KEF LSX II review

What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. A fantastic, multi-talented streaming system perfect for smaller rooms Tested at £1199 / $1400 / AU$2195

Streaming system: KEF LSX II
(Image: © Future)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

KEF’s taken what was already a fantastic desktop speaker system and amplified its appeal across the board – you couldn’t really ask for more at this level

Pros

  • +

    Well-rounded sonic performance

  • +

    Excellent imaging and dynamics

  • +

    HDMI and USB-C inputs

Cons

  • -

    Native 24-bit/192kHz playback requires wired connection

  • -

    Best suited to smaller rooms or desktop use

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

KEF’s LS50 Wireless II and newly launched LS60 Wireless have stolen a lot of headlines in recent months (and rightly so), but we shouldn’t forget there is actually a third member of KEF’s wireless speaker system family.

The KEF LSX launched way back in 2018 and the diminutive streaming speaker system (try saying that fast five times in a row) made an immediate impact. We handed it a five-star rating and a number of subsequent What Hi-Fi? Awards for its efforts.

Given the evolution of the rest of the range since, though, it’s probably about time that we saw a sequel. And here it is. Say hello to the KEF LSX II.

Design

Streaming system: KEF LSX II

(Image credit: Future)

If you were expecting big design changes for the KEF LSX II, then you might be disappointed to learn the speakers look identical to the originals. Internal electronics changes in the speakers have increased manufacturing costs, so to keep the price of the system down, KEF has stuck with the same look. But let’s be honest, that isn’t a bad thing.

The speakers use the same version of KEF’s 11th Generation Uni-Q driver, as found in their predecessors, too. However, perhaps surprisingly, there’s no room for KEF’s Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT), which is present in the LS50 Wireless II and LS60 Wireless and works to absorb soundwaves that radiate from the back of the tweeter dome. KEF told us it would increase the cost too much and so it missed the production cycle this time round. Perhaps if there’s ever a MkIII version…

Like the originals, the cabinets are rear-ported, although KEF’s added a couple of extra connectivity options which you’ll spot on the rear of the left (primary) speaker, but more on those later.

Amplification once again amounts to 200 watts, with 30W going to the tweeter and 70W to the woofer on each channel.

Despite the lack of exterior changes, the KEFs don’t struggle for shelf appeal. Far from it. They’re still striking to look at and, like the originals, are available in five finishes. 'Mineral white' and 'lava red' models sport matte satin and high-gloss finishes respectively, while 'carbon black' and 'cobalt blue' are clad in Kvadrat fabric.

There’s also a special Soundwave by Terence Conran Edition which marks one of the iconic British designer’s final collaborations. It isn’t a limited run either, so there really should be something for everyone.

Features

Streaming system: KEF LSX II

(Image credit: Future)

As we’ve alluded to above, the big changes for the KEF LSX II have happened beneath the surface. The LSX II’s DSP software has been completely redesigned, with some of the changes trickling down from its pricier siblings.

The speaker system also now uses KEF’s W2 wireless streaming platform, bringing it into line with its siblings. This platform is your gateway to all the various connectivity options on offer, including wi-fi, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast and Bluetooth. You’ve also got Amazon Music, Deezer, Qobuz, Spotify and Tidal streaming services to choose from, and there's the ability to stream any music stored on an external NAS drive. They’re also Roon Ready for subscribers of that music management platform.

The big news for LSX II is the addition of a couple of extra physical inputs on the speakers themselves. The first is HDMI ARC and the second is a USB-C connection for connecting to a TV and laptop respectively. We tried them both out during testing, playing an episode of Stranger Things Season 4 through Netflix and a Samsung QLED TV, and then streaming Tidal through a MacBook Pro, and we didn’t have any syncing issues or connectivity problems.

KEF LSX II tech specs

Streaming system: KEF LSX II

(Image credit: Future)

Driver Uni-Q driver 19mm HF aluminium dome; 11.5cm MF aluminium cone

Streaming AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, Roon Ready, UPnP, Bluetooth 4.2

Streaming services Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, Qobuz, Deezer, QQ Music

Resolution support PCM up to 24-bit/384kHz, DSD256, MQA

Inputs HDMI ARC, USB-C, optical, Ethernet

Output Subwoofer

Dimensions (hwd) 24 x 15.5 x 18cm

Weight 7.1kg (total)

Finishes Mineral White, Lava Red, Carbon Black, Cobalt Blue, Soundwave by Terence Conran Edition

As is the case with the other wireless systems in this three-strong range, there’s an Ethernet port for connecting the speakers directly to your router, or a switch and a second port which you use to connect the supplied (Ethernet) cable between the speakers. This is required if you want native playback of 24-bit/96kHz digital music files through the KEFs, Anything higher than this is downsampled to 24-bit/96kHz. The system is also capable of handling up to 24-bit/48kHz natively through KEF’s own low-latency wireless connection (again, it will simply downsample anything above and up to 24-bit/384kHz to this sample rate too). There’s also support for DSD256 and MQA decoding.

As was the case with their predecessors, the LSX II system has to make do without the on-speaker touch controls of the LS50 Wireless II. And you’ll probsbly want to bypass the rather cheap-feeling, small remote that you get in the box. Instead, reach straight for your iOS/Android device and download the KEF Control app, to which the speakers get access thanks to the W2 platform. It places all the playback controls, streaming services and internet radio at your fingertips. It’s an accomplished app that is straightforward enough to navigate.

One of your first calling points in the app should be the EQ settings. You’ve got the choice of Normal or Expert which offer varying degrees of adjustment. The former is the one we’d start with. It allows you to make adjustments based on whether the speakers are being used on stands or a desktop, whether they’re up against a wall or out in a bit of free space. It’ll also take into account if your room is heavily or lightly damped. The Expert option covers all this and more, including more subtle adjustments if you use the LSX II with an additional subwoofer.

Talking of positioning, KEF has a couple of stand options for you. There are the matching S1 floor stands (£320 / $350 / AU$649) that you see here, the P1 desk pads (£140 / $180 / AU$279) for using them alongside a laptop or PC, and a B1 wall bracket (£190 / $230 / AU$379) should you want them in a slightly loftier position.

Sound

Streaming system: KEF LSX II

(Image credit: Future)

We start testing with the smooth and soulful sounds of Easy by The Commodores, and the KEF system settles into the groove of the track in no time at all. It delivers a confident performance, perfectly in tune with the relaxed, easy-going nature of the track. It’s laid back, but expressive when required. The speakers communicate all the subtle dynamic shifts in the piano key strikes, drum thwacks and guitar string plucks with ease – there’s a real sense of refinement and maturity to the sound without being showy. You just know you’re in the presence of a capable pair of speakers.

We up the tempo slightly by switching to Kendrick Lamar’s Rich Spirit and the vocal hangs right in the middle of the soundstage, surrounded by the track’s swollen bassline. Given the size of the speakers you can’t expect the LSX II to delve too deep (which it doesn’t), but there’s enough weight for the notes to feel full and wholesome. Bass is tight and controlled, too, with a nice layer of texture on the surface of the notes. The LSX II also maintains a fine sense of rhythm, which is evident in the way we regularly find ourselves tapping a foot or finger along to whatever we play through them.

We’re used to KEF’s UniQ driver producing a stereo image that’s like a bubble of sound and this quality is apparent with the new LSX. Play Tina Turner’s Proud Mary and the system gets the layering of all the different elements of the track spot on. As different elements introduce themselves such as the guitar, drums, Turner’s voice and the accompanying male voice hanging in the background, the music becomes more interesting to listen to – and that’s before she launches into the more frantic section of the track. Tonally, the whole presentation is extremely inviting and shows a lot of natural warmth. And this rings true whether you’re listening to the speakers in a more conventional set-up on the stands or you’re sitting more up close and personal using them on a desktop. The closer you get, the more precise and focused they sound – so from this point of view, they’re extremely flexible too.

During testing, we experiment with running the supplied ethernet cable between the speakers and switch to using KEF’s wireless connection, and we do prefer the sound with wire in place. Without it, we find music sounds a little less substantial and a touch more forward. It’s not a huge difference and our praise of the overall sound still stands, but we do feel there’s a slight difference.

Verdict

Streaming system: KEF LSX II

(Image credit: Future)

KEF’s taken what was already a winning formula, introduced some key upgrades that improve functionality and usability, and without really altering the speaker hardware has produced a talented set-up that sings with any genre of music sent its way.

The KEF LSX II is a stylish streaming system that comes with none of the baggage and boxes a separates set-up brings. Nothing else really comes close at this level.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Features 5
  • Build 5

MORE:

See all the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winners

Best hi-fi systems: micro, vinyl and streaming music systems for the home

These are the best standmount speakers

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


Read more about how we test

  • msboon
    The review says the speakers are capable of handling up to 24-bit/96kHz natively through KEF’s own low-latency wireless connection. In fact the manual and specs on KEF’s website say that for wireless all sources are resampled to 48kHz/24bit (and for wired they are resampled to 96kHz/24bit PCM).
    Reply