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Review: KEF’s LS50W are the best gateway to the world of hi-fi speakers

Few hobbies exemplify the law of diminishing returns like audiophilia. Buying $500 speakers may be a clear upgrade from a pair that cost you a benjamin, but the more money you spend, the less obvious those improvements become. As you venture into the world of hi-fi, the requirement of a decent amplifier and other components only add to the sticker shock.

That’s why the KEF LS50W are so refreshing. If you’ve never invested big money in audio, it might seem absurd to call pair of $2,200 speakers a great value. But truth is, you’d likely have to either spend hundreds, if not thousands, more dollars and be an expert at matching components to get sound that’s obviously superior, not just a sidegrade.

First, some context. The LS50W are made by KEF, a British audio company that’s not particularly prominent in the mainstream, but is revered within audio circles. They’ve been around since the 60s, and they’re the real deal. The company’s flagship speakers cost over $30,000 a pair, but it even makes gear for $140,000.

Thankfully KEF uses the knowledge acquired from designing those speakers to make products for us plebes too.

The ‘W’ in LS50W stands for wireless, but it’s a bit of a misnomer relative to the competition. In addition to power cables, the LS50W actually need to be plugged into one another via an Ethernet cable to create stereo sound.

I actually think this is a blessing in disguise, because I have yet to review a pair of wireless stereo speakers that does not drop a connection occasionally; my apartment is a potpourri of signal interference. In a couple of months of testing, the LS50W has dropped its connection exactly zero times – that’s the way I like it. In an ideal world, the speakers would have the option of working without the Ethernet cable, but I can appreciate that KEF prioritized audio reliability.

Where it is wireless is that it doesn’t have to be tethered to an amplifier or audio source like traditional speakers. It supports AptX Bluetooth (though not AptX HD, unfortunately), as well as Spotify Connect, Tidal, and Roon for higher-quality audio.

Unlike some other Hi-Fi wireless speakers – looking at you, Devialet – it also comes with analog audio ports (RCA), should you want to connect them to a traditional audio source. Say you want to use a typical 3.5 Aux cable, an RCA adapter or cable costs about 5 bucks online.

Otherwise, there’s an optical port for pristine digital audio, as well as a USB port to play sound directly from your PC. My only real wish is that KEF included a 3.5mm output as well. The speakers have a great DAC and amplifier inside them, so it would’ve been nice to be able to use that for my headphones as well, especially considering the LS50W live on my desk.

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