04 Kef LSX dKef’s new LSX wireless speakers, a smaller, cheaper incarnation of its immensely impressive LS50s, are just as impressive; maybe even more so given they’re almost compact enough for a desk. So why am I hesitant in recommending them?

They sound terrific, especially with the volume way up. There’s a very strong low end that, despite its power, doesn’t get muddled or fuzzy. Fear not; the high end is every bit as pronounced. Maybe it gets just a tad harsh but I’m being picky because overall I loved it. And the soundstage is surprisingly wide. If you’re into Philip Glass these are the bookshelf speakers for you.

The midrange is just as good. The soundtrack to a 1971 movie called The Last Valley (it still rates a 7.4 on IMDb) has a couple of tracks of modestly liturgical music by an unaccompanied female choir recorded in the wonderful acoustic of the Prague State Opera House, and the LSXs capture it deliciously enough to get goosebumps bumping.

You have to keep reminding yourself that these are cordless. You can connect through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Apple AirPlay at up to 48 kiloHertz/24 bit resolution and as long as there’s a wall outlet in the vicinity you can forget any other cables. If you must there’s a 3.5 mm plug for hardwiring a phone or tablet, an optical input and, for purists a three-metre ethernet cable to connect one speaker to the other for 96/24 res if that makes an audible improvement for you, I was perfectly happy with the wireless connection between the two. There’s an RCA output for a powered subwoofer and a USB charge outlet, there’s Tidal and Spotify. And you have your choice of five colours, four in fabric and one in white gloss.

04 Kef LSX cSo what’s my problem?

It’s all about the software. It took forever, and the help of the importer’s rep, to get the LSXs working at my place. They need an app and this has to be set up to talk to the speakers. Without it nix, nada, nothing. I repeatedly got to the last step only to be told the speakers could not be found. I tried this continually over two days before I called the importer, and the rep brought a second pair around.

04 Kef LSX bHe had the same trouble, except that instead of pressing the reset and starting again after each failure he kept pressing the ‘retry’ button and waiting patiently. I had tried this too, but not five times which ultimately brought success for him. Then I went away for a week during which my iPad was reconfigured by an enthusiastic six-year-old and I had to go through the whole process again from scratch. And again it took five tries of the retry button and about 20 minutes. There are few things more frustrating than technology that doesn’t work.

The rep had put it down to a network problem, but I try a lot of such equipment and I’ve not had trouble before. And then I remembered the one time I had, and that was with Kef’s LS50 wireless speakers a couple of years ago. It’s therefore possible that the problem is with the Kef app, rather than my network. Maybe it’s both of the above.

Whatever, it’s enough to make me suggest that, if you have a listen to these speakers and decide to spend the $1895 involved, then get someone from the shop to set them up for you, making connection their problem and not yours. And don’t let a six-year-old near your iPad.

First published by smh.com.au February 2019.

 

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