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Genesis Reference Power Amplifier Version 2.2 w/MDHR v1.3
by Ernie Fisher

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, here is my approach about the business I love and admire: A fine music system is the consequence of having found the interaction or connection of two or more components within a system that produces a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Sounds simple but is, in fact, easier said than done because the possible system combinations likely number in the millions.
Those who have been into audio for some time know that the proper reproduction of music cannot be achieved by simply slapping together an amp, a preamp, speakers and source components. This holds true even when a system’s components are highly rated by some of the many reviewers who are presently dealing out their opinion, including this one, of course. However, I do my best to come up with audio synergy when I assemble my own systems and employ what I have learned over the years when I evaluate audio components. I am not alone in my quest and — along with other senior audio enthusiasts — there is Gary Koh. He is Genesis Technologies principal and a man who knows very well that synergy is one of the most important factors when assembling an audio system. The GRF amplifier is said to be a design that allows a synergistic system combination with the Genesis brand of loudspeakers, and though I had the 5.3 at hand, I also used it with other speaker brands. As I had a few brands in-house at the time (still have), I was interested how the amplifier acts with or reacts to various system combinations. What follows is an evaluation of the Genesis Reference Amplifier as it behaves with various components. However, first things first.

I had the MDHR component stacked on the power amplifier — all placed on the handsome Genesis-designed acrylic stand. The amp’s power supply was connected via a short umbilical cord, hidden behind my own component stand. When the amp is switched on via a toggle located at the amp’s rear panel. A blue(ish) light reflects off the stand and renders an almost intriguing, very elegant sight that all visitors to my listening room noticed and liked. It’s a touch of class, not often found in the rather austere designs of the North American audio industry.
The amplifier module and the capacitor module are both 445mm x 330mm x 86mm (w x d x h) and weigh in at 10.5kg. The power supply is 228mm x 228mm x 114mm (w x d x h) and a meaty 15kg. The acrylic suspension system adds another 3kg. The whole stack measures 480mm x 360mm x 200mm.

The Sound
This GRA/MDHR have been in my system(s) for about five months connected, but not limited to the Genesis 5.3 loudspeakers I reviewed a few months ago (see review among theses pages). As I still had them in my house, all I had to do is disconnect the Bryston 7BSST Squared monoblocks connected with Argentum cables and replace them with the Genesis Reference amplifier. My connected source components included an Origin Live turntable/arm Dynavector cartridge Tom Evans phono preamp, the new (not yet reviewed Atoll CD player as well as an Esoteric transport/DAC and a Magnum tuner. The preamplifier used for this evaluation was a modified Dolan. Though the amp came burned in, I still operated it with the help of my tuner to burn in and prepare it for thorough auditioning.

One of the first impressions was how the GRA handled high frequencies. At extreme highs, the Genesis 5.3 loudspeakers can sound a bit hard with some amps, but with the Genesis amplifier, I couldn’t find any disturbing hardness, braying or any other unpleasant sonic elements. I had a small nitpick in the 5.3’s evaluation regarding the upper midrange and lower high frequency region where trumpet and cornets perform. I stated that “the G5.3s didn’t render the smoothness they achieved in the very highs and sounded a bit more severe — not unpleasant, but not quite right” using the Bryston 7B SST Squared amplifiers. This weakness all but disappeared with the Genesis amp suggestive of somewhat better component compatibility.
However, the amplifier didn’t have to power the 5.3’s woofers, and I wanted to find out about the amp’s sonic personality across the audible frequency spectrum, including its bass performance. Thus, for the next auditions, I connected the Audio Physics speakers (also reviewed earlier) and played back the same musical material I had used with the Genesis 5.3 speakers.
This time, the amplifier was asked to perform not just in midrange and high frequencies, but also provide bass energy to the Audio physics speakers. And it did just that — and it did it very well indeed. Bass resolution was exemplary at the speakers’ published 35 Hz with ample harmonics above that point, which made listening to pipe organ and Hammond B3s a rather enjoyable musical experience. The Tempos also sounded entirely relaxed. I never had the feeling that the amp labored or that there were restrictions relating to dynamics. Surprisingly smooth highs, clear midrange and solid deep bass made this system sound musically pleasing with but a few slight upper midrange dips (around 900 -1000Hz). Outstanding imagery and the speakers’ knack to delineate detail, led me to believe that I am hearing the amplifier’s characteristics, while the loudspeakers faithfully reproduced the musical signal they received.

Just when I was about to pack everything up, I received a pair of Focal Choral 836V loudspeakers and an Allnic L 3000 (tube) preamplifier. I decided to connect both to the Genesis amplifier — and I am glad I did. This system combination revealed quickly that the Focals were a match made in audio heaven, though I believe that the Allnic preamp also contributed greatly. The speakers responded superbly. I heard clearly what the amplifier does best — bass resolution to the loudspeakers’ specified 38Hz, added bass harmonics, smooth but well articulated highs, transparent but not-in-your-face mids and an astonishingly well-defined tonal equilibrium. Detail, soundstage dimensions, focus on instruments and vocals and that very hefty dose of musicality showed that this system combination was great. Though powerful and dynamic, the GRA never showed excessive muscle, but rather handled the entire musical signal with a touch of refinement, almost as though it wasn’t there. That is a rare experience for this listener who is forever looking for sonic signatures. This amp has one, to be sure, but it is written in almost invisible ink. Was this system arrangement synergy at its best? Well, I decided to revisit the Genesis 5.3 loudspeakers, this time using the Allnic L 3000 preamplifier. I auditioned the system with the same program material I had used earlier and the number of improvements I clearly heard took me aback. Better texture, improved harmonic composition and more refined midrange and high frequencies showed (again) that system synergy is important, though difficult to ascertain. Seems that the amp “likes” the tubed Allnic.

I spent many enjoyable hours listening to the Genesis system including the company’s own interconnects and speaker cables. I thought that the cables did a pretty good job, although I believe this is where improvement can be made to elevate the performance. This will cost, of course, and it isn’t going to be cheap. I believe that most audio enthusiasts might be quite happy with the results obtained by the Genesis cables, which I believe are priced according to performance — they are good, but not superb; but then again, superb will set you back a few thousand bucks, perhaps as much as $15k. However, the Genesis cables (or premium brands with which you are familiar) will likely provide a satisfactory system arrangement because the components match harmoniously and correspond or cause to correspond in some essential respect. In my setup the lower priced Argentum cables also did a good job. Gary Koh seems to have found audio synergy at a reasonable price, proving again that it can be done without forking out a small fortune. The Genesis Reference power amp and its MDHR companion connected to the Genesis 5.3 loudspeakers with the Genesis cables render synergy and make beautifully music and make music beautiful.

When one hears good audio it’s usually because someone has assembled a synergistic audio system. When one hears great audio, it’s not only because of a wining system combination, but also because of the components’ capacity to recover and provide the listener with ample harmonics — the building block relating to component frequencies of a complex oscillation or wave. In essence, it is music’s overtones accompanying a fundamental tone, and it is my believe that we can never have enough harmonics to capture an intricate musical arrangement and the character or quality of musical sound or voice as distinct from its pitch and intensity — timbre.

I suppose, that Class D amplification has reached maturity with the Genesis Reference Power Amplifier the proof of this accomplishment. It brings together technology and musicality and eliminates the myth that Class D amplifiers are only good for bass. My take on technology is that I don’t care about it from the technical viewpoint, but appreciate greatly what it can do for the industry I love, the music — and me. Great job Gary.

Genesis Reference Power Amplifier Version 2.2 with
MDHR (Maximum Dynamic Headroom Reservoir) Version 1.3
Genesis Advanced Technologies
654 South Lucile Street
Seattle, WA 98108
Amplifier v2.2 : $8000.00
MDHR v1.3: $4000.00


There is a lot of detailed information on the Genesis website, but the following are highlights of the important information.

It is important to understand that the Amplifier works quite well without the optional Maximum Dynamic Headroom Reservoir. I tried it with and without and decided that high-end sound is more important than the price one pays for it. The MDHR connects easily via 20 amp Neutrik connectors and adds power supply storage of about 180.000 µF. Lethal voltages are stored in the unit and remain there for some time even after the unit has been disconnected.

The company states that the Genesis Reference Amplifier uses proprietary designs and circuits, high quality components, and state-of-the-art Class D amplifier modules.

The design objective is to produce a load-invariant, wide-bandwidth amplifier have some of the characteristics of a low-powered tube amp with the reliability, power, and control of a high power solid-state design.

The GR-Amp challenges the status quo of music amplifiers by marrying the advantages of tube (emotion, imaging, soundstage, and portrayal of tonal colors) with solid state (control, dynamics and accuracy). It uses a modified Class D power amplifier module with innovative power supply technologies, and resonance and vibration control to achieve this.

The Genesis Dynamic Power Delivery Supply (DPDS) is designed to deliver current into a non-linear, dynamic, rapidly changing musical load, leading to a sense of power with finesse. The origins of the DPDS comes from the principles of tube amplifier design – and adds a Class D amplifier module to switch current to the connected loudspeakers. Thus, it is able to deliver high power, as well as very quick bursts of speed and dynamics. The optional Maximum Dynamic Headroom Reservoir component extends this ability to loudspeaker impedances of only one ohm — stability under almost all conditions. A newly developed low-current regulated voltage supply has broad bandwidth noise rejection so that incoming noise does not intrude on the music signal. The electronic regulator used in the GR-Amp exceeds the specifications of an excellent choke. It is an exceedingly fast discrete circuit and not a generic design. Spectrum analysis up to 16 MHz shows a very high bandwidth, as no apparent degradation at that frequency. The circuit is of low enough impedance to outperform commercial regulators by at least 10dB. This is despite the fact that no loop feedback is used in this circuit. It is not a shunt device, it is not a capacitative multiplier, and it does not employ chokes. Genesis would like to credit Engr. Nigel Pearson for the design of the SRVS — a discrete design whereby each component is hand selected to get the optimum result.

A lot of attention was given to resonance and vibration control, with emphasis on reducing noise from the power supply feeding into the amplifier. To avoid RF (radio frequency) and electro-magnetic interference, the GR-Amp has an outboard power transformer. With the transformer moved outside of the chassis, the amplifier provides a much quieter environment in which to operate. To further reduce the vibration/resonance within the chassis, the signal and power circuits are isolated from each other. The signal circuits are softy “hung” using a neoprene “hammock” from the top cover of the chassis, while the power circuits are stiffly mounted on the bottom plate using plastic posts. It is done so as to avoid the development of vibration and resonance of the two different circuits to different frequencies.

In an effort to further control resonance Genesis engineered a dedicated acoustic suspension system for the amplifier. It is designed approximating the suspension system of a race car, but made of a solid acrylic suspension frame, neoprene shock absorbers, and steel spikes. It isolates the amplifier from floor or structure-borne vibrations, and yet at the same time allows any vibration in the amplifier chassis to be “sunk” to ground.

Other features that have been incorporated include a grounded Faraday cage steel chassis for RFI and EMI rejection; all internal power and signal wiring using silver strands with a copper core and PTFE dielectric. The silver strands are wound so tightly together that the strands “imprint” on each other and combine to act almost as a solid-core wire. Thus, the internal wiring has the makeup of both solid-core as well as stranded wire. All critical components are matched to less than
+/- 1% tolerances; a special circuitry keep components energized without wasting a lot of electricity; a high-power, high current relay power switch power (instead of typical rocker or toggle) assures minimal signal degradation of the power supply path.

The amp is rated at 180w or 360w per channel (@ 4ohm); current limited to 20amps for 20ms; frequency response is from10Hz to 50kHz +0dB/-3dB; power Bandwidth is from18Hz to 36kHz; input impedance is 100k Ohms (Balanced or Single-ended); damping is 2,000 minimum at 4 ohms; gain is 26dB. The inputs are balanced XLR and/or single-ended RCA; the output is ETI CablePods™ 5-way binding posts.
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