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Digging your scene: Tidal and the KEF LS50 Wireless

Per their unofficial announcement at Munich High-End 2017, loudspeaker manufacturer KEF have today made official an update to the company’s LS50 Wireless control app, one that adds support for Tidal streaming to their future-facing LS50 Wireless loudspeaker (reviewed here and here). Update your existing app from within or seek out new versions from the Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store.

From yonder press release: KEF proudly announces its partnership with TIDAL, the global music and entertainment streaming platform, and its integration into the KEF LS50W app. The highly-anticipated inclusion of TIDAL makes high resolution audio enjoyment easier than ever, bringing high quality music to KEF LS50W users.”

“The KEF LS50W’s incredible ability to reproduce sound is perfectly complemented by TIDAL’s streaming of detailed, uncompressed, lossless streaming music files. Unlike other streaming services, TIDAL provides more options for music lovers and shares KEF’s dedication to high resolution sound. All of TIDAL’s vast music selection is easily enjoyed by LS50W users without compromising on sound quality.”

“TIDAL is now available in the navigation drawer of the LS50W app after a simple app update. Users with a TIDAL subscription need only to tap on TIDAL and log in to begin enjoying their enormous catalog of music on the LS50W.”

Tidal might be the mainstream press’ whipping boy when it comes to music streaming services but it’s popular with audiophiles because of the US$20/month lossless tier, one that now also offers hi-res streaming for selected titles via the ever-controversial MQA technology.

Users are advised that music is streamed from Tidal servers directly to the KEF app and is then sent onwards by the app to the LS50 Wireless speakers themselves over the LAN via UPnP.

Digging deeper we note three additional points:

1) As Tidal streaming relies on UPnP here, gapless playback with Tidal remains MIA. That won’t be fixed until KEF introduce a fix via a firmware update, applied via their desktop app. A Windows version can be downloaded here whilst the MacOS version is presently stuck in Apple’s app store-approval bottleneck. KEF say that the corresponding gapless firmware fix won’t land until “later this year”. How much this matters to you depends on your streaming habits: are you an albums guy (like yours truly) or are you a playlists guy (like those pesky millennials)?

2) Turn off the phone or tablet running KEF’s Android/iOS app whilst Tidal streaming and the music will soon stop. This is a Tidal limitation, not KEF’s. Tidal don’t yet offer a Spotify Connect-like service that turns their app into a remote control and has music streaming directly from cloud to speaker. A Google Chromecast Audio hooked into the LS50 Wireless, digitally via TOSLINK or analogue-style via twin RCAs, is one workaround. However, the Chromecast Audio doesn’t do gapless playback either.

(An aside: Spotify Connect does offer gapless playback and remains on the LS50 Wireless development roadmap. Expect to see a firmware update adding it in the next 6 – 8 weeks.)

3) Tidal’s own mobile apps don’t yet support MQA so don’t expect to see it in KEF’s LS50 Wireless app. There’s no unfolding of MQA content to 24/96 hear here and don’t expect to see MQA rendering within the speakers anytime soon either. KEF’s official line on MQA is one of wait-n-see.

Further information: KEF

Written by John H. Darko

John H. Darko

John is the editor of DAR, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is also an occasional contributor to 6moons and AudioStream and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
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23 Comments

  1. They seem more and more attactive. But I must say your recent articles on Bluetooth were enlighting. Yes, they have AptX, but who has a sender with AptX? Not much people actually. And there is a lot more suscribers to Spotify than Tidal.
    And I read somewhere that the Dynaudio Xeo4 (about the same price range) have the AAC (i.e. Apple) Bluetooth and Spotify built-in. So they may actually be more attractive than the LS50.
    Have you considered a direct comparison?

    • I consider numerous direct comparisons with many products but time constraints being what they are mean I can only execute a fraction of whatever pops into my head.

      • The firmware update that is so far Windows only and hidden from searching?
        I’ve had these since December and am sick of all the usability and software issues.
        Kef is probably using cheap off shore developers because every iteration of their software continues to be garbage. This latest one is no exception. There are tons of complaints on forums including mine…
        Kef support doesn’t respond to e-mails.
        I’m ready to dump them. It doesn’t matter how good they sound if they are so painful to use.
        Oh and replace the junk remote with a Logitech harmony.
        Ugh.

        • Agreed. Speakers themselves are pretty good, but the app and unreliability is driving me demented.

          Auto power off shuts the speakers off after a paltry 10 minutes, the KEF app constantly reports that it can’t find the speakers. Spent hours with KEF support who tried to be helpful but were pretty clueless and ended up forwarding an email from their devs who pretty much blamed my wireless setup for the problem.

          This despite the fact that I mentioned I’d tried the speakers wired into a network switch!

  2. Tidal on iPad LS50W app:
    * Great to have control from the iPad
    * The GUI is limited however, and cannot sort album lists, or select a favorite. No decoding of MASTERs (yet?).
    * Enjoying the LS50W very much. Love the pinpoint accuracy on the sound stage.

  3. John,

    Are you aware of any hardware that *can* do gapless Spotify Connect?

    The simplest approach just now seems to be attaching an mobile device via async USB to a DAC and using the official Spotify app.

  4. Everyone who has replaced the stock ethernet cable between the ls50 wireless master and slave speaker, be careful with the firmware upgrade KEF has released for the ls50 wireless on may 22nd on their website. After firmware upgrade, my right (master) speaker could not connect anymore to the left (slave) speaker. After some experimenting, I found out with the 3 meter stock ethernet cable the master speaker CAN find the slave speaker after the firmware upgrade. However, with my 7 meter good quality cat 6 sftp ethernet cable (that has been working fine since I installed it February this year) the master speaker cannot find the slave speaker anymore.
    I dropped KEF support an email today with the question if the firmware changed anything in the communication between master and slave speaker that has a consequence for max length or other specifications of the ethernet cable that can be used between the two speakers.

    • Interested in this thread – please post up the official word from Kef – if it arrives – I`m about to take delivery of the LS50s here in NZ and will need to extend the Cat6 cable to around… 7m 🙂

  5. Interesting that the firmware upgrade is via OS specific app only.

    I notice that if you got to the LS 50 IP address on my network there is a facility to upgrade the firmware from there – or at least it looks OS agnostic.

    I didn’t get any joy from KEF until I decided to go through the dealer that sold me the LS 50s. I’m waiting on the firmware update before working out what to do about the issues I’m having.

    Out of interest how are people being notified about the firmware update? It seems to me the only way you can find out is if you are actively seeking it.

    I do wish KEF would sort out their customer service – it doesn’t matter how good the product sounds it won’t matter a jot to the casual “lifestyle” audio punter they seem to want to capture if the user experience and support continues to be poor.

  6. At times in life – less = more.

    Await class A powered stand mount under $3K with internal DAC that can do DSD. Small footprint living room system that reduces clutter is my main focus after forty years of owning many, many systems from around $30K to 10K, tube and SS, vinyl playback, reel-to-reel, Nakamichi Dragon cassette, Lumin, Aurender, Melco digital players. Especially for the younger and senior audiophiles – less clutter and expense = common sense. For non-powered speakers components like the Auralic Polaris look interesting with some stand mounts like P3ESR or active LS50’s.

  7. Unfortunately you still need to manually power them on and switch to the Wi-Fi input in order to start playing Tidal. This is by far the worst design flaw in this product. I can start playing music with Sonos, MusicCast or any other wireless music system I have ever owned with ease, right from the app. The LS50W’s are a premium purchase, and while the listening experience is spectacular, the UX is a joke.

  8. I’m so surprised to hear from users of the LS50W (such as FGains) that you have to switch these on manually and switch inputs. I own the KEF X300W and these work so perfectly with Airplay – once you select them from ios or OSX they switch on automatically – if there is signal detected from the 3.5 jack, they switch on too. It really seems like KEF have taken a backward step with the LS50W in terms of usability. It’s a real shame because after auditioning them in store they sound so incredible!

  9. I recommend an outboard streamer (SOtM SMS200, Sonore MR) and ROON with the LS50W…JUST to stream Tidal. I borrowed the LS50W’s from our shop and was amazed at how glitchy the KEF software is. The KEF/Tidal integration barely functions. I’m comparing to NAIM, Sim Audio Moon and the incomparable Sonos software. Further confounding is that running the app on a fully charged iPhone 7 took it down to a 15% charge in a matter of 3 hours; simply playing with Tidal and making DSP adjustments.
    However, I can’t think of any combo in our shop that offers a better value at this price point: KEF LS50W ($2,200) + Dedicated Stands ($400) + SOtM SMS200 Streamer ($450) + ROON ($500) = $3,550 U.S.

    Have a great summer and we’ll look forward to KEF improving the software offerings. It would be a truly amazing product if the price, all in, to stream Tidal was $2,600 (including necessary stands).

  10. BRG: I’m loving the Polaris with ProAc Response 1SC. Nice old/new combination. Using Polaris with Roon is great.
    I tried using a Bryston 2B SST fed from AN2 output for a fuller sound (and significantly higher volume at the same setting on the Polaris).

  11. Anyone has an idea if they will add DTS Play-Fi into the mix? For me this would be a great addition…

  12. There’s something I don’t understand, too “poorly educated” — I’m wondering whether the “gapless playback” LS50W problem would apply to me: I would be optically connecting a wifi Sonos ZP80 (aka “Sonos Connect”) to the LS50W(s). Through Sonos I access music on my Synology server, Deezer
    (which is lossless when via Sonos), and various radio stations. Does any of this fall into a category which would be affected by the “un-gapless” problem? Thanks for any info!

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