May 1, 2005Genesis Advanced Technologies 6.1 Loudspeakers Anyone who has lived near or within the fringes of the species Audiophilus hominus has heard the word genesis uttered in contexts far removed from its origin as the beginning of life. In this case, I speak of the merely mortal Genesis 6.1 loudspeaker as used in a two-channel context. But even in this mortal context, the 6.1 is an entity of magic and music.
The 6.1 can be used as part of Genesis multichannel setup, which includes a center-channel and two rear speakers. Fortunately, I was offered only a standard stereo pair. I say "fortunately" for reasons I will shortly explain.
The 6.1s were delivered in two heavy cartons by an annoyed UPS man who was required to maneuver (the only word for the task) them up the driveway and into the house. I then wrestled with their bulk but found them reasonably easy to manage -- but unless you have 12 ceilings, youll find that the best way to unpack them is to cut the outer box with an Xacto knife, then lay the inner box on its side and slide the speaker out on its side. Genesis warns that this is a two-person job, and I fully concur.
Out of the box, the 6.1 weighs 136 pounds and measures 60"H by 12"W by 20"D. The standard finish is maple, with a rosewood front baffle, for a mere $9300/pair USD. My pair, with a beautiful olive-burl front, would cost $10,200/pair. Automotive finishes are available for more luxury-minded customers, from a Mercedes anthracite finish ($11,600/pair) up to custom auto colors ($13,000/pair). If youre of a mind to get the complete 5.1-channel surround package -- left and right front channels, center-channel, center sub, left and right rears, left and right rear subs -- it ranges from $28,100 to $38,300 depending on the models you choose. Whew. I stuck with the basic two-channel setup.
The edges of the 6.1s cabinet are rounded, presumably to eliminate diffraction effects. Another interesting aspect, noted in Genesis advertising literature, is that the cabinet does not vibrate when music is played through it. Theyre right: I felt no shimmying when I placed my hand on any of the surfaces. The 6.1s stand alongside the Wilson Audio WATTs I once owned as being completely inert to the touch. I suspect this is partly responsible for their purity of sound, along with the vast engineering knowledge Arnie Nudell has accumulated through the course of developing his many designs.
The Genesis 6.1 has two 1" circular planar ribbon tweeters arranged in a dipole configuration, one each radiating to the front and rear, but out of phase. The front-mounted 5" titanium-cone midrange driver and two 6.5" midbass aluminum-cone couplers radiate forward and to the rear, also producing a dipole radiation pattern. The two 12" woofers, also of aluminum, fire to the sides. These woofers are powered by a built-in 500W class-D amplifier, so you'll need to plug each 6.1 into an outlet.
I was glad I had only two Genesis 6.1s because I found setting them up in my upstairs listening room time-consuming. They eventually wound up 77" from the front wall, but it took quite a bit of experimenting before I found those final positions. Id placed the speakers a third of the way from the sidewalls in my 13-wide room, but Genesis (eventually) strongly objected to this, saying that it would place the speakers too close to each other. In the interests of fairness, I moved the speakers a bit farther apart, to 40" from each sidewall, and indeed, the soundstage did widen a bit. However, I also then had to angle them in carefully for more precise image focus. Very small amounts of toe-in improved a slight vagueness of imaging focus, so this is something each owner will need to consider carefully. I eventually moved the 6.1s to my basement listening room, which, being 23 wide, had no problem accommodating them.
Another consideration, this one to be addressed very carefully, is the surface on which one places the 6.1s. In my initial setup in the upstairs listening room, I sat the 6.1s on two area rugs with floor padding underneath. My first observation was boominess in the bass, and I spent weeks moving the speakers forward and back in an effort to eliminate this problem. Nonetheless, the 6.1s refused to fully cooperate anywhere below the lower midrange. The owners manual says nothing about this, and the 6.1s come with no recommendations for spikes, cones, or feet. Eventually, I removed the area rugs and set the speakers directly on the padding. The bass not only stopped booming immediately, but the whole midbass and low bass took on a definition and clarity that astounded me. Of course, a speaker whose specs indicate that it reaches to 16Hz should shake the room, but this was not, at first, my experience. Through a blitz of e-mails exchanged with Gary Leonard Koh, Genesis CEO, it came to light that the speakers, if placed on carpeting too thick or too thin, might demonstrate problems in the bass frequencies. Understatement.
For this review, I used my First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II preamp, Antique Sound Lab Hurricane and Accuphase A-60 power amplifiers, and Transparent Audio MM interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords. I also pulled into occasional service the Nordost Valhalla interconnects and speaker cables. Digital duties were shared by the Arcam FMJ 23, JVC XLZ1010 and XLZ1050, Njoe Tjoeb Super 4000, and Sony DVP-9000ES CD players.
With the Genesis 6.1s sitting austerely on their patches of bare carpet padding, the lowest bass came into clear focus. On The All Star Percussion Ensemble [GS CD 005], a bass drum that I had never even known was on the CD appeared at the rear stage left. Ive played this CD many times, but only with the 6.1s did I feel the earth move under my feet. This is not merely "information" or "detail": it completes a rhythmic line that to my ears had always seemed incomplete. Sure, it could have been planned that way, but it sounds rhythmically "weird" without the completion provided by the last, very low note. With the 6.1s, the fourth note completed the sonic picture.
The subways in The Royal Ballet Gala Performances at Covent Garden [Classic Compact Disc LDSCD 6065] were so obvious that I had to wonder how the performers had been able to ignore the constant sound. I couldnt measure 16Hz, but my room shook nearly as much as it does when the freight trains that run behind my house plough though this residential area twice a day. This was astonishing to me -- although Id clearly heard the subways through the Carver True Subwoofer (although not in stereo!), now I could discern in which direction they moved.
(A cautionary note: With a system capable of such low bass, Id recommend some sort of damping: I have ASC Tube Traps to enhance the solidity of the bass. To lower the noise floor of the room, place two 9" Half Rounds at the first reflection point on the floor between the speakers and the listening chair. Youll be astonished at the effect. Along with tautness of low bass will come the ambience of the recording venue, engulfing you in a continuous presentation without gaps in the layers of the soundstage.)
Speaking of Covent Garden, one of my favorite ballets is Tchaikovskys The Nutcracker. As heard through the 6.1s, the sound was tonally beautiful: individual strings were richly detailed, as were triangles and other high-pitched instruments. In fact, this was the first time Id experienced the holistic effect of both the cymbals bass frequencies and their higher-pitched metallic edges, without any white noise to mar the instruments all-of-a-piece sonic fabric. Startling. The Genesis ribbon tweeters certainly contributed their share to providing a musical presentation of exalted proportions. As well, the tweeters separated the simultaneously played cymbal and triangle extremely well, complete with the individual dynamics of each instrument. In fact, any good recording rendered the triangle so clearly that I heard the overtones waft through the air as languidly as early-morning mist rising from the grass. This purity was immediately noticeable, without artifacts surrounding the "aura" of instruments.
I found myself astounded by the degree of fine detail issuing from the ribbon tweeters, giving me a new respect for my ASL Hurricane amplifiers. On track 7 of a new SACD version of Gershwins Cuban Overture [RCA Living Stereo 61393-2], there are periods where the maracas are shaken hard, punctuating the rhythm. As heard through the Arcam FMJ 23 CD player, I could hear the maracas going shick shick shick shick, complete with intertransient silences and bloom. Nonetheless, as good as this sounded, the effect was vastly easier to hear with the Accuphase A-60 amplifier than with the Hurricanes, which sounded veiled by comparison. With the A-60 amplifier in the system, the overtones of instruments took on a realism not previously apparent in my setup of First Sound Presence Deluxe Mk II, ASL Hurricanes, and Arcam FMJ 23. It was a dazzling experience to hear the complete overtone structures of instruments, though the dynamic range of this setup was somewhat abbreviated by the Accuphase being a little short on power (Genesis recommends 100W minimum; the Accuphase has 60W class-A). For all that, in violinist Jascha Heifetzs Concertos [RCA 66372-2], the violin sings with power and an electrifying passion. Particularly in the Prokofiev concerto, the feeling that came across through the Genesis speakers was one of immediacy replete with inner detail.
One of the just-for-fun parts of the audio experience is soundstaging and imaging. When listening, I usually hope to be sufficiently caught up in the music itself and less aware of the electronics or speakers, but sometimes I really love hearing musicians materialize before my eyes. The Genesis speakers delivered elegantly, spread out in width, depth, and height. On the Bill Evans Trios Waltz for Debby [CD, Riverside CAPJ 9399SA], Evans should be on the right side, drummer Paul Motian waaaay in the left rear, and bassist Scott LaFaro in the front. This live 1961 recording has a sense of immediacy that provides soundstaging and imaging cues to the component under review, and produces the ambient air of the club. Through the 6.1s, LaFaros bass was powerful and present, his fingering easily heard. Equally audible was Paul Motians hi-hat cymbal, much farther back but solidly present. And the club patrons, who never shut up, were just as easily heard -- unfortunately.
It was the 6.1s extremely low noise floor that allowed all this detail to issue forth. In the Heifetz recording, as the music dropped into silence, the air in the room and the movements of the musicians in their chairs floated in a pool of liquid, colorless air. This is no small feat: without this combination of liquidity and low distortion, a sense of aliveness is left behind, and the resulting stiff, arid presentation reminds us immediately that what were listening to is "only a stereo." Even my brother, who rarely listens to music, sat in the listening chair and, after listening to Heifetz play several movements, turned to me and said, "I can imagine a real person playing music right now in this room."
The Genesis 6.1 may not embody the magnificence of creation, but it certainly is an instance of the magnificence of re-creation: the re-creation of music made scores of years ago. The big benefit is that, the better your equipment, the more "alive" the presentation will sound. I dont think Id ever been mesmerized by an audio system before. Now I have. I actually stopped analyzing -- something I almost never do when working -- and forgot myself. To coin a current colloquialism, the Genesis rocks! Gibraltar, anyone?
Emotional communication is paramount in nearly all musical forms, and the more effectively a component allows emotion to shine through, the more truthful that component is in resembling life. One of the vocal recordings I listen to most often these days is Nancy Wilsons Lush Life [CD, Capitol 8 32745 2]. Three minutes into the title track, she sings, ". . . and there Ill be / where Ill rot with the rest . . ." On rot, her emphasis of the t sounds like Eliza Doolittle practicing enunciation. This very distinct t presents an image of a world-weary soul resigned to a dark, brief future. All through this CD, little touches, especially of percussion, sound astoundingly lifelike, as does Wilsons voice, with feeling intact. The 6.1 was true to this life, admirable in its neutrality, with perhaps just the slightest bit of leanness.
I noticed slightly less "body" to sounds with the 6.1s than with, say, some dynamic speakers. It could be that the other speakers have a bump in the upper bass/lower midrange, but Im not so sure this was the case. With the Njoe Tjoeb Super 4000 CD player, itself lightweight in the upper bass/lower midrange, the sound was lighter than with the Njoe Tjoeb in other systems. Increasing the 6.1 midrange drivers output could perhaps compensate for this, but I chose not to, given that its 12-noon position was the Genesis recommended default setting. I didnt want to spend another month dialing in more midrange for thinner-sounding records and less midrange for thicker-sounding ones. I cant imagine a music lover getting up in the middle of Beethovens Ninth for an adjustment. In its default position, the 6.1 could sound excellent. This depended, however, on a few things.
Ive already mentioned the 6.1s need to be correctly sited, and on a surface it "likes." But nowhere does the owners manual even begin to suggest the use of spikes or cones. I was informed that the dealer who sells the speaker will help consumers with setup. All well and good, but this is no minor point. Dont underestimate the coupling between this speaker and the surface it sits on. I even tried the 6.1s on a bare floor. Hated it. It took an hour to once again move the speakers, put the padding back on the floor, and reposition the speakers. Hated that part, too. While there are many things I admire about the Genesis speakers -- perhaps it would have been easier for me had there been a nearby dealer -- I was definitely not chillin with these speakers for a long time. You, lucky owner, should have no such problem because your dealer should alert you to these issues before you even buy the speakers, right? Right.
Another matter that took time was determining the best crossover frequency between the powered woofer and the midbass coupler. I spent time twiddling back and forth and up and down, fretting about which position was the right position. I can only tell you that if I dialed the crossover frequency much below 105Hz (as suggested, again, in the owners manual), the sound became lean and, worse, the ambience retrieval in my room dried up so that it sounded as though the original recording environment had been too dry. The bass levels I alternated between were "5" and "6," as it seemed to be somewhere between the two that the sonic picture was all of a piece. As for the midrange- and tweeter-level pots, I left them at Genesis recommended positions: high noon for both. It concerns me that these dials grant so much latitude for mischief. Although I was never 100% certain that they were in the absolute best positions, by the time my listening was over I was fairly certain that the crossover was best left at 105Hz.
My time with the Genesis 6.1 speakers was enlightening. Its basement-to-stratosphere frequency response, low distortion, exceedingly low noise floor, and especially its superb ribbon tweeters, were revelations. The Genesis 6.1 musical experience borders on the mystical. Hear Genesis, experience audiophile life anew.
Genesis Advanced Technologies 6.1 Loudspeakers
Genesis Advanced Technologies
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