|Genelec 5.1 Home Theater Speaker System (HT208B/HT206B/HTS3B)|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Tuesday, 01 April 2008|
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The concept of power, or “active” loudspeakers, is one the audiophile community has fought since the beginning of time. Audiophiles have been wrong in their initial fears about all new audio formats (think LP, CD, DVD-Audio and even the almighty iPod), anything to do with EQ and, most importantly, room acoustics – they are wrong about active speakers, too. The idea of a company building amplifiers into speaker cabinets that are specifically designed to power the drivers and electronic (active) crossovers that make up a speaker system are in many cases better left to people who have real measurement tools and fixed environments to design from, rather than audiophiles who have a Platinum card and are looking to tweak. And tweaking is exactly what many of us have heard from the audiophile publications as they spew their misguided sermons of audio alchemy and stereo insecurity. Make no mistake, joining the “preamp of the month” club because some polyester short-sleeves-shirt-wearing audiophile reviewer made you feel badly about a past investment in your rig is a guaranteed mistake. Audio enthusiasts and lovers of music know and believe that their ears know best and make their investments accordingly.
This is where Genelec’s powered line of loudspeakers enters the game and starts kicking ass from the first snap. Rooted deeply in the world of pro audio, Genelec’s Finnish-made loudspeakers are a full departure from the world of mixing and matching electronics, as they are fully powered designs, meaning they have amps built right in. The drivers are familiar to audiophiles, as they can be found in various forms in speakers from the likes of JM Labs and Wilson Audio. The Genelec package delivers a much more predictable result, because the speakers are actually driven by electronic crossovers and amps designed to best meet the specific design needs of the speaker.
My considerations in selecting the review system I speak of here were based less on how much money I had to spend (not that an audiophile dealer would ever over-sell a system to a well-heeled client), but to the specific size of my listening room. My room is 16 feet wide by 25 feet long, with traditional eight-foot ceilings. The system selected by Bart LoPiccolo, the national sales manager in the United States for Genelec and an old personal friend from the industry, was comprised of three HT208Bs ($2,499 each), two smaller HT206s ($1,599 each) and a HTS3B subwoofer ($3,499), with the promise that the approximately $14,000 powered speaker system would have the power to “light it up” in my room. I liked their swagger from the start and got excited about my upcoming time with such an (if you will) in-the-box listening experience.
The HT208 is a two-way bi-amplified system with a one-inch metal dome tweeter and an eight-inch bass driver. Each driver has a 180-watt class AB amplifier and its own active crossover. The tweeter benefits from Genelec’s proprietary Directivity Control Waveguide, which is said to improve on- and off-axis response and decrease secondary reflective effects on the listening position. The HT208 is 15 inches tall, nearly 10 inches wide and approximately 12 inches deep, and weighs a modest 28 pounds. Reported frequency response is 48 Hz to 22 kHz, with an impressive max output of 110 dB. The ported cabinet is a textured black and only comes in one color, as they are almost always installed in a professional environment or behind a screen of some sort. They come with grilles, but I didn’t use them for the review. The cabinet is absolutely solid and the look, while not as sexy as you would expect from a Revel, MartinLogan or Wilson Audio speaker, still will make the grade in most rooms that can accommodate a black loudspeaker or will allow for them to do their thing behind a screen or fabric wall. The rubber isolated back panel has several unique features that will be unfamiliar to the passive speaker owner. There are three sets of dip switches for room response settings, a sensitivity input control, a more familiar RCA and XLR balanced input, a power switch and an IEC connector for your AC power. You can also define how the speakers turn on, either by remote control via a 12-volt trigger, or by auto-start, which senses an input signal and turns the speaker on. A green LED on the front tells you when the speakers are active.
The slightly smaller HT206 is very similar to its bigger brother, as it is a two-way design utilizing a three-quarter-inch metal dome tweeter and a six-and-one-half-inch bass driver. In this case, the tweeter uses a 50-watt internal amplifier and the bass driver gets a larger 80-watt amplifier. Frequency response is 55 Hz to 18 kHz, with an SPL of 105 dB. The cabinet features are identical to those of the HT208 and allow for the same tailoring of the response for “dialing in” your room.
The HTS3B subwoofer was suggested for this review to provide the low-frequency side of things. A 10-inch active driver faces the front through an aluminum grille; on either side is a 10-inch passive radiator without grilles. It has the same finish as the HT208 and the HT206 and is 17 inches high by nearly 16 inches wide and 15 inches deep, weighing a hefty 62 pounds. With its integral 200-watt amplifier, this baby plumbs the depths from 18 Hz to 120 Hz +/- 3 dB and feels rock solid. 200 watts in the subwoofer world doesn’t sound like enough when you have Bob Carver selling the idea that the “tracking down-converter” amps in his subwoofers can pump out 2,900 watts of power. In the pro world, there is less room for sizzle and numeric gamesmanship than in the audiophile world. Genelec’s amps have the right rates and provide lots of real-world power. On the back panel of the sub, you will find an RCA and XLR balanced input, a dip switch for phase, bass roll-off, auto start and remote control switches, an IEC power connector and power switch. Something that is a bit out of the ordinary is a four-position phase adjustment for the HTS3B. This gives the user or installer added flexibility for room response.
I was lucky enough to get the royal treatment when it came to set-up of my Genelec review system from some of the biggest execs from the company in the United States. Bart LoPiccolo, William Eggleston and Greg Jenkins all came to my room to help assemble and tune this system for optimal results. You can expect the same kind of treatment (albeit maybe not with the big brass coming to your house) from your local dealer, as they will also treat you like a king and set up your speakers for you if you are so inclined. If you are a DIY type of guy who is looking for something truly special in a loudspeaker, you can certainly do the imaging and placement yourself. Upstream from the Genelec speakers were an Anthem D2 AV preamp and a Classe’ CDP-200 universal disc player.
Will Eggleston suggested that I set all of the speakers to small, with standard 80 Hz crossover and the crossover of the sub to 80 Hz. This way, if I wanted to experiment with the sound, I was only affecting the preamp and not the Genelecs, and it gives me a default to fall back on if things get out of control. If you are not equipped with any kind of gear to properly measure your room response, you will be left guessing how close you are to the original settings.
A mic was placed in my listening position and Eggleston measured the response of each speaker individually, adjusting the dip settings as he went, and positioning the speakers so that the room response was optimized. The dip switch settings give you the ability to affect treble tilt, bass tilt and bass roll off in 2 dB increments. Once the full frequency bursts are analyzed, minute adjustments were made to get the flattest response from each speaker, then each individual response curve was overlaid and further adjustments made to get the system within 2 to 3 dB overall.
One of the biggest advantages is that placement relative to adjacent walls isn’t as critical for performance from this type of speaker as it is for passive speakers. The Directivity Control Waveguide eliminates a lot of these sidewall interactions, and you can also change the response of the speaker to work in a more limited placement situation. Whose spouse has not complained about a speaker setting well away from a wall?