Yesterday I had a good dealer demo of the KEF LS-50 Speakers. This was the 3rd location where I heard these speakers (it took some travel to be able to hear these in three locations), as I like to hear what I am considering in more than one showroom. I thought that those considering these speakers would be interested in my experience.
The first time I heard the LS50 was a couple of months ago. The dealer set this up in a room that was loaded with other equipment scattered about the room. The initial amplifier chosen was an Anthem MRX-700. While sounding OK, the overall sound did not do much for me. He than hooked up a Parasound Halo Series Pre and A21 amplifier. This sounded better but the L-R never seemed balanced and it appeared that the room was having much effect on the demo. I left the demo wanting to hear more in a different environment though this little speaker did impress me.
I got my chance a couple of weeks later for my second demo of the LS50 in two different dealer rooms. This time the rooms were much better, but in both the amplifiers used were beyond anything I could afford. The sound was good in both rooms though one room was much better than the other. I left with a very positive impression of these speakers and they are now on my short list where all other speakers are Tower formats.
Yesterdays 3rd demo was the best and lasted over three hours. The room was OK and more representative of what my room was like than the previous demos. The initial RECEIVER provided was the Denon AVR-4520. I listened first to the speakers alone (all demos were in Stereo) and later with a Sub. I provided my own music for all of these demos. This relatively low cost receiver sounded better than any of the previous LS-50 demos. All characteristics of these speakers were good in all respects including the bottom end. When we changed the setting to add the sub, we found that the best sounding crossover point was 60 Hz and it sounded better than at 80 Hz that the speaker easily carried. I cannot believe how low these small speakers can go and I would not hesitate to use these without a sub in a music only system. But with this receiver, I think that using a sub would take the load off of both the speaker and receiver, especially in a mixed use Home Theater setup. For those trying to keep their costs down, it appears that the LS50's (5) with Denon 4520 and a good sub is a reasonable choice for a Home Theater at low to moderate sound levels. The bonus is a great center speaker in the LS50.
This same dealer had a number of Parasound amplifiers in the store including a pair of JC-1 Mono Blocks next to the LS-50's so I asked it we could hook these up. We continued to use the 4520 as a Pre. Simply.... the sound was amazing. I had never heard sound like this out of any 5 1/4" speaker and (without side by side comparison) rivaled what I remembered from any previous demo including Tower speakers, except for possible the extreme low end (Below 60Hz) . And this was without any SUB. The sound was much more open and full bodied and it totally made these speakers disappear into the room. It never sounded like we were straining these speakers though I did not drive them that hard, but it was to a reasonably loud level.
So what got driven into me on this demo (and has often been said on various forum discussions) is that these speaker will sound as good as the associated equipment used with it. So for me this gives me a high and low price range of associated equipment on my short list for this future 5.1 system. Low would be the equivalent of the 4520 WITH SUB's and the high would be a good processor (including the 4520) with Parasound JC1 and Subs, which I cannot afford. Fortunately I still have time to make a decision and find a midpoint plus CEDIA is right around the corner. My real recommendation to all who are interested in these speakers is to try to get a listen to these in more than one physical location, and do listen to them with a variety of different electronics in the same room.