For this special, we’re focusing on the massive range of studio monitors – the heart and soul of any studio set-up – glancing our eyes over everything from entry level creative reference monitors through to high-end solutions for mixing and mastering professionals.
Kii Audio Three
Key Features: If there is one takeaway from this instalment of Mixdown’s Picks, it’s that Studio Monitors are an area that is showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to technical innovation. Nowhere is this more apparent then in the case of Kii Audio and their ground breaking Three series.
To say that Kii has been making some waves in the audio world would be an understatement. The German start-up has only been on the scene a few years, but is home to some of the biggest brains in the audio industry, most notably, Bruno Putzeys, who is primarily known for inventing the game changing Hypex Ncore amplifier module that put the whole industry on notice, resulting in a paradigm shift in the world of power amplifiers/high end active speakers. As CTO at Kii, Bruno has now turned his attention to loudspeakers and what the brand has been able to achieve with the Three active monitor has pushed studio monitor and audiophile speaker design into largely uncharted territory-and the results are out of this world.
With a full range frequency spectrum of 25hz to 20kHz and four subwoofers packed into each unit (it’s technically a three-way monitor if you count the four subs as a single speaker), the Three defies its size with its mastering-tier bass abilities. In fact Kii Audio have apparently disregarded Hoffman’s Iron Law of loudspeaker construction altogether by offering a compact unit (40x20x20cm) with truly excellent bass and a heightened sensitivity, undoubtedly through Bruno’s amplification erudition. The Three offers XLR or AES3 inputs, and the undeniable quality of the Kii’s onboard AD/DA conversion is sure to make converts out of many a technophobe.
The Three’s ‘Kii’ selling point (see what I did there?) is in its tight, cardioid sound dispersion pattern, right down to 50hz. If you are fresh to the world of high-end monitor specifications, believe us when we say that this is an astonishing feat and something of a massive breakthrough at the technical level. By being able to operate in cardioid all the way down to 50hz (for many sources, the cut off frequency for useable information), the Three is able to nullify the influence of the room in a way that would have been hard to comprehend just a few years ago, providing the kind of accuracy at the listening position that really needs to be heard to be believed.
Although Kii Audio are keeping their cards pretty close to their chest on just how they were able to achieve this, its fair to assume that there is some pretty sophisticated frequency cancellation occurring via the Three’s onboard DSP and German-engineered polyurethane interior. The results are breathtaking to say the least, resulting in a monitoring option where it’s median quality is already a cut above and only gets better as room and placement improves. That’s not to say that the Kii Three doesn’t benefit from a treated room just as much as any loudspeaker- in a studio environment, it makes sense to extract every bit of accuracy possible from your monitoring chain. When the ceiling for quality is this high, who knows where the limits of accuracy lie.
If you were of mind to commit an acoustic sin like sticking your Three monitors against a wall or in the corner of your room, Kii have your back by including a ‘boundary’ switch (which tailors the DSP and bass output of the monitor accordingly), but with monitors this nice, it makes sense to do the right thing.
Mixdown Says: When it comes to the audio quality of the Three, it’s well and truly in its own lane, providing surgical detail and an incredibly refined soundstage that is a pleasure to work from. The lack of off axis frequencies blurring the stereo field allows for pinpoint accuracy across the soundstage, really letting you inhabit and dissect the minutiae of a mix in an intimate way. I’m talking about being able to hear exactly where on the snare drum each stick hit is placed.
Bad recordings will have nowhere to hide, good mixes will sound amazing and will translate truly and broadly on regular consumer gear, and you’ll be able to approach any stage of the audio engineering process knowing that you’re hearing everything there is to hear. Old heads may scoff at the amount of onboard DSP, but the only catch you’ll find here is in the price and that has more to do with the broader audio industries flexible interpretation of the word studio’ more than it does anything from Kii’s end.
It can be argued that the recent surge in home recording (and the influx of fresh blood) has potentially resulted in a gap in perception, when it comes to the economies of scale found in the higher end of Pro Audio. This is particularly apparent in the perceived value of professional level studio gear- mics and monitors being some of the most obvious examples of this recent phenomena.
The truth of the matter is that for the professional studio or mix environment, time is money and every mix revision or moment of indecision is time (and money) wasted. In these kinds of professional settings, accuracy and quality aren’t just adjectives, they are tangible earners and in that respect, monitors like the Kii Three are not a luxury but a necessity. Besides, the right project has the potential to pay these off ten fold.
Overall: Having already found a home in major studios around the world – as well as that of legendary mastering engineer Bob Katz, himself an authority in the world of studio monitoring – it’s safe to say that the future looks pretty bright for the German upstarts, and their generational design talent, Bruno Putzeys. Even this early in the game, the studio world has already been made richer by Kii’s contributions and the Three is testament to that.
Visit Sonic Purity to find out more about Kii Audio today.