STEREO GUIDE Verdict
+ natural, warm sound
+ three-dimensional space mapping
+ Location customization and connectivity top
- Bass somewhat lacking in contour, sometimes imprecise
- naturally level-limited
- Full resolution/dynamics only in the sweet spot
Practice / Connectivity10
Sound: neutrality / transparency9
Sound: Bass / Dynamics7.6
Sound: spatial imaging9.6
Price / Performance9
KEF LSX II stereo WLAN speakers offer Hi-Res resolution streaming versatility, HDMI for gaming and home theater applications, Bluetooth, Ethernet and grown-up sound on compact design speakers. Our review led to the verdict: The sound highlight among the minis!
Among the active stereo speakers with built-in streamer, the KEF LSX II is probably the smallest. For many music listeners, it might even still pass as a desktop monitor. But at the same time, it is also the most sophisticated and versatile in terms of connectivity. It offers even more playback options than the incomparably larger KEF LS 50 Wireless II, which we already had in review shortly after its release. And which currently tops our stereo best list in terms of sound.
The LSX II is now significantly smaller, and with a felt-covered housing in the colors in the colors black, blue, and red also once again more living room friendly. There is also a white and a gold case variant. We can perfectly imagine the little one both on desks and on the shelf or lowboard. For this purpose, KEF offers table stand LSX P1. But there is also the floor stand KEF S1 in different colors.
Infinite play options
If we look at the list of digital and analog playback options, it would probably be easier to list what common standards the KEF LSX II does not support: namely, a phono input and coaxial S/PDIF. Everything else is built in, from HDMI (ARC) via USB-C for sound card operation on the computer, Bluetooth 4.2, optical input, 3.5 mm analog jack or the feed optionally via Ethernet cable or WLAN direct integration. Those who integrate it into the network can choose whether to play via Airplay 2, Google Chromecast, Roon Ready, Spotify Connect, TidalConnect, Amazon Music, Deezer or via KEF’s own app, for example via UPnP streaming.
However, the LSX II’s networking capabilities also mean that the smartphone app(iOS or Android) is almost mandatory during setup. This also applies to logging in via either Apple ID or Google Home. However, the KEF Connect app helps the user step by step with logging in and setting up the WLAN, for example. With blinking or color changes of the LED, the box announces quite reliably what to do next.
Versatile app for streaming and customization
The sophisticated app is also recommended for actual streaming operations, such as accessing NAS in the local network. It is the same as the version for the KEF LS 50 Wireless II, and is also used to make the extensive and practical sound adjustments. Very useful for positioning close to the wall or table, for example, as well as the height control for adapting to different reverberation characteristics of the room. We particularly liked the digital subwoofer crossover, which can be adjusted via app. It assigns the correct signal to a subwoofer (also from other manufacturers) that can be additionally connected to the master box. At the same time, the KEF is high-pass filtered to increase the dynamic reserves, which of course promises a lot of effect with such a compact speaker.
Cable or cable-less?
The pairing of the second box succeeds wirelessly as if by magic. Although the slave speaker has its own amplifiers and accordingly requires its own power cable, it receives all music signals from the master. KEF promises resolution up to 48/24 PCM over the air with wireless signal transmission. Higher hires formats can be sent between the boxes via an optional Ethernet cable, with the internal processor converting back to a perfectly adequate 96/24. This is also true when sending in PCM streams up to 384/24, DSD or MQA.
Point source with active amplification
KEF’s trademark is also used in the LSX II: a single speaker chassis in coaxial design. This combination of woofer and tweeter comes close to the acoustic ideal of a true point source. In near-field or desktop operation, this is especially important to obtain a homogeneous image when the listener moves slightly. And in living room use, it helps keep treble radiation in check.
The 19-mm tweeter is installed in the center of the 11-centimeter bass-midrange driver. The diaphragm material used is aluminum or a harder aluminum-magnesium alloy. Both drivers are directly driven by their own power amplifiers. The power distribution corresponds to the expected energy distribution of music, speaks 70 watts for the low frequency range and 30 watts for the high frequency range. To keep space consumption and waste heat to a minimum, all four power amplifiers per pair are designed as switching amplifiers.
Connect and control
Plug & Play is also not provided for the little sister of the KEF LS50 Wireless II. New owners must first download the KEF Connect app and register the LSX II to both the home Wi-Fi and Google Home app on the same device. The app does a pretty good job of explaining where you are in the process and when which login is required. Nevertheless, the whole thing takes a little time and requires a bit of attention. For example, if you log in to KEF with a different email address than Google Home.
In contrast, the wireless connection of the second box went absolutely smoothly. The KEF LSX II also reported itself ready for operation several times in Roon’s audio menu.
This is how the KEF LSX II sounds
With its compact dimensions that barely exceed a desktop speaker, the KEF LSX II raises doubts about whether it can acoustically take on a serious living room. She can! Their bass set the scene quite voluminously and richly right from the start. Bass drums don’t kick quite as penetratingly as the larger models, but when placed on a shelf or lowboard, you’ll be pulling out the “expert” location equalization in the KEF Connect app pretty quickly. Because in the factory state, the small KEF only wants to convince freestanding, but near the wall it quickly becomes spongy to overfat. In normally damped rooms, it’s still worth boosting the treble a bit to give the KEF’s tonality more sparkle.
From an audiophile perspective, the strengths of the LS 50 Wireless II were clearly recognizable after this 2-minute tuning: An amazingly three-dimensional, just perfectly staggered room; completely effortless, loose transparency and warm, homogeneous timbres were on the reviewer’s notepad after a few minutes. We have to explicitly praise the KEF LSX II for its suitability for long listening: Its presentation is completely stress-free and flatters the ears. However, you only get the maximum of resolution, audibility and naturalness if you sit approximately in the sweet spot. The small KEF does not fill a whole room with sound. Especially listeners sitting to the side of the speaker can expect a much duller, sometimes slightly potted sound in the vocal range.
No fear of large choirs
The more complex the music, the more amazing the sound: choirs, big bands, orchestras or pop music with multiple voices and wide spaces – here the KEF was virtually in its element and put many a much more expensive classical hi-fi system to shame with its holographic and effortlessly audible reproduction. We can also attest to a consistently mature sound with a more than adequate richness in bass and fundamental tone. Depending on the recording, this may be a bit too voluminous, even soft, for listeners accustomed to rhythm. The low-frequency response does not allow itself to be carried away to party levels either, but that cannot really be demanded in view of the size and complexity of the concept.
However, this should easily suffice for most home applications including moderate home theaters. A complete system that makes everything and everyone happy? Well, not quite. Despite all the joy of homogeneity and dynamic reserves, there were also recordings where the LSX II could have been more lively and crisp to us. Not that it would have slowed down impulses, but even with hip hop, techno and co. the basic character remains clearly on the relaxed side. There could have been a bit more sparkle and energy around the top.
Purchase recommendation or alternatives to the KEF LSX II
From the feed and control options with app, HDMI, USB-C and streaming integration, the KEF LSX II is the most versatile concept on the market. It simply knows no competition as a mini system for all occasions. However, it is also considerably more expensive than more simply equipped stereo speakers in its size class. If you only need HDMI and Bluetooth, the Nubert nuBox A-125 is a much simpler concept in a similar size at a fraction of the price. The Nubert plays a bit more brisk and lively, but the KEF is on balance the better imaging, deeper reaching and more audiophile speaker.
Only the level and bass precision should be reduced. If you want to use such a system in larger rooms, it might be better to combine the LSX II with the optional KEF KC62 subwoofer than to switch to the much bulkier and more expensive KEF LS 50 Wireless II. The latter sounds more grown-up, but the bass increase is not the same as with sub/sat operation.
Technical specifications KEF LSX II
- Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: 1,500 euros
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 15.5 x 20 x 18 cm
- Weight: 7.2 kg
- Features: AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, Roon Ready, UPnP, Bluetooth 4.3, HDMI (ARC), USB-C, Analog jack 3.5 mm
- More at www.kef.com
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