Genesis Technologies Digital Lens Page 4
Not counting the four opto-isolators and IC regulators, the Lens uses 51 chips in all, all of them packed onto a single large printed circuit board. The Lens's build quality was excellent (sturdy chassis, thick front panel, high-quality jacks), and the implementation seemed fully realized. The complex board had no jumpers or Band-Aids to make it work. The Lens also performed without a hitch during the six weeks I had it for audition.
Adding the Lens to my system produced a startling increase in soundstage size, bass definition, vividness, resolution of detail, palpability, and timbral realism. The Lens made the soundstage noticeably wider, deeper, and more layered. After getting used to the Lens in my system, I took it out for comparisons. The soundstage's left and right edges contracted toward the loudspeakers; the hall's rear wall moved forward; and the wonderful ambient bloom around the presentation shrunk. Putting the Lens back allowed the loudspeakers to more easily disappear into the soundstage.
Interestingly, the Lens provided the most dramatic soundstage improvements in recordings that are already stunning. A good example is the spectacular performance and recording of Mozart's Piano Concerto 21 with pianist Eugene Istomin and the Seattle Symphony (Reference Recordings RR-68CD)—Stereophile's "Recording of the Month" for May '96. This HDCD-encoded disc has fabulous space, depth, and layering, the full extent of which was revealed by the Lens. It sounds spacious already, but the Lens made the hall sound bigger and more expansive. Putting the Lens in the signal path made the overall perspective a little more distant and less up-front. This characteristic was more apparent with moderately priced converters such as the Adcom GDA-600, Assemblage DAC-1, and Theta Chroma 396 processors than with the Classé DAC-1.
Smaller recordings benefited from the increased space to a lesser degree. Guitar and vocal recordings—"Lonesome Road" on Mighty Sam McClain's Give It Up to Love (AudioQuest AQ-CD1015), for example—had more air around the image outlines and a less dry rendering, but the improvement was not to the extent heard on naturally miked recordings made in large halls.
The Lens also increased the apparent space between images. It tightened image focus while resolving more bloom around image outlines. This quality further heightened the impression of hearing instruments in space, and increased the sense of layering from the front of the soundstage to the rear.
A common sonic thread among jitter-reduction boxes I've tried is a tightening of the bass. Jitter seems to soften the low end, reduce pitch definition, smear bass dynamics, and dilute the music's rhythmic drive. Putting a jitter box between a transport and processor tightens the entire bottom end and better resolves the dynamic envelope of double bass and bass guitar. The Lens's effect on the bass was huge, and greater than I've heard from any jitter-reduction device—even the Digital Domain VSP, which provided an enormous bass improvement.
Although the Lens tightened up the double basses and bass-drum whacks in symphonic music, I found the most meaningful bass improvement it offered was in music with kickdrum and acoustic or electric bass. A great track for judging bass tautness, definition, and dynamics is "Wishing Well" from Michael Ruff's Speaking in Melodies (Sheffield CD-35). If the bass isn't well reproduced, the kickdrum loses some of its impact and power, the bass guitar smears into a continuum that makes it harder to hear pitch, and the attack of individual notes is blunted. The song's powerful rhythmic quality, along with the upbeat and energetic feeling from the musicians, is easily diminished if the bass isn't exactly right.
The Lens's effect on this track was remarkable. The kickdrum and bass seemed to lock together in time and pitch. I could better hear the dynamic envelope of the kickdrum cut through the rest of the mix. The bass guitar sounded "tuneful," and more like a guy playing a bass guitar than an undifferentiated "low-frequency component" of the music. The way the Lens snapped everything together infused the music with a more upbeat and exciting quality. I've heard this track lots of times (it's a standard in my critical auditioning), but never like I heard it with the Lens in the system. There was just a greater feeling of people playing music, with more life and energetic drive.
Another way the Lens took my system a notch higher in performance was its resolution of fine detail. Listening to familiar recordings through the Lens revealed low-level information and detail previously unrealized. "Leather Cats," from Oregon's Beyond Words (Chesky JD130), was a good example of the Lens's resolution. Although I've listened to this disc extensively, I heard breathing, creaks, and other sounds I hadn't known were there. I didn't enjoy this record more from hearing the extraneous noises, but they did highlight just how much low-level detail the Lens could uncover.