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Kii Three - my impressions and pro reviews

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The last weeks I've been experimenting with a isolation transformer and a dc blocker. The soundstage is deeper and a bit more focus with the Kii. Apparently the Kii processors and dac have a benefit with a cleaner power (like most audio equipment of course). 


Kii Three / Kii Control / Uptone Iso Regen LPS 1.2 / Ultrarendu with LPS 1.2 / FMC LPS1.2 / Roon Rock

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4 minutes ago, simonp said:

The last weeks I've been experimenting with a isolation transformer and a dc blocker. The soundstage is deeper and a bit more focus with the Kii. Apparently the Kii processors and dac have a benefit with a cleaner power (like most audio equipment of course). 

But why a DC blocker? Have you found symptoms of excess DC on the line - a hum internal to your equipment? DC  usually isn't an issue; in fact the blocker could actually make your system sound less dynamic if it isn't really needed.


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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The toroidal isolation transformer was in periods of time humming a lot. Apparently there is a problem in my power circuit.

Dynamics hasn't changed.


Kii Three / Kii Control / Uptone Iso Regen LPS 1.2 / Ultrarendu with LPS 1.2 / FMC LPS1.2 / Roon Rock

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20 minutes ago, simonp said:

The toroidal isolation transformer was in periods of time humming a lot. Apparently there is a problem in my power circuit.

Dynamics hasn't changed.

Ah, get it. Yes, that type of hum can be very annoying.  Do you live in a single family home? Or condo/apt?

 

You can probably find the source of the DC interference if you invest a bit of time (I can PM you if you are interested). Usually it is something like a fridge or specific small appliance, such as a hair dryer or printer (even when not turned on).


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Its a country house, when have some time (and a mains noise analyser) I will try to find the best mains line. And take some bad components out (like dimmers, chinese LED bulbs). But in the meantime the Kii's sounding very nice!


Kii Three / Kii Control / Uptone Iso Regen LPS 1.2 / Ultrarendu with LPS 1.2 / FMC LPS1.2 / Roon Rock

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On 9/28/2017 at 5:55 AM, simonp said:

The last weeks I've been experimenting with a isolation transformer and a dc blocker. The soundstage is deeper and a bit more focus with the Kii. Apparently the Kii processors and dac have a benefit with a cleaner power (like most audio equipment of course). 

 

They improved with my addition of Kubala Sosna PCs.  Though they absolutely sound better with the KSs, I didn't find the difference massive.  I'm plugging the KSs right into the wall at the moment... I'd like to experiment with better/more sophisticated AC isolation, like an isolation transformer or the KS X-pander, though it's just not a very high priority for me at the moment.

 

I think my next upgrade(s) will be either better speaker isolation (my thinking being that, with everything in the speaker, more quickly/efficiently draining off vibration could have big and positive results) and/or BACCH4Mac, which has ML so jazzed over at audiostream.com. 

 

Of course I'd have to hear BACCH4Mac first, before buying.  But it's interesting to note that the BACCH's manufacturer, Theoretica Physics, claims that the best results are obtained when using highly directional speakers--esp. those that actively cancel the back-wave, like dipoles.  Give this argument, at least in theory, the Kii THREEs might literally be the best speakers in the world for this playback approach.  Food for thought....


Roon --> ultraRendu/Uptone LPS-1 --> Kii CONTROL --> Kii THREE active speakers (everything on Black Ravioli bases and footers)

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2 hours ago, input username here said:

But it's interesting to note that the BACCH's manufacturer, Theoretica Physics, claims that the best results are obtained when using highly directional speakers--esp. those that actively cancel the back-wave, like dipoles.  

How do dipoles actively cancel the back-wave?


Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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3 hours ago, Kal Rubinson said:

How do dipoles actively cancel the back-wave?

 

... well, it was my understanding that for bi- and dipolar speakers, the back-wave's reflection off of the wall behind the speakers could, under the right circumstances, be canceled by the front wave, which would be out of phase to it.  I thought that this (along with the minimization of first reflections from the sidewalls from the figure-8 dispersion pattern) was the point to, say, the old bipolar Mirage and the more recent Gradient and Emerald Acoustics dipolar speakers...

 

I don't pretend to be a speaker engineer, so if I've misunderstood that explanation, I'm happy to be corrected.  Notwithstanding, the obvious directionality of the Kii speakers seems to make it very well suited for BACCH, as I suggested above.


Roon --> ultraRendu/Uptone LPS-1 --> Kii CONTROL --> Kii THREE active speakers (everything on Black Ravioli bases and footers)

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11 hours ago, input username here said:

 

... well, it was my understanding that for bi- and dipolar speakers, the back-wave's reflection off of the wall behind the speakers could, under the right circumstances, be canceled by the front wave, which would be out of phase to it. 

Yes, could but rarely is because the back radiation is usually reflected off surrounding surfaces and cancellation becomes, at best, random.  Directly laterally, there is, of course, cancellation.

 

11 hours ago, input username here said:

I thought that this (along with the minimization of first reflections from the sidewalls from the figure-8 dispersion pattern) was the point to, say, the old bipolar Mirage and the more recent Gradient and Emerald Acoustics dipolar speakers..

Bipoles ain't dipoles.


Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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Those who've made the switch to the Kii's, did you use any DSP in your prior setup?  Step response notwithstanding, I would think that if you take a very well engineered speaker (e.g., Revel F206/208) with solid drivers that has great off axis performance and extends fairly low,  take measurements at the listening position, and apply DRC, you could get a sound that is similar to the Kii's.

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I am not so sure of that.  First, it presumes that the user's selection and application of DRC is excellent.  Second, currently all DRC applications are most effective in only a restricted position in the room while the Kii's approach directly minimizes the reflections/interactions that DRC attempts to correct.  


Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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The Kii DSP controls every driver seperatly, every driver has his own da converter and amp.  Don't think it will be easy on a Revel F206 with a seperate DSP. 


Kii Three / Kii Control / Uptone Iso Regen LPS 1.2 / Ultrarendu with LPS 1.2 / FMC LPS1.2 / Roon Rock

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3 hours ago, simonp said:

The Kii DSP controls every driver seperatly, every driver has his own da converter and amp.  Don't think it will be easy on a Revel F206 with a seperate DSP. 

 

It won't be easy but Mitchco has a guide (here and an eBook) on how to set up your own digital crossovers to time align the drivers.  In any case, I think you can still get terrific results even without a perfect step response.

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4 hours ago, Kal Rubinson said:

I am not so sure of that.  First, it presumes that the user's selection and application of DRC is excellent.  Second, currently all DRC applications are most effective in only a restricted position in the room while the Kii's approach directly minimizes the reflections/interactions that DRC attempts to correct.  

 

Kal - I recall from your review that the Dirac'd B&W sounded similar to the Kii's.  I believe you also noted that Kii had a larger sweet spot and soundstage.  Do you think these advantages are the direct result of Kii's own DSP approach over conventional DRC software?

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You guys are terrible people! I can feel my willpower to resist an investigation and subsequently inevitable purchase eroding, even though I can't really afford them. On the other hand, I want to go one-and-done at this point in my life...  Does anybody have any insights or information on the Kii FOUR, please? Thanks!

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1 hour ago, mriguy said:

You guys are terrible people!

 

I've been called worse.

 

1 hour ago, mriguy said:

Does anybody have any insights or information on the Kii FOUR, please? Thanks!

 

... is the "bigger" Kii supposed to be the FOUR or the TWO?  Do they get more ambitious as the numbering goes "up," or are we working our way to ONE? 

 

Since I already own the THREEs, so I'm not really shopping but, like mriguy, I am curious about any next-steps for the company. 

 

Also, since the Bluetooth is supposed to be activated in a software update "soon," I wonder (1) if anyone has an update on the update and (2) do people thing that the update will basically turn-on a feature or two (Bluetooth, etc.) or is it more likely that they will do a through software re-working of the complete system (like, say, PS Audio with the Directstream DAC or the Devialet pro series); obviously, I hope it's more the latter, though I have no inside info. at this point.  (And I understand that the on-board DACs are apparently chips, not FPGAs, but pretty much everything else in the speaker runs on software, so it should be a highly tweak-able platform.)


Roon --> ultraRendu/Uptone LPS-1 --> Kii CONTROL --> Kii THREE active speakers (everything on Black Ravioli bases and footers)

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3 hours ago, patagent said:

 

Kal - I recall from your review that the Dirac'd B&W sounded similar to the Kii's.  I believe you also noted that Kii had a larger sweet spot and soundstage.  Do you think these advantages are the direct result of Kii's own DSP approach over conventional DRC software?

 

Not only difficult, but very expensive too, I'd wager. 

 

Assume that you overcome Mr. Rubinson's concerns and you are able to tweak the 3rd party DSP to perfection.  Yet to take your Revel F206 a bit further, not only would you have to buy the Revels (which, by themselves, are obviously far less expensive than the Kii THREEs), but you'd also have to come up with 8x channels of nCore-class amplification, 8x channels of D2A conversion plus a computer capable-yet-high-definition enough to run the works.  Admittedly, many at CA would likely already have access to the last.  Notwithstanding, I'd wager that once you added that all up and then threw in enough cable to lash it all together, your total price would be far in excess of what Kii's charging for the THREEs.


Roon --> ultraRendu/Uptone LPS-1 --> Kii CONTROL --> Kii THREE active speakers (everything on Black Ravioli bases and footers)

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8 hours ago, Kal Rubinson said:

I am not so sure of that.  First, it presumes that the user's selection and application of DRC is excellent.  Second, currently all DRC applications are most effective in only a restricted position in the room while the Kii's approach directly minimizes the reflections/interactions that DRC attempts to correct.  

I think Kal is spot on here. My previous speakers were corrected with a MiniDSP DDRC22 and had an excellent response at the listening position. However the room still imposed its character at other than the listening position. The Kii Three on the other hand dramatically reduces room interactions, and similarly to Kal's observation in his review, I note miniscule differences to the sound with the Dirac Live engaged or absent. Lately I've dispensed with room correction.

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5 hours ago, patagent said:

 

Kal - I recall from your review that the Dirac'd B&W sounded similar to the Kii's.  I believe you also noted that Kii had a larger sweet spot and soundstage.  Do you think these advantages are the direct result of Kii's own DSP approach over conventional DRC software?

I do.


Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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7 hours ago, input username here said:

 

... is the "bigger" Kii supposed to be the FOUR or the TWO?  Do they get more ambitious as the numbering goes "up," or are we working our way to ONE? 

 

Since I already own the THREEs, so I'm not really shopping but, like mriguy, I am curious about any next-steps for the company. 

 

Also, since the Bluetooth is supposed to be activated in a software update "soon," I wonder (1) if anyone has an update on the update and (2) do people thing that the update will basically turn-on a feature or two (Bluetooth, etc.) or is it more likely that they will do a through software re-working of the complete system (like, say, PS Audio with the Directstream DAC or the Devialet pro series); obviously, I hope it's more the latter, though I have no inside info. at this point.  (And I understand that the on-board DACs are apparently chips, not FPGAs, but pretty much everything else in the speaker runs on software, so it should be a highly tweak-able platform.)

 

I've read that they are considering both a smaller, less expensive speaker and also a larger floorstander. Have no idea what they will do. I did read that the idea of the floorstander is to use the same drivers (possibly more of them?) and to make a design that will deal with floor reflections - something they didn't do with the Three in order not to make it overly complex and delay market launch. 

 

As far as Controller update, I'd write them directly and ask. 6 months ago they told me BT would be added in a FW update by "the end of the summer", and about 3 months ago they told me "soon". There is also a rumor (confirmed by some dealers) that a larger, more capable Kii Control is coming out, but no one seems to know the details. 

 

I'm not sure the onboard DACs are chips, or purely chip based. It's supposedly a proprietary DAC. Bruno did say somewhere (quoted in print) that the ASRC in the Threes is similar in concept (not the same) to that in the Mola Mola DAC, which in my understanding means at least that part is software based. 


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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21 hours ago, firedog said:

I'm not sure the onboard DACs are chips, or purely chip based. It's supposedly a proprietary DAC. Bruno did say somewhere (quoted in print) that the ASRC in the Threes is similar in concept (not the same) to that in the Mola Mola DAC, which in my understanding means at least that part is software based. 

 

After speaking with the US importer, my understanding (which may not be perfect!) was that the THREE uses a non-FPGA DAC (so, presumably, a chip), but that the asynchronous sample-rate converter was the same/very close to that implemented in the Mola Mola DAC. 

 

My earlier point, however, was that even if the DACs' guts are hardwired into their chips, the sample-rate converter, the DSP, and maybe even things like the voltage/current control loop and protection circuitry could be upgraded in software.  Given that PS PerfectWave owners, for example, have repeatedly claimed that firmware updates were like getting a whole "new" DAC, I think that such improvements might be at least as possible in so software-heavy a platform as the THREES. 

 

OTOH, maybe Kii is already happy with the THREE's performance and any upcoming firmware upgrade(s) might just do things like turning on Bluetooth.


Roon --> ultraRendu/Uptone LPS-1 --> Kii CONTROL --> Kii THREE active speakers (everything on Black Ravioli bases and footers)

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On 11/27/2017 at 8:27 PM, input username here said:

 

Also, since the Bluetooth is supposed to be activated in a software update "soon," I wonder (1) if anyone has an update on the update and (2) do people thing that the update will basically turn-on a feature or two (Bluetooth, etc.) or is it more likely that they will do a through software re-working of the complete system (like, say, PS Audio with the Directstream DAC or the Devialet pro series); obviously, I hope it's more the latter, though I have no inside info. at this point.  (And I understand that the on-board DACs are apparently chips, not FPGAs, but pretty much everything else in the speaker runs on software, so it should be a highly tweak-able platform.)

 

With regards to Bluetooth, the current Kii Control (Version 0.2) advertises a Bluetooth receiver: BlueCreation-01FAAE. I discovered this while pairing an Apple Pencil to an iPad Pro.

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8 hours ago, phosphorein said:

 

With regards to Bluetooth, the current Kii Control (Version 0.2) advertises a Bluetooth receiver: BlueCreation-01FAAE. I discovered this while pairing an Apple Pencil to an iPad Pro.

 

Wow, you're right.   I just paired my PC to the CONTROL via the BlueCreation receiver. ... I have NO idea how to actually get sound out of it now! 

 

How might I select the BT as an input???  I am pretty sure that my PC is using the BT as the audio output device (it says "Headphones (Bluetooth)" on the output device), but how do you select the PC as an input on the CONTROL, I wonder.   I tried all of the "hard" input buttons (AES, coax, etc.) and, unsurprisingly, that resulted in no sound out of any of 'em. 

 

Interesting, all the same.


Roon --> ultraRendu/Uptone LPS-1 --> Kii CONTROL --> Kii THREE active speakers (everything on Black Ravioli bases and footers)

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1 hour ago, input username here said:

 

Wow, you're right.   I just paired my PC to the CONTROL via the BlueCreation receiver. ... I have NO idea how to actually get sound out of it now! 

 

How might I select the BT as an input???  I am pretty sure that my PC is using the BT as the audio output device (it says "Headphones (Bluetooth)" on the output device), but how do you select the PC as an input on the CONTROL, I wonder.   I tried all of the "hard" input buttons (AES, coax, etc.) and, unsurprisingly, that resulted in no sound out of any of 'em. 

 

Interesting, all the same.

 

I suspect the firmware update will add a menu item for BT or allow BT input to override the normal input setting as many Airplay devices do. I am not so enamored with audio over BT but an iOS or android app providing expanded control would be great.

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1 hour ago, phosphorein said:

 

I suspect the firmware update will add a menu item for BT or allow BT input to override the normal input setting as many Airplay devices do. I am not so enamored with audio over BT but an iOS or android app providing expanded control would be great.

I think you must be right. My iPod Tidal app asks if I want the output to be “Airplay or Bluetooth”.  I’ve been seeing that BT device  in my BT options and didn’t realize what it  was. I’m guessing that when Kii updates the firmware it will also change the name to something that lets us know it is the Kii Control and then it will produce sound output.


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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