Some audiophiles carry the same demo tracks with them to every audio show. Some folks have been using the same cuts for over twenty years. I’m not like that. I usually look for new music to play at shows. This year I figured with so many rooms offering streaming via Tidal or Qobuz I would be OK choosing a couple of tracks from the streaming services that I could request as my demo tracks for this year.
The track that I found the most illuminating during this year’s RMAF rounds was a cut from Paul McCartney’s new Egypt Station album titled “Fuh You.” Naughty Sir Paul has found a way around the censor’s “E” (for explicit) rating by dropping one letter and changing the other. But I didn’t choose this track for its shock value, but what it could tell me about the sound in rooms.
While not an “audiophile level” recording, the cut I chose is a good commercial pop mix with lots going on and a big, bad, bass section. And not just the mid-bass that passes for bass, but nice “sub bass” that can easily overload an under-powered or harmonically un-balanced system. I found that in some rooms the cut was completely unexciting – the systems had little or no low bass and limited dynamics . In other rooms the sound was fine right up until the low bass began, at which point the definition dropped like a rock as the whole room began to sing along – not the people in the room, but the room itself.
“Fuh You” was an excellent track to determine if a system was right size for the room it was in – If the speakers were too large the room almost immediately overloaded when the low bass began. If the speakers were too small to even produce the low bass the sound was merely dull and boring with little drive.
The best sound I heard using “Fuh You” was in larger rooms with systems that could support the bass and the occasional system that was set up to work with the room rather than fight with it.
By far the best sound I heard from a system ensconced in a small room using “Fuh You” as test track was in Kii audio’s room. The reason was simple – the Kii system uses a directional bass array that was designed to cope with difficult rooms with bass resonance issues. I heard some listeners comment about the Kii system’s lack of bass, but in actuality it was one of the few systems that had true low bass without the additional midbass bloom and colorations.
While most loudspeakers will perform optimally in a well-proportioned and properly treated room, an almost equal number will suffer noticeable degradation of sonics when placed in a less-than-ideal (read regular) room. That’s because they were designed to work in a “good” room. The Kii design is different in that the assumption is the room will be less than ideal, so the goal is to design a loudspeaker that put the sound into the room in a way that will not excite it or generate the room’s resonances. My experience with the Kii at RMAF in an untreated hotel room has convinced me that Kii has a loudspeaker design that is special.
And as more audiophiles find themselves in spots where conventional dispersion designs do not work, designs like Kii’s that put more consideration into the real-world environments where the loudspeakers will be used could be one of the next major advancements in loudspeaker design.