Apologies for the non Naim related thread…
I recently went to my local (new to me) dealer for a musical evening with Dutch & Dutch. Due to a few others deciding to swap to individual demos I ended up having 2 hours of time to myself with the D&D 8C (and towards the end of the evening the Kii3 speakers). Steve Helliker from Ultimate Stream was my host.
For those who aren’t familiar with either model, both are active, containing amps and sophisticated DSP to provide crossover functionality and control the speakers interaction with the room. In the case of the 8C, it has front facing treble and 8" mid bass drivers and at the rear, two 8” bass units. The Kii3 has front facing treble and 5” mid bass, with two further 6” bass units on each side and two at the rear. Both speakers are designed to control the interaction with the room. The 8C uses close placement (10-40cm from a rear wall) to acoustically couple the rear bass drivers to the reflected energy from the wall. Slots in the side of the cabinet delay and vent the energy that would normally be dissipated within the cabinet from the front mid bass drive to cancel rearward radiation from the front driver – effectively creating a cardioid shaped dispersion pattern and stopping mid range energy reflecting off the wall behind. The Kii does the same thing albeit achieved by the control of relative phase and timing between its front, side and rear drivers. Both designs allow you to hear more of what the speakers are doing and limit the contribution from the room. Very clever stuff.
Input wise, the 8C can take a balanced analogue input, AES3 digital (with pass through to the other speaker) or can act as a Roon Endpoint via an Ethernet network connection. The network connection also allows setup of the speaker – DSP functions, input selection, sensitivity etc. My interest here was to how I ‘could’ integrate a pair into my system with other digital sources and a Mini DSP box was suggested, acting as Roon Endpoint and digital hub with the connection to the speaker being via AES3. The Kii3 has similar connectivity with a dual purpose XLR analogue / digital inputs. Instead of Ethernet, there are two RJ45 connectors which accept standard Ethernet cables for Kiilink connectivity. Kiilink connects the two speakers together (via an Ethernet cable) with the master speaker connecting to the Kii controller. This is a little box, with volume control and input selection which acts as a digital hub (USB, Toslink and Coax digital). It’s powered from the master speaker . Source in both cases was one of the Innuos servers either USB into the Kii controller or acting as the Roon Core for the 8C. Music was from local storage or via Tidal.
Sound… initialy something didn’t feel quite right with the 8C with bass and this was really noticeable on a Boris Blank / Malia track with some noticeable distortion on particular bass notes. Looking at the signal path, Roon was running a custom filter to deal with a room mode and once we’d turned DSP off via Roon, all was good (I did wonder whether this was down to the limited power of the Innuos server to run Roon especially when some heavy DSP lifting was required ?). Running through familiar tracks, the first thing that really struck me was the clarity and speed. It was really like listening to a great pair of headphones such was the straight to ear detail and lack of contribution from the room. Bass in particular was tight, very deep and very detailed with no overhang or boom. One of my favourite demo tracks is Song of the Stars by Dead Can Dance where an almost sub sonic bass line underpins the track and the 8C’s delivered this perfectly allowing all the other elements of the track to be heard clearly and enjoyed. The 8C’s whilst very revealing, didn’t pull things apart so that poorly produced music could still be enjoyed. Most systems i’ve listened to over the years tend to make you notice small faults – a bit of boom here, some harshness there but the 8C’s just played music. Through the evening I’d been eyeing up the Kii3 speakers and Steve asked if I’d like to hear them. These sounded very much like the 8C again with the same clarity and speed and a depth of bass had me checking that the BXT module was not running (it wasn’t). Running through a few of the same tracks on the Kii’s brought an even wider smile and more foot tapping – they sounded slightly sweeter than the 8C’s and a tad more engaging. Something I wasn’t expecting but this may have been down to different system setup – Roon via network to the 8C’s vs Roon via USB into the Kii controller. Both speakers were for me, quite revelatory on SQ grounds, providing a level of detail, musical engagement and minimal interaction with the room that I’d not really experienced from relatively compact speakers setup in a domestic environment before.
Certainly some food for thought and a very interesting demo. If i was starting again with 15k in my pocket, a pair of either of these speakers. fronted by an appropriate digital hub and a Roon Nucleus would give me all i needed. Well worth an audition if you’re tempted to go this route.