Genius has been making its way into the US market by designing and importing innovative yet well-priced PC peripherials. The SP-HF800A ”3-Way Hi-Fi Wood Speakers” are created to look great and sound good while taking up little space as they will probably sit to either side of your display in what is especially recommended for a compact PC system.
What is impressive are the SP-HF800A’s good looks. They are a miniturization of classic-looking floor-standing loudspeakers, and the Maple wood as well as the copper speaker cones and inserts are an elegant touch – all for only about $50 for the set at Newegg.com. You can find them online as well as at Sears, Walmart and at Best Buy and perhaps you can even audition them before you buy. Of course, usually the most important thing about any speakers is their sound and we have been able to audition these speakers for well over a month from a variety of sources.
Genus calls these speakers, “three-way” although there is only one crossover for a single tweeter and two identical midrange speakers. Technically they are three-driver, “two-way” speakers although there is no standard and some car audio speaker manufacturers call similar speakers, “2.5-way”. The reason for using a second midrange speaker is to reinforce the bass, and there is also a port on the back of each speaker which makes them “bass reflex” also – the port is tuned to maximize whatever bass is produced inside the speaker box and to reinforce it for the listener. The cables on the back keep one from placing the speakers directly against the wall, so you don’t have to worry about covering the ports.
The SP-HF800As are bookshelf speakers which means that they are designed to sound better sitting on a bookshelf – ideally in some sort of corner placement. That is where you will get the most effective bass response and the best imaging.
The SP-HF800As do look great and their style sets them we above most plastic-looking generic PC speakers in their price-range. However, it is important that PC speakers sound decent – one does not expect audiophile quality from fifty dollar speakers nor should one expect thundering bass from even multiple 2″ drivers without a subwoofer. We have had these speakers for well over a month as our main PC speakers and we have listened to all of our music, watched movies and played many PC games on them.
Genius duplicated their shipment to ABT and we received two pairs of the same SP-HF800A speakers to evaluate. That brought up the idea of using them in a Quadraphonic 4.0 array in surround for movies and for PC gaming, and also “stacked” – each pair placed next to each other in a stereo configuration (as above) to see how they image and also if the bass response will increase with a total of 8 drivers devoted to the midrange and mid-bass as the speaker is specified to reach down to 80Hz (at -20db and 10% THD).
We used it together with our Compaq notebook’s integrated sound, our desktop PC with an EVGA Z77 motherboard with integrated sound as well as with a Diamond Xtreme Sound 7.1 USB Sound card.
Although the next standard for BluRay is 11.1 audio, the very best audio systems in the world – genuine audiophile systems – are stereo. This editor got to evaluate and own many high-end systems in the 1970s. A favorite stereo system included two pairs of stacked, mirrored and imaged Dahlquist DQ-10 speakers, a Mark Levinson modified Harmon-Kardon Citation tube pre-amp, Great American Sound amplifiers bridged to 1000W per channel, a Thorens turntable and a Grado Signature cartridge. Many years ago, this kind of system was far more affordable; nowadays a similar system might cost a hundred thousand dollars.
Working as a consultant in high-end audio, this editor soon found that most specifications for audio are ridiculous over-exaggerations as most speakers and other audio components never come close to their advertised specifications. A genuine audiophile system has no tone controls – the preamp is a straight wire with gain and neither are there balance controls which would add distortion to the pure sound. CD audio is still quite deficient sonically when compared to analog vinyl records according to audiophiles.
There are no shimmering transients to hear from CD as there is with analog as CDs are under-sampled and some of the sound is left out and the imaging may be gone. From listening critically to a high-quality analog recording of a good live performance played back on a high-end system, you can not only tell where the piano is on the audio stage, you can tell its orientation and its size as the sounds become fully 3-dimensional. And MP3s are no use to the audiophile as the compression is annoying, exhibiting aural artifacting and “breathing” even at the highest bit rate. Only DVD audio has finally caught up with the analog recordings of decades past.
Eventually this editor lost some of his ability to hear the extreme high-frequencies and returned to playing music in the background without listening critically. A Cambridge SoundWorks quadraphonic system has been used for gaming since 2001 (below, connected to a notebook) and is still in use. As you can see, the typical PC speakers are “hidden” because they tend to look cheap, plastic, and generic.
A Klipsch v200 PC audio system lasted this editor for about 10 years. It looks much nicer than the Cambridge system but is also very expensive in comparison. Klipsch’s speaker faults include a very bright and almost shrill tweeter and somewhat of a ‘hole’ in the midrange although the bass is impressive for a PC speaker system.
Sound systems tend to last a long time and one should have a system that is not only pleasing to the ears, but to the eyes also, and they should fit in with the decor. Getting the “look” right is something Genius has excelled at with the SP-HF800A speakers.