The Kii and I
One of the constants of the Audio Dealer is that things come and go, just like fashion. Last year was the turntable, the year before that was valves amps and before that was class D etc etc.
One thing, however, that seems to be on top of most audiophile lists (in the UK anyway) is the convenience. If you can remember the “so called” Hi-Fi golden era from the late 80’s to mid 90’s; Krell or Mark Levinson with a pair of massive speakers was the “in” thing. Your listening room can be used as a sauna, the chandelier blinks when you switch on the Class A monster amplifier and the wife will be moaning, begging or even demanding to have some of her space back.
Imagine, what would it be like to have a complete system that sound comparable to the big high-end system in just two, relatively, small boxes? Imagine no more sirs! The Kii Three speakers system is here and now.
Sceptical? I will be the first to admit that active speakers are not for me! All the pairs I have tried / owned in the past have been lacking in one way or another. The Kii Three however has changed my mind completely, please read on to see why?
Out of the box, they are very handsome. Modern yet with a hint of 70’s retro styling. Fit and finish are first class, the matching stands are very sturdy and together they are very easy on the eye. At the lower back of the speakers have 2 network ports, a single XLR input that can be switched between analogue and AES-3 digital, a mains power input, a reset button, an EQ Contour trim pot and a Boundary trim pot, The two speakers are linked together with a CAT 5 cable which also loops into the Kii controller ( the Kii controller is available at extra cost). Please read more about specification on the Kii website, also the clever bunch at “Sound on Sound” magazine explain the technical side of things extremely well. The link of this review is at the bottom of this article.
Setting the Kii Three up was a breeze. I used IOData’s Fidata and Clef Audio Zero-one as a music server combo connected by USB to the Kii Control. I have played with various uPnP apps on my apple device; all of those apps did recognise the Kii as a renderer without any effort, press play and off you go.
The sound of Kii audio can, at first be described as clean and precise. They are not out to impress in the way of “listen to how deep the bass is?” or “How large is the soundstage?”. One thing though I was always aware that this is something rather special.
Give me the Kii, I am off for a spin....
With the speakers having been left on and used as background music for a few days, now it’s time to experiment and do some serious listening.
I have adjusted the Boundary trim pot to wall position and left the EQ setting alone (for the time being). The speakers are very slightly toed in, and about 6 inches out from the rear wall. My first song on the list was Eva Cassidy’s Fields of Gold. With a lesser system, turn it up quite loud, her voice always come across as being too bright but not here though! The sound was staggering in its smoothness, instruments and voices were thrown wide open across the entire frequency range. It’s a cliché saying, I know, but I felt like I was transformed in to the recording studio.
Move on to a very well recorded track like “Coal Train” from the legendary Hugh Masekela’s Hope album. The Kii Three’s ability to render fine detail and micro-dynamics made it engagingly musical. I could have easily listened to the system for hours without any listener fatigue.
The Kii Three claims to have a full range frequency response, so it’s a good excuse for me to play Shpongle’s “A New way to say Hooray”. This track has very low bass notes plus the mixing is the work of genius, the system will need to have a very high bandwidth to keep the phase response correct to be able to get the best of the sound effects. Kii Three shows an incredible impact. A visceral, palpable midrange, and clear, crisp bass that will make you think.... How do they do that?
Another track that I tend to use a lot for testing a system is ”Thunder And Lightning Polka, Op.324” (Cincinnati Pops Orchestra , Erich Kunzel). This track can really show off the speed and dynamic of the system, I rarely heard this track sound anywhere near as good as my own Maxonic speakers driven by Soulution amplification and DAC. While we cannot expect the Kii Three to be able to move air the way 12 inches drivers that fitted into Maxonic can, the Kii come closer than many. The explosion sounded very clear with enough texture and decay to make it believable. Dynamic head room available here is not what you would normally expect from a Class D amp (most class D amp are lacking in this department). Kii doesn’t shout dynamic but when needed, they really can go from 0 to 100 in split second.
To Kii or not to Kii
I am not here to try to convince you that Kii Three is for everyone, certainly for those who like to tweak, change, upgrade at every given opportunity. There is no valve to change; no speaker cables to upgrade even the power inlet at the back are too small for most aftermarket mains power leads plug to fit in. But! Do you really need anything else? Let me try to explain, I am listening to Eva Cassidy version of “What a wonderful world” while I am writing this, her voice sounds real, the treble sounds amazing and the soundstage is very believable. The musical message comes across extremely well. In fact, thinking back just now, I have to stop writing for a moment, listen, and then come back to this article. They demand you to listen, get lost into the mix of music… And when a system can do that, I would leave it well alone and spend money on more music.
After few weeks with the Kii Three, I am now totally converted to the concept. Value for money side of thing, for £9,000 you do get an awful lot of technology. This is a pair of speakers that fitted with six NCore Class-D power amplifiers which adds up to1.500 watts of total power per speaker! Room correction EQ, Analogue to digital converter, Digital to analogue converters. Of course all of these mean nothing if Kii can’t complete with a traditional set up that cost around the same money. Honestly, out of my head, right now, I cannot think of a system that cost even twice the price that can match the Kii’s beautiful tonality… Fast and clean but with the right amount of warmth and the uncanny dimensional accuracy that keeps you pinned to the listening seat for hours.
In twenty years time, we will be looking back at this pair of speakers as a milestone product of the audiophile world, now just thinking about it is giving me such Goosebumps.
Fidata Audiophile server
Clef Audio Zero one Network transport.
Kii Audio Three System £8,995 / Pair
Kii Control - £1050
Kii Stands - £825