Genesis IM-5200 Loudspeakers Reviewed

Genesis IM-5200 Loudspeakers Reviewed

The IM-5200 has "excellent and impressive image height" and "a touch more precision" than the competition. It's a "punchy, sparkling, involving speaker which offers a greater sense of weight and bass extension" then other models in its class.

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'Mensch' is a Yiddish word which means a whole lot more than 'man', its German source. A mensch is a 'quality dude' (to use current patois), the kind of person who possesses any of a number of virtues, but the main one is integrity, Considering what a rare beast a mensch is in the world of hi-fi, the loss of a mensch is a serious blow. And when Arnie Nudell left Infinity a couple of years ago, I felt that the community had been somewhat diminished. And, no, I'm not after an 'Order of the Brown-Nose' award, nor am I bucking for a pair of free speakers.

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Nudell, whatever I thought of Infinity speakers (loved some, loathed others), impressed me because of his tenacity/stubbornness, his frightening passion for music (eg, he listens to open reel tapes as a primary source; he refuses to give up on making me love classical music) and his love for the world of high end audio. So maybe I shouldn't have worried. Somehow, I knew he'd be back. And he's returned in style, with an entire range of speakers and subwoofers, produced in collaboration with another audio ace, Paul McGowan of PS Audio origins.* Paul's expertise with electronics, naturally, led to him designing the Genesis crossovers.

So strong were Nudell's beliefs, as embodied in Infinity products, that I was dying to learn how he'd come up with something new without contradicting over 20 years' worth of track record. And however dissimilar the Genesis models may seem to Infinity speakers, they are consistent with the Nudell philosophy.

The line-up includes three full-range models, called rather preciously 'imaging modules', plus two subwoofers. The latter are prime Nudellisms, as both are self-powered with servo amplification -- just like the IRS and (sound of dust being blown off a speaker) the original Servo-Static. And I wonder how many audiophiles smiled knowingly when Nudell announced a new subwoofer called the Servostak? Anyway, the imaging modules (two 2-way and one 3-way) employ Kevlar coned woofers and ribbon tweeters. Not ribbons of the Kelly/SD/Apogee/Magnepan variety, but spiral types which look, from a distance, like 1in dome tweeters. So, again consistent with the past, the Genesis speakers are hybrids.

The biggest departure from Infinity practice is the enclosure architecture. All three imaging modules are housed in cylindrical enclosures reminiscent of the sorely missed JR loudspeakers of the late 1970s. The baffle is flat but narrow, with the sides curving back; the Genesis speakers can boast of minimal interference from cabinet 'edges'. The baffle area is covered with a material which absorbs initial reflections, while the enclosure itself is fashioned from a triple laminate made of a wood fibre core, an inner layer of damping material and an outer layer fashioned from a 'high-pressure laminate'. The latter contributes to the gorgeous looks: high gloss black.

The materials and the shape combine to form a rigid, inert enclosure immune to the smearing and distortion created by internal standing waves and unwanted resonances. The model under review, the entry-level IM-5200, weighs but 18kg, so mass cannot take credit for producing the 'deadness'. But the speaker is as 'unboxy' as a Celestion SL700 or a Sonus Faber, so the enclosure shape and the choice of material work very well indeed.

Arrival times have been handled through the age-old practice of tilting the speaker. A 10-degree slope is recommended, so Genesis makes an attractive, dedicated stand which does the trick. But I do wish that the company had chosen another name for the stand beside 'Foundation'. Once Cliff Stone hears about it... (Someone really should talk to Arnie about names. 'Foundation', 'Servostak', 'imaging modules'' -- even the company name is off the peg, a reminder of a so-so speaker from a decade ago, its sole claim to fame being drivers with lime green trim. Or was that Bolivar? Dunno. I forget. Or I'm trying to forget.)

The IM-5200 is a 'pricey mini', one which will, in the UK, compete with all manner of quality boxes. With a tag reading '£759', it will face off against Celestion SL600s, the Sonus Faber Minuetto, myriad speakers from Spendor and KEF and Rogers and Monitor Audio and anyone else with a stand-mounted speaker fighting for a home with customers spending between £500 and £1000. Its looks will help to make it stand out from the crowd, but the novelty value of a cylindrical enclosure and a proprietary tweeter won't complete the sale. From £500 on up, the market is filled with clever designs eschewing the mere 'cone and dome in a walnut box' recipe common to most speakers below that price point. So the Genesis has to cook.

Read more about the IM-5200s on Page 2.
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The spiral ribbon tweeter is common to all the models, while the
'5200 is the only one so far using the 5in woofer. (Note that the model
numbers refer to woofer size and the number of drivers, eg the 8300 is
a 3-way with an 8in woofer.) This uses a cone made from
injection-molded Kevlar in a base of polypropylene. It crosses over at
3700Hz and the speaker is not bi-wirable. User tweaking, aside from
adding the subwoofer, includes a tweeter adjustment control, which I
left 'flat', and a 'Bass Extension Fuse'. If left in place, there's
more extension but an impedance drop to 2.8ohms at certain frequencies.
Remove it, and you lose some extension but the impedance is a constant
4ohms. I left it in place. Note that this fuse is removed when the
subwoofer is added.

Another feature of the bass section is an 'anti-resonance circuit',
made of inductors and capacitors. This is said to cancel speaker
enclosure resonances, which are minimal anyway, while extending the
bass by nearly a half-octave.

With apologies to Paul McGowan, who spent the past 18 years
designing solid-state products, I have to say that the IM-5200 sounds
best with medium-powered valve amps. (And I'm willing to wager that
Nudell designed the speaker using tube gear.) Considering its
requirements of 60-200W (4ohm impedance, 85dB/1W/1m), I ran the
speakers with the 200W Beard P100 monoblocks, but also found that lower
powered designs like the Dynaco Stereo 70 Series II proved more than
adequate in a room of normal domestic dimensions. One solid-state amp
which worked wonderfully with the IM-5200 is the Aragon 4004, but the
Classé DR-10 seemed too lean and dry.

As luck would have it, I had two of the Genesis' prime contenders to
hand during the listening period, the Minuetto and the SL700. Talk
about three distinct personalities... The SL700 was all smoothness and
coherence, the Minuetto embodied detail, excitement and scale, while
the Genesis offerred a mix of the two to create a third alternative. It
matched the room-filling capabilities of the Sonus Faber, including the
excellent and impressive image height, while adding a touch more
precision. The price extracted for this, vis a vis the Minuetto, was a
hotter top end which tended toward the bright (so dig out your vintage
tube gear).

The Genesis also did a grand job of emulating the SL700's
'disappearing cabinet' trick. More and more small quality speakers are
managing this distancing from the traditional sound of boxes; what the
Genesis does is offer a sound not unlike a panel speaker -- and that's
a Very Good Thing. But it wasn't as airy or open-sounding as the SL700,
forgivable when you consider that there's a substantial price
differential.

But the Genesis doesn't rest in the middle. It's a punchy,
sparkling, involving speaker which offers a greater sense of weight and
bass extension than the others I've cited. All small speakers lack deep
bass; the trick is making the absence of deep bass seem less important
than it might be. Some attempt this by boosting key frequencies while
others simply chop off everything below a certain point, preferring to
optimize what is available. I don't know quite how the Genesis manages
it, but the sound of its bottom octaves is flat and neutral and
superbly controlled, giving an impression of greater extension than its
rivals. Only when I switched back to Divas or Extremas did I notice
what was missing.

Is the sound Infinity-like, or has Nudell chosen another path?
Considering that I've heard no Infinity speaker measuring 346mm tall,
with a footprint to match the IM-5200's 279mm diameter, delivering the
goods this effectively, I'd have to say that Nudell has lowered the
price points for access to his interpretation of quality sound
reproduction. Smaller and less expensive than four-figure,
EMIT-equipped Infinity speakers, the IM-5200 is just as satisfying.

But it's just such a bitch to match. Actual installation is easy,
especially with the dedicated stands (sexy-looking but a pricey 359),
and positioning is hassle-free, too, as toe-in is not necessary. You
just aim them forward and play around with the proximity to the walls.
But that tweeter can turn aggressive, and you may find your CD player
sounding a bit off, or that your amps weren't quite as sweet as you'd
believed.

All of which is consistent with Nudell's previous designs. Again, no
surprises. The genesis is a lively thoroughbred, skittish and
challenging but ultimately rewarding. But, like its designer, the
IM-5200 grabs your attention, occasionally browbeating you with
information. Observing its impact in this country, in a market sector
all but owned by the home teams, will prove interesting. And if it
fails, I'm sure I'll hear about how the British don't understand bass
and how we've been listening to too many BBC-sanctioned designs. In
other words, this speaker was truly 'Born In The USA'. All you have to
decide is if you prefer Bilko to Hancock.

Additional Resources
• Read more bookshelf speaker reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a receiver to pair with these speakers.
• See more about the audiophile world at AudiophileReview.com.
• Discuss all kinds of gear at hometheaterequipment.com.

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