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Old 10-15-2018, 03:49 PM
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Default Kii Three + BXT | A New Chapter in High End Audio

You should not be surprised if the opening page of a chapter in some future book features a full page picture of the Kii Three BXT System declaring it, for all posterity, to be the harbinger of a paradigm shift in High End Audio.


Bruno Putzeys and his creation

The Kii Three and BXT Module are the brainchild of Bruno Putzeys and Bart van der Laan. Where the latter prefers to stay out of the limelight, Bruno is a man on a mission. His vast knowledge matched by his eloquence, he is a master of his craft. His track record in the audio industry speaks volumes and could easily be the envy of many; UcD, Ncore, Mola Mola, Grimm LS1 are all creations sprouted from his mind.

At a demonstration of the BXT System, hosted by Gydotron, I had the pleasure of engaging in a long chat with this wizard of electronics and acoustics. The actual demo was rather shocking, but more on that later.

I had heard the Kii Three stand mount speaker before; one time in a rather big and high ceilinged attic, another time in a midsize room. On both occasions I was impressed by the Kii’s uncanny ability to throw a life size “in focus” stage. Realism, energetic transients and the absence of any compression artefacts elevated this active speaker well above like priced competitors, active or passive alike.

Active speakers have been around for some time. They come in all flavours, sizes and degrees of sophistication. The Grimm LS1, with its signature wide baffle, was probably the first active speaker attempting to make the room less of a killjoy when it comes to enjoying good sound. The latest iteration of this concept, the LS1be, is indeed capable of rivalling the best passive designs.

With a wider baffle, the frequency at which the speaker transitions from a directional beam at high frequencies to an omni-directional sphere at low frequencies goes down resulting in more of the bass pointing forward instead of spilling out in all directions.

A perfect speaker would have an infinitely wide baffle and the Kii Three goes about creating an approximate outcome in quite a different way than the Grimm. By controlling the phase of the side and back woofers a cardioid radiation pattern is established, in effect beaming frequencies from 40 Hz up to 750 Hz towards the sweet spot avoiding energy build-up behind the speaker in the process.

Calling what the Kii does room correction would be a misnomer. The digital signal processing is an integral part of the design and its main purpose is to make the speaker less susceptible to unwanted room interaction. For all intents and purposes all that processing creates a kind of virtual cabinet not dictated by mechanical constraints.

An automotive analogy would be the camshaft-free internal combustion engine tech developed by Koenigsegg aka Freevalve. More so than with a regular engine, movement of all engine parts is independently software controlled giving the designer unprecedented freedom in shaping performance. So it is with the Kii; the resident SHARC DSP processor enables unprecedented control over the speaker’s behaviour.

Each driver benefits from its own amplifier and this combined with software implemented crossovers makes for an extremely effective package. In theory a lot of what is done in the digital domain could be done purely analogue but the cost and size of overly complex circuits would make this not only commercially unviable but also unpractical for the intended form factor.

All new pairs of Kii Three speakers come with a controller unit. This controller cannot hide its professional studio origins and surely for home use a more elegant solution would be desirable.

Two levels of DSP are available. One level offers the best possible cardioid performance, however introducing a small delay. One level does with less processing in case syncing with accompanying video is an issue. The delay is not so much a consequence of the actual processing as it is a purely mathematical outcome of the best possible filter calculations.

It is worth mentioning that the Kii Three and BXT are developed with a very specific design brief in mind; find that sweet spot on the curve of diminishing returns as to offer the most bang for the buck without compromising on world class performance.

Although the Kii Three extends to 30 Hz -3dB, the exceptional performance of highs and midrange made the absence of bass slam all the more obvious. I remember at the time thinking “sure I can hear the notes, but I cannot feel them”. Enter the Bass eXTension module aka BXT.

Mechanically the BXT integrates with the Kii Three seamlessly. Without any prior knowledge of the system one would be hard-pressed to deduce that it is composed of two units.


Seamless integration of Kii Three stand mount with BXT floor stander module

As good as the Kii Three is, the addition of the BXT transforms it into a different beast altogether. The BXT is not a subwoofer. It was never intended to be. What it does is extend the lower frequency range to 20 Hz -3dB and infuse the already articulate bass of a sole Kii Three with heft and impact. Up to 250 Hz the BXT works seamlessly with the Kii Three relieving it of most of the heavy lifting by about two thirds.

The complete tower acts like a vertical line array reducing the impact of floor reflections. Cardioid behaviour is maintained up to 750 Hz with the top unit covering the range between 250 Hz and 750 Hz. You would never know it, but this Trojan horse of a speaker smuggles well established pro-audio techniques into your listening room.

Each of the 8 BXT drivers comes with its own 250 Watt amp. Yes, that sums up to 2.000 Watt. Yes, that is a lot of power, but as Dr. McCoy would say “it is power, but not as we know it”. The BXT System, protected by a soft limiter, can play loud, but those 2.000 Watt serve a truer purpose; unbridled dynamic range. A simple uncompressed recording of a drum solo played at volume came uncannily close to the real thing and would usher many lesser amplifiers to an early demise. “Shock and Awe” kind of captured the impact of that demo track.

With the XFi demos of the YG Acoustics Sonja 2.2 and Grimm LS1be fresh in mind it once again gave me an opportunity to appreciate the multitude of possibilities in High End Audio. Compared to the Sonja, possibly one of the most accomplished passive speakers to date, the Kii Three BXT System is very forward in its presentation. The room is energised very evenly front to back courtesy of the BXT System’s line array behaviour. The positioning and size of instruments are just right, though slightly less delineated than with the Sonja. The wall to wall sound is full bodied and carries weight. Compared to the excellent Grimm LS1be, I would say the Grimm is subtly more laidback, say less assertive. During the XFi Grimm demo, instruments appeared somewhat oversized and if you crave a more visceral experience, the Kii Three BXT will clearly cater to your needs better.

The Kii Three BXT floor standers can move of lot of air; they behave and sound like speakers much larger in size. The amount of energy they can beam into a room, the fast dynamics all translate into a sense of realism one simply does not expect of such compact towers. However, at no point are finesse or delicacy in detail sacrificed on the altar of power.

For those with older Kii Threes, a onetime firmware update is required when adding the BXT Module. For new systems, the crossover adapts automatically to the configuration in use. Just imagine taking the Kii Three top units to a friend’s house for a listening session and sliding them back on the BXT module when returning home. The Kii will let you do this.

In Europe, a complete Kii Three BXT System, controller included, retails for € 23.089 excluding VAT. A passive system with separates equalling the level of performance demonstrated by the Kii would set you back three to five times that amount easily. Read that last sentence again and let sink in that the value offered by the Kii Three BXT System might as well have been relegated to unicorn dreamland before this system came to market. Looking back at my own audio gear history I find this insight to be quite flabbergasting.

For those enjoying the mixing and matching of separates, tweaks, cables etc, the Kii proposition will probably fall on deaf ears. For those seeking world class performance married to best value, there definitely is a new player in town. Completely new and previously unheard of upgrade paths are now possible. Why not change your complete system for an amount less than or equal to that of one or more separates. Or start with the stand mount Kii Three and add the BXT at a later date when financials permit.

You do have to be willing to give up choice to a certain extent. The choice of DAC’s and amps are made for you. However the integration and synergy of all subsystems and software is of a level that, let’s be real, is beyond the reach of anything one can accomplish with separates oneself.

At this price point, upgrade anxiety should be less of an issue. You simple have to think about upgrading in a different way. Not only does the BXT deliver exactly what is says on the box, “extend the bass”, it transforms the already very capable Kii Three into an impressive transducer that challenges not only other speakers but whole systems many times its price.

Whether you are ready to embrace it or not, the Kii concept forces you to think about High End Audio in a different way. That makes it a harbinger of a new paradigm. That paradigm places best possible performance of an integrated system versus budget above all other considerations. In this paradigm DSP makes the loudspeaker. If you are ready to embrace this paradigm, the rewards are bountiful.

When inquiring about other projects, Bruno talked about his new venture Purifi (www.purifi-audio.com). “Pure Sound; improve people’s enjoyment of music by removing technical barriers” is the welcoming statement on the Purifi website. It captures the essence of Bruno’s thinking. When asked in jest if “world domination” was on the table a mischievous twinkle glinted in his eyes accompanied by a silent coy smile holding great promise. We haven’t heard the last of Bruno yet, that is for sure.

Kudos to Guido and Katrien, the ever gracious hosts, for organising the event. And many thanks to Bruno Putzeys for sharing his stories.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Bruno Putzeys KII3BXT.jpg (90.4 KB, 398 views)
File Type: jpg KiiThreeBXT.jpg (60.0 KB, 342 views)
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Last edited by Jem666; 10-16-2018 at 10:33 AM.
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Old 10-16-2018, 04:34 PM
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Jacques, I wish I could have been there with you!
Another remarkably well written review.

A candidate for your living room?
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Old 10-17-2018, 08:51 AM
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Default Kii Three + BXT | A New Chapter in High End Audio

Thank You Bart...I'm sure there will be other occasions.

The demo is still resonating in my mind. The Kii Three BXT System would have outperformed my old McIntosh setup (MC501, C1000, MCD1000, MDA1000, Proac Response D100) by a large margin. It really wouldn’t have been a fair contest. The effectiveness of having 2.000 Watt on tap in the lower frequency range would see to that; dynamic range ability reigns supreme.

With the cardioid radiation pattern and line array type loudness drop off over distance, one’s brain really has to reset itself. If I would have to describe the Kii experience in one word, it would be “Direct”. A lot of the hash and distortion, introduced by the room, is taken out of the equation. The sound is so much cleaner, unsullied. A lot of what we attribute to the speaker, amp or source is actually the room. If the interaction with the room is less pronounced, you hear more of the music, it is as simple as that.

If only this BXT system was available 2 years ago, I most likely would have purchased it, saving a lot of money in the process. Even multichannel would have become an option.

I’m extremely happy with my Analog Domain rig, my bank account less so :-). The BXT brings performance, mostly associated with unobtainium budgets, within reach of many more audio aficionados.

As far as complete packages go, I must say Grimm Audio is one step ahead with the announced MU1 Music Player. Just imagine the Kii with a Kii Roon End Point Digital Pre Amp (incl. a phono stage); that would be torture to resist. It would be a killer proposition and I would have to expand the man cave to accommodate that system.
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Last edited by Jem666; 10-17-2018 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 10-17-2018, 02:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jem666 View Post
Thank You Bart...I'm sure there will be other occasions.

The demo is still resonating in my mind. The Kii Three BXT System would have outperformed my old McIntosh setup (MC501, C1000, MCD1000, MDA1000, Proac Response D100) by a large margin. It really wouldn’t have been a fair contest. The effectiveness of having 2.000 Watt on tap in the lower frequency range would see to that; dynamic range ability reigns supreme.

With the cardioid radiation pattern and line array type loudness drop off over distance, one’s brain really has to reset itself. If I would have to describe the Kii experience in one word, it would be “Direct”. A lot of the hash and distortion, introduced by the room, is taken out of the equation. The sound is so much cleaner, unsullied. A lot of what we attribute to the speaker, amp or source is actually the room. If the interaction with the room is less pronounced, you hear more of the music, it is as simple as that.

If only this BXT system was available 2 years ago, I most likely would have purchased it, saving a lot of money in the process. Even multichannel would have become an option.

I’m extremely happy with my Analog Domain rig, my bank account less so :-). The BXT brings performance, mostly associated with unobtainium budgets, within reach of many more audio aficionados.

As far as complete packages go, I must say Grimm Audio is one step ahead with the announced MU1 Music Player. Just imagine the Kii with a Kii Roon End Point Digital Pre Amp (incl. a phono stage); that would be torture to resist. It would be a killer proposition and I would have to expand the man cave to accommodate that system.

Ha, and the Grimm MU1 + the Kii's?
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Old 10-17-2018, 02:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bart View Post
Ha, and the Grimm MU1 + the Kii's?
Ohoh... Blasphemy
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Old 11-02-2018, 01:00 PM
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BXT specs now on the Kii website:

https://www.kiiaudio.com/bxt.php
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Old 11-03-2018, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gremlin View Post
BXT specs now on the Kii website:

https://www.kiiaudio.com/bxt.php

Gremlin, welcome to AudioAficionado!
And thank you for posting this.
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Old 11-17-2018, 06:59 PM
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Bruno Putzeys talking about the Kii Three/BXT:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaoQZ72uahg
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Old 11-18-2018, 11:22 AM
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Default Kii Three + BXT | A New Chapter in High End Audio

Gremlin...thank you for posting the video
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Last edited by Jem666; 11-18-2018 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 11-18-2018, 12:16 PM
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No dealers in north America. Too bad, I'd love to hear a pair. Unless one is totally dedicated to an analog path, this is the cutting edge and future of Hifi. Maybe future trip to Europe? Just have to ditch the family for a day of Hifi escapades.
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