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Bookshelf Shootout - Surprised by the Results


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So I've bee trying to get my home office cleaned up, better looking and more usable. I suffer from being a terrible slob. Stuff piled up everywhere on my desk. 3 days worth of coffee cups...you get the idea. I'm working form home 100% now, so need it to actually be workable. I'm very fortunate to have a dedicated office from when we built the house, not a converted bedroom or repurposed dining room. One slight problem is that our living room shares a wall with my office and long ago I decided to have zero equipment in the living room, just a TV and 5.1 in-wall, in-ceiling Klipsch speakers for a clean look. Cable box, NAD T-758, UPS, Router, Switch, etc. all got moved to my office and cables/wires snaked through the walls. It's always been an ugly mess but with my office door closed at least the living room looked nice.

 

What could be more motivating than shopping for speakers? Of course that needs to be done BEFORE the desk is cleaned off and piles of crap on the floor sorted out. I already have a Sonos One SL pair on my actual desk just a few feet from my ears. My plan was to rearrange the room so my desk faced the front wall. Move the speakers up and away maybe on stands or at least the new AV cabinet I planed to buy. I won't bore you with the details of my on-line purchase of the AV cabinet that was supposed to be 57 inches long and showed up in my house looking like Barbie play house furniture at 39 inches. Hardly enough room to hide any of my junk. Good news, bad news they said keep the 39" version for free (good) and the 57" version will be shipped directly from manufacturer in 3 months (Bad). 

 

I had a pair of Klipsch RB-5s (I think) sitting idle and I'd been reading tons of good things about the various KEF bookshelf, active speakers. The KEFs have 4 DACs for the 4 Drivers and an amplifier for each driver all networked wirelessly or with Cat-5. Everything contained inside the speakers. Nothing needed except two power cords and electricity. I though they would be the center of my new system and a clutter free wire free set up to get my messy room in order.

 

I was quite disappointed in the KEFs. I really wanted to like them. Listened to them a ton, played around with placement. After all the great reviews I was sure I had to be wrong. They had some decent midrange, but the highs were a bit harsh and fatiguing. The bass was on the over done side, slow and flabby. They sounded a lot like the Sonos (bass heavy) slightly better detail and four times the cost. No thanks. A bigger surprise was that the Klipsch compared to the Sonos were also losers. On paper the Klipsch should win as they were being fed by a much better DAC and a vintage Carver amp. More equipment to pack into an already tight space but I was willing to put up with speaker wires cluttering my desire for a clean space if the sound was better. The RB-5 came out the bottom of the three lacking bass compared to the two newer speakers that are bass forward. They had good midrange, as would be expected, but all in all were very lifeless in this room. I could not believe I liked the tiny Sonos SL over either KEF or Klipsch...but I heard what I heard.

 

Fast forward a few weeks and there is a new pair that might be here to stay. I've always wanted to hear a speaker with AMTs. So much positive feedback form @Chris A @Rudy81 @Thaddeus Smith and others...but right now no time for DIY. Plus I wanted something that looked nice in my office since it is so much more accessible to visitors than my dedicated room in the basement. The Wharfedale - evo 4.1 are a bit bigger than I was after. After half a day I am digging the detail, separation of instruments and the bass is spot on. Heavy, present, but not overpowering bass. Very well balanced. I'm pretty happy with my first go at the British sound. Well done Wharfedale.  

 

When the correct cabinet shows up it will be mounted on the wall like a floating shelf and I'm guessing the speakers will end up on stand either side of the cabinet. For now I'm making due with them too close together on top of my free cabinet Carver amp, DAC and various cables all over the place.

 

So much for decluttering my work space...at least music sounds good.

 

The original look and expecting the KEFs to kill the Sonos. I'm so sick of looking at that rats nest. You can't imaging the top shelf before I cleaned it off for the speaker test. What a mess. The middle shelf has already been purged of DVR, Blu-Ray, dust, crap, etc.

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Figuring I must be not hearing what I should I decide to throw some trusty Klipsch into the mix.

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Tried to stick with the plan and the KEF. Looking cleaner but way too small for my purpose. Hopefully when the big one shows up and it is wall mounted everything will be tucked away. In the end, after about a week the KEF had to go back to where they came. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Maybe in a different room, who knows...not my cup of tea there Britannia. 

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Now we are on track...but the squirrels wires are back. Two steps forward one back. Time to tackle that desk.

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From the cabinet companies web site. Not sure I'll ever get this streamlined. NorStone KHALM-140 from France if anyone is interested.

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Here you can see that ATM a bit better than my crappy cell phone pic with poor lighting. Interesting that they are bass reflex with the slot port down between where the white ash wood ends and the black base with "Wharfdale" is. Up close you can see daylight between the speaker and base.

wharfedale_evo_4_1_white_1.jpg

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Typically the KEFs perform best when put on stands 5 feet away from the hind walls. Also, you put both too close together. You should experiment more with positioning. 

In your evaluation, you haven't factored in your room, which is crucial. In the pictures I see too many bare, reflective walls. You might as well have put them in your bath tub!

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This just proves that sound is very subjective and am surprised your experience was so disappointing with the LS 50 Wireless speakers. My experience with the LS50s has been completely different. I have used them in my office as near field with a subwoofer for two years now and find the setup to sound incredible to these old ears. Shocking good actually but I can see that they may appear to be too bright for many. I listen to them very near field and have them dialed in using the app that KEF made for the lS50s. Glad you found the sound you were looking for.

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@Fido  the op's kefs are actually the lsx, not the ls50w ii.  those are definitely intended for nearfield/desktop applications -- can't imagine you'd get much oomph from them in that application.

 

@rplace the ls50w ii would be a much better choice.  the lsx would definitely need a sub of some sort for what you're trying to do.

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6 hours ago, jcn3 said:

@Fido  the op's kefs are actually the lsx, not the ls50w ii.  those are definitely intended for nearfield/desktop applications -- can't imagine you'd get much oomph from them in that application.

 

@rplace the ls50w ii would be a much better choice.  the lsx would definitely need a sub of some sort for what you're trying to do.

That makes much more sense to me. Thanks for clarifying. I love my KEF LS50 Wireless speakers and enjoy the power and soundstage very much even without a sub but add the sub and they are phenominal. 

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On 7/23/2021 at 9:17 AM, MeloManiac said:

best when put on stands 5 feet away from the hind walls. Also, you put both too close together. You should experiment more with positioning

 

5 feet would put them in the middle of my room. Keep in mind this a 2nd, 3rd or possibly 4th "best" listening room in my house. My use case is smallish and great sound given the constraints of the room and reasonable budget since not my main listening option. I played around a lot with positioning. The pictures were more to drive home the mess I'm trying to tame and how small the cabinet shipped to me in error was. I went so far as to take them to my main room (easy since they are active wireless). I really wanted to love them, I simply did not. The speakers need to work in their given space, not require a home improvement loan to suit their needs.

 

23 hours ago, jcn3 said:

the op's kefs are actually the lsx, not the ls50w ii.  those are definitely intended for nearfield/desktop applications

 

Correct on the LSX, but I disagree they are "intended" as desktop speakers. Look at the link you posted and the placement on top of cabinet with lots of vinyl...surely that is a main living space not somebody's desk. For us over the top types we might think we need $1,200 desktop speakers that take up 1/3 of our desk but plenty of people are using LSX in loft spaces, main living rooms and as mains for TV/Movies. Yes they make desktop pads for them, but they are not desktop-only speakers. I spent tons of time on non-Klipsch sites and there was a lot love for LSX/LS-50W/LS-50WII. I thought about trying the LS-50WII since Crutchfield has such a liberal return policy...but I knew at the same price I paid for my KHorns, I'd never keep them. Did not seem right to get them knowing I'd return them. Still I'd like to hear a pair. At twice the price of the LSX they would need to be ten times better, if only 2x as good as what I heard form the LSX they would be massively overpriced. 

 

On 7/23/2021 at 9:27 AM, Fido said:

This just proves that sound is very subjective and am surprised your experience was so disappointing with the LS 50 Wireless speakers.

 

It is very subjective. I've always been amazed how much love for the Cornwall I/II there is. I personally have always liked the Chorus I or Forte II better, yet I fully realize I'm in the minority. I note the Primaluna in your signature. I bought a PL preamp and amp without ever hearing them based on similar, almost universal praise online. While I liked the PL preamp just fine I could not get rid of the amp fast enough. Preferring numerous tube amps I've had or already had. Also, I would not say I was disappointed with the sound of the KEF-LSX at these levels nothing truly sounds bad. Just that they sounded more similar than different from the Sonos pair. Sonos, IMO, gets a lot of undeserved bashing. They really fill a sweet spot(again my opinion) for people wanting good sound AND convenience/simplicity - they just work. Given the LSX are almost 4X as expensive as the Sonos and more similar then different it just did not make sense when I already owned the Sonos. Also I see a lot of KEF app/firmware/support hatred on line. I don't get that same vibe from Sonos users. Not that any of that really matter for me as I'm firmly a Roon user.

 

Hopefully I did not come off as KEF bashing. I was more surprised that I didn't find them more appealing. Like I said above I wanted to love them, heck I bought them after thinking about probably 10 or more different options. Different stroke, right?

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I'm on a similar journey. looking at various active monitors for the simplicity and lack of potential gremlins in the signal chain. I really love my Buchardt S400's (passive),  I may jump up to the A500's (Active) at some point. I have a set of JBL 308P's  monitors currently in my main setup which consist of a mac mini running roon to a Denafrips DAC. They sound really good for the coin spent. I also have a pair of "The Fives" which REALLY surprised me how good they are, these are in the bedroom,  loving the eARC HDMi so simple to use that my wife even enjoys them! Again I don't feel like I'm giving up anything for my current needs. There are trade offs with going to active speakers but for my needs currently they fit the bill just fine and it's nice not to have to deal with wire management and fussy cable hiss etc etc. I believe active monitors will continue to evolve and gain more market share for the reasons I stated above.

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2 hours ago, rplace said:

 

5 feet would put them in the middle of my room. Keep in mind this a 2nd, 3rd or possibly 4th "best" listening room in my house. My use case is smallish and great sound given the constraints of the room and reasonable budget since not my main listening option. I played around a lot with positioning. The pictures were more to drive home the mess I'm trying to tame and how small the cabinet shipped to me in error was. I went so far as to take them to my main room (easy since they are active wireless). I really wanted to love them, I simply did not. The speakers need to work in their given space, not require a home improvement loan to suit their needs.

 

 

Correct on the LSX, but I disagree they are "intended" as desktop speakers. Look at the link you posted and the placement on top of cabinet with lots of vinyl...surely that is a main living space not somebody's desk. For us over the top types we might think we need $1,200 desktop speakers that take up 1/3 of our desk but plenty of people are using LSX in loft spaces, main living rooms and as mains for TV/Movies. Yes they make desktop pads for them, but they are not desktop-only speakers. I spent tons of time on non-Klipsch sites and there was a lot love for LSX/LS-50W/LS-50WII. I thought about trying the LS-50WII since Crutchfield has such a liberal return policy...but I knew at the same price I paid for my KHorns, I'd never keep them. Did not seem right to get them knowing I'd return them. Still I'd like to hear a pair. At twice the price of the LSX they would need to be ten times better, if only 2x as good as what I heard form the LSX they would be massively overpriced. 

 

 

It is very subjective. I've always been amazed how much love for the Cornwall I/II there is. I personally have always liked the Chorus I or Forte II better, yet I fully realize I'm in the minority. I note the Primaluna in your signature. I bought a PL preamp and amp without ever hearing them based on similar, almost universal praise online. While I liked the PL preamp just fine I could not get rid of the amp fast enough. Preferring numerous tube amps I've had or already had. Also, I would not say I was disappointed with the sound of the KEF-LSX at these levels nothing truly sounds bad. Just that they sounded more similar than different from the Sonos pair. Sonos, IMO, gets a lot of undeserved bashing. They really fill a sweet spot(again my opinion) for people wanting good sound AND convenience/simplicity - they just work. Given the LSX are almost 4X as expensive as the Sonos and more similar then different it just did not make sense when I already owned the Sonos. Also I see a lot of KEF app/firmware/support hatred on line. I don't get that same vibe from Sonos users. Not that any of that really matter for me as I'm firmly a Roon user.

 

Hopefully I did not come off as KEF bashing. I was more surprised that I didn't find them more appealing. Like I said above I wanted to love them, heck I bought them after thinking about probably 10 or more different options. Different stroke, right?

I’m not a fan boy so if someone doesn’t like a brand I understand and think that people like whatever they like and think that is awesome. I like the live sound of my Fortes but have read many people that do not like the sound of Klipsch and horns and also the Fortes. I like the sound of the ls50 wireless but they had to be fixed by KEF after an amp failure after a year. To me they sound great but they are expensive and not The same as LXS speakers. I have never heard the LSX speakers nor Cornwalls nor Sonos etc etc. I do have a pl integrated. I have never heard a pl preamp and amp combo but in my room I love my PL Evo 400. Decware might be better  or a small powered tube  SET amp but I have never heard many hundreds of other audio options. 
 

It’s every persons $$$$ to buy whatever they want == enjoy the music

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On 7/24/2021 at 9:41 AM, rplace said:

For us over the top types we might think we need $1,200 desktop speakers that take up 1/3 of our desk

 

You mean we don't?

 

I actually use some JBL Control 25s in my home office, hooked to an Onkyo receiver a co-worker gave to me. They sound pretty good. I got three pair when we got rid of them at work. I use a pair on our TV, as well, even though I have MWMs and La Scalas in the room.

 

The have a 5.25 inch woofer and .75 in. titanium some born tweeter. They were stupid expensive when new but you can find them pretty cheap at various places.

 

 My office also looks worse than yours.

 

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9 hours ago, Marvel said:

My office also looks worse than yours

 

That's because I'm only showing the part that has been "cleaned". It was fine when I worked here a day or two a week but now that it is the place I spend most of my waking hours I'm in need of a change.

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I've been through a bunch of bookshelf sized speakers and my go to one now is the Canton Chrono 502.2. The tweeter in this thing is amazing.....detailed but not overly bright and harsh. Bass is also excellent for a 6 inch.

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