Of course, those components are high quality ones. Russell K uses a similar 25mm soft dome tweeter (with a single magnet in place of the double magnet in the Red 100) and a 130mm version of the 165mm doped paper mid-bass driver as found in the bigger design, but the cabinet is not so chambered as the Red 100 ( just the one shelf above the bass driver ). The Red 50’s smaller cabinet is rear ported, but the cabinet volume means the loudspeaker delivers less low frequency energy, hence the mild bass augmentation.
If anything, this smaller cabinet somehow makes Red 50 loudspeaker even less ‘fussy’ than the Red 100, which was in itself not an amp fussy design. Sensitivity is a slightly lower 85dB, but the benign eight ohm load and complete absence of any nasty phase angles in that impedance plot means you could use the Red 50 with almost anything. I used it with a Roksan Caspian M2 integrated amp, and the Tsakiridis Aeolos Super Plus reviewed in this issue, and was perfectly happy with the sound from both. And as long as you remember to pull the loudspeakers out about half a metre or so from the back wall, and bear in mind these are not loudspeakers designed to fill a barn of a room, they are easy to install, too.
Toe‑in is relatively mild and the speakers aren’t fussy about positioning, so that the only thing that needs a bit of consideration is the choice of stand. Russell K makes a stand with a heavy base and light wooden uprights, and this is ideal, as would Something Solid XF stands or, if you can find a pair on eBay, Linn Kan II stands. Light and rigid is the way to go.
If the design brief was to make a pair of Kans for the 21st Century, Russell K has both failed and succeeded, and that’s what makes the Red 50 so damn good. The ‘fail’ part is they don’t have the Kan’s ‘unique’ frequency response (with peaks you could ski down). The ‘succeeded’ part is they still manage to retain the Kan’s endless, effortless fun factor. Not in a ‘boom-tizz’ way, but simply in a way that makes you reconnect with your music. Some loudspeaker systems seem to think music is something to be endured in the pursuit of stark, drab fidelity, but not the Red 50.
Where the Red 50 works – and works so well – is it has that Kan-like engagement with the music. The one-word review is ‘believable’ sound. Listening is not a passive activity here; it’s for orgies or total abstinence. The first track I put on was ‘Because He Was A Bonny Lad’ by The Unthanks [Here’s The Tender Coming, Rough Trade], and about a minute into the track, I kind of wanted to move to Northumbria and learn the bagpipes. Vocals project into the room well and with great articulation, but these sterile terms don’t express what the Red 50 does so well here. Yes, it’s about the voices, but it’s about the kind of emotional impact you get from the music, too. And that’s something that the Red 50 is so great at resolving.
The slight and deliberate warming around 80Hz works surprisingly well, too. It’s not so overpowering as to make everything sound ‘great’ at first and ‘grating’ soon after, but it is recognition that a small cabinet in a small room needs some extra help along the way. In fact, the bass is relatively deep for a small box (don’t expect much below 50Hz, though) and rolls off gently, but that little augment makes the bass seem more powerful and – paradoxically – more accurate than truly ‘accurate’. This should come as no surprise – the LS3/5a sounds more like a piano than a piano! The boost is ‘most’ noticeable on string quartets, in the interplay between viola and cello. As this doesn’t have a counterpart in rock and jazz, most won’t hear it. That being said, Domingo’s tenor in singing the romanza ‘Una Furtive Lagrima’ from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore [Opern Gala, DG] sounds truly captivating and extremely dynamic through these loudspeakers, so the Red 50 is not one of those ‘made for rock’ speaker designs. Put simply, this is a loudspeaker that you enjoy listening to.