The KEF LSX is a brilliant pair of wireless speakers. They’re not smart, but with sound this good who cares?
- Rich, muscular and detailed sound
- Incredible looks
- Immersive soundstage
- Superb connectivity and app support
- Ethernet link required for reliable connection
- No digital assistant
Traditional hi-fi has been in a tricky place for a while now. With consumers deserting the world of separates in favour of smart speakers and soundbars, there’s never been a more pressing need for manufacturers to make better-connected products. One manufacturer making a better case than many is British speaker manufacturer, KEF. In fact, its new LSX speakers might just be the best it’s produced to date.
Essentially, the KEF LSX is a pair of wireless active “bookshelf” speakers. It comes as a stereo pair and, although you can treat them like traditional active speakers, they’re principally meant as an outlet for streaming audio, either from your phone or laptop via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
The LSX have illustrious footsteps in which to tread, though, as compact versions of the renowned KEF LS50 Wireless. Those speakers are, to this day, among the best sounding, most elegant wireless speakers I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. I’ve yet to come across anything better.
KEF LSX review: Price and competition
There are hundreds of connected speakers on the market, not all of which are as pricey as the KEF LSX at £999. Few are as elegantly designed, though, and even fewer sound as good as these do.
Of the speakers I’ve reviewed, the most sonically impressive has been Naim’s Mu-so range: both the pint-sized Qb and the full-sized Mu-so. The Mu-so Qb is considerably cheaper than the KEF LSX at £599 and the Mu-so is around the same price at £995.
Alternatively, you could opt for a pair of Apple Homepods in stereo, which will set you back around £600, or a pair of Google Home Max speakers; a setup that costs £800. Another, cheaper option, would be the Epoz Aktimate Blue, but these don’t sound nearly as good as the LSX and don’t look as nice, either.
KEF LSX review: Design and features
Say one thing about the KEF LSX, they’re absolutely gorgeous to look at. Put together with assistance from designer Michael Young, the LSX are both modern and elegant and you can have them in a variety of different colours, too, with black, green, blue, red and white colours are available. All but the white are wrapped in textured, coloured cloth with a curved metallic soft-touch plastic fascia at the front, surrounding KEF’s signature Uni-Q driver.
Even the speaker cones are colour co-ordinated to match the body of the speaker and when you put it all together with the Uni-Q’s dramatically finned 19mm tweeter, which sits in the centre, surrounded by the speaker’s 115mm mid-bass cone, it makes for a striking pair of speakers. The LSX are compact, too, although perhaps a little too large to be considered true desktop speakers.
Inside, each speaker is powered by 200W of pure digital amplification, though all the connectivity resides solely inside one speaker. This “master” speaker then sends audio wirelessly to the “slave” at the other end of the connection. You can set the master speaker as either the left or the right speaker, too; just tweak the setting as desired in the accompanying KEF Control app. You can control the volume and switch sources using the app, or do things the old-fashioned way via the small infrared remote control included in the box.
If you plan on using the LSX as your main music system, however, you need to be aware of one annoying quirk. When I had them set up separated by a mere two metres I found the connection between the two speakers wasn’t all that reliable. The connection wouldn’t drop out all the time, but often enough to cause serious irritation. The problem is easily fixable by linking the speakers with the Ethernet cable supplied in the box, but the connection really should be more reliable than this.
There is one more reason, other than connection reliability, that you might want to plump for the Ethernet connection, though, and that’s audio quality. The LSX supports playback of files up to 24-bit/192kHz, which are downsampled on output no matter the connection, but the downsampling is less severe if you have the speakers connected via Ethernet: to 24-bit/96kHz instead of 24-bit/48kHz. So, if you can stomach linking the two speakers to each other, you’ll get slightly better audio quality as well a more reliable connection between the two.
KEF LSX review: Connectivity
That’s a bit of a disappointing kludge in a pair of speakers this expensive. It’s just as well then, that for the essential job of streaming music from your smartphone or tablet, the LSX is much more impressive.
At its simplest, you can use the KEF LSX as a pair of Bluetooth speakers. They support the highest quality Bluetooth codec – AptX – as well as regular SB. For the best quality output, though, you’re going to want to stream via Wi-Fi and here the LSX supports Spotify Connect streaming natively and, via the KEF Stream app, both the Tidal and DLNA network streaming.
Apple Airplay 2 is coming soon, too, says KEF and there’s also a decent range of physical connections at the rear of the master speaker, including an optical TOSLINK style connector at the back for TV and console connections, a 3.5mm headphone jack and an RCA output for a subwoofer.
This last connector is of particular interest because it allows you to supplement the bass output of the already prodigious LSX with even deeper, fuller, floorboard-throbbing low-end. It’s super easy to setup as well, with the frequency crossover between the speaker and the volume of the sub adjustable from within the KEF Control app.
Just as impressive, however, is way you can set up the speakers (without a sub, this time) according to their position in your room, with the app allowing you to tweak the low low-frequency roll-off from 49Hz up to 55Hz. In short, the LEF LSX is a thoroughly modern pair of wireless speakers; the only thing they’re missing is digital assistant support, though presumably, that’s something hi-fi traditionalists would turn their noses up at.
KEF LSX review: Sound quality and performance
With the initial hurdles overcome surrounding wireless connectivity between the speakers overcome, I settled down to enjoying some music on the KEF LSX. Having heard the LSX’s big brother, the LS50 Wireless and been mighty impressed, would these much cheaper, smaller speakers be able to live up to the name?
The answer is a resounding yes, and then some. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a pair of speakers this small sound this powerful and muscular. The level of detail they’re capable of reproducing, married to a rich, luscious mid-range and a tuneful, tight bass delivery, is truly impressive to behold.
The thumping low beats on Trentemoeller’s Moan and the fast descending baseline on Nitin Sawhney’s Nadia reveal that the KEF LSX does have its limitations in the low frequencies, but, with most musical material, these speakers are a joy to listen to.
They have an openness and clarity about them that’s rare in high-tech speakers like this. The sound they produce is superbly well balanced and detailed without being dry, and they manage to deliver music that sounds rich and smooth without ever losing coherence.
For me, KEF’s Uni-Q tweeter isn’t quite a match for the sheer sweetness of sound that the ribbon tweeters in my Adam Audio active monitors are capable of reproducing, but they sure come close. And they’re far, far superior to a pair of Homepods or Google Home Max’s. They’re even a match for the Naim Mu-so, although by dint of the LSX being a stereo pair, it’s capable of delivering a broader, more immersive soundstage.
KEF LSX review: Verdict
Overall, I’m a huge fan of the KEF LSX and, yes, I’m aware they’re costly, at one pound short of a grand. But, in the context of rivals such as the Mu-so, their larger and more expensive siblings, the LS50 Wireless, and more traditional Hi-Fi streaming products they’re actually pretty good value.
The fact that they come close in audio quality to my regular system, which couples a portable Chord Mojo DAC with those wonderful Adam Audio A7X actives speaks worlds, because that’s a setup that comes in a good £400 or so more expensive.
In short, the KEF LSX are utterly wonderful speakers. They sound amazing, look incredible and come packed full of features for the music-streaming connoisseur. For me, they’re the ultimate in modern hi-fi, the embodiment of everything I look for in, not just in a pair of speakers, but also a complete music system. They’re absolutely, inescapably brilliant.