KEF LS50 Meta Loudspeaker Review

After eight years, KEF has completely revamped its best-selling LS50 speaker. The focus is on the ‘MAT’ strategy to counter stray high-frequency energy. With this, the LS50 Meta is absolutely up to date! Tested at 1300 euros per pair.

The triumph of the KEF LS50 began back in 2012. I will never forget the moment of my first encounter with this unusually styled, iconic compact speaker: a box about the size of a shoe box with a convex baffle made of sturdy magnesium die-cast, with a single driver in the center. In fact, it is a two-way system where the two drivers—a 13 cm mid-bass driver and a 2.5 cm tweeter dome—are nested together to form a coaxial driver.

KEF LS50 Meta Loudspeaker Review

This driver, known as the ‘Uni-Q,’ is a KEF specialty that has been continuously optimized over many years. Due to the identical sound center of all emitted tones and homogeneous sound propagation time to the ear, it aims to provide a particularly spatial and lifelike reproduction. Normally flanked by woofers, in KEF’s purist mini-monitor, it handles the entire frequency range.

The sleek and elegant appearance of the LS50 in a glossy black finish with a subtly incorporated KEF logo had something immensely modern. Since then, there have been various color variants, sometimes even including the membranes, making the LS50, which won the coveted EISA Award in its debut year, a kind of pop star among often very conventional compact speakers. Additionally, KEF enriched this quickly bestselling box with a sophisticated active version and special optical editions, keeping the ‘LS50’ theme continually current.

The LS50 Meta is available in four satin color finishes, priced at 1300 euros per pair.
The LS50 Meta is available in four satin color finishes, priced at 1300 euros per pair.

The ‘Meta’-Morphosis of the LS50

But now, the seemingly endlessly adaptable speaker has evolved into the LS50 Meta in an entirely new form—at least in terms of its sophisticated technology. KEF’s young and extremely knowledgeable chief developer, Dr.

The Uni-Q of the LS50 Meta in detail: [1] Reinforcement ribs behind the 'Tangerine' waveguide provide increased stability. [2] Revised damper in the tweeter's air gap. [3] Improved transition at the front end of the mid-bass driver's voice coil, which also received a new suspension [4]. The drive system [5] was significantly modified. The final touch is the 'MAT' structure, consisting of a waveguide plus a 'diffuser' [6].
The Uni-Q of the LS50 Meta in detail: [1] Reinforcement ribs behind the ‘Tangerine’ waveguide provide increased stability. [2] Revised damper in the tweeter’s air gap. [3] Improved transition at the front end of the mid-bass driver’s voice coil, which also received a new suspension [4]. The drive system [5] was significantly modified. The final touch is the ‘MAT’ structure, consisting of a waveguide plus a ‘diffuser’ [6].

WHAT WE LISTENED TO

Maria Pihl: Malvina

Sonically and artistically masterful album by Meyer Records.
Sonically and artistically masterful album by Meyer Records.

Various: STEREO Test CD IX

Musically diverse, sonically exquisite. The STEREO Test CD IX offers something for everyone.
Musically diverse, sonically exquisite. The STEREO Test CD IX offers something for everyone.

Jack Oclee-Brown has re-examined and analyzed the successful model on its meta-level in theory and in the lab, improving it in many ways.

He used the already optimized Uni-Q of the twelfth generation, as found in the ambitious “R-Series” of the Brits. Compared to the driver previously used in the LS50, the sound guide here includes a reinforcement element to reduce unwanted vibrations, necessary due to the significantly more powerful tweeter drive.

To avoid congestion and reflections, the tweeter’s dome breathes freely through a rear sound guide. However, these elements can lead to coloration as they pass through the rear bass reflex opening, prompting various manufacturers to find unique solutions to divert and neutralize these sounds. Few do this as effectively as KEF.

The focus is on the “Metamaterial Absorption Technology,” or “MAT.” A round, cleverly designed cap seals the rear opening of the Uni-Q, absorbing 99 percent of its energy like a “black hole for sound,” thus reducing distortions and overlaps. According to Oclee-Brown, other solutions would have achieved only about 60 percent. The synthetic material comes from a collaborative development initiative with the scientific experts at the “Acoustic Metamaterials Group” in Hong Kong.

Another significant aspect is the labyrinth-like surface structure of the damping disc. Its designers calculated specific channels for different frequencies.

Frequencies and their wavelengths, combining to achieve maximum absorption in a small space, where sound waves terminate without reflecting back.

TEST EQUIPMENT

CD Player: Musical Fidelity M3scd
Integrated Amplifier: Audionet SAM 20SE, Rega Brio AMP
Speakers: KEF LS50
Cables: HMS Concertato LS, Silent Wire LS16 mk2

KEF LS50 Meta Loudspeaker Review
The cross-section of the Uni-Q shows the airflow channel behind the centrally mounted tweeter, whose tones hit the ‘MAT’ disc (right) at a 90-degree angle.
Solid Construction: The multi-layer, double-reinforced cabinet remains unchanged in the LS50 Meta.
Solid Construction: The multi-layer, double-reinforced cabinet remains unchanged in the LS50 Meta.

META-ACTIVE: LS50 WIRELESS II

Blue is the special color for the passive LS50 Meta, while its active counterpart comes in Anthracite, Grey, White, and exclusively in Red. The top control panel is a feature of the LS50 Wireless II. This allows you to compare the same speaker in both passive and active forms according to your preferences. The passive box still allows you to keep your existing amplifier in the chain, whereas the active box functions as a smart speaker, either requiring a restructuring of your existing setup or providing a modern foundation for a stylish and powerful HiFi system for someone looking to start fresh. Both systems can be paired with a matching subwoofer for clean deep bass, KEF KC62, REL T7X, REL plus B&W 800 D3, Nubert XW-1200. KEF has created a modular and fascinating system that stands out.

KEF LS50 Meta Loudspeaker Review

SINGLE INSTEAD OF BI

Of course, KEF could have provided separate connections for the mid-bass and tweeter drivers of the Uni-Q. However, they wisely chose to omit a bi-wiring terminal, offering a single connection panel instead. In this price range, most listeners use only one cable anyway, thus avoiding sound losses due to primitive metal bridges or the need to purchase bi-wiring cables or adapters.

KEF LS50 Meta Loudspeaker Review

Keeping the Promise

Given this innovation, it’s almost needless to mention that the LS50 Meta naturally retains its inherent qualities, such as the multi-layered, doubly reinforced enclosure and sturdy terminals in the single-wire setup. Accompanying the new Metas is the matching “S2” stand available in respective colors, securely holding the roughly eight-kilogram box in place.

In the listening test, the Meta LS50 performed flawlessly, delivering engaged, clear, and surprisingly deep sound given its compact size when properly positioned. This trait was already notable in its predecessor and has been slightly enhanced in the new model. It’s less about volume and more about precise impact, enhancing clarity in the lower frequencies.

The midrange and highs seamlessly connect. Even on Maria Pihl’s standard “Malvina,” a track that can sound thin if not well-handled, the new LS50 maintains a solid foundation. It allows for a broad spectrum of swirling synthesizer sounds, with the vocalist realistically defined and firmly anchored between the speakers.

Thus, the small KEF truly performs as cohesively and holistically as promised by its Uni-Q design. The sharp, sudden impulses in the crystal-clear “Tres Luceros” from the STEREO Test CD IX didn’t overwhelm the compact speaker, even at higher volumes. This suggests not limitations but rather distinct audiophile merits in this complete speaker.

Clear Distance from the Ex-50s

The question remains whether the unchanged-price “Meta” version of the original LS50 can distinguish itself sonically. A couple participated in this enjoyable listening session, immediately noticing that the successor boasts more color, temperament, and expressive depth in its sound profile. It appears deeper and more detailed, not simply emphasizing minor details but better separating reverberations from vocals and instruments, aiding in spatial clarity.

Comparatively, placing this new model beside its predecessor after fifteen minutes revealed the older version as less dynamic, tighter, and more foregrounded in presentation. In summary, the LS50 Meta simply proves itself the superior speaker. The refinement invested by the manufacturer translates directly into enhanced sound quality, reaffirming its status as a leading recommendation among compact speakers. It’s seldom been truer: only those who change can remain true to themselves.

Hardly anyone understands and masters speaker technology quite like KEF's astute Chief Developer, Dr. Jack Oclee-Brown.
Hardly anyone understands and masters speaker technology quite like KEF’s astute Chief Developer, Dr. Jack Oclee-Brown.
For the new LS50 Meta, KEF offers matching 'S2' speaker stands in corresponding colors.
For the new LS50 Meta, KEF offers matching ‘S2’ speaker stands in corresponding colors. This creates a seamless visual presentation. The stands are fillable with lead shot and include a cable channel, spikes, and floor protectors. They securely anchor the speakers. Pair price: around 450 euros.

KEF LS50 Meta Specs

Price: around 1300€ (four color variants)

Dimensions: 20x31x28 cm (WxHxD)

Warranty: 5 years

Measurement Results

Minimum Impedance 4 Ohms at 250 Hz

Maximum Impedance 21 Ohms at 90 Hz

Sensitivity (2.83 V/m) 83 dBSPL

Power for 94 dBSPL 15W

Lower Frequency Limit (-3 dBSPL) 45 Hz

Harmonic Distortion at 63/3k/10k Hz 0.28/0.03/0.1 %

Laboratory Commentary

Balanced frequency response with gently declining highs, especially at angles, suggesting the LS50 Meta should be positioned towards the listener. This fine-tuning appears appropriate, as the level remains roughly consistent between 50 Hz and 20 kHz, achieving a balanced tonal balance. Additional strengths include the non-critical impedance curve and very low distortion.

Features

Single-Wire Terminal, compatibility with S2 stand mounting

Verdict

The LS50 Meta repeats the success of the original LS50 by enhancing its sound capabilities with an improved Uni-Q chassis and ‘MAT’ technology. This makes the distinctive compact speaker a top recommendation in its price range for years to come.

10 Total Score
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KEF LS50 Meta Loudspeaker: Price Comparison

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KEF LS50 Meta Passive Bookshelf Speakers - Pair (Mineral White)
4 used from $1,272.20 6 new from $1,539.00
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