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KIH #22 – More time delay with Kii Audio

  • [Part 1 of this piece runs here – Ed]

    As it turned out, my time-delay notion had some truth to it but didn’t really capture the essence of Bruno’s dispersion control. Which isn’t surprising. I’m a techno peasant. Bruno is one of the sharpest pencils in the drawer. Talking to the man after his first demo, he explained how it exploits strategic phase shift which is a form of time delay after all. Rather than a delay line however to hold back the frontal drivers as I envisioned, his purpose is to create a cardioid dispersion pattern. He thus exploits phase cancellation to seriously attenuate rear-firing acoustic energy below 250Hz. What it means is that front-wall reflections in the lower registers are way down in level; and the usual build-up of high-amplitude compression zones in the front corners which trap HF and imbalance sound distribution is eliminated.

    In short, you could walk behind the speaker—celebrity Berlin dealer Max Schlundt had done just that during a prior in-store demo and told me all about it so I didn’t have to during the demo—and barely hear any bass. Yet it’s definitely potent and focused in the listening seat. That’s the far from cheap trick which the Kii Three nails to the cross of speaker suffering. The theme of DSP-shaped dispersion continues above 250Hz of course. Again, the purpose is to “remove the walls” (or better put, their ubiquitous reflections) and concentrate the generated acoustic energy towards the listener.

    By RDBury (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
    ‘Cardioid dispersion pattern’ – via Wikimedia Commons
    As Bruno shared, what it means is that even an acoustically detrimental room (and which room isn’t?… but apparently his own at home rather breaks certain records) no longer pose the usual hurdles. Whilst with prior speakers he really had to futz with his domestic setup to avoid a complete mess, with the Three he placed them where they looked best and had immediate success. Wherein lies the real tale. These work properly even close to the wall.

    Back to the actual physical object. It’s made from an injection-moulded polymer done in the same plant which manufactures the raw carcasses for KEF’s Blade models. Getting the original mould made was a major financial investment for the self-funded Kii team. A dedicated stand styled to match will follow but for obvious reasons wasn’t high on the list of initial priorities.

    Each side wall holds a 3-channel nCore board mounted behind its side-firing aluminium woofer. Two more woofers aim back. The socketry connections are on the lower rear edge. The whole thing is a very tidy exercise in high two-tone design and exceptionally attractive in the flesh. And, it’s bloody compact for the hardware it contains and the sound it produces. The only “wall” the Three doesn’t yet deal with relative to the usual reflections is the floor. Here Bruno still has ideas for bigger future models.


    In Munich, the pre-production proto hadn’t as yet installed the final excursion limiters so bandwidth in DSP was set to 30Hz to avoid overdrive. Final production will have rev limiters and go all the way down to 20Hz. Which leaves me a few final words on sonics. To make the main point, allow me a brief detour to Devialet’s Munich demo. Their much ballyhooed Phantom was set up low in an array of at least six. All of them were playing in unison as was obvious by the wildly shuddering lateral woofers. Whilst I was there, they played some robotic techno crap at very high levels. This produced obvious overdrive distortion and very boomy if low bass. It was so primitive an approach and so clearly aimed at the lowest common denominator that I wondered. Was Devialet’s aim with the Phantom to dethrone Bose as the new dominatrix of MidFi? This was particularly bewildering given all the salubrious propaganda on just how many engineers were involved in the R&D, how many millions had been spent and how many patents registered in the process of minting the Phantom.

    With all that excessive brain and green juice piled on, I couldn’t for the life of me figure why they’d run as barbarian a demo as this. I didn’t even stay long enough to ask whether they’d set up their array as LR/LR/LR, LLL/RRR or some other hare-brained scheme. I took my photo, then bolted in disgust, feeling entirely disinterested in the Phantom. Which probably was overreacting—I expect it to be rather better when properly set up and fed with real music—but appropriate given the cursed circumstances.

    By contrast, Bruno kicked off his demo with a superbly recorded choral number, then shuffled through different genres at proper not silly levels to demonstrate bandwidth, soundstaging, separation, low-level detail, tonal balance, timbre fidelity and impulse response. Even during happy hour at the bass transient OK corral, I barely saw those lateral woofers move. Unlike during the silly Devialet demo where excursion potential was equated with quality, these drivers showed proper self-damping and control.


    I sat both dead centre and then moved to an outer seat to check on tonal balance shifts. Nothing of note changed. What I heard was huge sound not in any homogenated wall-of-sound PA fashion but rather, in a properly mapped out well-differentiated ‘audiophile’ way with astonishing depth. Forget a subwoofer. None was required or desired. Though it rather fucks with preconceptions given the petite size, these are true full-range performers for normal spaces. If you live large and play very loud and low, you’ll obviously want a Kii Two or One or whatever forthcoming bigger models will be called. Given the demo room with its three tiered rows of three seats each however, I’d expect that most denizens of even 75m² spaces would be perfectly content with the Three. I know I would.

    Which leaves price. €10’000/pr sets you up. Before you groan exasperated, check your temper and do the mass – er, math. 3’000 watts of nCore power. That’s the same stuff which drives Bel Canto Black, Jeff Rowland 825/925, Theta Prometheus, Merrill Veritas and Acoustic Imagery Atsah, i.e. stereo or mono amps of lesser power but for the same or considerable more cashish. How considerable? €38’500 for Jeff Rowland, €12’000 for Theta. Then add 12 drivers, very advanced A/D and D/A converters, custom-written DSP, wireless and two ultra-modern composite enclosures. Hello Dolly!

    As you might tell, I’m over all the six moons with Kii. It’s a poster child for KIH. Keep it honest. Normies or reformed audiophiles—those who’ve gone astray, gotten lost and are finally willing to kiss off their giant hifi altars—now have a true high-performance option which merely needs a source to set them up for life. Or as one reader put it, lifestyle and audiophile finally marry. May ye live long and prosper!

    Further information: Kii Audio

    Srajan Ebaen

    Written by Srajan Ebaen

    Srajan is the owner and publisher of 6moons. He used to play clarinet at the conservatory. Later he worked in audio retail, then marketing for three different hifi manufacturers. Writing about hifi and music came next, then launching his own mag. Today he lives with his wife Ivette and Nori and Chai the Bengal cats in a very small village on Ireland’s west coast, between the holy mountain Croagh Patrick and the Atlantic ocean of Clew Bay in County Mayo’s Westport area. Srajan derives his income from the ad revenues of 6moons but contributes to Darko.Audio pro bono.


    1. Delighted to read your preliminary opinion on Phantom : disappointingly mid-fi given what Devialet could have done … one could see similitudes with the french car industry which obsessively targets low to mid-price mass markets, convinced that going cheap and accessible is the only way to enter the ‘dumb’ mainstream. Personally I think this whole mindset stems from the inherently elitist nature of french society, the elite ‘gracefully’ produces something for (in their mind) ‘the masses’ where the masses become some kind of pitiful caricature of low aesthetic perception, therefore it’s ok to trade in on the subtler quality aspects, no need to address the higher mental spheres, after all we’re selling to poorly educated proletarians … ‘les sans dents’ as Francois Hollande put it 😉

    2. For that price, I’ll definitely want to audition these for my small listening room. I agree – it’s a very reasonable price for what is essentially a complete system.

    3. Not getting locked into one perspective is what sets you apart Srajan. Looking forward to a formal review to see where the Kii three perches itself.

    4. Relative to Devialet, it was a counterproductive demo in my book at least and for the time span I was there. I thought it was dumb because it didn’t really tell me much about their speaker other than that it will go very low for its size; and won’t shut down into protective mode whilst clearly producing distortion already . Set up as a standard two-up stereo up, on proper stands (these sat low whilst most the audience was standing, another questionable feature), I’m 100% certain these would be a lot more impressive. I just couldn’t grok *why* they’d chosen this particular approach which ticked off all the wrong boxes.

      Bruno was so busy that evening (and I focused on asking him relevant questions) that the subject of a review didn’t even come up (nor did I pay attention when the Three will start shipping). But I’d certainly be chuffed if they sent me a pair for a proper look-see when the time comes. This thing is a real problem solver!

      • Agree. The Devialet approach in Munich wasn’t conducive to proper demonstration of their wares at all. CES was much better. Talking of twin Phantoms on Branch stands playing at a proper volume, I’ll be doing exactly that down under soon enough.

    5. One thing is that excursion potential (those “flapping wings” of the Phantom) is no guarantee for quality. Given the product’s small size and minimal cubic volume, it’s obvious that excursion is used to make up for lack of cone surface and internal volume. Equally obvious is that this scheme develops very serious internal pressurization which places a larger burden on the enclosure and the drive units themselves. As Devialet reported, conventional hi-end drivers self-destructed in their loading to require a custom driver project with engineers culled from automotive hifi. Think brute-force approach.

      A different way of saying the same thing is that, Avantgarde like, the Phantom combines an easy-does-it coaxial tweeter/mid and a max-effort bass system. (Avantgarde’s hornspeakers combine ultra-efficient tweeter/mids with self-amplified sealed standard-efficiency bass systems for a similar dichotomy and their owners know all too well that concealing the ‘seam’ between these disparate approaches requires a lot of setup expertise).)

      It will be interesting to read how formal reviewers who set up the Phantom on their designated stands configured for 2-channel playback feel this ‘seam’ has been dealt with; and for how large a space a single pair of the standard Phantom (or the more powerful version) is suitable without a subwoofer before one hits audible overdrive limits or forces the speakers into undue excursion needs.

      It’s certainly inspiring to sift through Devialet’s propaganda and learn about the extensive engineering that has pooled into the ‘lifestyle-crafted’ Phantom. Not many companies could have pulled this off. Let’s wait for the reviews to learn how far the Phantom will transcend the ‘lifestyle limitations’ audiophiles are quick to suspect whenever something looks very designed and slick and compact and fully integrated.

    Manger S1: a high-end active from Munich High-End 2015

    Munich High-End 2015: Dynaudio Focus XD active loudspeakers