What Hi-Fi?

STEREO SPEAKERS

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KEF LS50 Meta £1000

We loved the LS50s when they arrived back in 2012. Yet these LS50 Metas are better – almost unbelievably better.

They don’t look any different from the LS50s; in many ways they aren’t. KEF considered revising that beautifully made enclosure but concluded that little could be improved.

The only obvious changes are to the back panel, which has been tidied up and made to look neater. The Uni-Q driver array, though, has been thoroughly reworked, taking in the refinements KEF has developed over the past eight years and – crucially – adding something new in the form of Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT).

Here, the rearward sound feeds into something about the size of a hockey puck that looks like a plastic circular maze. It is layered and made up of 30 tubes, each tuned to absorb a different frequency. KEF claims that, once combined, the tubes absorb a wide range of frequencies – from around 600Hz upwards – much more effectively than alternate methods. The result should be cleaner, less distorted highs.

And, sure enough, it doesn’t take long to realise that the LS50s have improved significantly. The basic sonic character is instantly familiar, but the new Metas have gained a level of clarity and finesse the originals only hinted at. They sound so much more transparent than before and manage to render low-level details, such as instrumental textures, much more convincingly.

It’s a full-bodied presentation with a good degree of authority for such compact speakers. Large-scale dynamics are handled well and there’s a good amount of muscle for a speaker of this size. These are refined and composed performers that rarely sound stressed unless volume levels are high.

There’s little to complain about when it comes to tonality. The KEFs sound smooth and balanced while still having enough in the way of high-frequency bite. They will reveal the shortcomings in poor recordings, but don’t go out

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