Kii Audio THREE loudspeaker Page 2

Feed the THREE with a well-recorded modern jazz track, such as Herbie Hancock’s ‘The Sorcerer’ [Speak Like A Child; Blue Note TYCJ-81015] and you are left in no uncertain terms that this is a highly refined loudspeaker. It is never less than clean, fast, expressive and accurate – just as you might expect from the designer of Hypex’s NCore amplifiers. For example, the tape hiss on this 50-year old jazz standard was clear to hear, yet was neither invasive nor distracting from the musical experience. The THREE takes the listener deep into the recording, unpeeling layer upon layer of detail – the soaring saxophone showed the midband to be commendably smooth and devoid of coloration, while the hi-hat and ride cymbal work had a silky, finely etched quality worthy of a product of this price.

Drilling Down
Indeed, the Kii THREE’s combination of natural transparency and couthness ensured that even the likes of Kanye West’s ‘Slow Jamz’ [College Dropout; Roc-A-Fella Records 9862061], which is a long way from audiophile status, sounded fun. The speaker picked its way through this densely compressed hip-hop tune, drilling down into the detail of the recording, making the distinctive lead and backing vocals easy to hear and pleasingly textured despite the complexity of the mix.

Almost as a matter of course, the THREE boasts great rhythmic snap, even at seriously high volumes. Moving to Kraftwerk’s ‘Tour De France Étapes 1-3’ [Tour De France; EMI Electrola 7243 8 87421 0 8] – some would a say finer form of electronica – and the THREE showed off its dizzying speed. Attack transients were excellent, especially across the midband and treble, with a plethora of detail rendered in super fast time.


It was only at really high volume that this track did begin to reveal the limits of the loudspeaker, for there are times when the THREE will bite off more than it can chew. It almost gets away with it but then you’ll come across a recording with prodigious amounts of low bass that the speaker will congeal rather than delineate – the rhythm is there but the detail less so.

In part this is aggravated by the fact its mid and treble sound so remarkably clean at high levels that you’re rarely inclined to back off the volume. In other words, it lulls the listener into a false sense of security. On such occasions, met with vast tracts of low frequency energy, there’s a sense the THREE’s bass doesn’t go up and down the scale as fluidly as it should, with a tendency to ‘one note’ things.

In fairness, small speakers can never perform miracles in the bass, especially at high levels, and it’s to the THREE’s credit (and testament to the onboard DSP) that it even tries. Furthermore, as a tacit acknowledgement by Kii Audio, there’s its recently announced 16-driver BXT ‘extension module’ destined to really bring home the bacon in the bass.

Wide Open Spaces
Soundstaging, meanwhile, is excellent. This is a modestly-sized standmount speaker, yet no one seems to have told it. So while the Kraftwerk track was pleasingly wide and deep-sounding, what really alerted me to the THREE’s ability to place stereo images in the listening room was Kevin Armstrong’s masterful guitar work on Prefab Sprout’s ‘Bonny’ [Steve McQueen; Columbia COL 466336 2].

As you would expect from any Thomas Dolby production of that era, this is a complex, dense and multi-layered affair. Things can easily get submerged, yet the THREE picked out this instrument as if it was laser targeted, and hung it right at the back of the acoustic – just where it should be.


In very many respects, the Kii THREE is the poster child for DSP-governed active loudspeakers. It has all the attributes of the best of the breed – speed, power, punch, precision and a three-dimensional, out-of-the-box sound. Yet it’s important to take it for what it is, and not expect it to do things for which it was never designed. For example, it isn’t a louche, soft, fluffy ‘comfort blanket’ of a loudspeaker that makes everything sound nice and easy.

Put on a grimy late ’70s New Wave anthem such as The Stranglers’ cover of ‘Walk On By’ [Peaches: The Very Best Of The Stranglers; EMI 5 40202], and the THREE is just a little too deconstructive for some tastes. Although it instantly latches on to the track’s infectious rhythm and sets up an enjoyable groove, you can’t help noticing the grim quality of the recording, production and/or mastering!

‘No surprise there, who knew?’ you might say, but this speaker does seem to relish telling you all about how compressed the recording is, how narrow the bandwidth is and the poor quality of the mastering – rather than setting out to capture the raw emotion contained within.

In short, the THREE is not everyone’s idea of fun, and demands serious source material to really give of its best. It won’t flatter to deceive; the better the recording quality, the better the outcome every time.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Bearing in mind the technology, connectivity, sound performance and substantive amplification built into the Kii Audio THREE, this sublime standmount surely sets the standard for every ‘system-in-a-speaker’ to match. The fact that its inbuilt DSP also allows great flexibility in the placement of the THREE is a further inducement. But with the BXT module in the wings, we can’t help but wonder if the best is yet to come...

Kii Audio
Bergisch Gladbach Germany
Supplied by: Sound Design Distribution Ltd, Cardiff, UK
0800 009 6213