eg standby wake from optical (for me at least!) would be welcome
Warranty?
 
(Warning! Long rambling post)!
 
I just went through a few shenanigans with reshaping my lounge setup due to changes "for the better" - going through losing my beloved floorstanders to "anywhere but there", trying a soundbar/sub combo, and now having (I promise!)  settled on a small win with Kef LSX.
Sharing here some of my observations. Given the amount of real world info is limited still. I bought unseen, unheard...so I hope this is helpful to prospective buyers.
 
 

Review

  1. Packaging
  2. Setup
  3. First use/settling in

 

1. Packaging (because unboxing is a thing?)
Boxing is straight forward. Inside are..speakers, cables for power, interconnect cable and remote. And some booklets. It is very low key. Truly non-audiophile with no back breaking, no grumbling, damage to furniture, myriad of snake cables, just an overhead of two powerpoints. Easy.
And then...
2. (The relatively easy?) setup
It's cumbersome, only because it relies on interface of the app. Add in a web browser (it has an ethernet port!!) and problem (for me) solved.
Be aware the MAC is included in the setup wifi name (Eg KEF:::::::). Whitelisting?
I hardwired, both speaker interconnect and ethernet. I have flaky wifi but i just prefer to have them running cabled. I may change my mind.
I have these placed on a heavy, deep TV cabinet. They flank a 65" tv. They look small...But, they fit, they are not overimposing, and of course, they meet the colour criteria...
The setup allows you to register and update (which thankfully can be skipped) so you can get down to using them quickly.
Or, meeting the apps, quickly. 
Stream is straighforward. Like a number of other apps i have used, eg Musiccast, BluOS (hmm). You sign into your services, you stream them.
Note, Tidal streams from within your app. Spotify opens your spotify app. And, i have already run into issues of the app losing connectivity and music still playing and getting into a spin on how to stop/alter. There is some lag, somewhere. And caching. I am sure caching is a bit of a mischief maker here. Random music playing after sudden quiet periods even with all apps disconnected/killed on phones. 
So more coming there i am sure. You can also hit up your hard drive/server etc fairly intuitively.
Control - well its straightforward. And for me, i can hear the settings so it's doing what it says. I found the ability to compensate for a cheap sub via hi and low crossover useful. But the polarity switch really made a nice impact for integrating the bass. 
The speakers play a little tune to tell you they are alive and well. Both on startup and shutdown.
* Note Tidal does not support Master streaming. It's not needed, the website says so.
 
So let's say we are up ad running at this point. Mostly (but useable).
 
3. First "real" play/settling in
* I tried hooking my laptop (mac) to the speakers and that was as simple as changing the input to BT on the speaker (within the app on the phone - there is no laptop app that I am aware of) and pairing as you'd expect. And away we go for any streaming app on the laptop via BT. Sounds fully OK. Another "source" option added to the growing list (phones, laptop, ipad etc. next).
* I decided for some reason (checking i hadnt missed the option to setup via a browser?) to connect to the speakers via IP from the laptop in a browser. Yes it works, though the basic front end you get is very limited. Like, firmware update, rename the speaker and not much else. Hopes for the future...
* I'm keeping things hooked up via the interconnect cable, have not tried the kef proprietary wifi and dont intend to. Similarly i hard wired into ethernet and all is OK (albeit my bw issues with ADSL mean Tidal streaming has its usual fits now and then). So as far as i can tell the only variables in the setup are source quality (Spotify or Tidal side), speaker DSP setup, and volume (besides room).
* Note to Kef - Wish the things woke on optical input (i have run tv on these mostly, which is the primary use case) to save on another couple of clicks. "Couple" due to the remote being as mentioned earlier. 
* I think part of the listening setup is having to play with the geek knobs. I have played with DSP/setup in the app. It's OK, and i can hear the changes. I suspect this will be habitual until i admit the sound is the sound is the sound and time to listen to the music not the sound. But its available which is better than not! But play and enjoy. I'm leaving alone for the time being until i need it again. Which is probably after the next song.
Overall, the apps are liveable, and i think i will figure the workflow to avoid the glitches. But there remains a few dependencies on the phone/OS that i think are not fully ironed out. Disconnects and synch issues that just require some restart or so. Not a biggie, but not smooth...
Luckily, it seems the Kef upgrade process (i did eventually allow it) is also pretty smooth. And again the speakers chime for on and off. So hopefully they keep feeding their code team and we get even more goodness, it definitely seems on a good path.
I ran music today without the sub ( maybe to say i need that sub somewhere else or for global warming. Not sure) and it's quite ok. Even at low volume good (for me!) bass is there, but turning the volume up, its nicer and more relevant bass and probably enough for 95% of what i'd listen to. And tv too. So yes some of that hype is true. Depends what you like of course. 
* For the music sound quality, it's too early to tell, and my ears are too unreliable. But, i've had nice setups and have had awful ones and this is definitely tilting to the former by a large margin. Most of my music is old, poorly recorded and so it sounds as it does, anywhere, and on anything. Pretty ordinary as far as "sound quality" goes. For homage I've tried the usual test tracks - sheffield drum, for instance, made the extent of bass obvious but thats OK. I am realistic. Some of the cymbal work and the finer details are not there in the room either. But that is volume more than anything. And comparing to a larger speaker with more amps isnt fair and in my case, not relevant for my use case. 
* The sweet (sweat in this heat?) spot seems to be expanding enough to make everyone on the couch happy, and i continue to be impressed with the bass which seems to get better the further away i am for the size of the setup. 
They have initially exceeded my expectations, even in a world where no way no how you cant be listenin if the street lights aint flickerin' that seems to be the norm. Go figure. YMMV.
Oh, and the better half is please with the colour. I had LS50W in the cart until the black/blue combo was shunned. If those are better (as I'd expect they are) then woohoo to those who have them. The LSX are great and if no development/electronic quality issues cripple things they have been a great (physical) downsize/declutter/solution for me.
Now hoping Kef keep in mind the main medium for these speakers is streaming. If i can't get to the music because the stream has issues, be it the app, the OS, the network or whatever, it'll all be bundled under "Kef LSX". 
 
Happy Listening!
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Hi Jt

 

Like you I bought sight unseen by the better half, so was at slightly greater risk, but still agree with all your findings, with slightly stronger views on some things.

 

My requirements were also about declutter, although with the ulterior motive of making room for the "big" speakers operating from a the main system that is not suitable to serve multi-purpose of background music and TV duties as well.

 

My positives however also includes very impressive performance from my vinyl front-end through the analog input, although it is many times the price of the speakers and possibly not fully utilised (although not let down) by the LSX's.

 

I am a little less happy with Stream than yourself (it is a DOG) and I documented my "challenges" here:

 

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/55488-newbie-question-solved/

 

I am more than happy with the Spotify behaviour with both Stream and Control turned off and now playing our CD library from a microJukebox (Small Green Computer Co) using mConnect (if you use a server and want to take advantage of the DLNA option in the LSX's I can recommend this it is great).

 

I too (much to my wifes distress) have hard wired it, but I am not sure if this means that the LSX's are NOT still using wifi from the router, rather than the cable. I am not able to test this, as we are relying on Wifi to control Spotify etc with the old iPhone.

 

I concur is the non-rambling version of my reply. ?

 

Cheers

 

Grantn

 

 

 

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Thanks Grantn. I’m setting up dlna this weekend as I’m struggling with bandwidth and dropouts. When using the speakers on wifi or Ethernet I’m checking the router and can see it’s using the interface chosen. My Ethernet is via power line so not the best.

I have not tried the analogue input but my use case doesn’t allow for my tt-that’ll remain down in the far setup.

In general they are fun and cuddly. I really hope they do hit the software side and sort out the apps as well as take advantage of better streaming. And wake up on optical default_smile.png

 

 

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  • 4 months later...

Disturbing to read Kef have not considered the ever growing Linux community with this speakers software.

 

A manufacturer of their reputation should be considering all users, and not be dictating customers toward restrictive proprietary bound software.    

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • Administrator

'Disturbing' seem to me to be a very strong choice of words.

 

Just how big do you think the 'growing linux community' is that would actually buy this speaker, compared to the general (and even arguably) non-audiophile market that is actually the intended audience, I suspect?

 

I think the design objective of this product is simplicity. While I agree its 'app' needs some more development, it works out of the box and I think that's the intention here.

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Guest gnnett
5 hours ago, Marc said:

While I agree its 'app' needs some more development, it works out of the box and I think that's the intention here.

Well, if that is your idea of "working", I am a little nervous. Ah, I think you mean "the speaker" works out of the box.

 

Agee with that, however after on two occasions having the volume run wild while using "Stream", that has stayed firmly "In the box" for me.

 

TAS review agrees that the software is not up to it and if Kef is "locking out", as opposed to "ignoring", open source alternatives, I will be disappointed, although may be not disturbed. ?

 

Cheers

 

Grant

 

 

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On 15/02/2019 at 11:11 PM, gnnett said:

Hi Jt

 

Like you I bought sight unseen by the better half, so was at slightly greater risk, but still agree with all your findings, with slightly stronger views on some things.

 

My requirements were also about declutter, although with the ulterior motive of making room for the "big" speakers operating from a the main system that is not suitable to serve multi-purpose of background music and TV duties as well.

 

My positives however also includes very impressive performance from my vinyl front-end through the analog input, although it is many times the price of the speakers and possibly not fully utilised (although not let down) by the LSX's.

 

I am a little less happy with Stream than yourself (it is a DOG) and I documented my "challenges" here:

 

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/55488-newbie-question-solved/

 

I am more than happy with the Spotify behaviour with both Stream and Control turned off and now playing our CD library from a microJukebox (Small Green Computer Co) using mConnect (if you use a server and want to take advantage of the DLNA option in the LSX's I can recommend this it is great).

 

I too (much to my wifes distress) have hard wired it, but I am not sure if this means that the LSX's are NOT still using wifi from the router, rather than the cable. I am not able to test this, as we are relying on Wifi to control Spotify etc with the old iPhone.

 

I concur is the non-rambling version of my reply. ?

 

Cheers

 

Grantn

 

 

 

I believe the Kef's wifi is turned off automatically when you connect the ethernet cable. I remember reading that somewhere...

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Guest gnnett
11 minutes ago, Jonny said:

I believe the Kef's wifi is turned off automatically when you connect the ethernet cable. I remember reading that somewhere...

Cool, I had been keeping my fingers crossed. ?

 

Oh, and yes I enjoy using Roon to listen to my CD's on the LSX's now and my wife continues to enjoy using Spotify.

 

Cheers

 

Gn

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  • Administrator

Yeah I must admit my time spent with Stream was limited before I switched to Roon.

I haven't revisited Stream since my LSX review, but hoped the software would have had some updates since then.

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Let’s face it these are streaming speakers mostly that will benefit from Apple airplay 2, Spotify connect and Bluetooth and Roon. For me that’s all the majors taken care of apart from chromecast.

 

99% of users won’t even use the native app so it’s a non issue to the most part, kef have done their job by offering all of the above IMO.

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9 hours ago, Marc said:

'Disturbing' seem to me to be a very strong choice of words.

 

Just how big do you think the 'growing linux community' is that would actually buy this speaker, compared to the general (and even arguably) non-audiophile market that is actually the intended audience, I suspect?

 

I think the design objective of this product is simplicity. While I agree its 'app' needs some more development, it works out of the box and I think that's the intention here.

But its not a community driven application, Kef could have chosen instead to contact any one of the 1010 Debian volunteer developers to have them write a program suitable, free of any proprietary control. 

 

Depends on how much you care about your ability of controlling the program, or the opposite , the program controlling you.  

   

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11 hours ago, stereo coffee said:

But its not a community driven application, Kef could have chosen instead to contact any one of the 1010 Debian volunteer developers to have them write a program suitable, free of any proprietary control. 

   

Please enlighten me as to the other manufacturers that have taken this approach?

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That's what I was going to ask as I can't seem to understand why KEF has been singled out here.

You'd be more likely to find boutique and niche manufacturers (those selling units in the tens per year) embracing such as you suggest than you would large mainstream brands such as this (that sell units in the order of tens of thousands).

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Guest gnnett

Okay, as one who owns these speakers, my overwhelming view (and do a word count if you must on my comments above) is very positive about these speakers and by inference Kef who produce them. My niggle with this software glitch, being polite, is the response I received from Kef was quite simply "You need to spend between 30 and 50% of the purchase price on upgrading your ethernet/wifi system".

 

What I should have been told was exactly what has been said above, that I need to use alternative software, or settled for the functionality provided by appropriate add ons, or bluetooth.

 

The advice/solution provide by Kef, if I had followed it, would have had me out of pocket by the best part of $1K and no better off.

 

Not getting that honesty (and if banks aren't honest, no other commercial enterprise has any responsibility to be honest) is my only disappointment with Kef. If however, on top of that they are impeding use of alternative apps and that has certainly not been my experience, as a complete novice at digital audio and a strong desire to remain so, that would concern me.

 

At no, or negligible cost, I have a perfectly satisfactory solution with Spotify, by using MConnect, or heaven forbid bluetooth. Mconnect is the most effective and I got there thanks to the community support from Audiophile Style.

 

I have had similar community support here with an equally great product, in a much smaller part of the market, with somewhat greater problems (for me). These continue to get resolved and receive helpful support from the manufacturer when required.


If the advertisements on Spotify become too much of a pain, for a monthly fee I have a perfectly satisfactory solution by using Spotify.

 

Double that cost I have a perfectly satisfactory solution by using Tidal and ROON. Interestingly Tidal on its own does not appear to work without the Stream App and I would strongly recommend not going there.

 

Actually I think the simple answer to the question, why pick on Kef? might be that they are the only major, at this stage, that have done such a bad job with their software on a product they might hope to sell in the 10's of thousands and not done anything about it.

 

Having said that, do I think they need to do anything? No.

 

Great speaker and electronics, which functions beautifully with alternative software.

 

And that is all I have to say about that. ?

 

Cheers

 

Gn 

 

 

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21 hours ago, Hi-Fi Whipped said:

Please enlighten me as to the other manufacturers that have taken this approach?

I am unaware of other speaker manufacturers presently requiring such software,

however a open source project is available called Mycroft ai  It's present status is, it

can be compiled from source code.

 

The Artificial Intelligence aspect, is in this case, voice commands enabling resulting audio.

 

On a wider scale in other areas of Artificial Intelligence and human interaction,  include the Linux Foundation Projects AI a paper calling for submissions can be read here

https://lfai.foundation/wp-content/uploads/sites/68/2019/07/AI-in-Government-and-Public-Sector-Call-for-Papers-2019-v2.4.pdf

 

As an observer, I can see Debian has this page looking at AI

packages   https://blends.debian.org/science/tasks/machine-learning

 

The differences of free vs open source are shown here: 

https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.en.html

 

Any such artificial intelligence program development and realisation, becomes "community driven" ( to quote my earlier post ) when it adopts free software principles, and should be encouraged.  

 

 

 

 

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15 hours ago, gnnett said:

Okay, as one who owns these speakers, my overwhelming view (and do a word count if you must on my comments above) is very positive about these speakers and by inference Kef who produce them. My niggle with this software glitch, being polite, is the response I received from Kef was quite simply "You need to spend between 30 and 50% of the purchase price on upgrading your ethernet/wifi system".

 

What I should have been told was exactly what has been said above, that I need to use alternative software, or settled for the functionality provided by appropriate add ons, or bluetooth.

 

The advice/solution provide by Kef, if I had followed it, would have had me out of pocket by the best part of $1K and no better off.

 

Not getting that honesty (and if banks aren't honest, no other commercial enterprise has any responsibility to be honest) is my only disappointment with Kef. If however, on top of that they are impeding use of alternative apps and that has certainly not been my experience, as a complete novice at digital audio and a strong desire to remain so, that would concern me.

 

At no, or negligible cost, I have a perfectly satisfactory solution with Spotify, by using MConnect, or heaven forbid bluetooth. Mconnect is the most effective and I got there thanks to the community support from Audiophile Style.

 

I have had similar community support here with an equally great product, in a much smaller part of the market, with somewhat greater problems (for me). These continue to get resolved and receive helpful support from the manufacturer when required.


If the advertisements on Spotify become too much of a pain, for a monthly fee I have a perfectly satisfactory solution by using Spotify.

 

Double that cost I have a perfectly satisfactory solution by using Tidal and ROON. Interestingly Tidal on its own does not appear to work without the Stream App and I would strongly recommend not going there.

 

Actually I think the simple answer to the question, why pick on Kef? might be that they are the only major, at this stage, that have done such a bad job with their software on a product they might hope to sell in the 10's of thousands and not done anything about it.

 

Having said that, do I think they need to do anything? No.

 

Great speaker and electronics, which functions beautifully with alternative software.

 

And that is all I have to say about that. ?

 

Cheers

 

Gn 

 

 

Not specifically at the LSX but it applies. 

 

I have used a few streamers from Linn and McIntosh to Sonos and a few inbetween. Sonos was probably the least pain and best UI including the most services

 

Recently manufacturers like Cambridge Audio, Naim and Primare have been including Chromecast. I recently demo'd the CXN V2 and it was fantastic and a big improvement over V1 for functionality. No relying on the crappy Cambridge app. No using Bubbleupnp. I quite like using native apps and can use Roon if going to have a proper listen but it wasn't much different to Chromecast on the CXN. It's also a hell of a lot easier for when visitors come. Many apps have Chromecast now. All the music services and TuneIn radio, Soundcloud, YouTube music. The more music the better right? I found some great new stuff listening to Linn Radio via TuneIn.

 

I hope more and more include Chromecast and I think a few recent releases like B&W, Kef dropped the ball by not including it. I know many have Airplay but Apple is another story altogether. 

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