Bass. Any informed Kii Three discussion based on actual experience will invariably begin in the bassment. Here the capabilities of this compact box border on the absurd. Incroyable! It's not merely the defiant extension but overall bass quality. Think Starship Enterprise; going where most haven't gone before. Obviously this is small not big-woofer bass. It's quick, clean, punchy and very controlled but lacks the chest impact shove and thump of mega front-firing woofers. But once more, small-woofer bass to 25Hz in a 100m² space is simply off the charts. What's more, few of us recognize how conditioned we are by room/bass interference. We've never yet heard those issues so removed. We have no true reference though a premium headphone setup would be quite telling for contrast. Still, it would only show us that we have speaker problems, not what they'd sound like properly sorted, in that room not inside our skull. The degree of interference obviously depends on each setup. In general, clients with the proverbial 'too much speaker for the room' suffer worst. They know it because it's so obvious. But even those with relatively benign speaker/room combos are affected. Whether they'll consider the effects' sudden removal pure gain is simply unpredictable. Why? Because some of it is warmth. It's the stuff that occurs behind each note. Since music consists of many notes, it ends up between them as a blurry resonant field or cloud. Much of this happens in the midrange. It gets thicker and fuller like a mild dose of empty bathroom reverb. To some, this texturization is very desirable.

It's precisely where the Thrii does its cleanup activated by that directional/cardioid radiation down into the upper bass and mid bass. It cancels out not only obvious front-corner loading and much front-wall ricochet in the low bands. An immediate side effect is to also strip out their overlay and mix-up with the vocal range. That's how faux warmth dissipates as though the RT-60 value of your room—its resonant signature—reduced. The result is astonishing clarity and cleanliness. Like a vacuum cleaner, it sucks out the connective cobwebs which cause blur. Put in dusty attic terms, no blur is a solid win. Sold! Put in loss-of-warmth terms, it plays on what we're used to. Some will focus on what's gone. They'll miss it and with it, lack full appreciation for what's laid bare in turn. Others will say good riddance and embrace the newfound transparency without hesitation. To my mind there's no question about which is more correct and true: the Kii. Alas, hifi isn't about a heavy dose of sodium thiopental aka truth serum. It's no more or less than a hedonistic pursuit of personal pleasure. Right is whatever you like better, period.

With the Kii Three, these amps and stands all disappear. Of the source stack, only the iMac or SD card reader would remain. No need for a massive rack. Lab12 Gordian conditioner front right fed the Thrii.

Cleanliness is next to godliness. To some, this motto could seem a tad scratchy; like a starched then buttoned-up shirt collar. It could take some acclimation. The effect is easily audible. Personal reactions to it are simply unpredictable. But even those terminally attached to lesser directness, coarser sorting exactitude and lower clarity to maintain their fuzzy warmth will have to admit that the sheer intelligibility and linearity of Kii's bass are dramatic and haunting. This segues into the Three's second potent achievement: timing. Even a passive 1st-order speaker with individually movable driver modules for perfect physical time alignment in the seat incurs phase errors from its crossover. Only an active DSP speaker can escape that. It's why all digital speaker-correction systems invariably address phase errors to improve the impulse response. Hearing a speaker with timing superior even to minimum-phase low-order passive xovers translates into ultimate image specificity. It's as though both the x and y axis—left/right and front/back—recalibrate in much finer scales. Virtual sound sources that previously overlaid by occupying the same space suddenly separate out into two very discrete locations. They may be quite close but very clearly not the same. In fact, they may also occur at clearly different distances to the listener which previously was entirely inaudible. The direct upshot of this reduction of phase errors is a higher level of virtual soundstage holography or three-dimensional mapping of recorded space. It's a very demonstrable benefit of DSP over passive filtering. Like it is with bass extension, the only true competitors here would be other fully active speakers, perhaps Genelec's 8351 in the monitor category. In short, as an ultimate recording monitor doing double duty for home, the Kii is a truly freakish soundstager. For a visual, think of the alien astronaut in Ridley Scott's Prometheus who launches the massive hologram of outer space to plot his course. With the Three and a premium recording, you'll feel as close to his chair as 2-channel hifi can get with a small speaker.

Getting there another way. Owning Nord Acoustics' ~€2'000 nCore 500-based monos, I could drive the Mythology 1 with something very close to the Three. As an aside, these Nord monos are Bel Canto's $5'000/pr REF600 with a different input buffer. Even at their direct-sales price, a set of 12 monos as are active in the Kii already books €12'000: more than what the Three with Controller sells for. Coming off Metrum's superlative R2R DAC with variable reference voltage and unique less/least-significant bit processing, I could duplicate much of the Kii Three sound with the EnigmAcoustics monitors. Expected losses with our kit were bass extension, bass purity/linearity and some midrange shadowing from room/port effects. Gains were in top-end air, decay lengths and upper harmonic content. Because the M1 and our room play nice together to suffer no big issues, on balance I'd call this a well-matched A/B. On price however, getting there with our stack meant twice the coin. Replacing the nCore 500 amps with the Pass Labs XA-30.8 threw another €4'500 on the pyre to hit €25'000. But it also went where the Three won't go: a certain aspect of tone body whereby the class A amp outdoes its class D challengers. This is a different aspect of warmth. It's not a function of what occurs around tones by way of room-induced reverb/elasticity whose class D opposite is dryness from far higher damping. It's a matter of what happens inside each tone by way of more body and even more sophisticated upper harmonics. The Kii, obviously, 'sounds' like class D nCore. In fact, it does so even more than passive speakers driven likewise. Here, each driver's voice coil sees its very own nCore channel without any crossover parts in-between. The result is nCore pure.

This shows the air volume facing the Kii Three in our main listening space.

This isn't an aspect directly addressable with Kii's EQ. One can't nip'tntug the midband because a single EQ point (which isn't provided) would be only a notch filter in the first place; and multiple attack points to dial in more specific deviations à la FabFilter aren't part of this coding. Kii favour a linear midband. By reducing bass and treble at user-definable knees, one may increase the midband's relative prominence (to make it bigger, you make what surrounds it smaller). Alas, to arrive at subjective linearity, our setup increased the extremes. Adding midband prominence with a bass and treble roll-off would have meant a dull top end, then eaten into the astonishing bass power of which this room wanted the full dose. Driving our Albedo Aptica transmission-line Accuton compact two-way towers with the Nords netted nearly equal bass extension to the Kii, superior treble but not quite the astonishing degree of 'holographic' imaging. Despite their minimum-phase crossovers, the Italians still couldn't do it as sorted and pure. Now we have established that, granting some reasonable give'n'take1 and starting with a benign big room plus the usually counter-domestic ability to accommodate free-space speaker positioning, the Kii Three's performance can be matched using 'analog-era' gear. Now it just demands at least twice the coin (here I haven't yet factored more power cords, cables and equipment support). What happens if the room shrinks a lot and speakers suddenly must hug the front wall?

1 An undeniable advantage of Kii's much reduced bass interactions with the front wall and front corners is a non-lumpy response even way off axis. Strategic setup of conventional boxes can minimize room issues for the sweet spot, perhaps even two or three chairs. However, very often that linearity gets badly breached once one moves outside the ideal window. With the Kii, listening can be literally afoot, moving about a space freely without encountering those very typical issues of hot spots in various locations. Depending on user profile, that behaviour alone could seal a deal.