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SMc-1 Reference Preamp

The Genesis SMc-1 is a Reference-quality preamplifier designed to not only mate well with the Genesis line of Reference Power Amplifiers, but can also interface source components and power amplifiers in the realm of high-quality electronics. Over 4 years in the making, the legendary Steve McCormack was the lead contributor to the design – hence the model number we have assigned – the SMc-1.

The Heart of the System

With modern single-source, digital-only systems, it was thought that a preamplifier was “unnecessary”. Many modern DACs (digital-to-analog converters) come ready equipped with a volume control and are designed to directly drive the power amplifier. However, adding a good preamplifier to interface between the source and the power amplifier in some systems is an improvement. Why that is so is still a mystery. By all logical reasoning, it cannot be so, but yet inserting a preamplifier and an additional piece of wire results in greater transparency, not less.

If your DAC sounds better connected directly to the power amplifier, by all means you should connect them directly. Then you have no need for the SMc-1. However, if you find that the SMc-1 delivers a more musical and emotional presentation when it is inserted in the reproduction chain, then you can join the rest of your puzzled friends at Genesis.

An Obsession to Quality

With the SMc-1, every single component has been carefully selected. First, components with the best specifications were chosen, and then every single one listened to. Combinations have to be listened to for component-level synergy. The design of the power supply even included the design of the power cord – and hence an Absolute Fidelity Power Interface Cable is included in the price.

Finally, the design was put together and tweaked to get the result that is the Genesis SMc-1.

Volume Control

The most important functions of a preamplifier is that it has to transparently control volume from the softest to the loudest. The sonic character, soundstage and image must not vary with loudness. The system should sound equally good at loud and soft levels.

In our design and manufacturing of loudspeakers, it can be easily shown that very good matching between the left and the right speaker is critical to excellent image and soundstage. If the frequency and power response between the two crossovers and drivers of left and right are mis-matched, the image is not stable and the soundstage is not as “solid”.

Hence, it was clear that the best “standard” volume potentiometer that has left/right inter-channel tracking of +/- 3dB from 0dB to -60dB is not going to be good enough for our reference preamplifier. In a high-gain system, many preamplifiers have a significant channel imbalance when the volume control is used close to the extreme anti-clockwise position because that is where it has the biggest problems.

Our human ears hear exponentially – for a volume to be perceived as twice as loud, you’ll need 10 times the power. Hence, a volume potentiometer needs to have logarithmic and not linear taper. The problem is that most such devices manufactured do not track the logarithmic curve very well, and turning the volume control may result in strange perceived up/down shifts in loudness level. If a pot does not track the log taper well, that makes it doubly hard for it to match the other channel.

This is the reason why many systems may sound good at one volume, but sound a little “off” when slightly louder or slightly softer. If you only listen at one volume, that is well and good, but many of us like to vary our volume depending on our listening pleasure, the music we are listening to, and the time of day.

One of the ‘secrets’ behind the SMc-1 is a remote-controlled stepped volume control that is accurate to +/- 0.5dB between channels and +/- 0.2dB between the +ve and –ve legs of the balanced signal. It tracks the logarithmic taper to within 0.5dB at any point between -110dB and +15dB.

That is a tolerance far closer than most people can hear. Should you by chance be able to hear the 0.5dB variation between the channels, the SMc-1 also features a balance control that allows 0.5dB steps between channels.

No-compromise Remote Control

The SMc-1 incorporates a remote control for convenience without the usual sonic compromises associated with a remote control. Many high-end companies refuse to incorporate a remote control as the “digital hash” due to the belief that the crystal oscillators and logic processing needed to operate a remote control might interfere with the ultimate sound quality.

In digital systems, this is doubly bad because the “digital hash” from the DAC may also interfere with the “digital hash” from the preamp resulting in a beat-like noise that detracts from the music.

The SMc-1 circumvents this by completely isolating the logic circuits needed for the remote control with separate power supplies. In addition, the digital circuits incorporate a “sleep circuit” so that oscillators and processors are turned off when control is not active. A third different power supply is used for the relays and switches operated by the remote control.

When a button is pressed on the remote control, the logic circuit wakes up, performs the necessary functions, and goes back to sleep within 2 seconds. Hence, except for when commands are sent, the remote control system is completely inactive.

Logic-controlled remote control also gives us the means to implement nice-to-have ergonomic features. The mute function quickly and smoothly ramps the volume down before switching the source completely out. And going off mute switches in – and then gently ramps the volume back up. Switching inputs is similar, a quick mute, switch, and quick unmute.

Pristine Signal Path

With this obsession to detail, the signal path is made as transparent as possible. There are no coupling capacitors in the signal path.

Input selection is done by hermitically sealed relay switches with silver/gold contacts. Even the relays are powered with a high-quality power supply as any noise in the electro-magnets inside the relay close to the signal path may imprint.

Cheap connectors can easily negate all this, so Cardas’ best XLR connectors are used for balanced inputs and outputs and WBT Topline RCA connectors are used for single-ended inputs and outputs.

Optional Phono Stage

A very high quality phono stage that rivals stand-alone phono stages is optional. This allows the SMc-1 to really be the heart of your system. Like the rest of the SMc-1, the phono stage is of the best quality. It tracks the reverse-RIAA curve to within 0.2dB on both channels. Because we believe that the interface between the phono stage and the cartridge is critical, it comes with a tonearm cable terminated with a mini-DIN (LEMOI) connector for plugging directly into your tonearm.

Without the need for additional interconnects and power cords, you will find that the optional phono stage beating others that are many times the price.

A Complete system for enjoying music

All this would be useless if the SMc-1 does not convey the enjoyment and soul of music. It has been designed to be transparent and neutral, but not cold and analytic. Most importantly, it sounds better than a piece of wire…… how it does that, we don’t really know. You’ll have to just try it.

 

 

Specifications

 

Frequency Response

2Hz to 100kHz

Max Gain

12 dB

Input Impedance

75k ohms

Output Impedance

10 ohms

Inputs

Two XLR, Four RCA, One Option

Tape Monitor loop

Single-ended

Outputs

One XLR, one RCA

Dimensions

3.75" overall height including feet x 17.375" wide  x 13.375" deep

4.4cm overall height including feet x 44cm wide  x 34cm deep

Weight 10 lbs (4.5 kg)
Finish Acrylic faceplate and Carbon Fiber base

Specifications subject to change without notice.

 

 

Call Us 206-878-3833 or email sales@kosmic.us

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  SMc-1 Reference Preamp

 

 

Genesis products are only sold through authorized dealers. KOSMIC is proud to be the authorized dealer for Washington State. We cannot ship into states that have a Genesis dealer. However, if you do not have a dealer in your state, we would be happy to provide sales and support. See Genesis Web Site for list of authorized dealers. Please email sales@kosmic.us or call 206-878-3833 for availability. All Genesis products are SPECIAL ORDER.