Genelec HTS4B subwoofer Page 2

The HTS4B allowed my system to reproduce bass-drum notes with power but no overhang. The deepest notes were pitch-perfect, with a tight, rhythmic quality. Take the ominous rumblings of "The Caravan Moves Out," from Philip Glass's soundtrack for Kundun (CD, Nonesuch 79460-2). The double bass and synthesizer blend into a massive drone that brings to mind the galical suffle of camels in a cold, airless desert.

The HTS4B reproduced the intensity of synthesizer notes on other film soundtracks, adding suspense and setting a tight, anxious mood. The blend of ESL-989s and HTS4B mixed synthesizer pulses with chimes, gongs, and snare drums in the "Attempt on the Royals" selection from James Horner's Patriot Games soundtrack (CD, RCA 66051-2). The bass remained clean, solid, and deep, with no spurious noises or other signs of distress from the driver. The HTS4B delivered shuddering bass pulses during "The Carnotaur Attack," from Dinosaur (CD, Walt Disney 50086 06727); shuddering bass-note pulses from Casper (CD, MCA MCAD-11240); and a claustrophobic, pumping bass line from Insane Clown Posse's "Ain't Yo Bidness," from The Wraith (CD, RIV 9912-2).

The Bryston crossover and separate amplifiers retained the balance and clarity of the high and low notes. The single-note mantra sung by the Gyuto Monks and the powerful contrabassoon were heard clearly over the steady synthesizer buzz in "Sand Mandala," from Kundun. And on "Speak to Me," from the SACD remastering of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol 82136-2), I could easily hear the guitar, vocals, and spoken voices as separate tracks over the thundering heartbeat.

The HTS4B brought forth organ bass lines without muddying the sounds of other instruments or voices. John Rutter's lovely chorale "Lord, Make me an Instrument of Thy Peace," from his Requiem (CD, Reference RR-57D), was re-created with the delicate sonic tapestry of male voices intact. The delicate harp, rich voices, and droning organ pedals can be clearly discerned in the same disc's closing work, A Gaelic Blessing.

Even more impressive was the Genelec's ability to resolve the different tonal qualities of percussion instruments—both synthesizer and pulsing bass drum—on "Silk Road," from I Ching's Of the Marsh and Moon (CD, Chesky WO144). The didgeridoo also tests a subwoofer's ability to deliver deep, room-vibrating notes. Not a problem for the HTS4B, which did not distort the instrument's complex rattle of upper harmonics and deep resonances, as heard on "Rainforest Wonder," from David Hudson's Didgeridoo Spirit (CD, Indigenous Australia IA2003D).

The HTS4B blended well with the Quad ESL-989s. The Bryston 10B protected the panels from overloading on bass peaks. For example, the loud, raucous synthesizer opening of "Deeper Wells," from Emmylou Harris' Spyboy (CD, Eminent EM-25001-2), didn't smooth out the sounds of the other instruments or the vocals. Every small spatial detail became evident, giving the music a dimensionality not heard with the Quads alone.

The HTS4B handled other passages of low synthesizer with equal aplomb, including Don Dorsey's "Ascent," followed immediately by the Introduction of Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra, from Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops' Time Warp (CD, Telarc CD-80106). The Genelec was able to reproduce that sustained 25Hz note while showing no signs of distress or giving any auditory clue as to its physical position—the note seemed to emanate from a central point between the Quads, not from the corner where the HTS4B actually was. Like other top-quality subwoofers, the HTS4B improved the depth and width of the Quad ESL-989s' soundstage image.

The Genelec HTS4B represents a growing trend in subwoofers, allowing the home-theater owner to manage his system's bass with a central processor or receiver. If you're using a separate high-end preamplifier without a signal processor, you'll have to add to the HTS4B's cost the price of a good outboard crossover, such as the Bryston 10B-SUB ($2395). This would bring the price of subwoofering for an audiophile two-channel system into the price range set by the Velodyne DD-18 ($4999) and REL Studio III ($9000).

While it didn't quite match the REL in sub-bass extension and room-shaking effects in my listening room, the Genelec HTS4B is smaller, less expensive, and easier to unpack and move around. With the Bryston 10B-SUB's high-pass filter in play, the Genelec's deep output was tighter and better controlled than the REL's. The Velodyne DD-18 had tighter bass extension and includes a sophisticated built-in equalizer, test signals, and setup instructions. While these additional features aren't needed for a home theater system, the DD-18 also lets the audiophile blend the subwoofer into the system from his listening chair using a remote, something that Genelec doesn't provide.

Even so, I have no difficulty recommending the Genelec HTS4B for two-channel audiophiles—so long as they're willing to spend a little extra to complement it with a high-quality external crossover. During my audition, the HTS4B proved to be smooth and free of distortion and midbass overhang. I loved using the ultraversatile Bryston 10B-SUB crossover to blend the HTS4B with my Quad electrostatics to achieve clean, tight, solid bass with great pitch definition.

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