As the Golden Age of Hi-Fi dawned in the 1960s and 1970s, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) was the acknowledged worldwide leader in audio broadcast quality. The BBC's LS3/5A was the definitive BBC monitor and possibly the world’s most highly-respected mini-studio monitor. Regardless of who built the BBC specified enclosure, each licensed LS5/1, LS5/5 and LS3/5A contained drive units manufactured by KEF.
Today, globalization has all but eliminated the concept of hi-fi with a locally or nationally determined sound. Back in the day there was a definitive American, Japanese, German or British sound (to name a few regions) but those differences are less distinct today than even twenty-five years ago. However, even if they don’t know it today, hi-fi enthusiasts still follow prejudices, conditioning and etiquettes that were developed regionally during the height of the hi-fi age.
On the studio side of things, engineers in Los Angeles, Tokyo or Lima gravitated toward the venerated sound of the BBC’s LS3/5A. Even if the enclosure was manufactured by Rogers or Spendor or even bespoke for a particular studio, KEF drivers were in the box. The signature sound was there and that signature sound made its way to music consumers regardless of where they lived.
Having been employed in the Engineering Designs Department in the 1950s, KEF founder Raymond Cooke had close links to the BBC. He liked the idea of the BBC’s high standards and he adamantly believed that following them would be a great endorsement of the fledgling company’s manufacturing capability. And he was absolutely spot on.
By 1966, KEF began manufacturing drivers with the plastic compound Bextrene which allowed for a uniform product with easily reproducible performance which in-turn allowed for the signature sound of the enclosures the drivers were included in. Plus, Bextrene had an inherent damping property that enabled the driver to deliver a sound with far less colorization than the paper cones being used at the time.
Until the early 1980s, KEF’s badge didn’t appear on the outside of the LS3/5A enclosure licensed by the BBC to manufacturers such as Rogers/Swisstone and others, but each enclosure contained KEF drivers. So whether you realize it or not, most of the music you grew up with (whether it was new to you then or became new to you from your parent's stereo) owes much of its sound to the BBC and KEF.
In 2011, KEF introduced the LS50 to celebrate the company’s fiftieth anniversary which was followed a few years later by the active LS50W. The sound and philosophy of the pioneers of audio reproduction are still giving people goosebumps today. Roll on the thrill of hi-fi!