Genesis Technologies Genesis III loudspeaker Page 2
Clearly, the Genesis III is an innovative and ambitious design, with virtually every component created from scratch for the project. The speaker's overall appearance, workmanship, and build quality are outstanding.
The IIIs ended up exactly a third of the way into the 21'-deep and 14.5'-wide listening room. This produced the best coupling between the loudspeaker and the room, and ameliorated the III's tendency toward too much bass. This placement was farther into the room than I am accustomed to. Most loudspeakers work best about 45' from the rear wall in my room. The IIIs were also placed closer together than usual, just 75" apart on center. My listening seat was 9' from the center of the IIIs. Listening height was 36", perhaps a little lower than optimum. The tonal balance was more uptiltedthough never brightat a higher listening axis. Sitting in a higher chair produced a slightly more immediate presentation.
After the IIIs found their optimal spot in my room, I gave them a workout on a wide variety of music. It was immediately obvious that this wasin many waysa very special loudspeaker.
I'll start with the III's best qualities. What struck me first was the total absence of the ubiquitous dome-tweeter treble sound. After hearing the Genesis III's clean, quick, and extraordinarily smooth treble, it will be difficult to live with dome tweeters again. The Genesis III was sweet and smooth in the upper octaves, yet highly detailed and resolving of musical information. More importantly, the treble never called attention to itself as existing separately from the music. Many dome tweeters make the upper octaves sound somehow detached, so that they ride on top of the music's harmonic structure rather than integrating with it. Years of listening to dome tweeters make one inured to their shortcomings; the Genesis III's spectacular treble performance was a revelation.
Specifically, the midrange and treble were completely devoid of grain, glare, hardness, and other unmusical characteristics that give reproduced music an unnatural edge. You know what I mean: violins that sound as though they are played with hacksaw blades, cymbals that are rendered as bursts of white noise, female voice that is wiry, strident, and sibilant, and piano that is overlaid with a glassy hardness. The Genesis III's presentation was the antithesis of these characteristics. Music was sweet, smooth, and natural. The beautiful instrumental textures captured on the Harmonia Mundi LP of Handel's Water Music (HMU 7010) were a good example of the III's remarkable ability to present natural timbres. Not only were the strings and woodwinds totally devoid of grain, but the III also superbly differentiated the tonal colors of the various instruments. No common signature overlaid the music that could blur the distinction between instrumental textures. The natural portrayal of instrumental textures allowed the III to reveal fine gradations of tonal color.
The overall balance was toward a laid-back presentation, particularly in the upper midrange and treble. The III had less energy in the midrange and treble than the CS3.6, even with the midrange- and tweeter-level controls turned up. This gave the III a more distant, less immediate perspective that I enjoyed. The difference in treble energy between the IIIs and the Lynnfield 500Ls was dramatic: the 500Ls were forward to the point of being pushy, while the IIIs were relaxed.
Despite the treble smoothness, the upper octaves were infused with a wealth of fine detail. The IIIs resolved inner musical information with finesse. The treble was like a finely filigreed silk, adorned with intricately detailed patterns and detail. Cymbals had a decidedly softer sound than usual, allowing the instrument's true timbre to emerge. When I put on a jazz recording I'd made and heard the hi-hat and ride cymbals, I was struck with how similar they were to my memory of the real instruments. My immediate reaction was that this is how this recording should be reproduced.
I find that the edgy treble of many loudspeakers determines the upper loudness limit. Not so with the IIIs. I could listen to music at much higher levels than I am usually accustomed to without strain and fatigue. I also didn't feel a sense of relief after long listening sessions came to an end.
Note that the user can tailor the amount of treble energy from the rear-panel control. Those listeners preferring a brighter balance can easily make the III more to their liking. Further, a slight toe-in will produce a more forward treble balance. The balance described here was with the control at 11:00, just a shade under the 12:00 "flat" position, and with no toe-in.
Transient speed was superb. The razor-sharp steepness of transient attack, coupled with an equally fast decay, provided a sense of life and immediacy. Despite the III's quickness, transients were never unnaturally etched or brittle. Acoustic guitar is highly revealing of a loudspeaker's speed, because a dulling of the attack robs the instrument of its life and palpability. Conversely, an etched loudspeaker overemphasizes the attack to the point that it becomes fatiguing. The LP Friday Night in San Francisco (Columbia FC 37152), performed by John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, and Paco De Lucia, revealed the III's combination of quickness and lack of edge.
Soundstaging was spectacular. The III opened a vast space before me, replacing my listening room with the recorded acoustic. Depth was particularly impressivethe III presented distinct images far to the soundstage rear. It also conveyed the size of a symphony orchestra. The III was the antithesis of constricted, small, or pinched. In its ability to present space and depth, the III was better than even the Thiel CS3.6es.
Despite their ability to sound "big," the IIIs presented realistic image sizes. The Sheffield direct-to-disc LP Michael Newman, Classical Guitarist (Lab 10) had an uncanny sense of realism through the IIIs, with a small, tightly focused image dead center between the loudspeakers (footnote 1).
The III could also play very loudly without congestion. Orchestral climaxes were the III's forte. The soundstage remained deep and focused, and individual instruments didn't congeal into a giant roar. The IIIs retained their composure during the most demanding passagesand listening levels. This is a loudspeaker you can play at high levels without feeling strain during peaks. Moreover, the III effortlessly reproduced dynamics, keeping my attention on the music, not the loudspeaker.
A demanding CD, Trittico (Reference Recordings RR-52CD), contains superb space, wide dynamics, solid bass-drum impact, and accurate portrayal of tonal colors, giving loudspeakers nowhere to hide their deficiencies. The Genesis III's reproduction of this disc was nothing short of spectacular. Dynamics were unfettered, the soundstage retained its dimensions, and the instruments' timbres didn't homogenize, even when played back at realistic levels. In its ability to play loudly, the III was clearly better than the CS3.6 (footnote 2).
The midbass was leaner, faster, and more detailed than that of the Thiel CS3.6 or the Lynnfield 500L. The III's excellent midbass control made them sound quick and agile. Acoustic bass lines were well resolved, and lacked the slowness that can detract from music's rhythmic energy. The CS3.6, however, had more weight in the midbass, a characteristic that gave bass guitar more of a "purring" quality.
Although I really liked the Genesis IIIs for the qualities I've just described, they had one shortcoming that interfered with my enjoyment of some music: There was too much bass. It wasn't a midbass fatness that is characteristic of an underdamped loudspeaker, but just too much energy between 30Hz and about 80Hz. Kick drum acquired a bit of a boom, and the lower registers of some instruments tended to stick out. For example, the cello in Gary Schocker, Flutist (Chesky CD46) went low enough a few times in the Bach E-Minor Sonata to reach the III's region of excessive bass. Electric bass had more of its energy concentrated in this region, a factor that added weight to the instrument's lower registers. A few recordings whose bottom two octaves were rolled off were helped by this characteristic, but many CDs and LPs become boomy and thick. I must reiterate that the midbass was quick, clean, and beautifully articulated. The excessive bass I'm describing was lower in frequency and not excited by all program material.
There are two possible explanations for the excessive bass. The first is that, with two woofers reproducing the range up to 70Hz and only one going up to 250Hz, their combined outputs produce 6dB more energy below 70Hz. The second possibility is that the IIIs might work better in another room, perhaps one bigger than mine's 21' by 14.5' dimensions. In any event, prospective purchasers should carefully audition the IIIs, preferably in their own listening room. In mine, the bass heaviness made placement even more criticalthe hump in the lower two octaves was worse with the IIIs placed near the rear wall, and somewhat ameliorated with them a third of the way into the room. A large room and the ability to position them away from the front wall may be essential in achieving the best bass balance.
The Genesis III loudspeaker has many superb qualities that make listening to them a joy. Its smooth yet highly detailed treble, spectacular soundstaging, and natural portrayal of instrumental timbre all suggest that the III is a world-class loudspeaker. Moreover, the III's dynamic abilities are nothing short of stunning. It combines the finesse of a planar loudspeaker with the dynamics of moving-coil design.
I feel, however, that in absolute terms the III has too much bass. Although the midbass is quick and articulate, the range below 100Hz is overemphasized. On full-scale classical music this is manifested as greater impact and power, but on music with bass guitar and kick drum the excess bass can add a distracting thumpiness and thickness to some recordings. Note that this tendency will be greatly affected by the listening rooma larger space will ameliorate this characteristic.
I found the Genesis III an interesting contrast with another superbbut very different-loudspeaker, the $3900 Thiel CS3.6 reviewed in Vol.16 No.5, p.94. The Thiel has a more forward balance, a fatter midbass, less low bass, and greater vividness. The III is much more laid-back, has a softer treble balance, a deeper and more three-dimensional soundstage, and a more refined midrange and treble. In addition, the III can play much louder than the CS3.6 without congestion or strain, a significant advantage when reproducing orchestral climaxes. I hold both loudspeakers in very high regard; both should be on your "must audition" list, particularly since the CS3.6 costs more than $2000 less.
I must reiterate my praise of the level controls on the III's rear panel. Unlike many controls, those on the III provide just the right level of adjustment to match the III to the listening room and system. Final system tweaking can be made with these controls rather than with loudspeaker cables.
With a caution about the excess bass and the accompanying room-matching and placement requirements, I can highly recommend the Genesis III.
Footnote 1: When played at a correct (very quiet) volume through a transparent system, this recording can sound strikingly like the real thing.
Footnote 2: Six of us at Stereophile just spent four days listening to nine pairs of $1200$2200 loudspeakers for our survey in the September issue. The last track of the ten-selection evaluation program included a particularly demanding section from Trittico. Many otherwise well-behaved loudspeakers fell apart when presented with this complex signal.