All of the standard components of a stereo system are combined into a pair of active speakers. The amplifier is incorporated within the speaker and tuned to deliver the greatest sound quality possible for that speaker. Most active speakers have enough inputs to accommodate all of your playback devices, and a pair of powered or active speakers requires only a power source and a few (if any) cable connections in most cases.
And, because most active speakers offer both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming, you can effortlessly listen to music using the services you already use (Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, and Apple Music). Simply open your favorite music app, choose the song and the source (your loudspeakers), and hit play.
Active speakers sound better than regular Wi-Fi speakers, and they’re just as simple and straightforward to use (although a few active speakers don’t enable wireless streaming). They’re also far more adaptable, thanks to many inputs and connectivity choices. In addition to streaming apps from your smartphone or laptop, most new active speakers may also be connected to your television or turntable.
Active loudspeakers aren’t going to be ideal for everyone. They are powered speakers, which means they need to be plugged in and portable. They’re notoriously loud, so they’re not ideal for tiny spaces; they’re also more expensive due to the additional components within each speaker. Unlike passive loudspeaker systems, which may change their sonic character by altering the other components, active or powered loudspeakers lock you into a “sound” chosen by the designer based on all of the internal components.
In late 2020, KEF announced the LS50 Wireless II, upgraded and better-sounding versions of the LS50 Wireless (released in 2018). They make use of the company’s new patented Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT), which decreases distortion significantly. They’ve got a new cone neck decoupler and motor system, which helps to reduce distortion once again. The cabinet size has also been tweaked to improve the speakers’ bass response. Finally, the LS50 Wireless II has borrowed one of the finest characteristics from their smaller sisters, the KEF LSX, in that the two speakers do not need to be connected. This allows you to set the speakers wider apart, which is handy, but it does mean that audio quality suffers.
The Duo is part of Bowers & Wilkins’ Formation line, which comprises an all-in-one speaker, soundbar, and wireless subwoofer. The Duo speakers borrow features from B&W’s other high-end speakers, such as the carbon dome tweeter from the 700 series and the Continuum cone driver from the 800 series. Like all of B&W’s Formation speakers, the Duo can make use of the company’s new wireless mesh network technology (named Formation Wireless Technology), which allows them to stream up to 96/24-bit audio which B&W claims is double the fidelity of competing high-end wireless speakers. The price and appearance of these speakers aren’t for everyone, but if you’re seeking the finest of the best in active speakers, these are undoubtedly among the best.
KEF developed the LSX as a more inexpensive alternative to the award-winning LS50 Wireless, and the smaller design may be a better bargain for many music enthusiasts. The LSX has KEF’s distinctive Uni-Q driver array, including a 4.5-inch midrange driver and a 0.75-inch aluminum dome tweeter. A 100-watt power amplifier drives each loudspeaker. The LSX can be set up as a completely wireless system – meaning the two speakers don’t need to be linked together like the LS50 Wireless, allowing you to place them wherever you like in your room – but when tethered together, they can produce better resolution music (up to 24-bit/192kHz). If you wish to listen to vinyl, one flaw with the LSX is the lack of an inbuilt phono pre-amplifier. If you want to listen to vinyl, you’ll have to install your own.
You may be preparing yourself for the new year or even making a late shopping for Christmas, now that you know the three best speakers on the market you will be able to make a choice. Let us know in the comments which one do you think is more worth it…