2015 April 22    Audio  Reviews


Intro


In the main Audio Guide article, I mentioned the Genius 1250 speaker system.    Based on their appearance, that might seem an unusual suggestion to readers who are into vintage audio, nice wood-tone cabinets, and that sort of thing.

These speakers have been on the market for a few years.  Therefore, this wants to be a "classic review"... maybe.   Let's see if they're really worth having.



A Quick Note


This article is made possible only by the support of readers like you, when you use the links on here to purchase your gear.

The small commissions from sales are what allow me to keep this site going.   Thank you in advance for your help.


In This Article


Some Specs


General Characteristics


Connectors

Audio Quality

Pros & Cons

Fun Stuff

Upgrade Path

Modding

Conclusion



The 1250's are available here.





Some Specs

AC Voltage:  100-240V universal
Amplifier Class:  AB
Case Material:  MDF (subwoofer enclosure);  black plastic (everything else)
DC Voltage:  no wall-wart needed!
Dimensions: Subwoofer about 8.5" x 9" x 9.4";  Satellites about 5.5" x 4.4" x 3.9"
Frequency Response (Satellites):  80 Hz - 20 KHz
Frequency Response (Subwoofer):  58 Hz - 20 KHz
Headphone Jack:  3.5mm stereo plug
Impedance:  4 ohms (satellites);  8 ohms (subwoofer)
Made In:   China and possibly USA
Power rating:  38 Watts (RMS)
Power source:  AC mains voltage (no wall-wart)
Price (sugg. retail):  $99 US (buy them discounted through this link)
RCA Inputs:  one pair (L and R) for line-level input
RCA Outputs:  three for speakers (L, R, and Subwoofer)
Signal to Noise Ratio:  90 dB
Tweeters:  3 inch cone
Weight:  9.4 lbs, the set
Woofer:  5.25 inch
Years Manufactured:  2011-

(earlier versions may have had different wiring or jacks;  I don't have a 2011-production unit in front of me.)






General Characteristics


These are powered computer speakers.  There are two satellite speakers, one subwoofer, and a control box.

The control box is one of the highlights of this set.  It has a volume control knob, a bass level knob, a 3.5mm mic input, and a 3.5mm headphone output. The control box powers the whole system, by way of a hard-wired AC power cord that plugs into the wall. There is no heavy wall-wart transformer with which to contend.

What first piqued my interest in these speakers was that control box design.  No more having to lean way over to one side to adjust the volume on one of the speakers;  the control box goes on your desk.  It's that much easier to listen to Mantovani or Mozart while you read the Internet.

The color scheme is black and red;  the overall design motif is basically "extreme gamer".  Some readers prefer this;  others would rather see a plain, silver-gray or wood-tone finish.  Either way, this set is really about function.  For what they offer, I guess I can put up with the color scheme.  Just don't leave these in the sun, because black absorbs heat. 


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Connectors


Input: 
- Aux / Line In:  3.5mm stereo (1 jack) (back)
- Line In:  RCA stereo (1 pair) (back)
- Mic In:  3.5mm stereo (1 jack) (front)

Outputs:
- Speaker Out:  Left, Right, and Subwoofer (back)
- Headphone Out:  3.5mm stereo  (1 jack) (front)
- Mic Out:  3.5mm stereo (1 jack) (back)

Power: 
- Hard-wired AC power cord

The Mic Out connector carries the microphone signal to your computer or laptop, for those times when you have a microphone plugged into the front of the control box. 

I'm glad they put RCA-in jacks and didn't limit the input to a 3.5mm.  It's there if you want one, though ("AUX").  That means you can listen to your MP3 player, iPad, or iPod.   The Genius 1250 set includes a couple of adapter cables, too.





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Audio Quality

If you're into really good audio, maybe this set will be just "average" to you.  Clear sound, but not perfect.   The subwoofer is pretty loud, but it's not designed to set off seismographs. 

Before you put yourself in that group, though, make sure you're actually listening to good sound.  I say that because computer settings can mess up the sound characteristics of an otherwise-good recording.   If you're going to test these speakers, I'd suggest using the Line-In jacks so you can connect your CD player or cassette deck to it.  And if you use cassettes, choose a good recording made on CrO2.

Now, for the rest of us:  if you're looking for the best deal in a set of speakers, and you can appreciate "quality no matter where you find it"... I think you will find this set to be phenomenal

I still can't believe how good these speakers sound.

The noise floor is so low that you won't even know the speakers are turned on, unless you can see the LED on the control box.  (And you will see it, because the LED is ridiculously bright.)

I'm sure that a lot depends on your room acoustics, but I found that I could play these things very loud, and it sounded good.  How loud?  Well above the volume at which I normally listen to music.  Loud enough that I didn't really want to be in the same room with them. 

Is there distortion on the extreme high and low end of the range when you do this?  Perhaps, but it wasn't as nasty as I've heard with a lot of computer speakers.  

Actually, no;  it wasn't even as nasty as I've heard with a lot of bookshelf speakers.     And the amplifier in this set is far better than the Lepai, which isn't really a bad little amp.

Sometimes, these speakers almost sound like a good pair of floorstanders.

I have a CrO2 recording of some polka music, which seems to have been made by people who knew what they were doing.  (Random find in a pile of used cassettes.)  On a good deck, and using these speakers, it sounded like a CD.   Unbelievable clarity, power, and range... for cheap. 

Recently I posted a review of some vintage bookshelf speakers, which sound pretty great... until you compare them next to the Genius 1250's.  The 1250's have less roll-off on the highs, and the lows sound more crisp.   That's also a function of the amp circuitry, though, in all likelihood. 

Now, what about using these with a computer

If you have a halfway-decent sound card, good drivers, and audio software that doesn't mess up the sound... then the speakers sound awesome. 

Likewise, the headphone output sounds great, considering this is a $50 speaker set.  You don't even have to hook up the speakers;  just use the control box with headphones only, if you want.   My super-cheap pair of computer headphones, not even a name-brand, still sounds very good.  They are not really that loud unless you turn the volume all the way up, though.  And that's with the computer's volume control maxed out.  Maybe that's a good thing, though.



(Purchase these speakers)


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Pros & Cons


First, the cons. 

- The design aesthetics are not for everyone;  I'd rather see silver-toned trim instead of red.  Either that, or the whole thing in wood-grain finish.
- Subwoofer sound breaks up at the highest volumes, but what do you expect?

Now, the pros.

- Awesome sound quality for the price!
- Ultra-low noise floor.  No background hiss, no static, no hum.  With a good recording, you won't even know the speakers are on until the music starts.
- Nice, big volume-control knob that works smoothly
- Control box can be put on your desk, and the speakers positioned elsewhere
- Can use these speakers with a CD player, cassette deck, or even a pre-amplified turntable.
- At normal volumes, the subwoofer has loud, clear bass.
- I still can't believe how good these sound.


(Purchase these speakers)


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Fun Stuff

In the VP-130 article, I mentioned using these speakers to build your own mini stereo system for your turntable.  This has to be the DIY budget-audio system of the century. 

Previously I was talking about the Lepai amplifier... well, actually, what you've got here in the Genius set is an amplifier of its own, and a better one at that.  This is a huge selling point that puts it far above most of the other computer speakers on the market.  If the control box had standard 8-ohm or even 6-ohm speaker wire connectors on the back, it would be stellar.  As it is, you can already use it with other speakers and components (see "Upgrade Path").

GX Gaming should take the control box, make it have a wood-grain 70's retro finish, use silver-colored knobs, add a couple RCA Line-Out jacks, and sell it as a mini home-stereo amp... for like forty bucks.  And in the process, thoroughly irritate every other stereo manufacturer, because the sound quality is so good for the price. 




(Purchase these speakers)

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Upgrade Path

Mostly, you'll just want to use these speakers as they are... but some of you are going to want to customize.


Integrated Amp

There's no RCA Line-Out.  If you wanted to play a CD and listen to it through the speakers while recording it to a cassette deck, that wouldn't work. 

Oh, but wait... you could use the Headphone Out jack and connect it to the Line-In jack of a cassette deck or whatever.  For a cassette deck, you would need a 3.5mm stereo to RCA adapter, but there's one supplied with the speakers. 

The volume control knob would become your output level adjustment.   You wouldn't be able to monitor the recording, though, so it would be like having an integrated amp with no "Tape Monitor" ability.

So yup, there you go:  it's an integrated amp.... sort of.


Speaker Upgrades

There's RCA Speaker Out, but no standard speaker-wire connectors here.    And remember, any satellite speakers you use will have to be 4 ohm.

If you're handy with wiring, you could always get a set of these if you want nicer-looking satellite speakers.  You'd have to convert one end of an RCA cable pair so it would hook up to these speakers. 

Then, for an upgraded subwoofer, I might try one of these

That would give you a more neutral-looking speaker set... and better frequency response.  Not that the 1250's are bad, by any stretch.

That's just an offhanded suggestion;  I haven't tried this combination, but the ohms are correct.


Turntables

Anything that has line-level output can be played through the speakers.  And if it's a turntable, you can run it through a phono stage first, then into the speakers. Then again, a lot of low-cost turntables have their own phono stage.


(Purchase these speakers)

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Modding


I haven't yet had the time to pull apart the control box, but the first project I'd tackle would be that LED.  A green LED would be much less strident.  That blue one is like a beam of energy from a neutron star... a little distracting.



"Captain, we are approaching an especially intense photon source."
"Spock, what could it be?  The energy plume from a collapsed star?"
"I seem to recall a particular brand of speakers, manufactured on Earth in the early Twenty-First Century..."


There is really no need to mod this amp for sound quality;  unless you get a bad unit, it has about the lowest noise you're going to hear in a cheap set of electronics.

I could see modding this amp with new case materials.  Maybe just putting the internals into a whole new project case, complete with silver-toned knobs.  Seventies style!

Another possibility:  if you could remove that faceplate somehow, it shouldn't be too hard to make a new one... perhaps out of some 1/4" wood sheet.


(Purchase these speakers)

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Conclusion

These are the best speakers for the money, regardless of the design aesthetics.

The control-box idea is brilliant. 

The amplifier circuitry is a lot better than you'd probably expect for a set of computer speakers.   As you can see from "Upgrade Path", this little set is actually highly versatile.  Provide a couple of audio components of your own, such as a CD player, and you have a whole stereo system... for relatively cheap.

I could have used this page to review something way more expensive, but I like to help people find the best deals in audio gear, cameras, and whatever else.   I hope you found this page useful, informative, or entertaining.  If so, please help me out by purchasing your stuff through these links.   Your help is greatly appreciated and is the only way I can keep this website going.

Thanks for visiting this page!





         


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