What's more offensive: less refined treble or boomy bass? No serious listener picks the first. Little is as annoying as bad bass which sets off the room to ring like a big bell. It arrives at our ears twice, once direct, then delayed in time as a front wall reflection with front-corner gain. This overlays and obscures the vocal band to become very obviously problematic. With this, we tap a hierarchy. First come primary or core issues. They're foundational problems. Later one ticks off secondary issues. They're small victories; nice luxuries to enjoy but utterly worthless if primaries remain unsolved. On the previous page, we saw a passive competitor with a dual-tweeter array. Their upper tweeter is a monopole electret electrostat which by itself sells for a stout >€3'000. On paper, we assume that treble system to be superior to Kii's. But not only can't the Enigma hit 20 cycles to compete on LF bandwidth, its rear ports don't prevent the hear-the-bass-twice phenomenon. In fact, they exacerbate it. This is doubly true for the €30'000 Kroma Julieta with its twin rear ports. Regardless of its ¾" Hiquphone tweeter's possible superiority, destructive room interference in the bass renders that potential advantage utterly irrelevant. I reviewed them to know. Likewise for prospective polishing with exotic valve preamps or amplifiers. Their luxury wrinkles don't touch upon the primary issue that <200Hz omni radiation misbehaves in most rooms not kitted out in acoustic treatments. It's only if one is rarely lucky not to suffer that issue in the first place that conventional passive speakers may reenter today's race. Now their breed might have sonic advantages over the Kii.
Still, don't underestimate its EQ potential. So much of our perception of fullness, leanness, warmth, brightness etc is manipulated by small boosts or cuts. Chasing our ideal balance with ancillary matching tends to be an endless parade of blind dates. Voilà, my pre-encounter mind space. To proceed from assumptions to ears-on actuality, our Mythology 1 from EnigmAcoustics was tailor-made to run the Kii against a premium traditional über monitor. Priced at $14'690/pr with stands, I'd drive it with ~€14'000 worth of electronics—Metrum Adagio into Pass Labs XA30.8—to already triple the sticker with requisite cabling. I'd do without a separate preamp to contain the unavoidable excess spending. Even so, I'd still lose bass reach. Would I gain elsewhere? Would the Three dominate wholesale? How about our primary/secondary perspective? Aside from bass, would it introduce other attributes which, once sampled, one regards as primary to no longer tolerate not having sorted first? If the Thrii was a new day in domestic speakerdom, I meant to understand and enjoy all of it; even if on a tech level, I can't follow Putzeys & Co. into the specifics except for the generalities we covered already.

With Lab12 Gordian power conditioner set to full auto mode.

Housekeeping. Of concern only to hardcore tweakers, the usual audiophile designer cords won't clear the Three's socketry ledge. Their plug casings will be far too fat. So my Zu Event and Ocellia could hibernate in our wooden crates. Unless you have costly snakes without bulbous heads—most unlikely—you'll run the long generic cords which Kii include and stop fussing. Still, your high-end cred will remain intact on the topic of power delivery. Like most class D amps, the Kii Three reciprocates when fed clean AC. If you own powerline conditioners, experiment. Chances are high that you'll prefer one over wall direct. Also, if you thought that class D meant running cool as a cucumber, the Thrii will recalibrate your thinking. As it turns out, the aluminium dress strips on the cheeks double as heat sinks. They get very warm regardless of playback level or session length. Slightly less thermally active is the aluminium top. High IQ runs its DSP brains and SMPS transformers hot by design. Again, nothing to fret over, just notice. Consider yourself put on notice by the Kii Controller too. Its ultra-modernist styling, perfect Apple Store finish and touch-sensitive pads are just the start. Once you dig into the menu, there's a plethora of niceties including multi-stage dim of the blue/green power indicators; auto/manual standby; variable mute; absolute polarity invert; joint/dual DSP (to set boundary gain and tone/contour in tandem or different for each speaker); limiter engage visible (flashing LEDs) or not; and most useful, the ability to set treble and bass boost/cut by frequency and dB across a very wide range with finely calibrated values, then save different choices to multiple presets.

Testing auto standby with a track of 15-min. silence ending in three gong strikes had the speakers shut themselves down with a small fart slightly before the intermission ended. They reactivated without a burp just after the first strike hit, thus slightly delayed. Switching standby to manual—for turn-off, one now presses the Controller knob for two seconds—stopped the Kii from going offline altogether. Easy. Sample-rate slingers will be pleased to know that the Controller's USB input is 768kHz ready and shows up properly named Kii Control. Switching inputs won't bump off the USB feed if you keep that playing. Finally, our silvery Apple wand worked without any pairing procedure so the Controller could sit on the rack and volume be controlled from the seat straight out of the box; or inputs switched.

Arrow points at edge which won't clear big plug casings. Polish EMI traps from Verictum Audio atop speakers.

Setup couldn't have been easier. The manual wasn't needed except for the sternest possible warning to never plug your router or other network device into one of their Ethernet ports. Kii Link isn't Ethernet! They just use the CAT5 interface to execute their own comm protocol. So, use one of the included 10-metre CAT5 cables to connect your shiny sleek new Controller and one of the elegantly attired speakers via its input. Set the speakers to left/right depending on your position. Use the other 10-metre CAT5 link from the first speaker's 'thru' port to the second speaker's 'in' port. Any DSP settings made to the Controller will automatically override the coarser manual controls on the back of the speakers. Those with a Controller will never bother with those. Because Kii's attenuator is calibrated in true decibels, you'll hear from little to nothing below 40 on the dial. Normal levels in our space sat at ~80. If, as you should, you start your first session at 00:0 and gingerly ramp up the volume to soon wonder wtf - keep the faith. You've heard nothing yet. Unless you fouled up your hookup—in which case the Controller or the LEDs on the Three should likely tell you—very faint sound will manifest soon and then scale up. With pulsed test tones, boundary gain at 0 (no attenuation) and the low-shelf corner frequency at 50.2Hz on a 5.8dB/max boost, our 100m² room supported 30Hz flat, 25Hz only slightly attenuated(!). Just 20Hz remained out of reach and an undefined super-faint something. So no 10-metre organ pipes. Blessed relief!

At the other extreme and without any DSP contour, familiar treble reference tracks showed unexpectedly premature roll-off and very damped decays. After some experiments, I settled on boosting HF by 3dB starting at 1'016Hz. This mostly restored correct top-end energy but didn't address shortened decays. Whether a function of a lower tweeter quality than we're used to, very high electronic damping from active class D drive or a combination thereof, treble finesse as measured by the lengths of trailing edges played very clear second fiddle to our Accuton tweeters as driven by the Crayon CFA-1-2 amp; or the dual-tweeter array of the EnigmAcoustics M1 powered by the Pass Labs XA-30.8.

By now those who hoped for Godzilla-type mayhem over all competitors will have switched channels. Those of saner disposition who worship reality, not wishful thinking, will simply wonder where the Thrii reset expectations; and what stacks of hardware it would take there to compete. That's where all things Kii Three get very interesting indeed. For now, what we can likewise strike from the 'beat-'em' list is raw air displacement in the bass. Obviously 15" woofers or equivalent cone surface of paralleled drivers will dominate this small speaker regardless of DSP trickery. Having recently hosted an 18" open-baffle woofer, I had a solid reference for sheer air motion. We'll also strike the type of midrange warmth/saturation that's really an amalgamation of phase shift, high TDH, overlaid LF room issues and strongly voiced electronics. At this early juncture of getting acquainted with the Thrii, one already enters the 'different' domain and from there soon proceeds to undeniably 'better'.

Kii Control with USB cable from iMac, coax from Soundaware SD card transport and CAT5 to (left) master speaker. The shown level equated to below 'talk' level, i.e. low.