Genesis 7.1c Speaker system Page 2

As you might expect, since it uses the same tweeter, the Genesis 7.1c has the identical combination of sweetness and air on upper frequencies as the Genesis 6.1 speakers. It's easy to hear the differences, for example, in the rendition of snare drums from recording to recording. On the Dylan SACD Highway 61 Revisited the snares sound hard, nasty, and very much like eggs frying, while on the Blood on the Track SACD the snares are smooth as metallic velvet. On my own recordings, flutes, piccolos, and violins sound spot on, exactly as they did in the hall when I heard them through the live microphone feed.

Integrating fast and transparent ribbon tweeters with conventional dynamic midrange drivers has been the downfall of many speaker systems. Given the Genesis tweeter's exemplary speed, this seems like a nearly impossible task. Fortunately the G7.1c's new titanium midrange/bass driver seems to be the tweeter's equal. Genesis' 24dB per octave crossover slope keeps the midrange driver's resonances at bay while letting it perform in phase with the tweeter. Even on variable frequency sweeps and test tones I was hard pressed to tell exactly where the crossover point between the drivers occurred. On music and soundtracks the two drivers' sonic cohesion was complete.

Imaging specificity requires not only accurate phase response but also dispersion characteristics that do not confuse the human brain's ability to decipher spatial information. Listening to my own live recordings of the Boulder Philharmonic I could not help but notice the near perfect combination of depth recreation and pinpoint lateral imaging through the Genesis 7.1c system. On my 10/04/03 recording of Angel Romero performing the Rodrigo Concerto de Aranjuez, the system's ability to separate out the soloist from the orchestra in a three-dimensional way verged on the surreal.

With the Genesis 6.1 system I had a total of five powered subwoofers (three individual units plus two inside the 6.1 mains). The G7.1c setup had only two subwoofers. As you might expect, the bass was not quite as effortless or impressive. Still, with the help of the Lexicon and Meridian bass equalization systems, the quantity and quality of bass that can be produced by two Genesis G-928 subwoofers easily surpassed anything I've ever heard from a single subwoofer system.

I've come to prefer having stereo subwoofers in my home theater (the Lexicon MC-12 has this option). Using a pair of Genesis G-928 subs with the G7.1c speakers allowed me to achieve a level of bass articulation and directionality that equaled the Genesis five-subwoofer system. Only at very low volume levels or on extremely punishing material (such as when the little girl taps on the aquarium's glass in Finding Nemo) did I miss the additional low frequency horsepower of the Genesis 6.1 system.

Since the G7.1c system uses an identical speaker for the center channel, it's no surprise that it can meld perfectly with the right and left main speakers. Its harmonic accuracy is limited only by its placement. With both Meridian and Lexicon electronics, going from direct two-channel to derived multichannel music modes caused no noticeable harmonic, dimensional, or dynamic aberrations. Due to the center channel speaker's location on top of a large, direct-view monitor I sometimes hear tonal differences with other speaker systems, but with the Genesis 7.1c I heard none. Turning the rear-firing tweeter on and off also did little to change the center channel harmonic balance. The only difference I could perceive with the tweeter turned off was a slight loss in dimensionality. Fortunately the G7.1c has adequate shielding for its substantial magnet assemblies.

At first I set up the Genesis system with G7.1c speakers in front, back, and center positions. But was also able to try the Genesis 6.1sr dedicated surround speakers for rear duties. The 6.1sr speakers can switch from monopole to surround dipole by a rear switch (or a 12-volt trigger). I used to prefer monopole rear speakers to dipoles in my upstairs listening room, but the Genesis 6.1rs, with its switchable dispersion patterns allowing direct A/B comparisons, changed my opinion.

The G7.1c configuration all around integrated well on discrete multichannel music, but for movie soundtracks I sometimes wished I could flick a switch and turn the surrounds into dipoles. After several weeks I changed to a pair of 6.1srs in the rear. They integrated seamlessly. For the ultimate in rear speaker flexibility I recommend this configuration, though it does increase system cost considerably (the 6.1sr sells for $7000/pair).

Just over a year ago I reviewed Revel's Performa F-32, C-22, M-22, and B-15 surround speaker system (System Price: $11,690). Comparing the Revel Performa system to the Genesis 7.1c system reminds me of trying to evaluate the differences between top-flight acoustic instruments. At this level of performance the concept of "best" becomes an exercise in defining personal tastes rather than delineating absolute performance parameters. Due to the Genesis system's exceptional flexibility, its harmonic and dynamic character can be altered more than the Revel Performas. With two subwoofers compared to the Revel's single sub, the Genesis system did have more low-bass power and impact, but the Revel had more mid-bass bloom. This was more a result of setup choices and room interactions than either system's intrinsic qualities. Given the Genesis' compact size they do offer greater setup flexibility. Kevin Voecks, Harman Specialty Group's Director of Technology, spent almost a day setting up the Revel system so it would deliver optimal sound in my moderately proportioned room. Because of the Revel F-32's size he had to make some compromises. The Revels will probably fit better into a slightly larger and more acoustically regular room. But in the final analysis both speaker systems offer a superb window on the sonic event, albeit from slightly different vantage points.

One disadvantage the Genesis 7.1c shares with its more expensive sibling is that to fully appreciate its prodigious capabilities your system must have first-class electronics. I'm sorry, but even a $2500 A/V receiver, no matter how well reviewed, isn't going to cut it. Don't even think about listening to a $150 DVD player. Unless you mate the G7.1c with top-shelf electronics you're never going to know how good these speakers really are. Just like driving a BMW M5 at less than 75 MPH, mating the Genesis 7.1c system to only mid-level electronics is a waste.

The Finish and its Celebrations
When I finish a speaker review I box up the review system and ship it to Tom Norton for testing. Often I discover the true value and quality of a system only after it has been sent away. Due to the physical nature of speaker systems doing direct A/B comparisons between a system under review and my primary reference system isn't practical. So I must rely on my memory and reference sources during the review. But once the review is completed and I return to my primary system I can't help during the first few days of re-acquaintance to compare the just-reviewed system with my reference. Some speakers are missed while others are not.

Since the Genesis 6.1 speakers are my reference you would expect that the less expensive G7.1c speakers would suffer by comparison, but this is not the case. The more I listen to the 6.1 speakers, the more I'm reminded of what the G7.1c speakers do well. Both systems share exemplary speed, transparency, upper frequency purity, driver integration, and harmonic neutrality. Both systems fit comfortably into my medium-sized home theater space, but the G7.1c system does have a more appropriate scale and much higher "spouse-appeal" factor.

If I were assembling a home theater from scratch and had a budget of under $15,000 for the entire speaker package I would put the Genesis 7.1c speaker system near the top of my must-audition list. Especially in a smaller-sized room, where large floor-standing speakers occupy too much real estate, the Genesis 7.1c can deliver uncompromised performance in tight quarters.

What's Hot
• High Resolution
• Fits into smaller rooms
• Neutral harmonic balance

What's Not
• Unforgiving of lesser electronics
• More involved setup than most speakers