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LS50 vs LS50 Meta Comparison

aarons915

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I’ve had the original LS50 for a couple years now and have wanted to compare them to the Meta ever since they were released. I use EQ to make them more neutral so I wasn’t expecting the meta to be much better but they do have better directivity and therefore are better to EQ. I see a lot of people asking about the originals vs the Meta so decided to write up a more detailed comparison than what I’ve seen done.

Setup:
As some may know, I compare speakers similar to the Harman method, 1 of each speaker in mono as this has been shown to be the easiest to discern differences and I agree after some past trials. I also cross them over at 100Hz and don’t use subs to focus on 100Hz and up. Normally I put both speakers directly in front of me but this time I put one of each on my normal stands to more closely simulate my roughly 15 degree listening angle. I use a windows PC as my source and have a program that allows me to instantly switch from left to right speaker. Here was my setup:

20221020_182037.jpg



LS50 vs LS50 Meta without EQ:

This was a quick and easy comparison, they sounded exactly like they measured. The LS50 were a bit hot in the highs and the Meta were neutral and maybe a bit laid back. In the short term I could see some preferring the original LS50’s highs but in the long term it is no contest that the Meta are the more neutral speaker and would be preferred by most people. Here are the Soundstage listening windows overlaid to show where the differences lie. LS50 in blue and meta is purple

LS50comparisonbeforeEQ.png


LS50 vs LS50 Meta with EQ:
This was much more interesting and the main reason I bought the Metas to try out. I use Equalizer APO with the Peace addon to apply parametric EQ filters to make the LS50 basically as good as they can get and wanted to see if and how much better the Metas could be with EQ since they do have better directivity. This comparison used the Soundstage anechoic measurements and EQ in REW to make them as neutral as I could get them, here are the before and after listening windows that show this, LS50 in blue and meta is purple.

LS50comparisonafterEQ.png



You can see that after EQ they are very similar but because the LS50 have an off-axis dip around 4k I was wondering if the Metas would have better highs despite the near identical listening window response. This wasn’t an easy comparison obviously since they are now almost the same speaker but I did hear some differences. I went back and forth, initially I felt they were very similar but the meta just sounded more clear but I found out that was just a trick with how the meta were voiced. Once I applied a high shelf to lower the output of the meta by 1db from 4k and up that went away and they were basically identical. I think the slight dip in the 2-3k region combined with a slight rise from 4k and up made them sound very clear but also crisp in the highs. I feel like both versions of the LS50 are sculpted to be generally neutral but they play tricks on you to sound more detailed in the highs, the Meta do a better job of this because they achieve it without being fatiguing over time.

Either way after swapping speaker positions from left to right and back they were basically indistinguishable to my ears. I tried convincing myself to keep the Meta but I really like the look of the black edition LS50 so that and the PITA of selling mine was enough to send the Meta back. I will say to anyone who doesn’t have the ability to apply PEQ filters, the Meta are amazing as is and definitely worth the upgrade over the original LS50, assuming you don’t like the extra energy in the 2-4k region. Despite the slightly different bass response in the Soundstage measurements, my in-room response was identical between the 2 and either pair greatly benefits from subs offloading the bass under 100Hz or so.
 

muad

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I’ve had the original LS50 for a couple years now and have wanted to compare them to the Meta ever since they were released. I use EQ to make them more neutral so I wasn’t expecting the meta to be much better but they do have better directivity and therefore are better to EQ. I see a lot of people asking about the originals vs the Meta so decided to write up a more detailed comparison than what I’ve seen done.

Setup:
As some may know, I compare speakers similar to the Harman method, 1 of each speaker in mono as this has been shown to be the easiest to discern differences and I agree after some past trials. I also cross them over at 100Hz and don’t use subs to focus on 100Hz and up. Normally I put both speakers directly in front of me but this time I put one of each on my normal stands to more closely simulate my roughly 15 degree listening angle. I use a windows PC as my source and have a program that allows me to instantly switch from left to right speaker. Here was my setup:

View attachment 239024


LS50 vs LS50 Meta without EQ:

This was a quick and easy comparison, they sounded exactly like they measured. The LS50 were a bit hot in the highs and the Meta were neutral and maybe a bit laid back. In the short term I could see some preferring the original LS50’s highs but in the long term it is no contest that the Meta are the more neutral speaker and would be preferred by most people. Here are the Soundstage listening windows overlaid to show where the differences lie. LS50 in blue and meta is purple

View attachment 239025

LS50 vs LS50 Meta with EQ:
This was much more interesting and the main reason I bought the Metas to try out. I use Equalizer APO with the Peace addon to apply parametric EQ filters to make the LS50 basically as good as they can get and wanted to see if and how much better the Metas could be with EQ since they do have better directivity. This comparison used the Soundstage anechoic measurements and EQ in REW to make them as neutral as I could get them, here are the before and after listening windows that show this, LS50 in blue and meta is purple.

View attachment 239027


You can see that after EQ they are very similar but because the LS50 have an off-axis dip around 4k I was wondering if the Metas would have better highs despite the near identical listening window response. This wasn’t an easy comparison obviously since they are now almost the same speaker but I did hear some differences. I went back and forth, initially I felt they were very similar but the meta just sounded more clear but I found out that was just a trick with how the meta were voiced. Once I applied a high shelf to lower the output of the meta by 1db from 4k and up that went away and they were basically identical. I think the slight dip in the 2-3k region combined with a slight rise from 4k and up made them sound very clear but also crisp in the highs. I feel like both versions of the LS50 are sculpted to be generally neutral but they play tricks on you to sound more detailed in the highs, the Meta do a better job of this because they achieve it without being fatiguing over time.

Either way after swapping speaker positions from left to right and back they were basically indistinguishable to my ears. I tried convincing myself to keep the Meta but I really like the look of the black edition LS50 so that and the PITA of selling mine was enough to send the Meta back. I will say to anyone who doesn’t have the ability to apply PEQ filters, the Meta are amazing as is and definitely worth the upgrade over the original LS50, assuming you don’t like the extra energy in the 2-4k region. Despite the slightly different bass response in the Soundstage measurements, my in-room response was identical between the 2 and either pair greatly benefits from subs offloading the bass under 100Hz or so.
Nice comparison!

I find it interesting that eq could get them so close. Just looking at the originals LW vs sound power, I would have expected a flat LW correction would create a wide audible dip in the sound power/eir.

Btw, I agree that the black edition is hot ! I really want to see a silver bronze version like the blade metas have.

822kef.uni.jpg
 

phoenixdogfan

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I’ve had the original LS50 for a couple years now and have wanted to compare them to the Meta ever since they were released. I use EQ to make them more neutral so I wasn’t expecting the meta to be much better but they do have better directivity and therefore are better to EQ. I see a lot of people asking about the originals vs the Meta so decided to write up a more detailed comparison than what I’ve seen done.

Setup:
As some may know, I compare speakers similar to the Harman method, 1 of each speaker in mono as this has been shown to be the easiest to discern differences and I agree after some past trials. I also cross them over at 100Hz and don’t use subs to focus on 100Hz and up. Normally I put both speakers directly in front of me but this time I put one of each on my normal stands to more closely simulate my roughly 15 degree listening angle. I use a windows PC as my source and have a program that allows me to instantly switch from left to right speaker. Here was my setup:

View attachment 239024


LS50 vs LS50 Meta without EQ:

This was a quick and easy comparison, they sounded exactly like they measured. The LS50 were a bit hot in the highs and the Meta were neutral and maybe a bit laid back. In the short term I could see some preferring the original LS50’s highs but in the long term it is no contest that the Meta are the more neutral speaker and would be preferred by most people. Here are the Soundstage listening windows overlaid to show where the differences lie. LS50 in blue and meta is purple

View attachment 239025

LS50 vs LS50 Meta with EQ:
This was much more interesting and the main reason I bought the Metas to try out. I use Equalizer APO with the Peace addon to apply parametric EQ filters to make the LS50 basically as good as they can get and wanted to see if and how much better the Metas could be with EQ since they do have better directivity. This comparison used the Soundstage anechoic measurements and EQ in REW to make them as neutral as I could get them, here are the before and after listening windows that show this, LS50 in blue and meta is purple.

View attachment 239027


You can see that after EQ they are very similar but because the LS50 have an off-axis dip around 4k I was wondering if the Metas would have better highs despite the near identical listening window response. This wasn’t an easy comparison obviously since they are now almost the same speaker but I did hear some differences. I went back and forth, initially I felt they were very similar but the meta just sounded more clear but I found out that was just a trick with how the meta were voiced. Once I applied a high shelf to lower the output of the meta by 1db from 4k and up that went away and they were basically identical. I think the slight dip in the 2-3k region combined with a slight rise from 4k and up made them sound very clear but also crisp in the highs. I feel like both versions of the LS50 are sculpted to be generally neutral but they play tricks on you to sound more detailed in the highs, the Meta do a better job of this because they achieve it without being fatiguing over time.

Either way after swapping speaker positions from left to right and back they were basically indistinguishable to my ears. I tried convincing myself to keep the Meta but I really like the look of the black edition LS50 so that and the PITA of selling mine was enough to send the Meta back. I will say to anyone who doesn’t have the ability to apply PEQ filters, the Meta are amazing as is and definitely worth the upgrade over the original LS50, assuming you don’t like the extra energy in the 2-4k region. Despite the slightly different bass response in the Soundstage measurements, my in-room response was identical between the 2 and either pair greatly benefits from subs offloading the bass under 100Hz or so.
I've owned the LS 50's since 2015 and bought the Metas last year. My solution (and I use EQ and DL3 on both speakers) was to make the OG LS 50's surrounds. I've thought about upgrading further (Sointuva, Reference 1 Meta, D&D 8C) but I'm not sure given my small room it would really be worth it. Metas with subs+EQ+Dirac are really good for both 2 channel, and home theater, esp in a small room.
 
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A

aarons915

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Nice comparison!

I find it interesting that eq could get them so close. Just looking at the originals LW vs sound power, I would have expected a flat LW correction would create a wide audible dip in the sound power/eir.

Btw, I agree that the black edition is hot ! I really want to see a silver bronze version like the blade metas have.

I'm of the opinion that the listening window and early reflections are what matter the most and the ER dip around 4500 isn't that bad, my in room response barely shows it as well so I think that explains why it's not as audible as it may seem. I also think the LS50's directivity mismatch is much preferable to the R3 where the early reflections are peaking relative to the LW, that was harder to correct for and creates a dip in the listening window. I do admit that even though on a website like this most care about sound quality only, looks do matter to me even though the sound quality is still number 1.

I've owned the LS 50's since 2015 and bought the Metas last year. My solution (and I use EQ and DL3 on both speakers) was to make the OG LS 50's surrounds. I've thought about upgrading further (Sointuva, Reference 1 Meta, D&D 8C) but I'm not sure given my small room it would really be worth it. Metas with subs+EQ+Dirac are really good for both 2 channel, and home theater, esp in a small room.

I agree in a small room I don't think there is much to gain from the Reference series. Not sure if you use dirac full range or not but I will say I thought the Meta sounded better using EQ based on Soundstage measurements and not ASR's, they are similar but I found soundstage to match my in room response better.
 

pablolie

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I am a bit confused... you stated the LS50 is in blue, and the LS50M are the other one... in which case it looks to me as if the original is the more linear with EQ?

PS: Not that I really believe the differences in the non-EQ version are marked enough to be truly hearable. I personally heard zero difference.
 
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Beave

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So you didn't notice much if any difference that you could attribute to the Meta material on the new version?

Seems like that means the biggest difference between the two versions isn't the Meta material - like their marketing would have you believe - but instead is the different crossover filters.
 

phoenixdogfan

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I'm of the opinion that the listening window and early reflections are what matter the most and the ER dip around 4500 isn't that bad, my in room response barely shows it as well so I think that explains why it's not as audible as it may seem. I also think the LS50's directivity mismatch is much preferable to the R3 where the early reflections are peaking relative to the LW, that was harder to correct for and creates a dip in the listening window. I do admit that even though on a website like this most care about sound quality only, looks do matter to me even though the sound quality is still number 1.



I agree in a small room I don't think there is much to gain from the Reference series. Not sure if you use dirac full range or not but I will say I thought the Meta sounded better using EQ based on Soundstage measurements and not ASR's, they are similar but I found soundstage to match my in room response better.
I found when I ran Dirac that there really was almost nothing to correct above around 300 hz, so I just let Dirac do a full correction because it really would have changed nothing to put a curtain above 300 hz.
 
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aarons915

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I am a bit confused... you stated the LS50 is in blue, and the LS50M are the other one... in which case it looks to me as if the original is the more linear with EQ?

PS: Not that I really believe the differences in the non-EQ version are marked enough to be truly hearable. I personally heard zero difference.
Well the bass looks more extended in the OG LS50 but as I stated they are identical in my in-room response so it seems to be a measurement anomaly, it happens often in soundstage measurements under 100Hz. Other than that they are extremely close.
So you didn't notice much if any difference that you could attribute to the Meta material on the new version?

Seems like that means the biggest difference between the two versions isn't the Meta material - like their marketing would have you believe - but instead is the different crossover filters.

Nope but that doesn't mean it's not doing anything, at the end of the day the sound radiating from the speaker is what we hear. The meta material seems to create a smoother response and allows for a simpler crossover and does result in a more neutral speaker, so I'd say those are all wins for KEF.
I found when I ran Dirac that there really was almost nothing to correct above around 300 hz, so I just let Dirac do a full correction because it really would have changed nothing to put a curtain above 300 hz.

My in-room response shows the dip around 2500Hz but if yours doesn't then you should be good to go.
 

Beave

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Nope but that doesn't mean it's not doing anything, at the end of the day the sound radiating from the speaker is what we hear. The meta material seems to create a smoother response and allows for a simpler crossover and does result in a more neutral speaker, so I'd say those are all wins for KEF.

Perhaps, but those aren't the things that KEF seems to focus on when describing the benefits of the Meta drivers.

It would be interesting to see the new crossover schematic vs the old one, and then to have something like the new crossover with the old non-meta drivers, in an attempt to suss out what differences are due to the meta changes and what differences are due to the crossover changes.

Wishful thinking on my part, I know.

But, to me, if one were to believe their marketing of the meta, the newer one should sound better than the older one even when they're EQ'd to be as similar as possible (as you basically did).
 

thewas

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From what I had heard the driver responses of both versions are different so the new crossover won't work well on the old one.

I own the original since it was released (which has become now my desktop loudspeakers) and the Meta additionally since a year, my comparison had shown also lower distortions on the new one and listening to both the Meta sounds cleaner to me at higher levels.
 

ROOSKIE

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I just purchased a new pair of Metas for $1000.
Tonight I listened for the 1st time. Naked (no subs, no PEQ) with the exception of a 48hrs LR4 high pass.
Very impressed by the 1st round.
Very clean sound, yet for the 1st time ever with a KEF speaker I was bobbing my head a little and moving with the tunes.
This is a good sign for me and the R3, Q350, and Q150 while being good sounding speakers, never really drew me in so hopefully these META's continue to.
I did basic HD testing and like others found the little speaker will likely work better with a high pass near 50hrz in 2.0 and a higher intersection with subs in 2.2 if one wants some SPL. I will start with 125hrs to two subs in the front of the space.
Anyway tonight I also did 1st sessions with the B&W 706 S2 and the Focal Chora 806 prior to the Meta.
The Chora 806 has a brighter yet thin sound quality (in other words tinny) coupled with a very obvious level of cabinet coloration.
The B&W 706 S2 is also bright but somehow very, very engaging and full sounding like an aggressive person that for some reason you are into what they are laying down. I was actually impressed and enjoyed the petal to the metal vibe and it was hard to stop and switch the KEF set in.
Anyway what is interesting is just how clean and not 'tinny' and not 'cabinety' the KEF sounded vs the Focal and how pristine and neutral vs the B&W... And not thinking about other speakers just how much sound that tiny little driver was able to put out with good dynamics and overall satisfying richness. So excited to address a couple room issues and go 2.2 with subs on these.(and eventually see how hey hang with the M126be's)

I would be curious to experience/replicate your tests. Very interesting and thanks for sharing. Wether it is quiet cabs, meta, crossover excellence and/or neutral response the set of META LS50's has made a very high quality 1st impression on me tonight.

&yes I paid $1k new. Maybe I was lucky, make your moves though as inflation might be motivating all types of dealers.
 

Vacceo

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It is interesting to see that you prefer the LS50 over the R3, as many users around here go the other way round.

I'd say that with a subwoofer, the difference between both could be hard to tell.
 

bluefuzz

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LS50 vs LS50 Meta
With or without EQ, if these are in-room measurements at the listening position then both these speakers must sound horribly bright. I would expect to see at least a 10 dB drop between 100 Hz and 20 kHz, especially in such a big room. I find anything less than that will rip my ears off ...
 

ROOSKIE

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With or without EQ, if these are in-room measurements at the listening position then both these speakers must sound horribly bright. I would expect to see at least a 10 dB drop between 100 Hz and 20 kHz, especially in such a big room. I find anything less than that will rip my ears off ...
OP states twice that they are the Soundstage hifi listening window measurements, they take those in an anechoic chamber. He then applied PEQ to those and is showing a prediction of what that would do to them in said chamber.

By the way OP @aarons915 the NRC is not anechoic below 100hrz so that may account for the bass differences they measured.

It is interesting to see that you prefer the LS50 over the R3, as many users around here go the other way round.

I'd say that with a subwoofer, the difference between both could be hard to tell.
I don't know if I do. I just received the META's and listened for 30minutes last night. The R3's are long gone now.

What I can say is despite the R3's being a very nicely engineered speaker that indeed sounds like a very nice speaker, I did not ever really look forward to hearing my music on them. They never quite did it for me with or with out subs added. I have no idea why. I did notice last night that I was getting into what the META's were laying down - even after listening to a very shall we say 'exciting' speaker in the wild B&W 706 S2. Maybe that won't hold - maybe it will.

I would suspect that with subs, indeed the META and R3 would measure very closely in many ways. The rounded face of the META according, to Geddes work, might possibly contribute to improved sound in blind testing even when hard to demonstrate in measurements and the waveguide(driver around it) for the tweeter is different so dispersion will also be different to some degree.

Sweeps might not show if the META material is doing what it ought to do and on the otherhand as the OP stated in a different way a speaker is more than the sum of its parts and the META material is just a part. Really curious what KEF found in blind testing of that material. Is there something in that part specific to that part that only it can do and beyond the META's retuning.

Anyway will I like these KEF's myself? Time will tell. I only bought them due to realizing I for $1k new I can resell later without a huge loss and get to try them for an extended time. Plus they might look cool in my bedroom one day. What is in there now is less $ and fine but the META's are cool looking units.
 

Tom C

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LS50 is my favorite speaker for imaging. To my ears, it’s the best 3D soundstage, suspended in the air outside the speaker, speaker disappears presentation I’ve ever heard.
The Kef spec for LS50 is 0.1% distortion. The Kef spec for LS50 meta is 0.07% distortion. Both at 90dB/1M. I really don’t think I could tell the difference.
UniQ for Blade One, Blade Two and R3 is 1” Al dome tweeter coax with 5” Al mid. Looks to me to be the same driver unit in all three cases. But LS50 is 1” tweeter in 5.25” mid/woofer, so a bit different. The woofer is 5mm larger in LS50, don’t know the other details, but how much lower can it play vs Blade/R3 driver? I wouldn’t expect huge differences. Blade One crossovers are at 350/2k, Blade Two at 450/2.2k, R3 at 400/2.9k. LS50 meta crossover is 2.1K.
So for LS50, I wouldn’t hesitate to cross to a subwoofer at as high a frequency as possible, so long as the sub cabinet is collocated with the LS50. Evidently the Kef engineers don’t think crossing at 350Hz is too high. And ideally, you would have one sub cabinet per channel/LS50 speaker. You should be able to get very close to Blade performance this way, but at a lower price, which will be especially important when going multichannel. Maybe not as elegant, but hey, those that shell out for Blade ought to get something for their $$$. I’ve been thinking about putting together a surround system going this route. I won’t worry about mixing LS50 original with meta, since they can be EQ’d to very near identical, as shown by the OP.
 

Vacceo

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I agree on the imaging part: I use the LS50 Wireless II as a soundbar for the TV and being just stereo, the sound is outstanding.

With a subwoofer, they are amazing, but they are not the Blades, I can assure you that. The Blades reinforce the single source perception even more and the whole sound feels more "packed". Sure, not night and day difference, but still a difference. However, if you apply EQ, well, that is where they'd be really close.
 

bluefuzz

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OP states twice that they are the Soundstage hifi listening window measurements, they take those in an anechoic chamber. He then applied PEQ to those and is showing a prediction of what that would do to them in said chamber.
OK, fair enough. I didn't realise that 'Soundstage hifi listening window measurement' was a thing. I've never heard that specific term for an anechoic measurement before. It would be nice to see some actual in room measurements then ...
 

ROOSKIE

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OK, fair enough. I didn't realise that 'Soundstage hifi listening window measurement' was a thing. I've never heard that specific term for an anechoic measurement before. It would be nice to see some actual in room measurements then ...
In order to PEQ the speakers to match the OP had to use anechoic data not in room data.

In room/in situation measurements are cool but not granular in nature nor particularly accurate to the sound one perceives at least according to Toole and Co.

The 10 db drop you mention is a common 'norm' and maybe actually a bit aggressive in some cases, however what sounds right will vary depending on conditions in the room and especially the dispersion characteristics of the speakers. Also related to dispersion would be directivity and directivity anomalies. The playback SPL is a major consideration and of course one must mention personal tastes.

I do agree though that some in room steady state measurements still would be cool to see just to see if they do match up as well as the anechoic data does.
 

muad

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It is interesting to see that you prefer the LS50 over the R3, as many users around here go the other way round.

I'd say that with a subwoofer, the difference between both could be hard to tell.
I didn't really enjoy the R3 either. The Meta seemed more balanced to me despite using eq with the R3. I really love the way the R3s look, and really wanted to like them, but I just couldn't get into them.
 

muad

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LS50 is my favorite speaker for imaging. To my ears, it’s the best 3D soundstage, suspended in the air outside the speaker, speaker disappears presentation I’ve ever heard.
The Kef spec for LS50 is 0.1% distortion. The Kef spec for LS50 meta is 0.07% distortion. Both at 90dB/1M. I really don’t think I could tell the difference.
UniQ for Blade One, Blade Two and R3 is 1” Al dome tweeter coax with 5” Al mid. Looks to me to be the same driver unit in all three cases. But LS50 is 1” tweeter in 5.25” mid/woofer, so a bit different. The woofer is 5mm larger in LS50, don’t know the other details, but how much lower can it play vs Blade/R3 driver? I wouldn’t expect huge differences. Blade One crossovers are at 350/2k, Blade Two at 450/2.2k, R3 at 400/2.9k. LS50 meta crossover is 2.1K.
So for LS50, I wouldn’t hesitate to cross to a subwoofer at as high a frequency as possible, so long as the sub cabinet is collocated with the LS50. Evidently the Kef engineers don’t think crossing at 350Hz is too high. And ideally, you would have one sub cabinet per channel/LS50 speaker. You should be able to get very close to Blade performance this way, but at a lower price, which will be especially important when going multichannel. Maybe not as elegant, but hey, those that shell out for Blade ought to get something for their $$$. I’ve been thinking about putting together a surround system going this route. I won’t worry about mixing LS50 original with meta, since they can be EQ’d to very near identical, as shown by the OP.
To piggyback off this.... a poor man's blade/reference

I'm building a woofer/sub module for the LS50M. 25" high, with a 12" rs315hf per unit, and a minidsp 2x4hd for crossover duty. The idea being that I can crossover as high as needed, likely between 150 to 300hz 4th order. I can play with that as needed.

The only concern I have is how low I can safely mount the woofer on the baffle to alleviate some floor bounce cancellation, but still remain high enough to crossover seamlessly for 2-3m sitting distances. I'm hoping this will free up some spl and make the whole experience full range.

This begs the question, based on distortion data, what is the ideal place to crossover the LS50M into a 3 way without messing with the point source effect.
 
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