Genesis 7.1c Speaker system
The Box and its Contents
Genesis' chief designer Arnie Nudell has long been a proponent of dipole speakers. Beginning with his work in the 80's on Infinity's legendary IRS speakers, most of his designs have had a planar footprint with drivers radiating both forward and backward. The figure eight dispersion pattern that results can provide a more spacious soundstage, together with more uniform off-axis dispersion than comparable monopole designs.
The Genesis 6.1 tower speakers have three-sided cabinets with open backs, so midrange and upper bass energy radiates to the rear. The extreme bass is handled by an integral, sealed-box powered subwoofer (see the review at http://ultimateavmag.com/speakersystems/304genesis/). The smaller Genesis 7.1c, in its more traditional, fully sealed-cabinet, includes a rear-firing tweeter like the G6.1. But unlike the G6.1, which qualifies as a dipole from the upper bass to the highest treble, the G7.1c is a dipole only above 4.5kHz. The rear-firing tweeter can also be turned off. And also unlike the G6.1, which like most dipoles must be placed well away from walls and requires careful setup to sound its best, the G7.1c can be placed almost anywhere in the room, even close to a wall.
Rigid, well-braced construction prevents a speaker cabinet from resonating in sympathy with the program material. Genesis took particular pains to make sure the G7.1c cabinet is especially rigid. It has a 2" thick front baffle made up of two separate plates of high-density MDF. The top plate is shaped with a slightly convex waist and a curved lip that protrudes above and below the cabinet itself. This reduces front baffle diffraction and gives the G7.1c a less boxy appearance.
The G7.1c uses a symmetrical, two-way design with one tweeter between a pair of midrange/woofers. Genesis' proprietary circular ribbon tweeter utilizes a kapton, photo-etched membrane just 0.0005-inches thick. Because of its special physical properties, which include a radiating structure with less mass than the air in front of it, the Genesis tweeter is said to produce frequencies up to 35kHz. As mentioned, the rear tweeter can be turned off, and the output level for both tweeters can be adjusted plus or minus 1dB via a knob on the back of the speaker cabinet.
Arnie Nudell designed an entirely new driver for the G7.1c. According to Genesis, it's the world's first solid titanium-cone mid-woofer. Titanium cones are light and extremely rigid, but have a tendency to resonate at a particular frequency. To successfully utilize titanium, the driver requires a crossover that radically attenuates the cone's 6kHz resonance frequency. The Genesis 7.1c employs a highly modified Linkwitz-Riley 4th order crossover with a 24dB roll-off. It is designed not only to keep the tweeter in phase with the midrange/woofers, but to also rapidly attenuate both the tweeter and midrange/woofers outside their operating ranges. Combined with this crossover, the G7.1c employs a special "LC filter" circuit tuned to the cabinet's resonant frequency and designed to smooth the speaker's impedance curve.
The back of the G7.1c has a pair of switches—the one that turns off the rear-firing tweeter and a second to alter the bass response depending on whether or not the G7.1c is used with a subwoofer. By itself, the G7.1c's bass is rated to extend down to 50Hz. With the switch set to "subwoofer" the G7.1c is said to begin rolling off at 65Hz. The G7.1c also has two sets of five-way speaker posts- one for input from the amplifier and a second pair to connect to a subwoofer with speaker-level inputs. The G7.1c is designed to have better power handling capability in "subwoofer" mode. According to Genesis, subwoofer mode also offers a higher impedance in the bass frequencies to make it easier to drive for amplifiers less comfortable with very low impedances.
The sealed-box G-928 subwoofer employs two 12-inch, aluminum cone, servo-feedback drivers, driven by a 1000W (peak output) amplifier. It is equipped a pair of High (speaker)-level inputs, two line-level Preamp (L/R) inputs, and a single line-level LFE input. A line-level LFE output is provided to daisy-chain more than one sub. All of the line-level connections are single-ended.
The controls on the subwooofer are LFE gain, Bass gain (adjusts the levels at both the high-level and the Preamp inputs), Low-Pass (adjustable from 40-138Hz), and a phase switch (0 and 180 degrees).
The Circle and its Curves
Genesis recommends (and I prefer) a multichannel setup that provides stereo bass to the front left and right speakers. The final configuration I used for the system under review connected one Genesis G-928 subwoofer to each of the right and left front G7.1c speakers using a High (speaker)-level link. Thus each full-range G7.1c and its paired G-928 sub functioned as a full-range transducer. All the bass from the center and surround channels, plus the LFE-channel bass, was directed to the subwoofers using a line-level connection from my Lexicon MC-12 pre-pro's subwoofer output to the subwoofers' LFE inputs.
(I am not a big fan of this setup arrangement, but many audiophiles prefer it because of the stereo bass and the fact that it bypasses any high-pass filter to the main left and right speakers, simplifying the signal path and eliminating any possible negative sonic impact from the filter. But there are several caveats you must be aware of if you use such a setup—for the Genesis system or any other. The balance between the LFE and the primary bass will be determined by the two level adjustments on the G-928s, and what should be a tightly standardized balance will now be set essentially by ear. In addition, the left and right speakers, driven full-range, may become overtaxed in the bass. The design of the G7.1c minimizes the latter problem, and it was not a factor in Steven Stone's listening. Most important, you must insure that your pre-pro is capable of directing the bass as described above. Many are, but not all. I would strongly recommend also trying the more conventional setup, with all the G7.1c speakers configured as small and all of the bass—main-channel and LFE—fed through a line-level connection to one or two G-928s. Choose the setup that works better in your situation.—TJN)
I initially placed the right and left G7.1c speakers on top of the G-928 subwoofers to try to duplicate the setup I had been using for the Genesis 6.1 system. I used a pair of the strongest plastic milk crates I could find, with slabs of slate on top of them, as risers to get the G7.1c tweeters to the proper height. The subwoofers were also connected to the subwoofer line-level output of my A/V preamp to insure that they were receiving all the LFE information in the source.
Not thrilled to have their finely finished speakers resting on milk crates, Genesis graciously sent me a pair of speaker stands from German stand manufacturer Spectral. These elegant looking stands have a 3/8" thick beveled edge plate glass base that bolts to a pair of brushed satin steel columns. The hollow columns can be filled with sand or shot. The stand was easy to assemble, quite rigid, and when filled with sand, very well damped. These stands looked like something from an interior design firm rather than an audiophile stand company, adding a sizable dollop of contemporary style and panache to both the speakers and my home theater room. They certainly looked far more stylish than any cast metal stands I've used in the past.
With the speaker stands in place I moved the pair of subwoofers closer to the centerline of my room, placing one on either side of my direct-view monitor stand. Repositioning the subwoofers produced a more uniform bass response at my primary listening position. I suspect that the Genesis 7.1c system's flexibility over that of a speaker with on-board subs, like Genesis' 6.1, will allow it to fit more easily into a modestly sized room. It will also benefit most home theater installations by allowing more options in subwoofer placement.
At $2250 each, in rosewood, a pair of G-928s represents $$4500 of the system's cost. If I were trying to put together a G7.1c system on a budget, I might investigate other subwoofer options. True, there is no way to guarantee that another manufacturer's subwoofer will integrate as seamlessly with the G7.1c as the G-928 sub. Its drivers and servo amplifier were designed with the speed necessary to keep up with the G7.1c speaker.
But if you fall in love with the G7.1c, and budget is an issue, there are many respectable subwoofers in the $500 to $1000 price range that should work with the G7.1c. Just be sure that the sub offers both speaker-level and line-level inputs. That way you can set up the system in Genesis' recommended configuration—with the sub's speaker-level inputs supplying bass extension for the G7.1c, and its line-level connection receiving the center, surround, and LFE information. But because most subwoofers have only one input level control, you would have to fiddle to find the proper level setting that works simultaneously for both the speaker-level and line-level inputs (or use a more conventional setup—see earlier remarks—TJN). The G-928 doesn't have this issue since it was built with separate level controls for both of these connections.
The Line and its Edges
My tenure as an audio reviewer led me to group speakers into one of three categories: euphonic, spectacular, or accurate. Euphonic speakers try to make everything sound good, regardless of its true nature. They can also obscure detail in favor of warmth and musicality. Spectacular speakers try to make everything sound exciting and vibrant. But they can be too harsh, overemphasizing the top and bottom of the harmonic spectrum while undervaluing the midrange. Accurate speakers try to reproduce sources with as little editorializing as possible. Sometimes they can be too matter-of-fact and overly critical of source material. Most speakers fall into one of these camps. My personal biases lean away from spectacular speakers, toward more euphonic or accurate designs. The Genesis 7.1c, just like its sibling the 6.1, sits squarely in the accurate speaker camp.
If you can't plagiarize yourself, from whom can you steal? Most of my sonic descriptions of the Genesis 6.1 system are completely appropriate for the Genesis 7.1c as well. Trying to single out the most outstanding performance area of the Genesis 7.1c system is like trying to pick which part of a $500 bill you like the most. The Genesis 7.1c system does so many things in a stellar manner that good source material can distract even a critical listener into forgetting about the speakers entirely. Without substantial amounts of equipment swapping, the G7.1c's transparency makes it difficult to discern what is intrinsic to the speaker versus what the speaker is telling you about your sources and ancillary equipment. These speakers demonstrate that the ultimate sonic personality of your home theater is less a function of the speakers themselves than the culmination of the entire reproduction chain, which includes speaker placement as well as the individual components in the system.
When I used the Meridian 861 AV processor and 598 DVD-A player with the Genesis system it displayed a slightly warmer than neutral harmonic balance, but when I substituted the Lexicon MC-12 AV processor and RT-20 universal player the system took on a more matter-of-fact tonality. Unlike the Genesis 6.1 speakers, which have both midrange and treble level adjustments, the G7.1c has only a treble level control. This limits the G7.1c's ability to change its harmonic character. While you can warm up the G7.1c's upper bass (and to a lesser extent its lower midrange) by adjusting the level and crossover point of the subwoofers hooked up to it, it's difficult to obtain the same subtle level of harmonic control as with the Genesis 6.1. Due to this limitation you must be even more careful in your equipment selection than with the Genesis 6.1 system. If you don't like the harmonic character of the electronics you have tethered to the G7.1c system, changing the sound will be difficult, and in some situations, impossible.
The Genesis 7.1c system's transparency can be both revelatory and disturbing. For example, not only can you hear low-level details like Bob Dylan's soft sigh of relief at the end of "Buckets of Rain" on the SACD version of Blood On The Tracks, you can also feel the tentative nature of some of his backup musicians' playing on some songs in Highway 61 Revisited. According to Arnie Nudell, the Genesis 6.1 system can handle much higher power levels than the G7.1c. In my room I couldn't prove this. Even on the triple fortissimo of "Oh Fortuna" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana (Telarc SACD-60575) my ears gave out long before the G7.1c system did.
Just like its big brother, the G7.1c can navigate nimbly through myriad sources with dynamic agility. Not only can the G7.1c differentiate between subtle variations in level during quiet passages, it can also handle the differences between loud, louder, and loudest without dynamic compression. On the soundtrack of The Red Violin, the G7.1c system effortlessly revealed everything from the subtle background noises during the opening scenes at the auction to the gunshot fired at Alexander Pope when caught in the act by his jilted lover.