Dear Mr. Gordon Brockhouse,
I am a fan of your reviews on SoundStage! Simplifi. I would like to ask for your advice about the sound quality of the KEF LS60 Wireless and Bang & Olufsen Beolab 28 active loudspeaker systems. I have saved enough money for the Beolab 28, but I won’t have a chance to listen to both of these speakers to decide which one is suitable for me. Therefore, I would like your opinion. My room is about 25 square meters. Are there any active speakers with better sound quality in the same price range as the Beolab 28?
Sorry about my poor English.
Khuong Duy Cao
Dear Khuong Duy Cao,
Thank you for writing. There is no need to apologize for your English—you communicated your question perfectly. I am always impressed with anyone who learns to speak (and write) in another language, especially when I think about my poor effort in learning to speak French (the other official language of my country, Canada).
I’ve never had the opportunity to compare the Beolab 28 and LS60 Wireless systems directly. When I reviewed the LS60, it had been seven months since I had heard the Beolab 28. So the only thing I can do to answer your question is to look back at my reviews. After doing this, I can’t conclusively say that the B&O system would sound significantly better than the KEF system (or vice versa)—the fact is that they both sound glorious. In terms of sonic performance, I think the LS60 Wireless is a better value. But there are other things to consider.
Design: While the LS60 has a very attractive and innovative design, the Beolab 28 is a work of industrial art. The design and materials are in a league of their own, and that costs money. Whatever speaker you choose, it’s going to be in your room for a long time. You’re going to be looking at it and interacting with it, so design is important.
Interaction: The Beolab 28 has touch controls on the top of each speaker for adjusting volume, pausing and resuming playback, and selecting presets like internet radio stations and Spotify playlists. These controls are handy if you want to make a quick volume adjustment or pause music. The LS60 has no hardware controls at all. You have to use the KEF’s remote control or an app on your smart device to perform these operations. On the other hand, the LS60 comes with a remote. For the Beolab 28, a remote is an expensive option, but it’s beautiful and well-designed.
Connectivity: The LS60 Wireless has an HDMI eARC port, which is useful if you want to play sound from your HDTV through the speakers. You can do this on the Beolab using the optical input (which is also offered on the LS60), but with HDMI eARC, you can adjust volume using the TV remote.
App support: Will you be streaming music to your new system? Here are some things to consider. The KEF Connect app has integrated support for several streaming services that offer lossless and hi-rez content: Amazon Music HD, Deezer, Qobuz, and Tidal. The Bang & Olufsen app has integrated support only for Deezer. Both systems support Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and Spotify Connect, but the LS60 also supports Tidal Connect and is Roon Ready.
Other features: The Beolab has an automated room-correction feature. It’s not as effective as Dirac Live room correction, but it does help tame room problems. However, the LS60 lets you compensate for room acoustics and speaker placement in the KEF Connect app.
You asked whether there are other active speaker systems that you should consider. There are.
One is the Kii Audio Three. Its defining feature is a DSP-enabled feature called Adaptive Wave Focusing, which enables the speakers to achieve a cardioid (front-facing) radiation pattern at all frequencies. The result of this DSP manipulation, Kii says, is that the speakers produce “a completely coherent wavefront that is only emitted forward, and behaves as if all of it came from the midrange driver.” Something to note: on their own, the Kii Three speakers do not have preamp or streaming functions. My first choice would be to match the Kii Three speakers with the Kii Control module. The Kii Control does not have a streamer either; it is used just for input switching, volume control, and adjustment of the speakers’ contour and room-boundary settings. I think the Kii Three has a very attractive design, and it’s available in many finishes.
Another active speaker system I really liked was the Dynaudio Focus 30. Like the LS60W, the Focus 30 has a built-in streamer that supports AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, and UPnP/DLNA, and it’s Roon Ready. Most interestingly, you can add Dirac Live room correction, which I think is a killer feature. It sounds like you have a big listening space, so you might want to consider Dynaudio’s larger Focus 50 system.
Another possibility would be Buchardt Audio’s A700 active floorstanding speakers and Stereo Hub. I haven’t reviewed that system, but I’ve heard good things about it. And I have reviewed Buchardt’s A500 active standmount speakers—they were outstanding. I don’t think either of the Buchardts are as attractive as the B&O and KEF systems you’re considering, or as attractive as the Kii and Dynaudio systems.
I can’t imagine you being disappointed in the sonic performance of any of these systems. While I chose the KEF LS60 Wireless for my personal use, I know I’d have been thrilled to own any of these speakers. So I have one last piece of advice. Consider sonic performance carefully, but also look at other factors, including design, app control, feature set, and connectivity. And let your heart and senses have as much say in this decision as your head. Do you love one of these speakers more than the others? Then just go for it. Think about this decision, but don’t overthink it.
Dear Mr. Gordon Brockhouse,
I really appreciate the detail and time you took in addressing my concerns. This has been immensely helpful for me in furthering my understanding of the issue.
Today, I had a chance to listen to the Beolab 28, Dynaudio Focus 30, and Piega Premium 701 Wireless at a hi-fi dealer. I streamed four songs from Apple Music for testing these speakers: “Ashes” by Celine Dion, “Mat Trang” by Bui Lan Huong, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Seeb Remix)” by Mike Posner, and “Afterhours” by TroyBoi. Here are my thoughts on these speakers.
Dynaudio Focus 30: I loved the mid and treble. The Focus 30 had a beautiful and warm midrange, and the treble was OK for me, but it lacked bass. In general, I felt the music was not completely harmonious.
Piega Premium 701 Wireless: The strength of this speaker was the bass. The midrange was okay for me, but the treble was a little bit rough. In general, I felt the harmony of the song is better than with the Dynaudio Focus 30. The sound was deeper compared to that of the Dynaudio Focus 30 as well.
Bang & Olufsen Beolab 28: Honestly, I expected less from this speaker after the dealer told me he loved the sound of the Focus 30 way more than the Beolab 28. He recommended the Focus 50 for my room. But after a few notes of “Ashes,” I was totally impressed with the Beolab 28. The music seemed to sound brighter and soar higher. I felt like I was immersed in the song. The harmony and dynamics were so superb to me. I really loved the music that came from the Beolab 28 with Narrow Mode and Wide Mode.
Therefore, I will pick the Beolab 28 for my room. Maybe you don’t feel the way I do about these speakers. I am just a regular person who loves beautiful sound. I really admire your knowledge about speakers and also your ears. Again, thank you so much for your help and advice. Being able to discuss this issue with you was incredibly beneficial, and I’m grateful to have had your insight while navigating this complex matter.
Khuong Duy Cao
Dear Khuong Duy Cao,
I’m glad to have been of assistance, and I admire the rigorous approach you took to making your decision. I think you have made a very wise choice, and I’m sure the Beolab 28 system will provide many years of listening pleasure. Enjoy your new speakers!