Kii Audio Three Monitors
When Bill Parish of GTT Audio and Video asked me to review his Kii Audio Three active loudspeakers, my first response was, "What took you so long to ask?" You see, I'd been keeping an eye on this German loudspeaker since their debut at the Munich High End show some years ago. The only person more excited than I was at that time was Parish himself.
Over the next few years I heard the Kii's under various conditions, including tough venues like audio shows. In each case the Audio Three's always impressed me. And when Parish told me he'd become the US distributor, I was glad for him and myself. Bill lives not too far away and when he got around to asking me how soon I'd like to hear them in my home, I said, "Yesterday would be great!" He dropped them off a few days later. I couldn't wait to set them up!
After Parish left, I opened up the rather two large boxes holding each Kii Audio Three monitor. These little tykes have a total of six drivers! They are located on all four sides of their beautifully-sculpted, piano-finish cabinet. The front has a 5" aluminum-coned midrange and 1" horn-loaded dome tweeter. Each side has a single 6" aluminum-coned woofer. The back has two rear-firing 6" drivers. The Audio Three's four-sided driver approach remind me of the intense love affair I had with the Audio Physic Calderas (albeit these are a miniaturized version).
Because of this unique driver approach special care is needed when handling. Fit and finish is superb as one would expect from a German designed product. The Kii Audio Threes are small in stature (16" x 8" x 16") and weigh 33 lbs each, heavier than one would expect. There's a reason for this: the six drivers are powered by six DSP-based 250 watt NCore digital amplifiers. Yes folks, that's 1500 watts of Class D amplification, compliments of Hypex designer Bruno Putzey. The supplied Kii Audio solid steel stand (photo above) is matched for the Kii Audio Three's base to sit snugly onto. Standing 27 1/2" tall, they're optimized for the ideal listening position from either your sofa or chair.
The Kii Audio Three is designed with Active Wave Focusing technology, which the manufacturer describes thus: A loophole in acoustics says that small directive speakers are possible—if you have enough drivers and you feed them the exact right signal. The THREE has a total of 6 (six) ways, front, side and rear, working together to throw the sound in one direction only without relying on a baffle. The THREEs ability to direct bass is comparable to, but much better controlled than, that of a traditional speaker several meters wide.
A series of digital and analogue inputs (XLR), are located on the Kii Audio Three's rear bottom panel along with a male IEC plug (fortunately, Parish supplied a pair of generic AC cords as bulky audiophile AC cords will not fit). A pair of toggle switches allow the user to choose between right/left channel and/or digital/analogue input. An RJ45 input jack (or CAT 5) allows connectivity to and from the loudspeakers directly to the Kii Controller which serves as the head unit. The Kii Controller has several digital inputs, coax, toslink, USB and XLR, and a volume control which are available through its rotary dial control. Additionally, the Kii Controller's sophisticated settings can be intimidating at first blush (14 presets, contour attenuation, low frequency boundary compensation), but fortunately in my case the system performed quite admirably in Flat mode. Inputs include PCM 24/384kHz and DSD64/DSD128 via USB.
Most music lovers I know listen either in their living room or a similar-sized space. Few have large spaces, dedicated or not. What makes the Kii Audio Three's so cool is they're optimized to work remarkably well in a host of settings compliments of built-in room compensation software. For example, the boundary controller adjusts bass depending on proximity to back and side walls. I set up the Kii Audio Three's, using the supplied speaker stands, at about four feet from the rear and about three feet from the side walls. Using my Sooloos Music Server as a pure digital source feeding the Kii Controller, I had the system fully operational in 20 minutes. Fine adjustments to the Kii Controller produced the best bass response I've ever heard from a compact monitor in my dining room.
Yusef Lateef's haunting Love Theme from Spartacus and Blues from the Orient, from his "Eastern Sounds" CD makes this stellar 1962 jazz recording one of my all-time favorites and certainly the best from Yusef himself. As the title track indicates, the music seems to hail from the far east. It is contemporary in terms of melody but interspersed with unconventional instruments that show off Yusef's exceptional abilities on flute and oboe and tenor saxophone. Heard through the Kii Audio Threes there is a sense of space that is rarely achieved from stand-mounted monitors. In addition, the bass was surprisingly taut and well detailed while the overall weight sounded as though it was coming from a much larger enclosure. Image size and height was spot on in a solid three-dimensional backdrop. The sound, even when played at reasonably loud levels, proved exceptionally clean and devoid of stress or strain: never excessive or exaggerated in tone or textures.
And consider that there's no need for loudspeaker cables and/or interconnects. Just a digital cable and power cords. One might think that 1500 watts is way too much power for such a small loudspeaker, but on first listen one can hear an incredible sense of assuredness belying its small stature. Simply put, there's a lot of fight in this small dog. I have been enjoying the Greg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band of late. "Live at the Fillmore East" especially. Listening to a rock band is not my usual cup of tea but I find their music enjoyable and toe-tapping. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to hear how much soul this group actually possesses.
The Kii Three's made my adventure in classic rock that much more enjoyable. The sound seemed to fill up my entire listening space but, again, presented itself neither harsh nor forward. For example, Stormy Monday was the track playing when a few of my friends arrived for a listening session. They had no idea the Kii Audio Threes were in the system. At first they looked at me wonderingly, which loudspeakers were actually playing? There on the side of them stood a pair of rather large and expensive floor standers (Bache Audio 002AB reviewed here). The fact that a pair little stand-mounted monitors could fill up my 18' x 17' x 9' dining room with such weight and resolution was spellbinding.
If you're a music lover who wants the best sound possible in an small, attractive enclosure—then look no further. The Kii Audio Three monitor is a loudspeaker more for a music connoisseur than a typical audiophile. You see, the Kii Three's ask nothing from you except to sit down and listen to them. However, if you're a stickler for the perfect sound you can tinker with the various presets and contours for countless sonic opportunities. Once again I found a slight 3 dB boost in the bass allowed me the best performance heard from a monitor in my dining room thus far! Further, to enjoy your favorite music directly from your source in such an uncomplicated manner was the manufacturer's main objective. And as far as I can tell, the company has surpassed this goal. Just imagine, being able to plug your CD player directly into a loudspeaker? Well, the Kii Audio Three allows you to do just that. The sonic results relay an incredibly clean, fast and dynamic sound that fills spaces that you'd never believe possible from such a compact design. It requires the bare minimum of cables and equipment, yet takes you further in terms of sonic excellence than any other loudspeaker I've heard anywhere near it's size and asking price. Highly recommended and easily awarded my 2017 Most Wanted Component Publisher's Choice!
Price: $12,900 with Kii Controller
Ultra compact controller/preamp/USB Interface for Kii THREE Loudspeaker.
Additional Audio Inputs:
1 x SPDIF
1 x TOSLINK
1 x USB (up to PCM 24/384kHz and DSD64/DSD128)
KiiLink Output: Power and Data Connection to Kii THREE Master speaker
Capacitive Touch Buttons:
Direct Source Access (SPDIF, TOSLINK, USB, XLR)
Preset (up to 6, user definable)
Exit/Enter (Menu Navigation)
OLED Display (full colour)
Size: 11cm x 5cm x16cm (W x H x L)
(We have tested the USB input with streamers and servers from Melco, Lumin, Aurender and Auralic with excellent results.)
US Distributor: GTT Audio Video