Kit sound Hive Evo­lu­tion £130

FOR Bal­anced pre­sen­ta­tion; de­cent de­tail; build qual­ity AGAINST Needs more mus­cle and tauter bass; edgy high end

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Wireless Speakers -

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.

Phys­i­cal fit­ness

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

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