KEF LSX II Wireless Bookshelf Loudspeakers Review
Paul Sechi auditions this versatile active wireless loudspeaker system from a famous name…
LSX II Compact Wireless Hi-Fi Speaker
USD $1,399.99 /pair
Hi-fi enthusiasts love recalling memorable hi-fi companies they grew up with; for many, KEF is one of them. What was once called 'Kent Engineering and Foundry' has been pushing the loudspeaker envelope for decades, from drivers to enclosures. Founded in 1961 in Maidstone, England, Raymond Cooke harnessed his experience from Wharfedale and set off on a sonic journey. To date, KEF has amassed over 150 patents thanks to its innovative and unique approach to loudspeaker design. None is more recognisable than the concentric Uni-Q driver, brought into the public domain in 1988.
Under review here is KEF's LSX series II active speaker package, which uses the same Uni-Q driver as its predecessor. Its compact (240x155x180mm, HxWxD) enclosures come in a range of statement finishes, and my high-gloss 'Lava Red' pair was certainly red-hot to look at! If you want to tone it down, look to matte satin mineral white, carbon black, cobalt blue or the special Terence Conran Edition fabric covering. Very swish!
Each LSX II speaker weighs about 3kg and is KEF's smallest wireless 'stereo pair' design. If you want larger wireless speakers, you should look to the LS50. The LSX II package will set you back USD $1,399.99 per pair in any of the statement finishes. Also available is a range of options, including the S1 floor stand (USD $349.99/pair), the B1 wall bracket (USD $229.99/pair) and P1 desk pad (USD $179.99/pair). The LSX II's undercarriage includes four practical rubber feet to sit firmly on any flat surface. The stated frequency response is 54Hz to 28kHz in the usual 3dB measurement envelope. If you want more bass punch, a matching subwoofer, the Applause-award winning KC-62, is available at USD $1,499.99 each.
One speaker acts as the master, and has a multitude of options. Its rear panel is plastered with connectivity options – Ethernet working up to 24-bit/384kHz, optical at up to 24/96 and USB Type C for 24/192, plus a HDMI interface. Supported formats include DSD and MQA. If you really want to optimise sound quality, then connect this system directly to your router via Ethernet to avoid Wi-Fi altogether. And analogue lovers should rejoice, as KEF has included a 3.5mm stereo line input, giving another dimension of connectivity. Wireless performance is good, though, and the LSX II can operate in the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band; you can lock the Wi-Fi band selection if needed. KEF recommends 'a maximum of 3 to 5 sets' of LSX IIs be connected simultaneously on the same wireless network.
Each speaker has a single Uni-Q driver measuring 95mm (at the inside of the roll surround) in diameter, and a bass reflex port adorns the rear panel. Each solid cabinet is made from plastic and suited for indoor use. A rigid internal structure minimises unwanted resonance. KEF utilises separate Class D amplifiers for the 27mm tweeter and Uni-Q driver, specified at 30W and 100W, respectively. The company says that this latest version has a completely new crossover to improve sonic performance.
KEF's manual is detailed and makes set-up simple. The KEF app – available on Android and iOS – is the best I have used, being highly responsive with no lag. With several app pages of configuration and tuning options, you can tweak the system to optimise its physical placement. There are many equalisation settings you can adjust to taper or boost the sound. I felt the default settings gave a realistic representation of the system's capabilities. And when positioned on a solid base or one of the KEF's stand options, the system will give off its best.
I streamed directly with AirPlay, although Google Chromecast and Roon are also supported. I switched between Airplay and using the KEF app with Qobuz without fuss or failure. A simple remote control is supplied, with good ergonomics and essential functions. I used the remote on and off throughout my listening sessions. I could not get the app to change the volume using my smartphone volume buttons – but perhaps that was a user setup error?
During the review, I placed the LSX II speakers in various locations, including on SolidSteel SS-6 stands, on a bay window credenza, and on top of two lowline sideboards. Most of my auditioning took place with them placed on 625mm high stands without toe-in, 2.3m apart and 500mm in front of a bay window. They were a metre from the room's side walls, and my listening position was dead centre, 2.6m back, with the tweeters at ear level.
Experience teaches that when you give this speaker a solid platform, it will sing for you. The LSX II is a refined-sounding, expansive and smooth performer. Firstly, it's not fatiguing, and the sound comes to you in a musical manner where you are not fighting one-note or slap-happy small wireless speaker bass. Secondly, the sense of scale portrayed from such a small footprint is quite surprising, and thirdly the top-end response never ventures off the straight and narrow. I got the system to perform very well on stands – the bass was punchy, and the mid-band had an appealing warmth.
Tonally you can change the LSX II system to suit your needs via the KEF app and its many settings. I set sail without frequency response correction, delivering a musical and inviting sound capable of good timing. Given too much volume, it loses some control, as you would expect from a speaker of this size, so it's best to keep the volume at a comfortable level.
I wanted to start with a live sound, so I dialled up Beautiful Dress by Marlon Williams, which was a delight. From the opening bars, the soundstage was broad, the piano firm yet delicate, and the live nature of the recording brought a sense of sitting in a large hall with the band on stage. Vocals were clear and gentle, and the top end became a little strained when really pushed volume-wise.
Sticking with golden vocals, I streamed London Grammar's rendition of Bittersweet Symphony, and immediately the song assumed great scale. The bottom end and vocals projected into my room confidently and filled it convincingly. The high-quality recording was not only represented by the broad soundstage of music; I was also impressed with how notes decayed away with ease and, conversely, sprung back to life or soared throughout the song.
It was time to throw some timing and dynamic range challenges at the LSX II with Thom LaFond's New Wildfire – and the sound put a smile on my face. This system stepped up again, with an excellent rhythmic snap to the proceedings that had my foot tapping. Dynamically, the track challenges every part of the audio chain, and hats off to KEF for how this system coped at normal to high listening levels – you wouldn't expect such presence from a speaker system of this size.
The LSX II's midband prowess was also impressive, as demonstrated by the way the system handled Who Says by Fink. From the get-go, the music wafted out and filled the room with confidence. The vocals were clear, and the drum work crisp and snappy. At all times, every note was easy to place and pick out, and the soundstage was broad with decent depth. Bass guitar and percussion had realistic weight, texture and feel, and such was the cohesion of this KEF system that I forgot I was listening to a wireless speaker package.
From this small speaker system comes a wall of sound that I was happy to listen to for extended periods. The KEF LSX II is versatile enough to work as main audio speakers, but is better suited to spare rooms, kitchens, home offices, and so on. Either way, you'll be impressed with its likeable nature and sheer ease of use. When matched to an unshakable internet connection, you get lag-free, high-quality music. So whether you are looking for a serious-sounding wireless speaker system for a smaller second space, or the simplicity of a streaming audio system, I recommend hearing it.
For more information visit KEF
Paul is a music appreciation fan of both live and produced music from diverse genres and cultures. Paul was interested in audio at school, did a thesis in acoustics and by day works as a technology strategist including smart environment standards and integration.
Posted in:Applause Awards 2022 Loudspeakers Active Bookshelf / Standmount Hi-Fi
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