Stereophile's Products of 2017 Overall Component of the Year

Overall Component of the Year

Kii Audio Three loudspeaker

As Kal Rubinson wrote when he reviewed our 2017 Product of the Year in the September 2017 Stereophile, "almost everything about Kii Audio's Three loudspeaker is a refreshing splash of cool water." That's especially true if one defines refreshing—and splash and cool—as meaning "different." And my oh my, is this year's winner ever different. The three-way, six-driver Kii Three is distinct from most other loudspeakers—and all previous Products of the Year, as far as I know—inasmuch as it is self-amplified and -preamplified, DSP-controlled, and German. And, at $13,900/pair (stands additional), the Kii Audio Three is far less expensive than other products that have sat atop our annual vote. Take that, conformity!

917kii.promo_.jpg

Notes on the Vote: The voting in this category was closer than in all others except for Amplification Product of the Year—and only a single vote separated the second- and third-place products. This is an unexpected—some might say peculiar—outcome. What's interesting is that the Kii Audio Three won by racking up lots of second-place votes. By contrast, the runners-up in this field—the DeVore Orangutan O/96 and Wilson Audio Specialties Alexx speakers—both had more first-place votes than the Kii Three. One can parse this in any number of ways, but to me, all those second-place votes speak of voters who may have lacked full confidence in the Kii's ability to take top honors, but who nevertheless said to themselves, while pulling the lever, "Maybe this one isn't as crazy as we think?" Can't think what that reminds me of . . .

Finalists (in alphabetical order)

Audiodesksysteme Gläss Pro Vinyl Cleaner
Audio Research Reference 6 preamplifier
Audio Union Döhmann Helix 1 turntable with Schröder CB tonearm
Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty Digital Hub D/A processor
Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 loudspeaker
Bel Canto Design e.One REF600M monoblock power amplifier
Boulder Amplifiers 2150 monoblock power amplifier
dCS Rossini CD player
DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 loudspeaker
Magico S5 Mk.II loudspeaker
Mytek HiFi Brooklyn D/A headphone amplifier
Mytek HiFi Manhattan II D/A processor
Sutherland Engineering Duo phono preamplifier
VPI Prime Scout turntable with JMW 9 tonearm
Wilson Audio Specialties Alexx loudspeaker

COMMENTS
stereoGoodness's picture

I'm not sure I understand the following:

"One can parse this in any number of ways, but to me, all those second-place votes speak of voters who may have lacked full confidence in the Kii's ability to take top honors, but who nevertheless said to themselves, while pulling the lever, 'Maybe this one isn't as crazy as we think?' Can't think what that reminds me of . . ."

Can someone less obtuse than I please enlighten me?

dalethorn's picture

The price isn't out of line for PotY, but given the relatively low price plus the fact that it's self-amplified *and* it's DSP-controlled is extremely unusual. After all, you're accepting not only its amplifiers and preamps, but whatever the DSP codec does to the sound.

Kal Rubinson's picture

They are, of course, inseparable and that should make one's assessment less complex, not more.

Glotz's picture

Would the unit be considered as an extension of the original DAC1 and its variants?

The Kii system does seem very next gen, and I agree, it reduces a set of system variables by the integration of its technologies. If I had the dosh...

John Atkinson's picture
Eligible products for the 2017 Awards had to be reviewed between November 2016 and October 2017. The Benchmark DAC3 is reviewed in the November 2017 issue so will be a contender for the 2018 awards.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Shangri-La's picture

Did the GoldenEar Reference speakers not make the cut to compete in this year's competition, or it was included but just not good enough to win/be nominated for anything?

John Atkinson's picture
Shangri-La wrote:
Did the GoldenEar Reference speakers not make the cut to compete in this year's competition?

As it says in the introduction, eligible products had to be reviewed between November 2016 and October 2017. The GoldenEar Triton Reference speaker is reviewed in the January 2018 issue.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bodhisattva's picture

How the Magico S5 Mk2 speakers are sitting in a lonely group of finalists which include Wharfedale, Monitor Audio and that abomination from Bang and Olufsen is completely beyond me. Sure, the $12k 0/96's sound musical, but better than the S5 Mk2's? Maybe if you're an SET guy and aren't particularly fussed about things like speed, accuracy or transparency.

scottsol's picture

The Ayre does not have “an abundance of analog and digital inputs”. Only digital inputs are available. The unit is now also available at a lower price by excluding the USB and/or Ethernet inputs.

sb6's picture

Late to the game, but I'd like to understand more about criteria. Specifically, was price or more explicitly sonic value per $ considered when each reviewer made their picks?

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