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Article: Kii THREE Loudspeaker Review

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12 hours ago, mitchco said:

 

Mike, I understand. It could be that the Kii's were not set up properly, as it does make quite a big difference. Not only setting up the boundary eq, but taming the high frequency energy output. Note I had to dial in a -4 dB shelf at 3 kHz for the tone to sound neutral as per the Harman's research. That's a lot of high frequency reduction! Given that you said the voices sound a bit harsh is a tell take sign to me that the speakers were not set up properly. With the -4 dB shelf at 3 kHz, they never sounded harsh to my ears, no matter how loud I turned them up or what the music content was.

 

Those QUAD ESL 2805 speakers are very nice. Looking over at Stereophiles measurements, I can see that they already have the built-in downward tilt in the frequency response. In fact, looking at JA's measurements, it is almost exactly a -10 dB tilt from 20 Hz to 20 kHz that the folks from Harman (and I) suggest as neutral sound reproduction with good timbre (i.e. tone quality). Good choice man! I hope you get a 2nd chance to listen again, but able to dial down the treble energy as "out of the box", as with virtually every speaker I demo, there is way to much high frequency output, which for sure skews the tonal balance. Especially with the Kii's, as they are very uncoloured plus having too much high frequency energy output would not be a pleasant listening experience.

Thanks Mitchco, that's very useful information to me. Sure I can try to have a second listen one day, because the Kii score high in other departments to me (simplicity of the solution, fun factor, dinamics..). 

 

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I have been test playing Kii 3 for some weeks now and they are very good speakers indeed.  The bass is adequate but not top notch though. Better results can be achieved with distributed subs (Geddes) or dipole (Linkwitz) bass. Linkwitz claims superiority of dipole over cardioid patterns in rooms. The vocals are very good but somewhat forward. When compared to good planars/dipoles they sound like a mono source sitting fixed between the two speakers. Also the musical space is restricted between the two boxes, you do not get the feeling of a live performance in your room.* The Kiis seem to be very good monitors for near/mid field listening in the sweet spot. Not so for a bigger audience sitting unrestricted. They otften underimpress in public presentations. Kii Control improved things ergonomics-wise but it needs the ethernet cable. When you place the Control away from your seat you have no feedback on the listening volume setting. I tested DEQX with some good speakers and compared with Kii in front of several golden ears and the jury is out. DEQX advantage is much lower latency (max 20 ms vs Kii 90ms) which means the time coherence magic is preserved for movies and live/tracking applications. 

* Chesky Records Ultimate Demo disc has a drums solo that shows Kii’s limitations comparing to some really good time coherent setups which don’t even use DSP.

 

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1 hour ago, sapporo said:

I have been test playing Kii 3 for some weeks now and they are very good speakers indeed.  The bass is adequate but not top notch though. Better results can be achieved with distributed subs (Geddes) or dipole (Linkwitz) bass. Linkwitz claims superiority of dipole over cardioid patterns in rooms. The vocals are very good but somewhat forward. When compared to good planars/dipoles they sound like a mono source sitting fixed between the two speakers. Also the musical space is restricted between the two boxes, you do not get the feeling of a live performance in your room.* The Kiis seem to be very good monitors for near/mid field listening in the sweet spot. Not so for a bigger audience sitting unrestricted. They otften underimpress in public presentations. Kii Control improved things ergonomics-wise but it needs the ethernet cable. When you place the Control away from your seat you have no feedback on the listening volume setting. I tested DEQX with some good speakers and compared with Kii in front of several golden ears and the jury is out. DEQX advantage is much lower latency (max 20 ms vs Kii 90ms) which means the time coherence magic is preserved for movies and live/tracking applications. 

* Chesky Records Ultimate Demo disc has a drums solo that shows Kii’s limitations comparing to some really good time coherent setups which don’t even use DSP.

 

 

I think you have sort of a odd way of evaluating the Kii. 

No one thinks the Kii are going to compete bass wise with some specialized bass setup, and they aren’t trying to.  They have plenty of bass for most rooms and most people: Obviously not if you have a large room and want full physical impactful bass as with large powered woofers.

 

They also clearly aren’t perfect or the best system you can get. Obviously they can be improved upon.
 

The Kiis are supposed to be a system that achieves a high level of performance in all parameters in a small, convenient, contained system that works in most situations- for a reasonable price and avoiding lots of boxes and wires. Basically you can hook them up in 5 minutes and get great performance without doing anything with them - right out of the box. (Some simple adjustments will improve performance even more).
 

When you compared the Kii to a DEQX setup with some good speakers, how much did the DEQX, amp, and speakers cost? I’m betting more than the Kiis, with a more complicated setup (which many users won’t want to do), less convenient form factor, and yet only a comparable level of performance. 


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 >SOtM Lan Isolator>Bricasti M5 Network Player >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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16 hours ago, mitchco said:

 

@Pure Vinyl Club Thanks.  Probably in 30 days for the D&D 8c review. I am contemplating how to do a fair comparison after that...


Would be great to read your comparison of the Kiis and the 8Cs.
I was lucky enough to hear and compare them both last year.

Well done for a great review, enjoyable and very informative read.
 


Audirvana+3.0 / TIDAL HiFi / Mac Mini (256GB SSD - 16GB RAM)

Lindemann Musicbook: 20 DSD, ATC EL 150ASL

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"Reasonable price"? Depends on the reasoning. Kiis with Control are 15k, with presumably "impactful " Kii BXT bass  - 30k. My tested DEQX setups were cheaper

"Contained"? Yes. But you trade wires at the amp for power, ethernet and signal cables elsewhere.

"Small"?-  70 pounds/pair without stands ( BXTs another 100 or so pounds). 

"Convenient"? Active, DSPed, tech-fidgety  tuning, even with Control-- depends on the definition of convenient. Not for the average Joe LeAudio who wants to power his sources.  

Haven't heard about any studios  going crazy about them either, and it's been some years...

 

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11 minutes ago, sapporo said:

 

Haven't heard about any studios  going crazy about them either, and it's been some years...

 

Wow you are really fishing and nitpicking reasons to put them down. Your comments are sort of off the mark and don’t match reality.  And you didn’t actually tell us how much your DEQX based systems cost - more than $15k?

 

The BXT isn’t really relevant here as it turns it into a totally different system that should be judged differently. The review didn’t include the BXT. 

 

As far as studios - don’t know if that is relevant. Kii and dealers both say lots of the sales are to professionals using them for mixing. Many of those work at home, and not from a “studio”. 


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 >SOtM Lan Isolator>Bricasti M5 Network Player >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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DEQX is 4-5 k depending on model. The balance 10k can buy a match for Kiis.

I think a talented DIY designer could put together a matching setup for 15k too.

Home music producers buying 15k monitors? Wow.

I am not putting down the Kiis. I just dont’t think they are the best universal audio system ever - in that price range. 

 

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On 8/17/2018 at 9:57 AM, Jud said:

On a little bit of a side note: Did The Gramophone used to be located in downtown Edmonton in or near the Manulife building?  The name sounds awfully familiar, and I believe I may have stopped in there for classical CDs and entertaining music and audio discussions when I was doing a lot of work in Edmonton at the end of the 80s through the early 90s.

 

FWIW, Jud, The Gramophone's website indicates that they have been in business for 29 years and claims to "maintain the largest classical and jazz CD & Vinyl store in Alberta", all of which is consistent with your experience.

 

 


"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted"- William Bruce Cameron

 

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7 hours ago, sapporo said:

 Kii Control improved things ergonomics-wise but it needs the ethernet cable. When you place the Control away from your seat you have no feedback on the listening volume setting.

 

You can use a cheap Apple remote to control the volume via the Kii Control, as it has an IR receiver, so that's not actually a problem.

 

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That’s not what I meant. One of the most useful interface features of any amp is to see, not only hear, the current  volume level . Apple remote won’t tell you that.

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6 hours ago, sapporo said:

 

That’s not what I meant. One of the most useful interface features of any amp is to see, not only hear, the current  volume level . Apple remote won’t tell you that.

 

5 hours ago, Emlin said:

Then set the Kii Control at an angle so that you can see the display from your seat. Jeez.

Agree with Sapporo on this one. I can't read the Kii Display from my seat, even if it is at an angle. A system like the Kii should at least have the option for a remote volume control as mentioned, perhaps something like the Devialet one. 


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 >SOtM Lan Isolator>Bricasti M5 Network Player >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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On 8/17/2018 at 10:00 PM, tboooe said:

I am curious if the sound can be further improved using DSP?  The  graphs showing the in room response versus the ideal still shows some pretty big dips and peaks.  Since you already have the capability and obvious expertise, why not apply some modest DSP to further improve things?

Just thought I would post the following image showing possible further improvement potential in response when using additional DSP with my Trinnov. Here a flat response was the desired result:

 

 

43080574-F7DC-455B-A38C-CAC5726F1BCA.png

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Question for Kii 3 owners...

 

I see in the manual, the warranty is 5 years. That includes the amplifier section?

 

If so, that's a nice warranty indeed.

 

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27 minutes ago, Em2016 said:

Question for Kii 3 owners...

 

I see in the manual, the warranty is 5 years. That includes the amplifier section?

 

If so, that's a nice warranty indeed.

 

It includes everything. Kii told me they will even arrange shipping to the factory if you don't have a "local" distributor who does repairs.


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 >SOtM Lan Isolator>Bricasti M5 Network Player >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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Just now, firedog said:

It includes everything. Kii told me they will even arrange shipping to the factory if you don't have a "local" distributor who does repairs.

 

Awesome stuff. I haven't seen many active speakers with 5 years on the amps.

 

Usually I see something like 3 or 5 years on the drivers and 1 year on amplifier.

 

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On 8/18/2018 at 11:47 AM, sapporo said:

Haven't heard about any studios  going crazy about them either, and it's been some years...

 

 

... I have to agree with firedog, your evaluation methods are, honestly, bizarre.  Comparing them to infinitely more complex, DEQX, multi-sub set-ups when comparing bass on the one hand, and then calling them "tech-fidgety" when comparing them to (... an Apple HomePod?) on the other makes you seem crazy.  Or like you've got a crazy axe to grind.  These are not the best speakers in the world (I've heard better) and they are probably not for everyone either.  But your "comparisons" just raise more questions than give answers.

 

In terms of studio use, while I cannot speak as to which major professional studios use the Kii's (many likely use more expensive, soffited, monitors anyway), as far as pros' perceptions go, Sound on Sound gave them a rave review and a visit to Gear Slutz will show massive positive buzz and user experience with these monitors (lots of equally positive buzz on the D&Ds there too).  


Roon --> ultraRendu/Uptone LPS-1 --> Kii CONTROL --> Kii THREE active speakers (various cables from Kubala Sosna and Audioquest)

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I really enjoyed reading this review, look forward to seeing more from Mitcho!

 

How would the Kii compare to the Devialet Phantoms that were reviewed previously? They have similar concepts.

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@sixman thanks! As @firedog says not really similar concepts. From my review of the Phantoms:

- are not time aligned

- not a cardioid response, nor any room boundary compensation

- from 5 kHz to 20 kHz a +5 dB lift compared to my reference - too bright sounding

- from 20 Hz to 60 Hz a +8 dB lift compared to my ref - too much bass bump

- subjectively, the quality of sound from the bass drivers are... different.

 

There is no on-board eq for the Phantoms, so external eq would be required to tone down both ends of the frequency spectrum in order to sound neutral.

Positively, the Phantoms  midrange and tweeter do have a smooth frequency response and wide dispersion (i.e. directivity) due to the cabinet design...

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Hey there Mitch!

 

Late to the party with this comment - great read as always. You're knocking it out of the park with no-nonsense reviews beautifully merging subjective and objective analysis with experience and education!

 

Interesting to see the convergence of numerous functions into the 1 box - DAC (AES/EBU and ADC/DAC steps when processing analogue), DSP, amplifier (Ncore), and speaker. No doubt the technology is capable of fantastic sound. (Too bad I still haven't had a chance to listen to them yet - will try to pop by Liquid Sound another time!)

 

A geeky question ? which I haven't seen the answer to elsewhere... I've read/seen advertised that the DSP processing is being performed in 40-bit floating point, but have not seen if it's listed at what samplerate the conversion is done with analogue input or what rates the internal converter handles digital input from the AES/EBU. Assuming we have a true hi-res 24/96 album fed into the device, what happens to frequencies above 22.05 or 24kHz? Does the DSP operate up there?

 

Obviously the whole notion of high samplerate audibility is suspect for Homo sapiens... But for a system like this, is there even a difference feeding anything more than 44/48kHz digital/converted analogue into it?


Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

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2 hours ago, Archimago said:

A geeky question ? which I haven't seen the answer to elsewhere... I've read/seen advertised that the DSP processing is being performed in 40-bit floating point, but have not seen if it's listed at what samplerate the conversion is done with analogue input or what rates the internal converter handles digital input from the AES/EBU. Assuming we have a true hi-res 24/96 album fed into the device, what happens to frequencies above 22.05 or 24kHz? Does the DSP operate up there?

Acc'd to this at Sound on Sound it's all done at 192k.

 

But in other places Bruno P. has said the Kii DACs work similarly to those in the Mola Mola, which is described here (where he also speculates about a future  item like the Kii for the audophile market) and here.

 

I also asked Kii if there was a "native" sampling rate of the Kii DACs that would be beneficial to feed the Kii (in other words, to upsample all input to that rate before it got to the Kii) and they said no. They said it has a proprietary ASRC that deals differently with each incoming sample rate, and the best thing to do is just let each format/sample rate come into the unit unchanged. 

 

I'm not sure how any of that lines up with the D/A, A/D, DSP supposedly being done at 192k and 40 bit floating point. 

 

 


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 >SOtM Lan Isolator>Bricasti M5 Network Player >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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On 8/17/2018 at 10:57 AM, Jud said:

On a little bit of a side note: Did The Gramophone used to be located in downtown Edmonton in or near the Manulife building?  The name sounds awfully familiar, and I believe I may have stopped in there for classical CDs and entertaining music and audio discussions when I was doing a lot of work in Edmonton at the end of the 80s through the early 90s.

 

Next time I'm in the Gramophone I'll ask Bryan if he used to be located there. They've moved around a few times over the years and are currently in a nice spot just south of Whyte Ave. I was hoping to listen to the Kii Three's the last time I was in there but he was a bit busy and then he must have just shipped them out for this review shortly thereafter.


CAPS Pipeline with HDPlex Linear PSU running Win10 64 bit, AO 2.0, RoonServer, HQPlayer -> T+A DAC8 DSD -> Linear Tube Audio's MicroZOTL2 Headphone Amp with Mojo Audio's Illuminati Linear PSU -> Focal Utopia/Hifiman HE-1000/Audeze LCD-3

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On 8/24/2018 at 11:22 AM, firedog said:

Acc'd to this at Sound on Sound it's all done at 192k.

 

But in other places Bruno P. has said the Kii DACs work similarly to those in the Mola Mola, which is described here (where he also speculates about a future  item like the Kii for the audophile market) and here.

 

I also asked Kii if there was a "native" sampling rate of the Kii DACs that would be beneficial to feed the Kii (in other words, to upsample all input to that rate before it got to the Kii) and they said no. They said it has a proprietary ASRC that deals differently with each incoming sample rate, and the best thing to do is just let each format/sample rate come into the unit unchanged. 

 

I'm not sure how any of that lines up with the D/A, A/D, DSP supposedly being done at 192k and 40 bit floating point. 

 

 

 

Thanks for the links and information @firedog. Interesting info on the Mola Mola. Hopefully there will be some measurements ahead... Impressive claims!

 

192kHz internal processing with jitter-free SRC for the Kii Three "sounds" excellent ?.


Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

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