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These speakers deliver impressively accurate sound for any style of music

The KEF LS50 Meta delivered better results than I could have imagined in my quest for the perfect bookshelf speakers.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
A KEF LS50 Meta bookshelf speaker.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The KEF LS50 Meta speakers are available for $1,600 from the official KEF store and other select retailers.
  • These speakers deliver a beautifully blended, uncolored sound that is unrivaled at this price point.
  • If you're a basshead, you might need a subwoofer to give the KEFs some oomph.

Over the years, I've always found something to fault in whatever bookshelf speakers I had. They might deliver depth, but they need a wider sound stage. The highs might sparkle, but the lows lacked punch. They might have power, but not subtlety. They might be great for rock music, but lousy for classical.

It was always a push and pull, and no single pair of speakers ever checked all the boxes.

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That's when I heard about the KEF LS50 Meta speakers. I wanted to try them out, but I wasn't set up to run speakers that required this much amplification. But I knew that if I wanted to get the sound my ears demanded, change was required. So I went out on a limb, got the new amp (which I'll review later), and bought the KEFs. Oh, how glad I am that I took that risk. 

Before I dig into my feelings about these speakers, let's talk specs.

View at KEF

KEF LS50 Meta speakers tech specs

  • Drive units - HF: 25 mm vented aluminum dome with Metamaterial Absorption Technology; MF/LF 130 mm aluminum cone
  • Crossover frequency - 2.1 kHz
  • Frequency rage - 47 Hz - 45 kHz
  • Typical in-room bass response - 26 Hz
  • Frequency response - 79 Hz - 28 kHz
  • Harmonic distortion - <0,4% 175 Hz - 20 kHz <0,1% 300 Hz - 10 kHz
  • Maximum output - 106 dB
  • Recommended amplifier power - 40-100 W
  • Nominal impedance - 8 Ω (min. 3,5 Ω)
  • Sensitivity - 85 dB
  • Weight = 17.2 lbs
  • Dimensions - 11.9 x 7.9 x 11.0 in
  • Connectivity - these are wired-only speakers
  • Price - $1599

After connecting everything (including the new amp), I placed my anniversary edition of "Moving Pictures" by Rush and waited for the opening of Tom Sawyer. Upon hearing the first notes, I was immediately flush with a smile from ear to ear, and brain to heart. I did have to make a bit of adjustment to my SVS subwoofer but found that it paired very well with the KEFs.

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The first thing to strike me was the smoothness and balance from lows to highs these speakers offer. Not one frequency stood out as the sound blended to form a cohesive whole. These speakers produce a sound similar to that of a studio monitor: everything is neutral, so you get to enjoy the music exactly as the artist intended for exceptional sonic transparency. Highs aren't overly splashy, mids aren't brassy, and bass isn't overblown.

It's all about smoothness, subtlety, and sonic accuracy, and the KEF LS50 Meta delivers on these fronts like no other bookshelf speaker I've ever heard.

KEF also approached the tweeter in a unique way. Typically tweeters fire into a chamber behind the dome, where much of the sound is absorbed. The KEFs, on the other hand, use Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT), where the rear-firing sound is fed into a circular maze-like structure. This allows the numerous tubes to absorb different frequencies, resulting in less distortion within the highs, and it shows. Cymbals and high hats are crisp, and wailing guitar solos sound brilliant.

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Of course, if there's one thing the KEFs could use a boost with, it's the bass. There is a big difference in the speaker's sound before the sub kicks in and after, as the LS50 Metas don't have quite the punch I prefer. Understand, however, that's because I've been using a sub for a very long time. For those who don't worry about such things, you'll find the KEFs deliver plenty of low-end. But if you prefer to feel the kick drum and bass guitar in your gut, you'll want a sub.

As for the build quality, the KEFs are stellar. The second you pick one of these up, you know how substantial they are. I purchased mine in titanium gray, and they look as good as they sound.

ZDNET's buying advice

The KEF LS50 Meta bookshelf speakers are as close to audiophile-grade as you'll find in a bookshelf speaker without spending twice as much. At $1,500 for the pair, these bookshelf speakers will deliver high-end sound at mid-range prices.

I've recommended speakers in this format before, but not one can compete with the sound quality produced by the KEF LS50 Meta speakers. These babies are as near perfect as I've ever experienced, and I've not regretted purchasing them for one second. If you love a smooth, uncolored sound that places you right into the heart of your favorite music, these speakers will have you smiling, dancing, and grooving to the beat.

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