Review By Dale Rasco
I have had all sorts of subwoofers pass through my hands and at times it gets exceedingly difficult to come up with new and original ways to relay my impressions especially when there are so many good products out there.
This review is my first experience with Genelec and to be honest, I have always thought of Genelec as a bit out of my reach. Genelec products are not flashy by any means nor are they the first name that rolls off the top of my head when someone asks about a subwoofer recommendation yet ask any expert in the industry about Genelec and you will get a very respectful response. This is a company that prides themselves on delivering high quality neutrality with every product they design.
The HTS4B has to be one of the most pleasant surprises I have had with regards to subwoofer reviews to date, but considering the reputation of the company and the cost of the product I somewhat expected as much. Once the HTS4B completed its tour of The Sub Zone, I unfortunately had to set it on the shelf for a bit until I could give it my full and undivided attention.
Aesthetics and Build Quality
We here at HTS utilize many precision tools and resources to verify high quality products such as our density impact module; AKA 'the knuckle rap' (thanks Jim). This cabinet is as solidly built as they come with zero cabinet ring. Aesthetically the cabinet will probably cause your better half to cringe. The flat black finish and industrial look of the grills do have a very 'cool' look but it is likely not going to be allowed into any formal setting.
Setup and Initial Impressions
Setup was as quick as with any other subwoofer; make the connections, calibrate the system, level the volume and you are ready to go. The HTS4B does not have many of the features that are available on a majority of today's subwoofers. For instance, there is no built in PEQ or a DSP. It does have balanced inputs as well as an unbalanced RCA connection, a molex connection for a remote setup, sensitivity adjustment and phase dipswitches.
Live Free or Die Hard
There are some excellent scenes in Live Free or Die Hard for subjective listening tests. I started with the scene where John McClane picks up Matt and saves him from the assassins hired to kill him. When the C4 attached to Matt's computer finally goes off, the results are earth shaking to say the least. What I noticed about the HTS4B is that there was no added boominess to the explosion as is so often the case with this scene. The impact was hard and the rumble was throaty yet both responses were smooth and rolled out very nicely. I played that particular scene back a couple of times to ensure what I was hearing and feeling. The other scene that I tested against was the explosion at the gas plant where Tymothy Olyphant's character 'Thomas Gabriel' redirects all of the gas lines in the region back to the main station where McClane has just wiped out all of Gabriel's henchmen. When it hits, it hits hard and just as before with the C4 scenes, the HTS4B response was perfect. It hit hard and impactful without any artificial boom and eventually rolled off into a nice throaty rumble.
How to Train Your Dragon
One of my favorite scenes for subwoofer testing is the final battle with the king dragon in DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon. This is an extremely dynamic LFE presentation from the start of the scene to the end of the battle. The scene begins when Stoic orders his men to release the catapults of their large boulder payloads aimed at the dragon's hive. Once the wall has been penetrated, the entire hive clears out and escapes the viking's wrath. But just when the vikings have a brief glimpse of victory, the king dragon gives a deep, earth shaking roar. This is a precursor to an onslaught of LFE heaven for bassheads as the giant dragon emerges from the side of the hive sending giant boulders hurtling through the air toward Stoic and his viking brothers. As the dragon stomps around and begins to set the scene ablaze with his fire breath, the bass output begins to border on ridiculous. The HTS4B handily defeated the king dragon's rampage and stood up throughout the scene eventually concluding as the king dragon plows uncontrollably into the ground after being outsmarted by Hiccup and Toothless. The HTS4B performed with perfect precision and never suffered from any exertion and never sounded strained. I was very impressed with the results of this test.
Marvel’s The Avengers
The opening scene of Marvel's The Avengers is one that I like to test with. The constant rumble as S.H.E.I.L.D. headquarters implodes can often times come across muddy as the low bass collides with the mid-bass. It is not a particularly dynamic scene as far as bass is concerned however it is perfect for just this type of listening test. The HTS4B provided a nice and very articulate response that never came across as muddy or otherwise dilluted.
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is another of my staples for subjective listening tests. Like How to Train Your Dragon, I find that the bass is very dynamic and offers a myriad of challenges to subwoofers with regard to response and clarity. I always like to start with the opening scene as Senator Amidala’s ship approaches and eventually explodes after landing on Corruscent. The bass output during the simple fly-by as their approach begins can range anywhere from awesome to fair depending on the subwoofer that you are using and the explosion can range from clear and impactful to sloppy and muddy. In the case of the HTS4B, the former in both scenes was the order of the day. The response was clear and articulate while maintaining an impactful presentation and did not suffer from any boom or muddiness. The second scene I tested with was the epic battle that starts in the third act of the movie as the clone troopers, led by master Yoda, arrive to free Anakin, Amidala and Obi-Wan. Once the ground forces start attacking the Genosians and the Trade Federation army, the walls start shaking and and things get all kinds of 'explody' (yes, it is a technical term). Seriously, I love this portion of the movie as it offers plenty of opportunity for some great bass and once again the HTS4B delivered on all counts. Tight, impactful and clear are the words I would use to describe the HTS4B's performance.
AC/DC For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) Live at Donnington (Blu-Ray)
I have started collecting some music Blu-Ray's for testing. AC/DC: Live at Donnington offers some great bass, especially on 'For Those About to Rock'. The tight bass drum response can feel like bullets in your chest if properly reproduced by the subwoofer and the cannons firing, well those are like cannons firing. The HTS4B passed with flying colors and gave a response that I can only describe as respresentative of what I have experienced at AC/DC concerts that I have attended.
Dream Theater Endless Sacrifice Live at Budokan (Blu-Ray)
Dream Theater is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite bands. I have seen them live on seven differrent occasions and have to say that I never get tired of it. The Live at Budokan Blu-Ray is an outstanding reference for how the band sounds live and offers the listener an excellent presentation. For my test, I focused in on Endless Sacrifice because it offers some great tempo changes and varies from a soft ethereal sound to a heavy, hard-hitting sonic onslaught with hard impactful bass. By now you can guess the conclusion, the HTS4B delivered with complete authority fulfilling all of my expectations.
I can see we are going to have to go deeper....
BASS BOY-BLINDED BY THE BASS (FLAC)
This type of test is really dependent on my mood at the time of the test because it can be very off-putting. I say that because I do not always like to have my head rattled in such a fashion that my teeth begin to rattle and Bass Boy Blinded by the Bass is just that type of song. A non-stop all-encompassing onslaught of LFE, Blinded by the Bass can also get annoying after a short period of time; however, it is a great test for a subwoofer. The HTS4B delivered on all fronts with unabashed clarity and precision.
Features and Specs:
The HTS4B sports a single magnetically shielded 12" forward-firing active driver and two 12” passive radiators, (one on each side) and an integrated 400 watt amplifier.
The Genelec HTS4B was a real treat to listen to and work with. It is an amazingly precise piece of equipment, but precision has its price. I have no qualms, concerns or any problem at all stating that the Genelec HTS4B is one of the most accurate subwoofers I have ever heard when it comes to reproducing an electrical signal. It is an absolutely awesome piece of gear. That being said, I also believe there are other subwoofers out there representing better overall value which can deliver similar responses with the added benefit of a DSP and PEQ for less than half the price.
However, that is not the whole story. One of the most amazing things about this sub was something that I learned after I finished my subjective listening tests for the review. When I removed the amp for some pictures, I was shocked to learn that this unit was officially nine years old to the day. To think that all of the wonderful, clear and precise bass was produced from a unit that was nine years old! Well, that put things in a whole different perspective as I have no doubt that this particular unit has made the rounds to many reviewers and been through several subwoofer tests. Now that is how I spell QUALITY!
The Sub Zone responses speak for themselves, and are identical to the responses that Genelec received during their testing. The build quality can be summed up in three words: NINE YEARS OLD. The sound quality is simply amazing and is easily one of the most accurate responses I have ever heard from a subwoofer and while it may be missing a few of the features that are available from other manufacturers, it is this reviewer’s opinion that the Genelec HTS4B does not need them. The HTS4B is that rare balance of technical ingenuity, precision and power that will leave you awestruck for years to come.
One final thought, the HTS4B is the type of subwoofer that I would absolutley classify as an audiophile-grade piece of gear. It does one thing incredibly well and that is reproduce the electrical signal that the unit receives accurately. This level of sound quality falls well into the 'last 10%' that many of us speak of and requires a skilled hand for installation and setup to get it properly blended to the level of quality that it is capable of achieving. I would personally love to own one of these units, but I could not justify the cost difference between this unit and something like an SB13 Ultra or KK12012. That does not mean I believe the HTS4B to be overpriced by any means, but it is beyond the commitment I am willing to make to my home theater at this time.
Please use the Genelec HTS4B Discussion Thread for Questions and Comments!