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Reviewer: Frederic Beudot
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: Esoteric X03SE
Analog source: Acoustic Solid Classic Wood with RB300, Grado Reference Sonata 1, Clearaudio Nano
Preamplifiers: NAT Symmetrical [in for review], Esoteric C03 [in for review], Accustic Arts Preamp I Mk3 [on loan]
Amplifier: McIntosh MA2275, Genesis GR360 & MDHR
Speakers: FJ OMs, Zu Essence
Headphone: Musical Fidelity Xcanv3, AKG K701
Cables: Zu Varial, Zu Libtec, Slinkylinks RCA copper, Esoteric Mexcel balanced interconnects [on loan], Accustic Arts Silverline balanced [on loan]
Power Cords: Zu Mother, NAT AC coupler black [on loan], Accustic Arts Ferrite 2 [on loan])
Powerline conditioning: Monster Power HTS5100mkII
Sundry accessories: Isolpads under electronics and good 'ol wooden chest
Room size: 12' x 13.5' x 8'
Review component retail: $7995/pair

How do I get myself into this kind of situation? Three metallic drivers per side - me, the paper driver guy. Two Kapton circular ribbon tweeters per speaker when I revere my FJ OMs and their notoriously rolled-off top end. And finally, -3dB at 22Hz in my far from palatial listening room. Truth be told, I am a sucker for great opportunities. I just couldn't say no to what seemed more on-board specifications than one should reasonably expect from any $8000 speaker.

So when Gary Koh, owner and manager of Genesis, started telling me about his upcoming new speaker over six months ago, I signed up for delivery of one of the ten pre-series pairs he had planned on producing. That was before I decided to move out of our large living room into what is now a dedicated yet far more constrained music room. Still, Mr. Koh felt comfortable that the new G7.1f would more than accommodate the new modest dimensions. "They are very room friendly," he said. So I took his word and here they are in front of me.

Gary Koh calls them his 'recession' speakers. That may seem a little insensitive considering that the G7.1f costs $8000 a pair (not exactly cheap). But it is after all assembled in the US from components sourced from both the Far East (cabinet and transducers) and the US (crossover and bass amplifier). The amount of technology packed into this speaker offered through traditional US retail channels* is quite amazing for the price and when you add that the G7.1f was designed to deliver 90% of the performance of the often praised G5.3 at half the price and twice the charm, perhaps Mr. Koh's claim is not without merit after all.

*(No online sales for the G7.1f. At this price, you are getting the same personalized advice and counsel as any customer purchasing a G1.1 flagship).

Starting with the charm, this tall and slender two-tone column is very elegant especially with its magnetic front grille off to reveal an MTM array with off-centered tweeter. Build and finish are truly superb but the shiny grey and black lacquer-like coats are real fingerprint magnets, nothing a good micro-fiber cloth wouldn't address though.

Weighing close to 100lb, each of those speakers have to be handled with care especially since it's not advisable to grab them by their front baffle or plinth suspension. Genesis warns at length against handling them alone, a recommendation I can only second. They may be tall and slender but they've got one heckuva heavy bottom!

One of the reasons for the weight is the use of 45mm (1.75 inches) multi-layer MDF for the sections of the enclosure where structural rigidity was critical and thinner 18mm MDF in other parts to allow for faster dissipation of induced vibrations. The second reason is quite obviously the internal amplifier to power the active woofer in each speaker. But more on this later.

The G7.1f is far more than a trickle-down model. It is a full concentrate of what Genesis has learnt about speaker design over the years with a combination of tested and new technologies. Starting from the top and working our way down, we first encounter one of the two 6-inch titanium mid/woofers. This very low-mass and extremely rigid transducer is proprietary to Genesis and was designed for speed and instantaneous transient response. The stiffness of this transducer allows Genesis to extend its response down to 125Hz where it hands over to the woofer, therefore covering all the upper-bass / lower midrange accurately described as the 'impact' or 'power range' from whence music derives its punch and kick. Auditions will tell whether those tiny shiny discs are up to the task.

Between the two mid/woofers sits the first of two tweeters, with the second one located in the back to improve ambiance retrieval. These transducers, also proprietary to Genesis, are 1-inch circular ribbons made of Kapton with a photo-etched aluminium voice coil 0.0005 inch thick. The manufacturer claims that the radiating area has a mass lower than the air in front of it. Lacking ultra-precision scales, I could not verify the claim. Nonetheless the circular ribbon is said to extend to over 36kHz with speed, precision and an absolute lack of distortion. The first few days of auditions clearly indicated that something unusual was going on in this range, a reach and clarity without hint of pain that deserves to be fully investigated.

On the back panel, a rotary knob adapts the output level of the front tweeter over a tight +/- 1dB range but those changes are clearly audible! A switch allows defeating the back tweeter should the rear of the speakers be closer than 18 inches from the front wall. Listening would indicate that the rear tweeter's output is somewhat shelved down compared to the front one, an implementation reminiscent of the G7.1P reviewed by John Potis last year. I'd confirm my assumption with Gary Koh later but suspected this explained why integration in my small and clear room seemed relatively easy.

Continuing our exploration down the speaker and passing over the second Titanium midrange, we find the side-firing 8-inch aluminum woofer and its 180-watt class D plate amplifier. The speakers arrive as an asymmetrical pair, with the tweeters located on the inside and the woofers firing out to take advantage of the space between the columns that acts as an infinite baffle to enhance bass depth and texture.

The plate amplifier only accepts a pair of speaker-level connectors (no line level connection as on the Zu Presence) and offers a one-knob adjustment of bass output. This very simple implementation makes setting up the speakers a no-brainer but also hides the technology built into the unit which is similar to the servo-bass module of Genesis' G968 subwoofers also reviewed by John Potis. For a complete explanation on servo bass and its benefits, John's article says its best in his unmistakable to-the-point style.

The notion of a servo-controlled subwoofer seems to be controversial. Basically, the system involves the use of an accelerometer placed near the voice coil of the driver. It collects and reports back to the servo controller what exactly the woofer is doing. The servo compares the accelerometer data to the original signal and looks for discrepancies. If any are found, the servo sends a correction signal to the amplifier to null the discrepancies. In theory there would seem to be a time lag involved and some have suggested that servo-controlled subwoofers sound slow and sluggish on principle. I suspect such criticisms are levied by those without the knowledge to properly integrate a subwoofer - or by manufacturers without the wherewithal to manufacture a proper servo. I've been sub-woofing for 20 years and never experienced anything of the sort.

Because it is a recession speaker, you don't get just one but two servo-controlled woofers for stereo bass that is tight, fast and distortion free. One word of caution - the plate amplifier accepts both 120V and 240V AC so make sure the switch is in its proper position before you power up.

Now seems a good time to say a few words about metal transducers which do not necessarily have a good reputation, this reviewer included. Genesis believes that the often claimed 'metallic sound' is the result of oil-can resonances whose break-up frequency is a function of thickness, shape and size and reasonably well understood as well as predictable. If you stay away from this frequency range, the benefit of metal drivers is said to be perfectly pistonic behavior without distortion, allowing implementation without any additional driver damping material which would undermine detail. The expected result is extreme resolution and speed without aggression for crystalline transparency at low levels as well as concert-like brawls. This was something I intended to put to the test.

Having reached the woofer and its plate amplifier, you'd think our tour over but there remains a look at the original suspension system built into the base of the speakers.

Very similar to what Genesis uses on their Reference series amplifiers, the suspension is composed of three parts. The neoprene absorbers isolate and decouple the cabinet to optimize bass response regardless of what the speakers sit on. The concept is very similar to seismic skyscraper technology. The enclosure itself is very rigid to enhance clarity yet the supple neoprene suspension and degree of freedom it affords allows unwanted frequencies to drain. One of the consequences is that the speaker sways a little and does not feel as solidly planted as other similarly sized columns.

The second element in the suspension is the Baltic Birch frame made from a constrained material to serve as a tuned absorber and prevent floor-born vibrations to travel back up the speaker. The frame is built so that no two parts will resonate at the same frequency, to insure that the midrange remains as unspoiled by external influences as possible. I find this base a little too narrow especially if you have young children. Combined with the previously mentioned gentle sway, I'd be cautious around crawling babies and toddlers who might want to lean against the speakers. A broader base would make me more comfortable for the children's sake.

The third and last elements of this stand are the metal spikes for coupling. Unlike with the Reference amplifier whose spikes I sometimes found hard to work through their very tight holes, on this suspension two of the spikes seemed perhaps looser than desirable to be perfectly effective. I'd put that on the pre-production "to be optimized" list. Concluding the prelims, on paper at least the G7.1f seems to offer a boatload for its asking price. How would it add up?