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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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], 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.

    4

    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.

    5

    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.

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