KEF LS50 or Wharfedale Reva 2 -- which would you buy?
I am considering upgrading my speakers and am between the KEF LS50 and Wharfedale Reva 2 speakers. I'm not able to hear either one where I am located so am looking for some input.
I am also able to get the Reva 2s for about half the price of the LS50, but if the KEFs are the right move I am ok spending more time saving for them.
Some notes to consider:
- Speakers will be used only for music, not TV/ movies - Receiver is an older Denon DRA 825R (90 watts/ channel into 8 ohms). Minimum is 6ohms (please don't suggest I get the UB5s). - Turntable is Pro-ject Carbon Debut - Room is about 15x17 apartment living room - I listen to everything from classic rock to jazz to classical. I don't listen to hip hop, house, or modern pop.
I am really just looking for beautiful sounding (and nice looking) speakers at $1k or less (I can get the LS50 for $1k or the Reva 2s for $450). I live in an apartment so the music is never loud, just looking for great sounding speakers.
The reviews on both seem very good. The LS50 is clearly a more popular speaker. I guess the question there is -- is it worth an extra $550 for me?
I don't know where there is even a Wharfdale dealer in New England but I have heard that their new lines are pretty good. But I have heard the LS 50 and it is one of the best values out there. Not everyone loves them but I have owned a number of KEF over the years, Ref 1 and 2 , RDM 1 and 2, and I like the Uni-Q driver.
If you are unable to audition buy from someone that allows returns, save yourself the return freight and choose the KEF... when faced with the dilema of spending twice as much as I planned, I always defer to what my grandpappy used to say :
That is an older Denon, but from a time when Denon was making solid, nice receivers. I had the DRA 625 and loved it. At the time, I was using it with Polk bookshelf speakers. It is the type of receiver that Zu Audio says mates well with its Dirty Weekenders.
Hi. Coaster! Let me share my LS50 experience with you.
I put together a new system last Thanksgiving timeframe. I had been without for a couple of years so its really nice to get back into the hobby!
I’ll just get to the point quickly here. The LS50’s are great speakers; don’t buy them, lol. They are incredibly hard to drive and as a result, be prepared to spend anywhere between $1500-$2500 on the front end. I had a McCormack Micro Line Drive, B&K reference 4420 amp, audioquest red dragonfly, jitterbug, analysis plus speaker cables (oval 8?), Rel T9i subwoofer.
I burned the speakers in for 50+ hours.
They do vocals and imaging and acoustic guitars amazingly well but they have little to no bass and on quite a bit material, they sound very very thin. The Rel T9i did not make up the difference like I had thought.
I’m thinking that someone will chime in and say that they sound amazing hooked up to their pass labs or conrad johnson equipment but I digress.
My advice would be to decide whats important to you soundwise and then put together a system that will be fulfilling to you.
The Passive LS50’s did not play rock music well at allfor me. 3 doors down “the road I’m on” sounded awful. The LS50’s had no dynamics, zero slam (someone will tell me it was my preamp and that I need a good tube preamp / quicksilver, audio research etc).
Bottom line, I was not trying to buy a $1000 pre, $1500 amp, $800 dac, $800 in cables, just to achieve a sound that was almost as good as the Kef LS50 Wireless ($2200) only without the bass or magical imaging that I am hearing from the Active version.
I decided to sell / return all my gear, pocket $500, and end up with an amazing sound on all types of music while visually getting rid of a laptop, pre amp, amp, speaker cables, interconnects, over size power cords etc. Oh, and now I have remote control over music selection and as bad as the remote is (its bad, lol), its still better than no remote control which is what I had been using for the past 5 years.
So, to summarize, buy the Active LS50’s and selleverything else, OR, buy some speakers that have sound characteristics that you are looking for and that sound good with your Denon. Easy to drive speakers that sound good with a variety of amplification and sound good with Classic Rock should be what you are looking for. ZU is a good recommendation in that regard.
Buut, if you can swing it, the Active LS50’s are pretty special and a downright bargain considering what you get in a small, neat package.
Good Luck withyour search and have fun! Stressing out, like I often do, will heighten the chances of a wrong choice. Let your ears be the judge and if it doesn’t sound good to you after your purchase, and after you’ve burned them in, return them and try something else. Don’t go down the “upgrade everything inorder to make the speakers that you don’t like sound decent” road.
@rar1 thanks Rich. I love the line where Guttenberg says something along the lines of ’Zu isn’t about making speakers that measure well and blah blah blah. Zu is about making speakers that kick a--.’
@b_limo thanks for that review of the LS50s, especially the last bit of advice about not upgrading in an inefficient way. Totally agree with the sentiment. I think overall, and I could be wrong, but the 90watt/ channel Denon DRA-825r amp that I have should be fine with the relatively inefficient KEF LS50s. Its known to be a powerhouse amp. Granted its older, but this thing is intense. Also, I don’t listen to music loud (I can’t - my neighbor is my landlord...) so I think it should work. The wireless set is great, and likely a pretty significant step up, but its beyond my price range at this time.
I don’t have any personal experience with that Denon but it does seem to get good reviews.
The thing is, the kefs will dip to 4 ohms (even 3) at certain freqs. so I think its best to have an amp that definately doubles down in power. If the amp doesn’t do that, it can sound bright with these already bright / revealing speakers.
It looks like the Denon is rated for speakers 6-16 ohms. The power looks to be 90 watts at 8 ohms and 140 at 4 ohms. For comparison, the B&K Reference that I was using is rated at 225 at 8 ohms and 350 at 4 ohms; it was barely enough to wake them up.
Also, a high effiecient speaker like a ZU will sound far more dynamic and involving at low volumes compared to the passive LS50’s with anything less than something like a Rogue Audio Sphinx or Hegel H150, in my oppinion.
I’m not trying to be argumentative here either so please don’t take it that way! Just thinking outload :)
I have kept the LS50s for 4-5 months driven by a marantz integrated 8400. I thought they sounded bigger than they look. Objectively, I found them even with my Totem Hawks in terms of imaging/soundstaging, detail/transparency/resolution. I have sold them because the Hawks sounded fuller and bigger, with stronger bass going down to 30Hz. The LS50s are a very capable speaker, a bargain at the current price, and I would have kept them if I had not the hawks. I also have tried the UB5. The UB5 may have more even bass, but they are not near as refined as the LS50s. Some may have found the LS50s somewhat bright - I did not hear that, but I felt the metal cone sounded fast and clear in the medium while a little over-emphasized, slower in the mid-bass (about a foot from wall and rear-speaker). If I have the opportunity, I may buy them again. Hard to beat the qualities of the KEF coaxial for the money.
I would throw in Dynaudio Excite and I was looking for a few others for you as well but they must have sold.
There were 2 different listings on Audiogin a few days ago for Active LS50’s for $1400. Ifyou’re trying to get to an amazing level of sound as quick as possible for the least amount of money, go this route. Its more now but you’ll save in the long run and end up with something very special. I can tell you want LS50’s; I totally understand but I can share with you from many hours (100+ on both Actives and Passives over the past 3 months) of personal exerience, the Actives blow the Passives away (imho) and the passives sounded good. I just think that there are other speakers out there in the $1000 range that sound better than the LS50’s until you have serious money ($5k?) in the front end.
Used Passives-$750 Used Actives-$1400
If you’re willing to go $1000 on new LS50’s you might want to think about selling the denon for a couple hundred and trying to get a pair of Actives second hand.
Anyhow, do let us know which route you go and what you’re impressions are of whichever speaker you end up with!
My experience with the LS50s were in a small loft a few years ago and loved them for near-field listening. After moving to a large house I needed to add a sub but was never happy and have since moved up to floor-standing speakers.
Now a little back story. I wanted so bad to try the KEF R-300 but at the time the LS50s were $500 cheaper. Recently I heard a pair of KEF R-3 bookshelf speakers and OMG I was blown away. If you can find the spare change at all you might want to audition these AFTER trying the Wharfs and LS50s. They had more bass (the tight good kind....) than any bookshelf I'd ever heard.
Some of the only speakers I've had my ears. LS50. Hands down. Wharfdale is fine but they're bland and market friendly. The KEFs are made by a soulless Corp but actually HAVE soul. They really sound great.
I have a virtually new pair of Wharfedale Jade 1's (probably 30 hours of listening on them) if those are of interest to you. Burgundy Burl high-gloss finish. They're beautiful. Priced in between your two options. Fantastic sound in mids and highs.
In reply to b_limo’s post with regard to the Kef LS50 wireless speakers - my experience has unfortunately not been so positive. While I enjoyed the sound I had significant reliability issues to the extent that after going through 4 replacements within a year, the dealer actually took them back for a full refund!
I learnt firsthand the downside to such active systems where if anything happens to it you’re out of a system completely. And it doesnt help that the warranty is a miserly 1 year. Also doesn’t give you the option to mix and match components which is an exciting part of this hobby.
I’ve since moved to a pair of Dynaudio Emit M20 speakers with a PS Audio Sprout 100 amplifier and am quite happy with this setup although the highs are no comparison to the Kef LS50 wireless.
Apologies for not addressing the OPs question about the passive LS50s and Wharfedales.
@b_limo -- thats a good call. I honestly don’t know too much about powering speakers, and all that yet, so thanks for your help. I don’t take it as argumentative - I’m appreciative of the help. I’m not really leaning toward the passive LS50s necessarily, I was initially leaning toward the Reva 2s as they’re quite inexpensive relative to the others. Lot of good info here, and thank you -- I’ve got a lot to look into now haha.
@chrisr - thanks for the feedback. Sounds like you really liked the KEF LS50s.
@johnto I’ll look into these for sure. Thank you.
@towertone - oh man, the reviews on the R3s are too good. I don’t think I can swing that price, but the R300s wouldn’t be too far out there (currently they go for $1300). I know you loved these but any opinion on the R300s? Did you end up getting a chance to check those out?@bsmg - thank you -- I see those too, seems like a good deal at $1,000. Thanks for sharing.
OP, nice DRA-825R...big toroid transformer. The 825 and the 1025 had the 'round' black transformer covers conspicuously inside. I bought an 825 brand new back when they made them (ahem) but found a DRA-1025RA a few years ago and that has been in heavy use to the dismay of my Parasound and McIntosh products. To the point, I was at a Best Buy Magnolia (don't laugh) and they were unboxing the newer 600 series speakers. I was the only customer and the staff were friendly enough to let me stand around. They would probably close the sound room for all the re-arranging and testing they were doing. At the end, there was a great A-B-C-D-A testing of all the mid-tower sizes of all the Magnolia products on vinyl and digital. When I heard the Kef in comparison to the paranoid A-B'ing of all the B&Ws (incl two in the 800 D3 line) and their other brands, it seemed a little flat especially on cymbals and higher frequencies. I was expecting alot more. It may be sonicly 'more better' to some but the compactness of so much trying to project from one area of a speaker design seemed to lose some definition and sparkle. I would go with the Revas but possibly also consider Rega RX1s (with the stands)...all my listening forever has been in smaller spaces due to dense big city living.
“but the compactness of so much trying to project from one area of a speaker design seemed to lose some definition and sparkle.“
I too bought my setup from Magnolia, simply because I had to put some on my credit card. Most employees at Magnolia are clowns and their c.s. Is borderline awful. Just try getting them on the telephone at the store. In addition, they have to order most of what I buy there yet they can’t nail down a delivery date and when it does come in, there a 50/50 shot at it being the right product. Do yourself and local community a favor and support your local “mom and pop” hifi store whenever possible.
I am not a B&W fan but I do agree that at Magnolia, they did have more sparkle up top than the kefs. They were being demo’d through a $2000 integrated Marantz.
@b_limo I had the issues with the KEF LS50 actives just 3 months in (had bought them in March 2017). The first issue was no sound coming from the left speaker. The second problem was a ticking sound from the left tweeter and the last two replacements were because the speakers used to shut-down at higher volumes and would need a restart.
For each of these problems I was given a new replacement unit by the dealer but eventually I told them to just give me a refund. BTW I had also purchased 2 additional years of a dealer warranty but was really fed up of not having a system to listen to so often.
I did met with some regional KEF staff who the dealer had put me onto and they just told me they couldn’t figure out why this was happening and they hadn’t been experiencing such issues elsewhere.
They did did mention that it could be because of a power supply issue but the dealer did visit my house to check and said that was not a problem and also I haven’t had issues with any other elcectronic devices at my place.
Anyways, I hope you have better luck with your unit and maybe worthwhile to consider adding to your warranty if that’s possible.
Coaster, I already contacted my sales rep about an extended warranty. He offered my 4 years for $350...
I’ll probably sign up for it just for peace of mind.
I noticed on another thread that you had 2 different sets of paradigm actives go bad on you too. My initial thoughts were it was something that you were doing to them, no offense. I’ve searched the internet for other LS50 wireless owners who were having relibility issues as well but coupdn’t find any really (doesn’t mean that people haven’t had issues though).
I think even at full price+tax+extended warranty that they are still worth the $ and a bargain even.
If I had the same issues as you though, I would have returned them as well. I would imagine that if you had electrical issues that you’d be frying your amps too.
Thank You for sharing your exact failures though, that may be helpful to some of us LS50 wireless owners some day!
@b_limo thanks for all of these. I will have a look through. Do you have an opinion on the KEF R3s? The reviews are stellar and I think they can be a good option. There is a blemished used set on Audiogon not too far from my price range, so I figured I'd ask your opinion.
Also you mentioned above that I had two broken paradigms but I think you may have meant that message to someone else (I didn't have that experience).
I honestly haven’t heard either to any extent. I cN go listen to the R3’s today if you want!
I think that the R3 or even the R300 would make you happy. It’s my guess that they will have alot of the same magic as LS50’s only they will have more bass AND be easier to drive. They would probably sound fantastic with your denon too!
Kef Direct has R300’s for $1299 and theres a pair of R3’s here on Audiogon for $1260!
Thanks for that feedback guys. The R3s I was looking at here just sold (damn - now I really want them - you know how that is), so maybe I'll hang for a bit and see if another pair comes around. I think what I've gleaned from the feedback is that people like the UniQs but the LS50s are a bit weak in the bass area and likely an inefficient match for my amp. The R3s and R300s are probably good options for me as several people have mentioned.
I think I'm shying away from floorstanding speakers due to space but I do appreciate your guys' recommendations.
Ok, so I went and listened to the R3’s tonight on a $1000 denon (90watts), a $2200 Arcam, and a $5500 Mac. They sounded decent on the Mac and that was it. The room was awful, they weren’t set up properly or broken in so that all plays a big role.
Thing is, I think they are the same as LS50’s in that they need lots of good, clean (usually expensive) power.
I have heard both the dynaudio excites and PSB Imagines and both sounded great. I’d be willing to bet that either of those would sound better with your amp. The Kefs of course will sound amazing, perhaps better, but not with anything less than $2-3k in the front end (my guess).
Dynaudio is awesome. The Excite series is when they start sounding really good. The drivers and cabinets are top notch and built in house.
Those PSB’s are the least exotic or boutique of the speakers I mentioned but they are still built like tanks, and are built in Canada. None of the speakers I recommended were built in china by the way. These PSB’s may actually sound best with your denon because they are more than likely the easiest and most efficient of the speakers I mentioned.
Totems, again are great! Crazy good imaging and tone, and again, built in Canada. The cabinets are built exceptionally well and the drivers are sourced from reputable, high end companies.
And last but not least, PBN are great speakers built by a great builder as well who’s been in the industry forever and is super knowledgeable as well as easy to get ahold of if you ever need support.
I usually look at where the speakers are made, how the cabinets are constructed, what drivers are used (seas, vifa, morel, scan speak, dynaudio, raal, etc), crossover componets... I tend to like danish, british and canadian speaker builders along with some here in the U.S. also (pbn, tyler acoustics, nola, vapor, ryan?, joseph audio, just to name a few).
Many of the top companies will use drivers from the same manufacturer built to custom specs and implemented in unique ways dependant upon crossovers and enclosures / driver layouts. Its nice though when you can land a pair of bookshelf speakers for $800-$1200 that uses seas excel drivers or the like.
I own LS50s for three years and I’ve never heard the Revas but I’ve heard other Wharfedale’s models and other speakers that employ woven kevlar or carbon fibre and they all had two very characteristic colorations that I didn’t like. They exhibit to a degree cupped hand coloration and there is something I call Kevlar hash convoluted in the sound that I simply call the "hghhh". It’s some sort of graininess that makes the sound too analytical, very detailed but accents seem to be uneven to the extent that some of them interrupt your listening experience. Like a snare that’s way too forward and out of balance or a stringed instrument with too pronounced body. A very projected and in your face sound. Some, like B&W couple these with first (electrical order) crossovers crossed way too high and further add to problems caused by uneven dispersion, like small sweet spot (lobing), dependency on treated rooms and increased honkynes (suckouts away from the sweet spot). Unfortunately there is a growing trend in employing first order crossovers even in entry to mid-level products simply because of reduced costs. First order designs require extremely well behaved drivers and still require trade-offs.
It is exactly the reason I parted with these designs. I ended up with KEF LS50s with which I am quite happy, but they are not perfect either. Here’s my summary:
Pros: - Very neutral sounding. Not forward, not laid-back, right in the middle - Extremelly well designed mechanically and electrically, very decent 2nd order crossover - There is nothing to irritate you with any kind of music - Vocals to die for, very smooth, very detailed and very natural sounding - Great imaging and sound stage - Very even sound when listened from any angle. You could enjoy them for casual listening way off axis, do something else and still be surprised with stereo and feeling of space - Very detailed but never irritating. - Very transparent. You will hear amplifier differences easily, I even heard differences rolling op-amps in my amplifier. But I wouldn’t agree that they are very hard to drive. I even drove them with an ancient Marantz integrated with 40 Watts@8 Ohms and it was still very pleasing experience only not so transparent - Bass is actually not bad, there is sufficient extension and the bass is very tight and defined. KEF engineers didn’t employ any midbass humps to cheat on the bass perception.
Cons: - A bit tipped-down highs for my age - They want to be pushed to sing at their best. If you mostly listen to low/night levels, you would need a loudness control on your amp. - Can be tiny bit shouty in upper midrange/lower highs with some music. People say it depends on the amp, but my gut feeling is this is due to the twitter waveguide. - If you want rock and very low frequency, pair them with a subwoofer - Overall sound weight depends on room size and placement. They strangely disperse deep bass, and you will hear plenty of it sideways in your room but you have to play with distance from rear wall to maximize bass at your listening position. - If you are like me and prefer a bit of mid-bass hump and a bit of plumminess, you will not be able to fully fix this with a sub-woofer. These guys ask for a three way design with woofers, not subwoofers. - In my opinion, these speakers could work great with a pair of capable subwoofers and a preamp/integrated with sub output that can offload LS50s from bass completelly (like 200Hz down).
A note on LS50W and R300. I’ve auditioned both of them and had very high expectations of the LS50W that I was ready to sell the passives and upgrade to the actives without even listening. I think that the superiority of the LS50w is a hyperbole. I heard nothing of it on my listening test. Ok, they were not broken-in, but two things were instantly apparent to me. They sounded more constricted, less open (transparent if you wish) and boxy sounding then the passives. I wish I was wrong about this and still have a small reservation due to not being broken-in and the listening environment, but I didn’t have a chance for a second audition yet.
I auditioned the R300 before buying the LS50s. This is an easy listening speaker, well balanced and also devoid of obvious colorations. The bass is abundant and fuller than the LS50s, but would still benefit from subs. It is from my memmory, midrange laid-back compared to LS50s so they will not give you goosebumps as much the LS50s would on vocals and brass instruments, but they will reward you with less pickyness about the source quality or a recording that is natively bass shy and you would spend more hours in casual listening with R300s.
R300 and LS50 are similar speakers but LS50 is a step above in build, finish, refinement and transparency. The last will give you more options to experiment with other components and tailor your own sound signature. If you want to play on the safe side, use no subs and use your existing amp, R300 is a very competent speaker.
If I upgrade, I would again be KEF, I wish there is LS55 or LS60 with a a dedicated woofer!
I have a smallish room (12x14) that's also a bit odd shaped. My biggest issue has been with REAR ported speakers. I owned the Kef LS50 speakers for about a year. I tried to like them! Wanted to like them and in fact liked some aspects (nice sweet highs!) - But could never tame that low-end port-itis! It drove me crazy trying to mitigate the issue! I'm also a drummer of over 50 years, so the LS50's never seemed to give me the kind of energy that I heard playing live / not real! I had a pair of Polk Lsi9's several years back AND finally found another pair to give them another go in my room. This was a great move as I like them so much better - true they are rear ported, but they have the power port system that mitigates much of the issue. Note: they are very difficult to find used as owners seldom want to sell them. Polk also has the beautiful LSiM 703 largish bookshelves that my friend has and they are killer! Rear port issues may occur in a small room with those so keep that in mind.
Another speaker: sounds excellent are B&W CDM 1SE - good luck! dumbe
I have no experience with the Kef speakers but do own the Wharfedale Reva 4..I would definitely give the Reva's a try. The build quality is second to none and I really am enjoying my Reva 4's..They are totally different sound than I'm used to and yes they are not an exciting sound.. They just sound great! On anything I throw at them..They do not colour the sound at all or add anything. I just came back from a friend's who was running ATC active 50's and I was enjoying the sound out of my Reva's just as much..(not saying the Reva's are as good or better than ATC).. I think the Reva's just got missed... With all the great speakers out there. I am powering them with a California Audio Labs mca 2500 and they handle the power great which I was afraid wouldn't .. For the price alone give them a try !!!!!
Just a head's up, now that the Sonus Faber Venere line has been discontinued, you can pick up new stock for close to 50% off or what amounts to dealer cost. The 1.5 and 2.0 had great reviews and while they might not be the Sonus Faber of old, they are still a really nice speaker. Some couldn't get past the fact that they were made in China but I can tell you they are extremely well made. I replaced a more expensive pair of larger speakers with the 2.0 and a Sumiko S.9 sub (Made by SF and also discontinued). They are what I considered a Goldilocks speaker.
I agree with dolsey about Sonus Faber Venere. In my opinion they are in the same sound family as B&W (and also cone materials) but in my listening test Venere did not suffer the cupped hand coloration. I guess they are using higher order crossover and they do cross at 2.5 kHz. They also have less aggressive twitter. I remember I particularly enjoyed large orchestral works on them. They have fantastic design and look gorgeous.
Thanks @dolsey and @sharbatgula -- these speakers are beautiful. I read up on some of the reviews and people seems to be big fans. They’re running about $1,100 or so now for a new pair of black/white 2.0s. Really beautiful speakers. I do like the front port as well. I’ve got a relatively small apartment so I appreciate that flexibility.
I was able to hear the KEF R300s and R3s this weekend. I was a big fan of both. Personally I would be drawn to the R300s over the R3 because of the price difference (can’t justify the extra $700 for the cost of the R3s.)
There is no where anywhere really to hear the Veneres. I would be looking at the 2.0s - so if anyone else wants to weight in on this it’s appreciated.
Thanks again for all of your guys thoughts. You’re all really helpful, and I am thankful for that.
I have had the LS50 ‘s for over 6 years and originally drove them with a small tube amp and preamp. They did not have any bass so I bought a sub and sound improved and I enjoyed them. I recently upgrad d to a Krell 150 after reading many threads on the need for better power. I no longer use the sub and the speakers are sounding great. i have Wharfedale 210’s hooked to my computer and another small tube amp, for $200 speakers they are good. The 210’s are easy to power in a smaller room. With all that said I’m looking to upgrade speakers, if I stayed of this website I could save money.
It is truly rare that a brand name can survive an ownership change: Marantz, JBL, Infinity, Harman Kardon, Wharfdale, Klipsch, Krell were all iconic brands when owned by their founders. Today they are but commodities.
The wholesale name transfer doesn’t automatically pound a nail in the brand’s coffin. Mark Levinson’s brand got (arguably) better after Mark sold to Sandy Berlin and Mike Kay, but it is rare.
We place a lot of value on these names and companies are willing to pay a lot of money to possess them though it’s always been a bit of a mystery to me what the new owner’s expectations are. Success without breaking a sweat, perhaps?
Some brands take a reverse course. Instead of representing a lifetime of work they represent an idea instead. The ice cream brand Häagen-Dazs is a good example. It is a made up name that over the years has become associated with rich tasting expensive ice cream and to that goal succeeds well.
In high-end audio, though, brand names are more often than not representations of personal work that have or have not withstood the test of time. The dustbin of come-and-gone names is full, yet those remaining have either morphed into something different than their founder’s intent—Klipsch and JBL are great examples—or fade into obscurity over time.
I cringe when someone writes to me excited about a purchasing decision based on the former reputation of a brand only to later question how it got there when they don’t get what they had hoped for.
It’s best to take a close look at what’s attached to any brand before jumping into the deep end.
After all, the old saying what’s in a name? might be more valid than you know.