Gary Koh of Genesis Advanced Technologies and Merrill Wettasinghe of Merrill Audio hosted the Pacific Northwest Audio Society (PNWAS) in early March. They were expecting 10 people but had the doors blown down when 57 people made an appearance. I wasn’t able to attend, but received a text from a friend during the event that read, “Met Gary and Merrill, Oh Man! DEEP dive into vinyl!”. He wasn’t kidding, and I knew when I got back to Seattle I needed to see what all of the fuss was about.
I drove over to the Genesis manufacturing facility with a stack of LPs under my arm. Gary greeted me with the new COVID arm bump and whisked me into a room where he had setup a listening area for the PNAS event. The event was hosted in a warehouse -no fancy room conditioning, a concrete floor adorned with a small rug. This was going to get interesting.
Taking center stage were the Genesis Quartet speakers, a design that has been available for a couple of years. Even in the dark warehouse, the speakers looked luxurious and beautifully assembled in Bentley Silver Sand finish. This paint is incredibly costly, putting Genesis back $1200 a pint. I am guessing touch up paint ain’t free…
Genesis Super Subwoofer
As Gary described the Quartet speaker system, it quickly became obvious that he has a serious obsession with bass. The Genesis Quartet speaker system is usually packaged with two subwoofers, each packing sixteen 8-inch drivers on each side. That’s a total of thirty-two 8″ drivers in a standard Genesis Quartet setup. This set-up might be hard to get past my better half.
But today those thirty-two 8-inch drivers were resting, and making space for a prototype of Gary’s new Super Subwoofer. Gary wanted to do something different with the prototype he was showing. His goal was to bring together the qualities that he loved in the larger 12″ bass driver coupled with the speed provided by smaller 8″ drivers.
The Genesis Super Sub prototype was built using a combination of two 15″ drivers, two 12″ drivers, and two 8″ drivers per cabinet. These are always used in a stereo configuration, but customers who have an addiction similar to Gary’s can stack the super sub on both sides, adding an additional two more cabinets to the mix. Gary may need to attend to the woofers anonymous on his journey to get the world’s best low frequency.
In addition to using different driver sizes together, Gary’s design is that each pair of woofers has its own servo control. Gary went on to explain:
“The whole idea of the servo control is to make the woofers accurately track the musical signal in the bass. You need a lot of power because if the woofer isn’t going as fast as the music signal, you need power to push it, and if it doesn’t slow down with the music, you also need equally as much power to pull it back to stop it. “
He further explained how he gets the speed of each pair of drivers correct.
“There is an accelerometer that tracks the acceleration of the curve, not the velocity of the curve. Musicians totally understand this because they hear an electric bass sitting next to them in the studio and music systems don’t sound like that, since the woofers have inertia (making them slow to start moving) and momentum (making them overhang).”
This isn’t a new idea. It was originally used by Arnie Nudell in the 1960’s and also used by Velodyne in their subwoofer designs. The Accelerometer is located in the cone of the driver and is used in a feedback system. Since each pair of drivers has its own accelerometer, it allows the sub controller to ensure that each pair moves the same amount of air. Gary claims:
“It’s not a 3-way crossover, it’s not that that 15s get the lowest frequency. Instead – I managed to integrate all of this to make each of the drivers (15,12,8) move the same amount of air. The excursion is proportional to the area of the cone. It is the most awesome bass I have ever heard. I was nicely surprised.”
This was all interesting, but I wanted to hear these massive woofers sing and better understand how these beasts get integrated with the Genesis Quartet loudspeakers that play center stage.
Gary detailed that his efforts here focused on the crossover design in both the Quartet loudspeaker as well as the crossover in the subwoofer controller that he designed. The short answer is that since he designs both, he ensures they are built to work together.
Additionally, every crossover has group delay so part of the idea is to ensure that the active crossover has the same delay as the passive crossover, allowing the mains and the subs to work together in harmony. To make this all work, the super subwoofer controllers and the main loudspeakers were both connected to the amplifier output binding posts. This also allows the main speakers to run full-range.
Genesis Record Player
Playing center stage was the Genesis Advanced Technologies Record Player. The Genesis Record Player is sold as a complete system including the audio stand, turntable, motor-drive, phono pre-amplifier, and a power conditioner designed for the pre-amp and table.
“The idea is, there is a lot of amplification in a phono stage. Any noise coming in is hugely amplified. So, the idea of this thing is total isolation from the outside world. The phono stage has an output transformer to isolate the circuit from the preamp and the rest of the system. The power supply from the wall also has noise pollution and this is transformed into heat in the Juice Box.”
The complete turntable system minus the tonearm, turntable cartridge and Christine pre-amplifier is around $135,000 USD. This system was originally shown in August 2019 at a series of audio shows in Bangkok and China.
At first glance the turntable looks like a VPI industries table on steroids. You can see the familiar platter, and VPI Fatboy 3D printed tonearm. But, as Gary was quick to point out, there are many differences.
The plinth is suspended off the top, with layers of carbon fiber to absorb vibration and then another suspension below creating layers of isolation.
I don’t know the actual weight, but it is huge. I had a VPI Classic 3 years ago, and it was nowhere near the size of this big boy.
Tuned VPI Fatboy
Starting with the FatBoy tonearm, Gary has added a Genesis counterweight on it instead of the standard VPI counterweight leveraging the addition of tungsten.
The Gary Kink
One thing that drove me crazy is how unipivot tonearms rock side to side. I could always see it on my VPI Classic 3, but it wasn’t audible. Gary has a simple fix, and he calls it the “Gary Kink.” Everyone who owns a VPI turntable should apply this.
Basically, if the cable is curved from the top of the unipivot arm, it will constantly pull the arm sideway. Here is the fix. If you pull the cable out of the top of the VPI tonearm straight as possible and then put a kink there, it removes this. We did a quick AB and with the Gary Kink, and the level of rocking dropped significantly.
Electric Tape on the VPI Platter
I noticed 3 pieces of electric tape on his VPI platter…what??? I love that stuff but wouldn’t expect to drop it on a $135k turntable system.
“The tape placement is a theory based on the science of cymatics. As you know, any action has an equal and opposite reaction. When the grooves of a record make the stylus vibrate to generate the electrical signal, there is a physical vibration created in the record. This makes vibrational modes and nodes in the record itself. Although where the record vibrates is swept away when it spins, the modes hang on for a bit. The three pieces of tape disrupts the cymatic pattern of modes and nodes and makes things sound quieter and smoother.”
Apparently the folks on some VPI forums have gone crazy about this and it works on almost any platter except for ones made of soft delrin. If your platter is aluminum, steel or ceramic it should work.
I am not sure how I feel about this, but I will try it on my AMG Viella V12 and will report back in the future.
Modified VPI Record Weight
The VPI Record weight looked stock, but when flipped over showcased additional material applied. Specifically, there are 3 additional little dots that were added in random locations, each made of a different material. One is ceramic, one is silicon nitride and one is made of tungsten. The goal is to disrupt vibration modes on the record itself.
Merrill Audio Element 118 Mono-block Amplifiers
Driving Gary’s Genesis subwoofer madness was a pair of Merrill Audio’s Element 118 amplifiers. The Element series replaces Merrill’s prior offerings and comes in three models: stereo, and two mono-block versions.
These are all produced with a new rose gold finish. I don’t think the pictures online do justice to the color. I will say that in person, the finish looks fabulous.
This new color is now also available on the other existing Merrill products like the Christine pre-amplifier as well as the Jens Phono pre-amplifier.
Getting to a new design
Merrill’s prior class D designs have leveraged Hypex amplifier boards. He wanted to take his amplifiers in a new direction with the Element series. He explained some of the shortcomings of the prior Class D + Hypex based design that centered around dead time (due to parasitic capacitance of FET devices, it is impossible to switch on and off immediately), feedback and immediacy.
Merrill was on a mission to address all three parameters in his new amplifier design, starting with research he did 6 years ago. He starting playing with Gallium Nitride Transistors which inspired him. The work here helped him look for new ways to address feedback, dead time and better power supplies as well as circuitry boards that could improve immediacy. Merrill went on to say:
“I had discovered some of the tricks to immediacy in the early circuits of the Merrill Audio Jens Phono stage, and then the Merrill Audio Christine Preamplifier, which on an A/B comparison I believe are still the fastest most musically accurate preamplifiers available today. This is the result of no overshoot or ringing in the circuits when having very fast rise times. It was easy to have a fast rise time but very difficult to not have ring and overshoot due to the parasitics of the components, the circuit board and the wiring inside the unit. Using these discovered techniques, and with a lot of help from industry experts in various fields, some instrumentation, the Merrill Audio ELEMENT series was built.”
Merrill claims that the new Element Series are capable of zero dead time, zero feedback, and greater immediacy. This stems from a new LLC power supply that was developed alongside the amplifier circuits.
Now I was seriously ready to do some listening. Gary played DJ pulling out a Patricia Barber record that I had not heard previously. It was a live recording, A Fortnight in France, that is fabulous and left me searching for it as soon as I got back to my car.
This album is no longer available, and I am proud to tell you that I bought the last available copy on Discogs that I could find. You can come and listen to it on my rig.
The track we listened to was “Blue Prelude.” It features a hypnotic double bass, and that Patricia’s voice floats on top. From the short listen that we had, what stood out to me was the tonality of Patricia’s voice and the tonality of the bass.
Subwoofers do their best when you can add them and not change the tonality. Instead you want to add texture and weight to the the low frequency. This came shining through as I closed my eyes, put down my phone and stayed present in the track.
We shifted gears and dropped the needle on an LP I had brought. We moved to “Dead Can Dance” and listened to “Yulunga (Spirit Dance).”
The drums came to life with texture and dynamics. The micro-detail in the shaker paired with the percussion that sounded large and dynamic, just like I expected them to be on a great system.
I picked up Merrill’s pre-amplifier remote and cranked it up, up, and up. There seemed to be no top, except where it was probably too loud for me, but the system was still running on all cylinders. Gary commented that he loved Merrill’s amplifiers since they match his gear so well and offer transparency. Gary commented,”I want to hear what is on the record, I don’t want the system to flavoring the sound in any way.”
Next up was Sting’s Nothing like the Sun LP that I purchased at a used record shop in Tokyo.
I definitely didn’t feel like I was hanging out in a warehouse during this Genesis demo.
The afternoon continued with a deep discussion on Gary’s quest to create better vinyl and the work he did on his direct to disc release. But we will save that for another time.
Gary and Merrill put together a system that definitely increased my interest in learning more about their offerings. Gary sells mostly to customers in Asia, but I think we need to pay more attention stateside since it is made in our backyard.