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Right out of the box, the G7.1c SE loudspeakers were impressive. Big, open, airy and very transparent - those were my initial and sustained impressions. However, it didn't take long for a slight prominence in the treble to become worrisome. My first thought? The rear-mounted tweeter was producing an excess amount of treble that my modest room wasn't able to dissipate. Switching off the rear tweeter did cut the treble prominence completely but at the expense of that big and wide-open expanse of sound. The presentation became unacceptably dry. This was not a compromise I was willing to make. Instead, I reduced both the level of the tweeter and also the speakers' toe-in to zero. To a large extent, this ameliorated the problem. But not completely. I was continually aware of a tweeter that wasn't quite meshing with the midrange. Even more unnatural than the slightly exaggerated treble balance was the fact that I was hearing magnified treble details which, while thrilling, sounded unnatural.

Over the course of the next few months, I used the speakers in two different rooms and on four very different systems. All I can say is this - one day, I sat listening and realized that the treble had completely smoothed out. It blended with the midrange and no longer sounded hyped in any way. Lest the reader suspect a case of listener acclimation, the Genesis speakers had been in and out of the system several times. The most casual of comparisons with another of my reference speakers would have told me had this been the case. Throughout the rest of their time here, I did leave the treble control at the minimum setting in my smaller room. As I suspected, when used in the larger family room -- which allowed for a greater distance between the speakers and the front wall -- I did find it acceptable to bump up the tweeter's level to the mid position. Highly damped rooms may indeed require a further advancing of the tweeter level control.

The G7.1c SEs differentiated themselves from recently reviewed speakers in several ways. First, once broken in, the Genesis round ribbon produced what was perhaps the best treble I've ever experienced. It's an outstanding tweeter offering levels of air and detail that, while not starkly distracting, were easily appreciated over a period of time. Once settled in, the round ribbon completely disappeared as a distinct source and its output became one with the rest of the spectrum - though from time to time I was aware of hearing bells, strings and percussion instruments reproduced with a new level of sophistication, delicacy and detail. About two minutes into Chris Isaak's Baja Sessions [Reprise 9 46325-2], the drummer repeatedly strikes the bell portion of a cymbal, first here and then there - two locations of the bell but clearly on the same cymbal; and it's absolutely clear as day. Well, over the Genesis speakers, anyway. I've never even noticed that before but with the G7.1cs, you can't miss it. Simply put, the G7.1c SE's treble performance is reference class.

On two occasions, I found myself sitting in front of the Genesis speaker/sub combo enjoying the music and, frankly, being impressed with the quality of the bass as well as how well I had integrated the subwoofer. Then, eventually, I'd find myself let down by the reproduction of some deep bass event. I'd get up thinking that a tweaking of the sub's level was in order only to find that the sub wasn't plugged in. On their own, the G7.1c SEs won't plow the subterranean frequencies but down to their limits, they sound very, very good. Bass is smooth with a surprising sense of power but above all, it comes with a sense of ease that one usually anticipates in larger floorstanding speakers. There's no sense of strain. The speakers just produce what they can and, fairly suddenly, just drop off. No drama, no strain, no hysterics. With or without the subwoofer, this is optimal behavior.

Microdynamics are really good. I think the G7.1c SE will impress a lot of horn and Lowther users who think that most dynamic speakers are anything but. Genesis recommends an amplifier of 45 or more watts. I found that in most respects, the 45-watt Cayin A-88T was plenty capable of getting the speakers to dance. Obviously, such a modest amplifier will be bettered by monster amps where ultimate levels are concerned but at no time did I ever sense either the Cayin or the speakers compressing. The G7.1c SE sounds as though it's much more efficient and fleet of foot than its 87dB rating would suggest. I can only assume that credit goes to what is a fairly benign 6-ohm load. Whatever the reason, the G7.1c SE is without a doubt the least sluggish stand-mounted speaker I've ever heard in my room. It's that sense of speed and agility that adds to the G7.1c SE's sense of open transparent ease.

If you're considering a pair of G7.1c SEs, you had better like your electronics -- or be ready to replace them -- because these
Genesis speakers are going to tell you exactly what they sound like. I used them with the Cayin integrated, the Musical Fidelity A5 integrated amplifier and CD player as well as with my own reference gear. I heard three distinct system personalities that wouldn't take a pair of golden ears to differentiate. If you like light and ethereal with hear-through transparency, you'll love the Cayin and the Musical Fidelity. If you want solid, harmonically dense and just really substantial, you'll just have to try the Bel Canto amplifiers.

The S 4/8 subwoofer is, well, fabulous. At four thousand dollars, it had better be - but it is. Before the S 4/8, the best bass I ever had in this room came at the hands of the Thiel S2 Smart Sub via its dual 10-inch drivers, 1000 class D watts and some pretty innovative room EQ technology. But if memory serves, the 83.5 pound S 4/8 sub with its four 8-inch woofers and 500 watts of power is its equal in every way. In my room. And it blended superbly with the G7.1c SEs. I loved that I could crank its level until I could not only feel the bass drum on Green Day's "American Idiot" and "Holiday" [American Idiot, Reprise 48777-2] while in no way muddying up the midrange, but I could sense both the tension on the drum heads and
the cushion of air between them. I could sense the sound wave bouncing between the heads. The drums sounded awfully real. And like the G7.1c SEs, the S 4/8 is utterly transparent. Of course, credit the G7.1c SEs and their ability to mesh with the subwoofer for that balance, linearity and shared voice for the continuity. After all, the S 4/8's contribution to that drum strike is fairly limited relative to the speakers'.

"Cheek to Cheek" from Eva Cassidy's Live at Blues Alley [Blixstreet G2-10046] is a song that highlights many of the Genesis' qualities. Not as transparent as, say, a Patricia Barber CD, I nevertheless find her music more approachable and spirited. Transparent or not, the angelic character of Cassidy's voice comes through wonderfully and her talent more than makes up for the shortcoming of the recording. Bass lines are as palpable on this CD as they are on the Green Day CD. You can feel the physicality as they snarl their way under the rest of the music with a visceral rumble that energizes the room. The ride cymbal highlights both the air and the detail of the ribbon tweeter and the music skips along with a lively and vivacious rhythmic bounce. Ditto for "Honeysuckle Rose". This one contains the same basic elements but adds a layer of bluesy piano. If you've only heard Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart's version of "People Get Ready", you have a treat in store on this disc. A basically simple arrangement, it's the speakers' sense of dynamics and rhythm that keep it from sounding flat and uninteresting.

The song succeeds admirably over the Genesis system even if Cassidy's voice doesn't stir you
as it does me. And if you want to know what an angel sounds like, cue up "Fields of Gold". It would take a poet to describe her voice so suffice to say that she was superbly reproduced over the Genesis system, with a wide open and spacious soundstage and as crystal clear a window on her voice and the accompanying acoustic guitar as I've ever heard. We're talking goose-bump territory here - just beautiful.

In the mood for some good music but mostly bass fun, I retrieved two discs that I haven't listened to in some time. The Very Best Of Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops [Telarc CD80401] and a Wilson Audiophile recording (you did know that before he built speakers for resale, David Wilson produced excellent sounding LPs and CDs, didn't you?) of Winds of War and Peace, with Lowell Graham conducting the National Symphonic Winds [WCD-8823]. "Liberty Fanfare" of the Wilson disc features a huge bass drum on the order of 10 feet or so. Its demands are something for speakers to reckon with. Throughout the Telarc disc, there are numerous excursions through deep bass - sub-20Hz footfalls from a T-Rex, lots of atmospheric thunder and pipe organ on Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and Lloyd Webber's "Overture to The Phantom of the Opera".

The two discs reminded me of something that I had lost sight of: those never introduced to such quality bass reproduction as available from the S 4/8 may at least in one regard be disappointed. Those moving from a relatively full-range speaker to a subwoofer of this caliber may at first be chagrined to observe less, not more, drama from their deep bass recordings. This is because of the drastically reduced distortion that a sub such as the S 4/8 will produce. Less distortion, subjectively less drama. At first. Cannon shots from the Overture of 1812 [Telarc CD-800-41] may nail you back in your chair but they won't sound as cataclysmic. The foot stomps of the aforementioned T-Rex had the wooden frame window behind me vibrating loudly before I could even hear the dinosaur approaching in the distance. Thunder sounded powerful but natural and didn't threaten to bring down the house. The drum in the Wilson disc? Highly damped, very solid and so without distortion that it too lacked some of the drama that I observed with the speakers I was using back in 1988 when I first heard this disc. In short, it sounded like a huge bass drum, not a dose of C-4.

If it sounds as though I'm complaining, I'm not. I'm just warning. As a matter of fact, though a left-handed one, this is just about the highest form of a compliment I can pay the Genesis S 4/8. No matter what I threw at it, the S 4/8 was absolutely unflappable. No histrionics, no distortion, just excellent clean bass. There was no getting this subwoofer to lose its composure. Also of interest is that all this happened while the subwoofer's level control remained set exactly as I had throughout my listening. With some systems, I've found that I need to goose the subwoofer's level a bit in order to get real bass punch on Rock music. When switching over to classical music, the sub is usually quickly revealed as having too much output, requiring cutting back to sound natural. With the Genesis system, there was no need to ever touch the volume on the S 4/8 again once it was set. Set'n'forget!

Deep bass aside, from 40Hz on up the system sounded wonderful, too. Mancini's "Theme From The Pink Panther" is a favorite cut, perhaps because it offers a light and whimsical break from all the drama of the rest of the disc. It was beautifully served by the bouncy rhythmic nature of the Genesis system. Richard Leech's tenor voice on "Nessun Dorma!" was as pure as Ivory soap. Elfman's theme from Batman was big, dark and menacing and as much as I had been enjoying big band and rock music, the Genesis system sounded spectacular with large-scale orchestral music, which was viewed from within a huge and cavernous hall just as it should be.

I guess I tipped my hand with regard to the Genesis G7.1c SE loudspeakers and S 4/8 subwoofer in my preview of the preceding page. It's a wonderful pair of speakers and an
excellent subwoofer. Together, they make a fantastic-sounding system. I loved the pin-point imaging and outstanding focus. I was equally enamored by the overall smoothness that wasn't at the expense of articulation and microdynamics. The round ribbon tweeter was also a special treat. It's rare that I've heard such extension and articulation from a tweeter that remains completely musical and natural in most circumstances. But what really sets the Genesis G7.1c SE monitors apart from most the competition are two things. Yes, price is one. These speakers aren't cheap. But what will make them worth the price of admission to those who can appreciate their charms is their dynamic personality. These speakers do not sound like 87dB-efficient speakers. To listen to and observe their lithe personality is to guesstimate their efficiency in the neighborhood of 91 to 93dB. There is an effortlessness to them that says either large floorstander or a bass-shy stand mount, neither of which is the case. In my experience, you can find stand-mounts that are agile or you can find ones with a healthy and full-bodied bass. It's rare to find one that does both.

In my preview, I promised a discussion regarding whether or not the speakers from Genesis Advanced Technologies could advance on the performance of the previously reviewed Axiom M80 ($1200/pr) and the Gallo Reference 3 loudspeakers in terms of musicality and/or realism; and if so, where on the scale of diminishing returns the G7.1c SE lands, if at all. With regard to the Axiom loudspeakers, we are most certainly not into diminishing returns. While the Axiom speakers get a lot of things right, they don't make it into the class of the G7.1c SE. The Axioms' greatest strength is that at their meager price point, they don't do very much wrong. In fact, where delivering the nuts and bolts of the music is concerned, they deliver an enormous amount of metal. Still, in terms of sophistication, the Genesis loudspeakers do take the game to a new ball park. If there was nothing between the Axiom and the Genesis, I think a
heckuva lot of listeners would think the price differential to deliver a great deal of return on investment. However, there are speakers between the Axiom and the Genesis. Lots of them.

The Gallo Ref3.1 falls just short of right between them price wise. Though the G7.1c SE is a more highly refined speaker, the waters are not so easy to navigate when considering the question of value. The Gallo is a terrific speaker that packs bass extension and power the G7.1c SE can only wish for - and it doesn't require a pair of stands. There's little question that it's the better value here. The Gallo just delivers so much sound for so little money that in terms of value, it'll take on any comer. And to be sure, we are most certainly talking about diminishing returns as you spend more for the Genesis loudspeakers - but there are additional returns. The G7.1c SE is an incrementally more refined and sophisticated performer whose ribbon tweeter improves upon Gallo's excellent CDT II tweeter in terms of detail retrieval and subjective extension. The G7.1c SE adds an appreciable degree of focus and transparency as well and it also seems slightly more dynamic. At less than half the money, many will take the Gallos and be happy. However, if you can afford them and appreciate what the G7.1c SEs do so well, they will be the obvious choice for many who simply won't settle for less than the best they can afford. And if your wife's opinion is worth anything, I gotta believe that the high level of fit and finish of the G7.1c SE is good too for a lot of WAF votes.

In its class, the Genesis Advanced Technologies G7.1c SE loudspeaker may just be teetering at the apex of the return-on-investment curve. You can spend more for something different but likely not something better.

Delay tactics
As I approached the end of the Genesis G7.1c SE's evaluation period, two things occurred to me. First, I had better brace myself for all the inquiries on how the SE compares to the less expensive standard version. Second, if I were to approach Genesis and request a stock pair of G7.1cs for brief audition, I could extend my time with the SEs. It was just my luck that Gary Koh was so excited about the idea as to expedite a fully broken-in pair the very next day. So much for extending the stay of the SEs.

As I unpacked the G7.1c finished in Maple and Olive Burl, I was once again impressed with how lovely these Genesis speakers are. The SE version was beautiful but the Olive Burl was simply gorgeous. I had to remind myself of the theoretical benefits of the Corian shield - aesthetically, I may prefer the Olive. It was stunning and won't show dust and scratches like the Piano Black.

At $4,350/pair and $2,150 less than the SE, the standard G7.1c is the better value. There's nothing I've said above that couldn't be said about the standard model. They are wonderful. But that doesn't mean they're the same. Indeed, the SE version is slightly better. Slightly more focused. Slightly more coherent. Slightly more transparent. Slightly smoother. Slightly more dimensional.

How slight is slightly? It's hard to quantify. At the risk of belittling what it took to achieve the SE's slightly better performance, I'll say that the standard version is 95 to 96% the speaker. Perhaps more. That's a lot of money for another four to five percent of additional performance. But isn't that always the case? Taking an already most excellent speaker like the G7.1c -- a speaker that, with the exception of the SE version, is quite possibly the best monitor I've ever heard -- to the next level will naturally require some Herculean efforts. And it's frequently the case that those efforts come at a substantial increase in cost. Before I'm accused of rationalizing what is a pretty expensive pair of monitors (though hardly exorbitant by today's standards), I'll reiterate that the standard version is a better value. But if you have the money and are the kind of listener who can't settle for second best... the SE version is something that you'll want to hear. If second best is okay by you -- and you want to save something for the kid's college fund -- do yourself a favor and don't even listen to the SE version. I can just about guarantee that you won't regret the standard version. Whichever you choose in the end, you have my most green envy. Now I know why some reviewers never review anything they can't afford to buy themselves. If you can afford them, don't miss out on an audition. You won't regret it. They're that special.
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