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Kii Three - my impressions and pro reviews

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2 minutes ago, firedog said:

Professional reviews and my personal review.

 

FYI, the Kiis are an active stand mount speaker employing DSP, and 6 drivers each (tweeter, mid, 2 rear, and 2 side firing woofers), and each has its own amp, D/A and A/D converter. The side and rear woofers employ DSP controlled timing so that there is virtually no sideand rear firing behind the speaker. The  rear  and side reflections are almost all cancelled out. Everything left is fired forward in a "cardoid" pattern, so room interaction is much reduced.  The whole setup is also time aligned, so sound from each driver arrives at the same time to your ears. And because of DSP control of the woofers to prevent over firing and distortion,  the system can play full range from 20- 25kh, with an extremely small rolloff at the bottom.

The system can also be adjusted for non symmetric or close to the wall and corner placement.

 

More info and measurements in some of these published reviews:

 

https://www.stereophile.com/content/kii-audio-three-loudspeaker

http://www.audioxpress.com/files/attachment/2609

https://medium.com/@conscienta/kii-three-review-a-revolutionary-speaker-759c15b014cf

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/kii-audio-three

http://kiiaudio.com/en/component/phocadownload/category/1-revies.html?download=7:studiomagazin-kii-three-review-english

http://tapeop.com/reviews/gear/120/kii-three-active-monitors/

https://bobmaccsblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/kii-three-speaker-review/

 

I've had the Kiis in my small listening room for about 2 months now. Am very pleased and don't miss the Devore Nines, as good as they were.

I listen in a small room. I started looking for something different b/c I wanted a system with actual low bass output (without a big rolloff below 30hz), and something with more realistic dynamics than what I had (read, "will play back orchestral music, with it's big dynamics, more like the real thing"). And something that with those attributes, that could still sound good in my small room. I was also looking to integrate and simplify - reduce the number of boxes and cables. Obviously, I also had to think the setup sounded good in general, and didn't just tick off those attributes on paper. 

Larger conventional speakers and subs weren't the solution - too big and overload my room, even with full room treatments. I've used solutions like TACT and Lyngdorf in the past - they pretty much worked, but I didn't want to go in that direction. Plus, it wouldn't really get me the dynamics I was after. 

That led me to audition the Kiis. I did a pretty extensive audition at a dealer (no dealer where I live and no possibility of home audition, unlike in other places), listening to all types of music, including tracks I think are hard to reproduce well. I ordered them on the spot.

So how do the Kiis sound? The basic words to describe them are "clarity, coherence, and balance ". The sound is very clear and detailed without sounding forced. Lows, miss and highs sound balanced, without special emphasis, and are well blended and coherent.

You really can hear every detail: 
Every nuance of what your favorite bass player is playing. Every little tap on the cymbals and tone change of your favorite jazz drummer.

Those lyrics you never could make out because the singer mumbled? Turns out with the Kii you understand them - the singer wasn't mumbling.

Quiet sounds amidst louder ones all around in the mix? Yep, those details you never heard before are audible.

There's also very good soundstage/depth, and placement of instruments in space is clear and rock solid. 

I listen to a fair amount of orchestral music. One of the pieces I used to audition the Kii's was Mahler's 6th symphony - which I'd heard performed live just a few hours before. The Kiis can produce a very loud, clean, full frequency playback of this piece, with startingly real dynamics and a decent soundstage/depth - even in my small space.
I don't think there are many (any) other systems that could. 

The clarity of the Kii's is very different from pretty much any conventional setup. The cardoid bass and precise timing control lessen unwanted reflections and improve the timing of what reaches your ears so that at first it seems something is missing. But then you realize that's what's missing is a kind of distortion/fuzz caused by room reflections and a lack of precise timing between the drivers in conventional setups. It's a kind of fake upper-bass/midrange "warmth" that shouldn't be there. 

I'd guess there's a fair number of listeners who are used to that kind of fuzz and think it is part of a "natural sounding" sound. I respectfully disagree. You've just trained yourself to think that's how playback is "supposed" to sound. The Kiis will tell you when you are listening to a substandard recording. They sound like the real thing, but they won't make your music sound nice if the recording doesn't on it's own. 

And yes, due to their DSP controls, they sound the same placed in the corner as they do more out in the room. 

Okay, lots of praise, but how good are they, really? 

I'd say this system, for a similar cost, is about two orders of magnitude better than my previous conventional one. 

Could it be beat? 
Well of course, it isn't perfect. You could spend 15-20k or more and get speakers with 3K custom made tweeters that would give you a little more high frequency extension and a little more decay. The Kii's are good at that, but I won't say they can't be improved on. 

The bass from the Kiis goes very low, as low as most subs, and is done well.  They successfully playback low organ notes or low bass produced electronically in modern recordings. More than enough bass for almost anyone. But, in the end they are small speakers and won't give you the same physical impact as a 15-18 inch woofer powered by hundreds of watts. If that's a must for you, look elsewhere.

And no, they probably don't have enough output to play loudly at full response in a large room or in one with double height ceilings.  

So yeah, you could spend three times the cost on speakers, a DAC, subs, amplification, and cables and get something that would be as good or better than the Kiis in some areas.
But you wouldn't get that amazing clarity....Oh, wait, you could add a box like a DEQX and approach it. 

But you get the point. I think for the money they are an amazing value. In a small to medium size room, or in an otherwise challenging listening space - you can't come close to beating them for the money. 
Every system has its tradeoffs. Decide if the ones made by Kii make sense for you.

 

 

 

 

Great write up, not heard them yet but from looking at the design and reading between the lines of a few industry reviews I'd say your spot on here. 

 

Its great to read a even handed appraisal like this, imo it's a lot more impactful than the over the top unrealistic nonsense you often read. 

 

Thanks 

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I read the Stereophile article a day or two ago, and I got the impression that this system, in spite of so much reliance on the included amps and DSP, got what read like an A-plus rating on Stereophile. Since the price for everything is under $12k (correct?), it would seem like a huge breakthrough in speaker/amplifier value.  I don't remember reading anything that said ".....but compared to the $75k Wilson 'xyz' model, the Kii's don't do quite as well at ______ or _______"

 

So is it really as good as the big guys?  Amps and all?

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Great review firedog, very much appreciated. My questions are (1)how do they sound with 70's and 80's classic rock? Truth in sound can be a wonderful thing but, as they say, be careful what you ask for. I'd sincerely hate having the exposed flaws magnified in some of my favorite recordings, rendering them unlistenable. (2)Do you still miss having your favorite DACs in your system?

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3 hours ago, dalethorn said:

I read the Stereophile article a day or two ago, and I got the impression that this system, in spite of so much reliance on the included amps and DSP, got what read like an A-plus rating on Stereophile. Since the price for everything is under $12k (correct?), it would seem like a huge breakthrough in speaker/amplifier value.  I don't remember reading anything that said ".....but compared to the $75k Wilson 'xyz' model, the Kii's don't do quite as well at ______ or _______"

 

So is it really as good as the big guys?  Amps and all?

 

Stands and control together are about $3000, so full system MSRP is about $14500. 

Either stands or Control are optional. You can also buy very good competing stands for less and save a little (although the included ones are very nice and do match perfectly). I'm not in the States, I got my system for less. You'd have to see if dealers give a discount.

 

As I noted, I think you can get a better system in some areas by spending a lot more. I think Kal Rubinson called them "competitive" with anything out there; that's a good way to describe it.

 

That said, for sure there are people who won't like them: people who like a warm tubey sound. They aren't cold sounding, but don't add warmth that isn't there. They're powered by a custom version of NCore amps - so if you don't think NCores sound good enough, they may not be for you. They are not harsh or clinical, but very clean and revealing - simply not everyone's cup of tea.

 

I do know of people who have bought them solely based on write ups. I wouldn't do that, but that's me. I believe the US importer has a 30 day trial offer if you deposit the price upfront - at least he did at one point. Maybe individual dealers will give you a home audition, if none are nearby.

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3 hours ago, esimms86 said:

Great review firedog, very much appreciated. My questions are (1)how do they sound with 70's and 80's classic rock? Truth in sound can be a wonderful thing but, as they say, be careful what you ask for. I'd sincerely hate having the exposed flaws magnified in some of my favorite recordings, rendering them unlistenable. (2)Do you still miss having your favorite DACs in your system?

 

They do reveal everything. I wouldn't say they ruin any music for me, but they will reveal recording flaws. But, on balance, the ability to reveal adds to enjoyment for me. On good recordings they reveal even more of the good, too, and sound fantastic.

 

I have a couple of old rock albums that were highly produced, processed, compressed, etc.,( as part of typical recording practices 40 years ago) and can hear a few anamolies revealed - like a cymbal that was sort of buried in the mix that is revealed to have a strange  artificial sound to it now that you can hear it (and all the processing) better. But that's the exception. Most recordings sound better than ever.

 

On some albums it makes you realize the recording isn't that great (or that such a revealing system wasn't anticipated), but that certainly doesn't make them unlistenable, just a little different than before. They become "good music I enjoy, not the greatest recording"; when before they were "good music I enjoy, good recording".

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I have my Kii Threes since 2 months now and I'm amazed at their performance. I bought them against a pair of ATC SCM 50A that auditioned at the same time, there was - for me - no contest. The Kii Threes were significantly above what the ATCs did for me, emotionally speaking.

I agree with firedog they are not warm per say, rather natural and precise. 

In general, I am very very pleased at what I got for the money here...not cheap, but clearly providing significant value compared to higher priced alternatives.

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10 hours ago, esimms86 said:

(2)Do you still miss having your favorite DACs in your system?

 Sorry, forgot to answer this. 

Answer is no. I like not having to think about fidddling with the components. (Although I can still fiddle with the source.)

 

The DACs and ADCs in the Kiis are custom designed for them. From a few comments Bruno P has made, apparently they are similar to the design/concept to the DAC  in the Mola Mola DAC. In any case they are clearly very good, so I don't think about "what if...".

 

I asked Kii if there was a native sample rate to feed them a digital signal that would result in better sound. They replied there wasn't, as they work internally on an upsample  to a non standard high rate, and use their own SRC and filters. And that the best thing is to just feed them the native rate of the source material. They apparently have custom designed filters for each individual incoming sample rate. 

 

So far I've found that their suggestion seems to be true. I still plan to experiment with HQP feeding them different source up-samples, but so far haven't found it to be a clear advantage. 

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11 minutes ago, pam1975 said:

best is to go direct digital in the Kii Threes vs using the analog option.

Definitely.  There is no good argument for using the analog input unless you are constrained by having only analog sources.  If so, however, you might not have the psyche to even consider the Kii speakers.

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I have heard of users attaching a turntable and phono preamp with good results, but other than occasional use, I can't see why anyone would do that. If that's your main source, the Kii would seem like an odd choice for a system.

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Thx.

No, not cheap - but DSP is the essence of mass manf. lowering prices, so...

 

Are there any specific speakers you can compare these with? (small or large rooms)

 

Also, I don't understand the fired forward in a "cardioid" pattern comment.  Do you mean the base and convex apex is at the speaker?

 

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1 hour ago, Ralf11 said:

Thx.

No, not cheap - but DSP is the essence of mass manf. lowering prices, so...

 

Are there any specific speakers you can compare these with? (small or large rooms)

 

Also, I don't understand the fired forward in a "cardioid" pattern comment.  Do you mean the base and convex apex is at the speaker?

 

 

   Scroll down to see picture here:
and

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On 8/18/2017 at 1:51 PM, firedog said:

 I've used solutions like TACT and Lyngdorf in the past - they pretty much worked, but I didn't want to go in that direction. 
 

Could you say why you "didn't want to go in that direction." ?

 

I ask since I'm looking at going in the Lyngdorf direction, namely the 2170 with their DSP RoomPerfect.

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Nice review firedog. I will add jmy 2 cents of a review...

 

I have had my Kii Three system for a few weeks now. I came to the Kii Three system (with Kii Control) from a system  that probably cost close to the MSRP of the Kii Threes once you totaled up the cost of amp, dac, speakers, cables, etc. The Kiis are head and shoulders better than any system I have ever had or have ever heard in anyone's house. They do EVERYTHING well, there really are no weaknesses. The black background and startling dynamic capability takes a lot of getting used to after coming from a passive speaker system.

 

To compare with conventional hi-fi systems, I really think you have to break it up in two ways: 1.) compare to what a regular hi-fi can do, then 2.) consider the overall design and how the DSP is integrated into the speaker so that they arrive at a product that cannot be compared to anything except perhaps the uber-expensive Beolab 90.

 

The clarity and precision with which the Kiis present music is at first a bit startling and disorienting. I spent the first few days trying to figure out what their character or flavor is. I honestly still can't really tell you other than they are just very transparent. Mediocre recordings sound mediocre, brilliant recordings will sound brilliant. I think the quality that jumped out at me first was the dynamic capability. I don't necessarily mean just when loud things happen in the music. I mean when a singer comes into a song after the instrumental intro, voices just appear with a purity and rightness, and with a proper placement that is disarming and that makes everything else I have experienced sound tired and muffled. The speakers I came from, Gallo Ref 3.5, were very good in this way, but the Kiis take it to another league.

 

Bass extension and quality is also (for me) initially disorienting for a loudspeaker. The Kii give the kind of clarity and texture in the bass that I have only ever experienced in top notch headphones. This similarity I can only attribute to the fact that the relative freedom from room interractions is something I've only ever heard with headphones, as all other speakers behave in a fundamentally different manner. Up until the Kii Three, the best quality bass I can remember from a  speaker is the Vandersteen 5 at an excellent dealer. The Vandersteen of course has self-powered integrated subwoofers with extensive tunability for room placement. Still, the Kii offers a definition and vitality I don't remember from the Vandetsteens. The Vandersteens obviously had more impact with their opposing 12 in drivers, but it is also a huge floorstander. 

 

So, with the Kii Three you have a not inexpensive, but also not an obscenely priced audio system. As firedog referenced, you can get speakers with far more exotic and esoteric drivers, but as the Stereophile review mentioned, the final product likely won't be any more compelling. What the Kii team has done in my mind is finally deliver on the decades old promise that digital audio can do things that analog simply cannot. Beyond their use of excellent DSP crossovers and driver calibration, the Kii simply energizes a room in a way that makes mores sense than just about any other speaker on the market. On top of that, execution of all the more conventional aspects of speaker design are also carried out with absolute perfection. 

 

If you have read this far then you can tell I am smitten with my purchase. I am looking forward to moving them upstairs into my main living room. Up until now they have been in a smaller, extra room while I have some remodeling done upstairs. When the move into my living they will have to be moved much closer to the back wall and one will even be almost in a corner. With these speakers, I know they will sound every bit as good with this compromised placement as they do in their current room. That is something I couldn't say about any other speaker.

 

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4 hours ago, jaspal kallar said:

Could you say why you "didn't want to go in that direction." ?

 

I ask since I'm looking at going in the Lyngdorf direction, namely the 2170 with their DSP RoomPerfect.

I wanted something more dynamic and more full range than what I had. The Lyngdorf wouldn't have gotten me there as I would still have the same speakers. My previous setup wasn't lacking in power to drive the speakers, the speakers simply weren't full range and didn't have the dynamic ability the Kiis have.

 

1 hour ago, Ralf11 said:

that animation does not show a cardioid pattern

The picture in the other link does. The animation is showing that the propagation is to the front and not to the sides or back.

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43 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

got it - I'm impressed that Putzey's moved into speakers

He previously was part of the team that made the Grimm LS1

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I run my Kii Three speakers with Aries femto  streamer, cd-drive, my TV and also together with turntable/RIAA and 30-40 year old vinyl. All together 3 digital inputs and one analog input , analog XLR direct to speakers, all controlled from the Kii Control.  The speaker stands are filled with sand and four extra small rubber dampers under each speaker lifted the speakers 3mm over the rubber gasket on the top plate. This has optimizes the sound  and made the soundstage even bigger and also prevent resonance from floor to the turntable. I have also made  a stainless steel, angled stand for the Kii Control which allows me to see the display / db number from ny listening position.  Love the sound from this setup!

IMG_2795.jpg

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17 hours ago, firedog said:

I have heard of users attaching a turntable and phono preamp with good results, but other than occasional use, I can't see why anyone would do that. If that's your main source, the Kii would seem like an odd choice for a system.

 

The Aries Femto usb to Kii Control is still my main source  but the turntable / RIAA also sound as good as ever direct into the XLR  in each speaker. As long as all sources are controlled by the Kii Controll (digital preamp) this is no problem at all.  No reason not to include the turntable if you using the Kii Three's... In my system also the vinyl sounds very impressive and after I got my resonance problems from the Kii stands exposed to my floor and to the pickup solved, I have even played  more vinyl than I have done for a long time.

 

However the next upgrade could maybe be the Aries G2. I'm looking forward to demo this new streamer.

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6 hours ago, atletico said:

I run my Kii Three speakers with Aries femto  streamer, cd-drive, my TV and also together with turntable/RIAA and 30-40 year old vinyl. All together 3 digital inputs and one analog input , analog XLR direct to speakers, all controlled from the Kii Control.  The speaker stands are filled with sand and four extra small rubber dampers under each speaker lifted the speakers 3mm over the rubber gasket on the top plate. This has optimizes the sound  and made the soundstage even bigger and also prevent resonance from floor to the turntable. I have also made  a stainless steel, angled stand for the Kii Control which allows me to see the display / db number from ny listening position.  Love the sound from this setup!

IMG_2795.jpg

 

Looks fantastic, and great job on the stand for the Kii Control...

 

But this raises a question -- if I understand how the Kii Control works, wouldn't it be more useful if the Kii Control were two components? I'm thinking one near your components and the speakers, and another (hopefully) wireless controller with the source switching and volume control? This would allow you to control volume at your listening position...

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44 minutes ago, ds58 said:

 

Looks fantastic, and great job on the stand for the Kii Control...

 

But this raises a question -- if I understand how the Kii Control works, wouldn't it be more useful if the Kii Control were two components? I'm thinking one near your components and the speakers, and another (hopefully) wireless controller with the source switching and volume control? This would allow you to control volume at your listening position...

 

The Kii Control has an IR receiver on it. I use a cheap, generic $7 Apple remote with it. You can control volume (up and down buttons), mute off/on (play/pause button), and source (side to side) with it. You do have to leave the butt of Kii control exposed or at least direct line of site visible for this to work. 

 

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