I was intrigued to hear the Kii Threes I’d heard so much about, and the opportunity presented itself on a recent visit to Russ' studio. I knew the size of the speakers but it was my first time seeing them in the flesh and they are a peculiar mix of both bigger and smaller than I expected. They really are quite an unusual shape and once I got past me thinking they looked like a massive version of my Western Digital hard drive enclosure I was struck by how little forward facing driver there is on one of these.
I haven’t done much research into these other than talk to Russ about his prides and joy (pride and joys? prides and joys?) but I’m familiar with the concept of a cardioid subwoofer as frequently built by live sound engineers by arranging three subwoofers in a two forward, one backwards arrangement. I strongly suspect that the four drivers on the back and sides are fulfilling the same function, with the rear two drivers using polarity and delay to cancel rearward bass with the front two drivers covering MF and HF duties.
What Do They Sound Like?
I was immediately impressed. The experience of listening to familiar material on really nice monitors is always a joy and with the Kii Threes, the width of the sweet spot is the first thing I noticed. I found myself instinctively crouching when standing to get closer to the sweet spot and really hear the sound of the monitors. The thing is that with these you really don’t need to. The sound just doesn’t change appreciably around a ridiculously wide area in front of the speakers.
The main impressions they left me with were the already mentioned unusually wide sweet spot, detailed stereo imaging with the odd sensation of the stereo panorama being much wider than the speakers, and bass extension which gets you checking the room for a subwoofer.
The bass extension (and I do mean extension, not level, the bass isn’t loud, it just carries on further down than it has any right to) is effortless. I’m sure the directional bass, courtesy of the cardioid radiation of the bass drivers, helps with this as the expected nodes and anti-nodes which usually conspire to ruin deep bass in smaller rooms weren’t as evident as I expected.
I’m a bit of a nerd so I ran some sweeps through the Kii Threes and I was a little shocked to find useful output from below 30Hz - from a nearfield! I noticed a rattle at around 140Hz and traced it to Russ’ Lego Millennium Falcon which lives on top of the right-hand speaker. I’m probably going to get a comment from Russ about how loud I must have been running his speakers to get the Falcon rattling. Never mind turning it up to eleven, in this case, I probably had it turned up to twelve (Parsecs!) The Kii Threes are louder than any near-field monitor needs to be.
Never Mind Sine Waves, Why Not Play Some Music Through Them?
Checking some tunes, my standard test tracks sounded amazing. "Everybody Here Wants You" by Jeff Buckley perfectly revealed the fast bass transients you just can’t get from bandpass subwoofers. "New Mistake" from Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk, a record I hold in really high regard for exemplary mixes, sounded oddly thin around 150Hz. So is this a case of good monitors spoiling music I like again…? Tracks from Below the Bassline by Ernest Ranglin showed how well the bottom end was working. Lots of systems struggle with the upright bass on this record and checking some known sonic faults I checked the distortion on the opening line on Norah Jones’ Don’t Know Why (once noticed, never un-heard) and whether these speakers can do anything to make Hot Fuss by the Killers not sound like an over-limited, distorted racket. Nope, still sounds unlistenable.
In terms of what I thought about the Kii Threes. They sound jaw-droppingly amazing. I should mention that after I’d been listening for an hour Russ noticed that I’d been in low latency mode. The higher latency setting makes the crossover phase linear but at the expense of latency, the low latency setting is for tracking. So I hadn’t even been listening to these speakers at their best!
Pros And Cons
In terms of pros and cons, the pros are the sound quality, the full range directional behaviour which minimises the effect of the room significantly and the optional monitor controller which I haven’t spoken about here but is a very clever device.
The only con is the price which is sufficient to put them beyond the reach of nearly everyone. For similar money you could be looking at a proper pair of ATCs, though I can’t think of a more different speaker than a Kii and an ATC.
If you can justify the expense then definitely listen to a pair, If your pockets are shallow you might be better off not torturing yourself because these speakers are going to make you want them.