Alert!! These opinions are still valid but tv prices change so fast that OLEDs now cost less
For up to date prices give us a call, or look at Currys website, we almost always sell at the same price as them anyway!
They've been around for a few years now so what's the story with OLED tvs?
I'll try to be only a little geeky!
In 2015 LG showed advance models of OLED tvs available in small quantities. These were widely well recieved as the technology had a very important trick that LED sets just couldn't do.
This was to display blacks well, which hadn't been seen since the last of the Pioneer KURO plasmas.
Unfortunately these early prototypes had other problems with brightness and processing speeds that meant that many people wrongly discarded the OLED technology as the problem.
I know, I was one of them. If it wasn't actually better then Lyric Hifi wasnt going to sell them!
So what's different from other technologies? Well, an Organic LED display works without any backlighting. This is more like a plasma display as it can display deep black levels. It is also thinner and lighter than a liquid crystal display (LCD). In low ambient light conditions in a dark room, or most of our living rooms, an OLED screen will achieve a much higher contrast ratio than an LCD, regardless of whether the LCD uses fluorescent or LED backlighting.
Remember that the manufacturers built-up LED as a new technology to replace plasma when it was just the same LCD panels with a brighter whiter light behind it. Plasma had to go as it was more expensive to manufacture and was too power hungry to get through the latest energy consumption limits, not because LCD/LED was better.
Ok back to the story:
Moving on two years picture processing has improved tremendously, due in no small part to the advent of 4k sources not only pushing manufacturers to do better but also these sources meaning that rubbish processing was obvious on sets that 'read' well on the spec sheets but really weren't very good, especially on moving objects.
There are actually quite a few sets available that really aren't too good, but Currys don't often play sources that show this up. Can't blame them though, it suits them for everything to look the same!
While all OLED panels are made by LG they have different processing technologies applied to them in sets by Sony, Panasonic, and Loewe
I've always been a fan of Loewe's processing. Over more than 20 years they have always been at the forefront of making panels made by someone else look better than the originals although usually this carried a price premium of 25%
They're at it again, but with one huge difference.
The latest Panasonic 65" OLED is £ 6999, the new Sony? £ 6999, the Loewe? £ 5999
There are cheaper models from Sony and Pana but for the best picture the Loewe is supreme and cheaper!
How do they do it? Well there is a drawback. Their online stuff just isnt as comprehensive so if you use iPlayer/Itv hub etc add an amazon prime box, which is always a good idea anyway as it also provides 4k content.
Also when you compare it to the LG the Loewe is still better, although to be fair the LG is £600 less
The biggest player in tv just now is actually Samsung and disappointingly the haven't yet entered the OLED market
Instead they now offer QLED. See what they did there? QLED at a glance looks like OLED but it's actually a normal LED set with a Q in front
It is their best effort yet but it's basically a high brightness LED with none of the performance benefits of OLED
So when is the right time to buy OLED for your new set? First that depends on size. The high manufacturing cost of OLED means that it will mainly apply to sets of 55" and above for the next 3-4 years.
And then it depends on money. If you want a decent 55/65" set for £ 750-1999 then I will sort you out with a really good Pana/Sony that you will be happy with
If however you want the best 55-65 right now then shell out £ 3500-5999 for an OLED and you wont be disappointed
The Loewe Bild7 65" is on demonstration in the shop right now, call in for a look
The name Q series has been a part of the Kef range for more than 20 years now and through updates every 3-4 years it has always been one of the leading speakers in its price range.
Q sits between the cheap and cheerful C series and the high performance R range to give 5 performance levels between £430 and £ 1430 per pair, one of the most competitive areas of the loudspeaker market. Every model follows closely the sizes of the outgoing model so Q100, small bookshelf, becomes Q150 small bookshelf, Q300 larger bookshelf becomes Q350 larger bookshelf etc.
The 2 bookshelf models are Q150 and Q350 at £ 430 and £ 530 per pair. The previous version of the 350 won many awards including loudspeaker of the year so the Q350 has rather large shoes to fill. The cabinet is roughly the same size so it is the improved drive units which will tell the tale.
Putting them on they immediately have the sound signature of the UniQ drive unit with a smooth off-axis response hence giving a big out-of-the box sound. That's what UniQ does. However this latest UniQ is definitely better than the previous version with improved dynamics and detail. Tom Petty sounds excellent, as does another old favourite the Jacqueline du Pre Elgar Cello Concerto. The old Q300 had a bit of a 'bloom' to the bass end which was a pleasant fault to have as long as it's not too boomy and the Q350 retains some of this from the big bass unit in a small cabinet. That said these are really engaging and enjoyable, they will do very well.
Switching to the Q150 shows the same dynamics but with less volume of bass. They are still a great communicator when you play something with emotion, in this case some Nick Cave from The Boatman's Call shows how good they can be, as does some Emily Barker from Dear River.
One unusual part of the new Qs is that they all have single wire terminals instead of bi-wire. The amazing Kef LS50 is single wired so perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise. Instead of spending money on extra sockets and fancy veneers all your money is going into the engineering that provides the best performance.
Talking of the LS50 what will happen comparing them at £ 799 to the Q550 at £ 850? You might know that I am a big fan of the LS50, as is virtually every magazine and journalist around the world!
The Q550s are a slim floorstanding speaker only a mere 7" wide and 3' tall. To gain extra bass from such a narrow cabinet they have a small bass unit flanked by 2 bass radiators beneath their uniQ. They are a good sounding speaker too, more detailed on vocals than the Q350 as well as a deeper and tighter bass.
And the LS50 comparison? Well here's the thing, if you want your system to go louder with more bass, to be tall, slim, and elegant, or if you just like the look of the Q550s then buy them.
The LS50s in every other way are just better.
Perhaps this isn't so surprising, the UniQ's cone materials in the LS50 are more expensive and the rounded cabinet with it's massive internal bracing gives a seriously rigid enclosure.
There are still 2 more new floorstanders to listen to, the £ 1150 Q750 and the £ 1430 Q950, but that's for another day as I have work to do!