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
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
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.
design was put together and tweaked to get the result that is the
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
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
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
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
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
this obsession to detail, the signal path is made as transparent
as possible. There are no coupling capacitors in the signal path.
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.
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
Optional Phono Stage
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.
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.
Four RCA, One Option
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
10 lbs (4.5
faceplate and Carbon Fiber base
Specifications subject to change without notice.
Call Us 206-878-3833 or email
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