Kit sound Hive Evolution £130
FOR Balanced presentation; decent detail; build quality AGAINST Needs more muscle and tauter bass; edgy high end
The Kitsound name may not be familiar to you, but like as not it will be soon. The Hive Evolution is, at time of writing, one of 26 portable speakers currently ranged on the company’s UK website – so expect to see one in or on a store near you during 2017.
What may prove more of a challenge is immediately recognising one of these 26 speakers as a Kitsound product. The various visual styles offered are, shall we say, disparate. Check out, for example, the portable radio-aping, entirely-madeof-wood, Kitsound Soul. Or the Invader, which, to our eyes, looks a lot like the plug to an airbed or dinghy.
Our feeling is that Kitsound is trying to please everyone all at the same time – but not necessarily with the same product. So whom is the Hive Evolution aiming to satisfy? The price – it’s one of its maker’s most expensive portable speakers – and build make us think it’s going for the more discerning buyer.
The aluminium chassis is a good start. Cool to the touch, it carries an air of quality and it’s one of the better-looking units in its price bracket. Not just that, it appears durable and robust too.
Take a peek round the back of the Hive’s honeycombed front and you’ll find an almost-matching fascia, with the addition of space for charging its battery, plus connecting devices via the bundled 3.5mm aux-in cable. In addition to omnipresent Bluetooth, you can use NFC for easy pairing, assuming your partnering device is suitably equipped. The supplied carry-case is a nice touch too, and the package includes slot-on global adapters for foreign climes and their oddly shaped mains sockets.
To help deliver your portable’s audio, the Hive Evolution houses a 20W
“The bass configuration creates a sound bigger than the uninitiated may at first expect”
amplifier driving two 40mm speakers and a pair of passive bass radiators. The ‘look at our passive radiators’ line is a popular one in the world of portablespeaker marketing, and a dual set-up is no longer uncommon. Less common is a speaker that skilfully harnesses its technical features and fully delivers on the maker’s claims.
And here the Hive Evolution doesn’t quite deliver the promised ‘perfect acoustic balance’. That bass configuration does create a sound bigger than the uninitiated may at first expect, but we’d like even more reach and spread. Jimmy Scott’s Nothing Compares 2 U cover is always a good listen, but here we’d like a little more reach with those bass notes. More definition, too.
A little edgy
Scott’s cover of Prince’s tune also exposes the Hive Evolution’s uppermidrange and treble. There is an edge to some of the vocals; just a little hardness that’s not present with the likes of the Award-winners in this category. This is not a trait scarce in sub-£150 Bluetooth speakers – the designers are working within pretty strict budgets after all – but it can definitely be avoided.
This Kitsound speaker does lots right, though. Its balance, though not ‘acoustically perfect’, is enjoyable. And levels of detail impress – listen out for the gentle percussion on Scott’s track and it’s there, well presented. Momentum, when not weighed back by deeper bass, is also fine, so pacier tracks aren’t held back.
Mark of progress
The Kitsound Hive Evolution is an example of how far three-star portable Bluetooth speakers have come. Rewind a few years and this likeable unit would have rated higher. But up against products such as the JBL Charge 2+, the Cambridge Yoyo (S) and even the (significantly cheaper, but remarkably capable) Ultimate Ears Roll 2, it can’t quite justify its £130 asking price.
Distinctive design is a hallmark of Kitsound gear. The Hive is well built, too
The battery-charging point, aux-in and power button are set on the rear fascia