KEF LS50 Wireless II vs. Harbeth P3esr

I have an approx. 200 sq feet rectangle office space. Currently running Harbeth P3esr with Croft Acoustics phono integrated hybrid amplifier (ECC 83 tubes and MOSFET) with Node 2i streamer passing through Metro Acoustics Onyx NOS dac. Running Dueland 12GA oiled speaker wire. The sound is musical, detailed, airy and comfortable to listen to. Vocals are outstanding, instrument separation is just right - listening to music is a dream for hours long. Lifetime subscription of Roon with Tidal and Qobuz active services. One would ask - so why the itch to change anything. 


I find myself not listening to music as much as I'd like to due to the 'convenience' factor. I would like the Croft tube integrated to be on all the time, available for music play back on demand, between meetings or every evening - but I know that's not recommended due to the high heat generation and adversely impacting the tube lifespan. The amp does not have an idle and a wake up state. I have to 'plan' my listening sessions by warm up time and being careful not to shut down in between breaks and my next listening or timing it by shutting it down when long enough. 


Enter the 'convenient' KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers. Rave online audiophile reviews. Got a pair from my dealer for 45 days. Ran the speaker for 120 hours break in period and configured the DSP along with Roon MUSE setting for optimal room configuration. The KEF LS50Wii are very convenient all in one system. When not in use for 20 mins they go in standby mode to be woken by the next stream of music playback. They are Roon certified, and can play every sort of file format and stream including chromecast. But they just dont sound as good as my Croft and Harbeth set up. 


Close, but not the same. I think the KEF's can benefit from a better internal DAC. The sound lacks details, music separation, and sweetness compared to the Harbeth's. It sounds compressed. I have done a lot of A/B by having both on equal height speaker stands and connected to Roon - its a night and day difference. I am trying really hard to have the KEF play at par with the Harbeth set up so I can simplify my audio system and also be able to play music on demand with the KEF being on all the time in stand by mode. If I had not listened to my Croft and Harbeth set up first I would have bought the KEF in a heartbeat. But I feel I will be sacrificing quality listening session over quantity. 


Not sure if I am missing some configuration that would wake up these speakers or should be looking at alternatives like the Buchardt a500 that would sound better then my current set up. I like the convenience of active speakers but....



You could turn the Croft on early in the day and leave it on until you are done for the day  The solid state portion may take some time to warm up, but, it will still be very listenable after a short warm up.  The tube portion will warm up much faster, so the limiting factor is the solid state part of the amp.  If the amp has reasonable ventilation, it can be kept on for most of the day with no big issues.  Yes that will not be ideal for the small tube in the linestage portion of the integrated amp, but, those tubes tend to last a fairly long time and are not that expensive to replace anyway.  I know people who leave line level tube gear on all of the time and only turn off tube power amps. 

An alternative would be an all tube amp because tubes will warm up and sound very good easily within 10 minutes or so.

If you like the Harbeths, keep them and work on the amp side.  I don't know your Croft integrated so I cannot offer up suggested solid state alternatives.  I tend to like tube amps much ore anyway.


Not sure if I am missing some configuration that would wake up these speakers

Can you post a pic of your setup? I don't know if you will ever like the tone of Kef over the Harbeth's. I do know that it is possible to squeeze more performance from a system via setup, room treatments, power and cable tweaks, vibration control, etc. 

Thank you @larryi ​​​​@kota1 

I am not sure if I want to spend extra on power cables for the KEF if I have not yet decided on them. I love the concept/convenience of active speakers and will probably give Buchardt a500 a shot before closing the chapter on them. 

Also, will play with the room setting DSP a little more and do further A/B tests with KEF and current system before returning them. 

I use active speakers and it is cost effective when you have the designer match everything and then purchase it as a complete unit.

FWIW: I auditioned the original LS50 for my desktop system and settled on the P3ESR, which I've had for almost 10 years now. They are really good speakers!

I use two pairs of Dynaudio powered speakers, living room (focus) and bedroom (xeo). Both are configured wirelessly other than power cords. I enjoy the convenience, and never put my turntable and cd player back in the mix. I’ve never heard the Kef wireless, but bet they sound good. 

I’m interested in the Kef Ls60, I’d like to listen to a pair. 




Your experience mirrors mine. I owned the Kef LS50 wireless, albeit the first gen, and P3Esr at the same time. The little Harbeths are a very special speaker when fed with the right sources. Not surprised the Kef is not measuring up. I ended up selling the Kefs and kept the P3esrs for a long time. 

I have a couple of passive systems and also have the LS50w2’s being fed by a node, primarily to connect to other zones, it sounds better than the Kefs alone. But the single biggest improvement was adding a KEF KC62 wirelessly connected and it took the system to a whole new level. Very engaging. I’d try your node then try the sub. 

I can't comment about either speaker specially, but having just upgraded from Harbeth 30.2 XD's to 40.3 XD's, I'm astonished at just how good the Harbeth small box speakers are. 

So much so that I may not sell the 30's - and certainly not below my current asking price. 

Maybe get a good SS amp instead?

Don't sweat it. Old tube radios lasted years running all day. The Croft line stage/driver tube will last for 3 years at 8 hours a day. If you don’t need the phono function, remove the 2 tubes on left. Change the stock JJ for a Telefunken for upgraded sound. More air, detail, less grain.

You have a very basic 'horses for courses' issue. It has nothing to do with DACs or power cables. Your current system, Harbeths and tubes, is very euphonically voiced and enjoyable. The KEF LS-50 is very specifically voiced as a near field in-studio monitor. Those are two very different things. Acoustically, the near field in a 200 ft2 room will be less than 3-4 feet from the speaker. Outside of that distance, they will sound much as you describe. This I have confirmed in my own experience. LS-50s in my roughly 200 ft2 living room from 10 feet away simply sounded small and lost. In my much smaller office, where they are more appropriate, they are spectacular. And demanding and critical, yes. The KEF R3, by comparison is much less demanding and easier to live with, as is intended. You may want to consider another powered speaker like a Genelec G Series 4 or 5 whose voicing tends to be more forgiving. (Not the 8000 series, which is their in-studio line).  

FWIW, I ended up with Monitor Audio S300 7G. Compared to its big brother, the S500, it is intended to be placed closer to the rear wall, a requirement in my room. I do wish manufacturers were a little more forthcoming about this kind of thing, but the feeling I get is the designers and engineers get overruled by the marketing department in the interest of sales volume.

@noromance Thanks for that tip. I am not using the phono function. So are you saying I can take those tubes out and the integrated amp will still work? And I cam save those tubes when my line stage tube goes out? 


Spend more time tweaking the LS50 wireless II. First, hard wired them so they can accept the Roon upsampling and Muse EQ setting that I configured for KEF endpoint. Huge difference. Must say the sound came really close to Harbeth/Croft combo. Hard wiring and Roon EQ setting is a game changer though heavy on PC Processing. 

BUT - as soon as I changed source to TIDAL Connect or Spotify Connect the 'house' sound of KEF kicked in which again is more compressed and muddled compared to the Harbeth/Croft combo. 

I will be returning the KEF LS50 wirelessII back to my dealer and keeping my beloved Croft/Harbeth system. I will be borrowing a pair of Buchardt a500 from a friend next week, as he swears on its performance. Will chime in with my thoughts - but for now will enjoy my Harbeths. 

Hey ghulamr, try swapping the power cables and optionally adding a conditioner. I have a pair of LS50 W2’s and just for s*its and giggles had them hooked up to a Shunyata Denali 6000sV2 and some original Valhalla power cables and they really sounded amazing. Even the Valhallas plugged right into the wall with no Shunyata was a massive improvement over the stock power cables. Granted that conditioner and those cables were way beyond the value of the speakers but I’m thinking if you dropped a couple hundred bucks on 2 power cables and maybe a basic IsoTek or Furutech filter bar, you’d get a solid upgrade and good bang for the buck. I *AM* keeping my LS50 Wireless II’s.

listening to music is a dream for hours long

I would keep the Harbeths and ditch the Kefs. NO need to change speakers from what you stated.

Just take a break from listening. Or, listen to a table radio for a while.

If you want to change anything, I suggest another hybrid integrated from Rogue or Unison. These brands may have "standby" switches to prolong tube life. Also, check out Linear Tube Audio, as well.

Currenty listening to Buchardt a500. So far they are phenomenal speakers. Have not had a chance to do A/B testing (will be out for a week) but will be sure to let you all know what I find.

@rhmmmm  thanks for the input. Agree with your suggestion. But I am still deciding and have not committed yet. Once I settle on the sound signature and have done enough A/B tests will decide which one I am keeping. From there I will certainly start investing in power cables and conditioner.  

If you want to keep the Harbeths, one suggestion is to look at the NAIM Uniti Atom. It is an all in one streamer, dac, amp, that is voiced "musically", i.e. has a distinct sound or coloration (not said pejoratively) . I have seen and heard these demonstrated in a system with Quad S-2's and the sound of the system was really enjoyable. The NAIM is a very sleek little unit with a great user interface, dac, streamer amp all in one. Could probably pick one up used.

Buchardt a500 were interesting speakers. They were definitely a grade above the KEF wireless - but fell short of the Harbeth/Croft sound. They have a slew of magic up their sleeve like room correction and master tunings (adjusting the cross over digitally) which really pulls a cover over your ears and get's you really close to a nod of approval - but it's overall sound characteristics does not change. Once you understand what Buchardt speakers signature sound is you quickly learn - everything else is only a tweak (magic). 


It lacks the airiness, dynamic resolution, instrument separation and details. I believe the low frequency response come in the way of  60-4000Hz frequency sound. It lacks the drama and emotion of music that Harbeth speakers does such a great job off. Did I mention it really lacks the openness. Again remember that it uses Cirrus Logic DAC (same brand as apple iPhone) and Texas instrument class D amp. Both subpar products in my opinion. It has tremendous room for improvement - but that's it. 


Buchardt has the best customer service and lots of potential as a company. Great social media presence. But surely not a Croft/Harbeth/Metrum Acoustics DAC killer. 

I wonder if what OP likes is the sound introduced by the tubes in his setup rather than anything specific to the speakers. I preferred the sound when I used vintage Cary SET monoblocks with a pair of KEF 104/2s to that when I used a Parasound 21 stereo amp. PITA though.

I liked panzrwagn's post explaining what's happening. It's really as simple as that.

This appears to be an apples-to-orange comparison. I know the intent was to simplify the system, but it would have been cool to substitute a pair of LS50 Metas with the Croft system to gauge how good the Harbeths are in comparison.