Genesis 6.1 5.1-channel speaker system Page 2
With the help of Paul McGowan's two college-aged sons (who were kind enough to pitch in even though their dad doesn't work at Genesis any more), the initial setup of the Genesis 6.1 system was simple and painless (for me). My dilemma was how to shoehorn three subwoofers—one S4/8 and two S2/12ts—into a room that usually accommodates only one. I ended up with one S2/12t in a standard subwoofer location (a front corner of the room), and the other diagonally opposite from it, behind the main listening position. The S4/8 was placed near the back of the room, serving double duty as a subwoofer and rear-channel amplifier stand.
Thanks to the dual inputs on all of the active woofers, a Genesis 6.1 system can be configured in different ways. You can couple each subwoofer to a speaker, using S2/12ts with the G6.1sr and the S4/8 with the G6.1c, or you can just daisy-chain the subs to one another through their LFE connections. I chose the latter arrangement. Only the G6.1c tower speakers were set up so that their active woofer sections served for both bass extension and as LFE subs. I used this arrangement because a majority of home theater applications will probably be set up in this way.
Although the Genesis 6.1 speakers have a dipole radiation pattern, after some experimentation I found their optimal location was very close to where I usually place monopole front speakers. I suspect that in most installations their dispersion pattern will require no special or unusual accommodations.
Arnie Nudell visited me to check the final installation. After a couple of hours making small adjustments to the speakers' tweeters, midrange, bass, and LFE levels, he seemed satisfied.
Every time I finish reviewing a good high-end speaker system, I think, "Boy, it's going to be hard to top that one." When the DALI Euphonia speakers departed, I wondered how the Genesis 6.1 system would stack up against such tough competition.
Trying to single out the Genesis 6.1 system's most outstanding performance area is like trying to pick which note in the musical scale you like the most. The G6.1 system did so many things in a stellar manner that good source material could distract even a critical listener into forgetting about the speaker system entirely. The system's transparency was so complete that it was difficult to hear what was intrinsic to the speakers and what they might be telling me about my sources and ancillary equipment. The G6.1's sonic personality was less a function of the speakers themselves than the culmination of the entire reproduction chain.
When I used the Meridian 568.2 A/V processor and 598 DVD-Audio player, the G6.1 system had a slightly warmer than neutral harmonic balance. But when I switched to the Lexicon MC-12 processor and RT-10 universal player, the G6.1 took on a more matter-of-fact balance. Of course, a bit of adjustment to the treble and midrange level controls made it possible to sweeten the Lexicon system or make the Meridian system a bit more harmonically literal. These changes were subtle, but subtlety is what high-end sound is all about.
The G6.1 system's transparency functioned on many levels. Not only could I hear low-level details such as Bob Dylan's soft sigh of relief at the end of "Buckets of Rain," from Blood on the Tracks (SACD, Columbia CH 90323), but I could feel the true weight of fff on "O Fortuna," from Orff's Carmina Burana (Telarc SACD-60575). While some speakers seem to prefer a particular kind of music over others, the Genesis 6.1 was at home with whatever I threw at it, be it gentle chamber music or cacophonous cinematic bombast.
Perhaps part of the secret of the Genesis system's success at nimbly navigating a myriad of sources was its dynamic agility. Not only could the G6.1 differentiate between subtle variations in level during quiet passages, it could also handle the differences between loud, louder, and loudest without dynamic compression. On the soundtrack of The Red Violin (Universal 20676), the G6.1 system effortlessly revealed everything from the subtle background noises during the opening auction scenes to the gunshot fired at Frederick Pope (Jason Flemyng) when caught in the act by his jilted lover.
Upper frequencies through the G6.1 speakers had just the right combination of sweetness and air. It was easy to hear the differences between various recordings' renditions of snare drums. On Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited (SACD, Columbia CH 90324), the snares sounded hard and nasty, very much resembling the sound of eggs frying, while on the Blood on the Tracks SACD the snares sounded smooth as metallic velvet. On my own orchestral recordings, flutes, piccolos, and violins sounded spot on, exactly as they had in the hall.
Integrating tweeters with the midrange and lower-midrange drivers has been the downfall of many an otherwise excellent speaker system. Given the Genesis tweeter's exemplary speed, designing a midrange driver that matched its transient attack would seem a nearly impossible task. Miraculously, the G6.1's titanium midrange driver seemed to be the tweeter's equal in all audible respects. Not only did it share the tweeter's speed, but its harmonic balance and dynamic agility as well. The G6.1's drivers all speak with a similar voice.
Imaging specificity requires not only accurate phase response but also dispersion characteristics that don't confuse the human brain's ability to decipher spatial information. Some dipole speakers trade off imaging precision for spaciousness. The Genesis 6.1 strikes a delicate balance that preserves imaging accuracy while presenting a strikingly dimensional soundstage. Listening to my own live recordings of the Boulder Philharmonic, I couldn't help noticing the near-perfect combination of depth re-creation and pinpoint lateral imaging. Especially on my October 4, 2003 recording of Angel Romero performing Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, the Genesis system's ability to separate the soloist from the orchestra in a 3-dimensional way verged on the surreal.
With a total of five subwoofers—the three separates, plus the two inside the G6.1 mains—the quantity of bass that the Genesis system could pump out was never in doubt. But what about the quality? I thought I'd already experienced the upper limits of bass perfection in my smaller upstairs listening room with the WEGG3 sub, but the Genesis system's capabilities easily surpassed anything I'd heard before. The combination of multiple subwoofers distributed throughout the room and their extremely low levels of distortion created bass that was smooth, solid, and powerful, yet delicate. The multiplicity of transducers created low bass that was more even, without the typical resonance peaks and valleys of a single sub. Once you've heard what multiple subwoofers can do, there's no going back.
The Genesis 6.1c center-channel did a surprisingly good job of harmonically melding with the G6.1 mains. Not only did it match their timbre, it also managed to match their substantial dynamic capabilities. With both Meridian and Lexicon electronics, going from direct 2-channel to derived multichannel music modes caused no alterations in harmonics, dimensions, or dynamics. Because center-channel speakers usually end up atop my large direct-view monitor, I often hear some tonal differences—but I heard none with the Genesis G6.1c. Nor did turning the rear-firing tweeter on and off do much to change the G6.1c's harmonic balance. The only difference I could hear with the rear tweeter turned off was a slight loss in dimensionality. Generally, I prefer monopole to dipole rear speakers in my upstairs listening room. The Genesis 6.1sr's switchable dispersion patterns made it possible for me to make direct A/B comparisons between the two configurations. I still favor monopoles for multichannel music, but dipoles work better with some soundtracks and derived multichannel recordings. The G6.1sr's 12V trigger will make it easy for an installer to switch between monopole and dipole operation, depending on the source and DSP function. The G6.1sr costs more than many rear and surround speakers, but it offers two complete speaker systems in one compact container.
During the last year, I've reviewed two surround speaker systems costing just under $20,000: the DALI Euphonia (November 2003) and Tannoy Dimension (October 2002). The Genesis 6.1 system costs $7000 more. Looking at the three systems from the outside, you'd be hard-pressed to justify the extra cost. All three have equal levels of fit and finish, with premium wood veneers, exquisite workmanship, and cutting-edge visual style.
What you get for that extra chunk of change is performance. The DALI and Tannoy systems had few faults, but the Genesis system delivered a higher level of sonic transparency, harmonic flexibility, and dynamic acuity. The only thing the Genesis 6.1 system had less of was harmonic character. Unlike the other two systems, which I described as slightly on the warm side of absolutely neutral, the Genesis 6.1's harmonic balance will be determined by how you set it up and adjust it, and by the other gear in your system. The Genesis' chameleon-like harmonic personality stemmed from its transparency and lack of coloration.
The only disadvantage of the Genesis 6.1 system is that fully appreciating its prodigious capabilities requires a first-class home theater. No $1500 A/V receiver, no matter how glowing its reviews, will cut it. Unless you mate the G6.1 with top-shelf electronics and a well-designed room, you'll never know how good these speakers really are. Like driving a Ferrari at less than 75mph, mating the Genesis 6.1 system to mid-level electronics is a waste.
Audiophiles and videophiles are often likened to addicts. The longer you're at it, the more it costs to increase the level of ecstasy you can glean from a system improvement. Depending on where you and your home theater are along the road to perfection, the Genesis 6.1 speaker system can be the answer to your prayers or a curse upon your house. The G6.1 makes it possible for critical listeners to hear not only everything their systems do correctly, but also anything those systems don't do quite as well as might be wished. If your system is not up to snuff, the Genesis speakers can land you deep in the dungeons of tweak purgatory, their transparency laying bare the rest of your home theater audio chain's inadequacies with the clinical exactitude of a CSI autopsy. But when placed in a topnotch, well-balanced system, these babies will make you sing and dance for joy.
I adore the Genesis 6.1 system. It's a reviewer's dream—every change in upstream gear, no matter how insignificant, can be heard. Unlike many fine speaker systems—those that have a particular harmonic flavor or slight coloration—the Genesis 6.1 can be manipulated, with its controls and the other equipment in your reproduction chain, to sound as bright, dark, sweet, or sour as you choose. In the right setup, they can make magic. If you have the money, dedication, commitment, and taste, the Genesis 6.1 system can deliver home theater sound that will keep you happy for a very long time.