Hi²Fi 2

From a recent newsroom post: "60-year old kefir? – That's KEF's new 30kg/ea. LS60 Wireless [€6'495/pr], kinda, by celebrating already 60 years of big business. It takes the LS50 Wireless II concept off the stand directly onto the floor so includes the W2 streaming platform with support for Bluetooth 4.2, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Google Chromecast Built-In and the service providers Qobuz, Amazon Music, Deezer and QQ Music. Roon Ready is coming. Looking like a squared-off KEF Blade, the LS60 gets a 12th-gen 4-inch Uni-Q coaxial main driver with stacked V-Twin woofers on each side. There's the company's meta material absorber behind the tweeter and each opposing woofer pair couples in the UniCore arrangement first seen in the KC62 subwoofer. That allows the super-narrow 13cm profile which scales to 104cm height and 32cm depth.

"DSP claims to achieve 26Hz at -6dB and three DACs feed three amplifiers so 500 watts class D to the four woofers and 100 watts class A/B each to the midrange and tweeter. Fanless cooling is via a small air intake above the plinth. Connectivity on the master speaker is line-level RCA, optical, coax, HDMI ARC, RJ45 plus a sub output. The slave gets its own sub output. There's a wired 24/192 capable link between both speaker or a 24/96 wireless option. As shown, available colors are royal blue, mineral white or titanium grey. Kefir. It's really good for ya. And what the photos don't drive home without any size reference is that a modern Samsung smartphone will be longer than the LS60 Wireless is wide. At just four hairs above one meter tall, it's also quite short. This is a surprisingly compact design for all the tech that's bundled inside. The balanced-force woofer array insures that the forces unleashed won't rock it all sideways. It's an ingenious packaging job."

If we unpack this paragraph, we arrive, I propose, at Hi²Fi II. That's personal shorthand for Hi-IQ HiFi first mentioned here in an editorial on what Mark Levinson and Gayle Sanders are currently up to. Today is a 2nd sighting if you will. What does high IQ mean for audio? It means up-to-date exploitation of ever-increasing DSP power allied to up-to-date engineering. It means user-friendly integration of music delivery formats/clients, room correction, placement-specific response profiles, smart bass management for active subwoofers and more. What it doesn't mean are passive speakers driven by classic amplifiers with none of those provisions embedded. There's nothing wrong with that approach. It's how things used to be done 50 years ago. They still work. We'd simply cheat ourselves not admitting that lots has happened since. Tech has advanced. Not benefitting from its more intelligent adaptation of a hifi's performance to our very personal space nearly invariably leaves performance under the table; and pursues the performance which is being had with rather more complexity. Consider what a pair of LS60 Wireless contains: 1'400 watts of power parceled out across three stereo amplifiers in class D for the bass, class A/B for the rest; three DACs driving these amplifiers; volume control and input switcher; and a streamer. That's eight components taken off the hifi rack and the associated invoice. What's more, bespoke code on a large processor controls phase, amplitude and distortion across the driver cluster which itself exploits unique transducers exclusive to KEF. The Medieval labyrinth-shaped disc absorber of a meta material behind the tweeter is more proprietary tech. So is the shared motor array of the opposing woofers. Add a bespoke app. The totality that is the LS60 Wireless makes far costlier passive speakers from elsewhere look quite pedestrian and last century on tech IQ. Their means are not current. How can that equate to 'high end' except for inflationary pricing? Isn't it time we disassociated exclusionary price tags from that label and inspected how high the embedded tech actually is?

When we do that, this newest KEF is an obvious ambassador for High-IQ HiFi; and how Hi²Fi should redefine what we mean by High-End audio in 2022. How can anything deserve that moniker if it pretends away that so much has happened over the last half century? There are €100'000/pr speakers being sold today that don't possess half the brains KEF's €6'500 pair brings to the party. Shouldn't that create loads of room to hit pause, ponder then protest?