After several visits to the Blumenhofer Acoustics company deep in the Bavarian forests, I finally got the chance to listen to their Genuin FS 2 horn loudspeakers in my own living room. Size and weight were always a problem since I live on the third floor of an apartment building without an elevator, but we soon discovered that even the 45 kilo Genuin FS 2 was very much at home at my place. We moved the speakers around, adjusted the bass output and made shure the horn was optimised for the listening distance. Moments later listening started and my amplifiers got warm. The Genuin FS 2 confirmed that physical size and the coupling of drivers to the air are highly significant when it comes to reproducing sound.
How to create a speaker system
The Genuin FS 2 consists of two parts that are assembled in the home. The main cabinet houses a 12 inch woofer with a paper cone that Blumenhofer coats on the outer edges, the central dust cap is half open to improve linearity of the cone’s movement and there is a bass reflex opening in the bottom of the cabinet. The idea being that noise from the port is less likely to be audible and you can move the cabinet closer to the back wall. The cabinet is handmade by Blumenhofer who use 25mm birch plywood and wooden bracing; standard finish is cherry or walnut veneer but Thomas Blumenhofer offers a lot of other veneers or satin paint finishes at additional cost. The cabinet is firmly bolted to a metal frame that sits on enormous spikes; by turning these you raise or lower the cabinet that alters the bass output of the port. This means you can adjust the port frequency to avoid exciting the resonant modes of the room and thus minimise bass boom.
According to the specs the woofer covers the range from 36 Hz to 1150 Hz, which is pretty high for a 12 inch driver. Both the woofer and tweeter are modified and to a greater extent in the latter. Hidden in the compression chamber is a 75mm inverted titanium dome that’s coupled to the air by the horn mouth. This horn was developed by Blumenhofer and made in house, it is enclosed by a metal frame that’s firmly bolted to the main cabinet. Connections to the crossover are made with short leads and banana plugs. The tweeter’s position can be adjusted for the optimal results by measurement or by ear, the latter approach proved easy enough in my room. The efficiency of the system is high at 94dB and therefore well suited to tube amps, which makes it a little surprising that there is an impedance correction network for such amps inside the box that can be activated by plugging in a jumper.
The distributor who delivered the speakers looked disapprovingly at my transistor amplifiers but I know that German Einstein hybrid amplifiers work superbly with these speakers. So I used my class A Audia Flight transistor pre- and power amp (Strumento No.1 and 50). The source for digital music is my NAD M50/M52 combination and an Esoteric D-07 D/A-converter. The analogue source is a Transrotor Super Seven player with SME 5009 arm and Transfiguration Axia MC cartridge, its tiny signal fed into a handmade Dutch tube phono amplifier. Most cables are Crystal Cable, some are Supra and some Yter. The mains are filtered by Kemp Elektroniks. I put the speakers on Ikea Lämplig cutting boards just to protect my wooden floor. Measured from the centre of the baffle the best place for the speakers in my room was 80cm from the back wall, over a metre from the side walls and two metres apart. As usual in my room the loudspeakers are slightly toed in.
The digital way
I experiment with the speakers for over a week before I start writing any comments, first impressions are interesting but not what counts for the end user, but one of the tracks made quite an impression. When I put on Enya’s CD A Day Without Rain my wife burst into the room, pushed me out of the hotspot, sat down and listened hard. The piano sounded very good, but she’s rarely sits down and stays for several tracks. On this piece the piano is surrounded by deep bass notes and voices are spaced out across the soundstage because the Genuin FS 2 builds a foundation in the lower registers for the musicians and voices to rest on. After this CD Enya came out with The Celts on which the piano is replaced by drums for the opening track. With this a huge soundstage is projected into the room with ease, the sound replete with detail in which voices form a choir yet still sound individual.
I hesitate to say that I played Infected Mushrooms again, I’ve mentioned the track Avratz (from Converting Vegetarians) so many times in the past that you might wonder doesn’t he have any other music! The two 12 inch woofers push the low end forward to the listener with an ease that shows you need lots of cone surface for real bass. Whatever anyone says the law of physics cannot be broken. The horn driver produces the higher frequencies and I wonder how Blumenhofer got his woofer fast enough to follow the membrane inside the compression driver. He did this well because the sound is very homogeneous, in a way you wouldn’t expect from a cabinet this large, there must be a very fine crossover hidden inside. Being able to move the tweeter and adjust it for minimum phase differences at the hotspot does help of course. When the tweeter is in the correct position the sound becomes nicely fluid, a minimal hardness disappears and woofer and tweeter become one.
From the Infected Mushrooms’ artificial music I moved on to purity with Eva Cassidy. Her version of Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time is not that easy to reproduce, Eva had a wonderful voice but it sometimes produced harsh ‘S’ sounds on her recordings. These can be pretty brash on some compression drivers but not with the FS 2, the Blumenhofer is remarkably smooth. Her guitar is absolutely natural and the right size, the speaker splits strings and woodwork and you can even hear Eva is sitting down with the guitar on her lap. Importantly, not only is the guitar a normal size but so is her voice, too often a voice is either too small or too large. I played Kathy’s Song afterwards, just because I enjoy listening to Eva.
Totally different to Enya’s large piano sound is the small setting for Holly Cole’s performance of My Foolish Heart. It’s quite easy to imagine yourself in a jazz club with the lady on stage, having a love affair with her microphone; on the other side of the stage a young piano player, cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, on his piano a pint of lager. The bass player follows the singer and piano with youthful élan. Holly Cole has Seldom sounded as plausible as she did with the Genuin FS 2s, they fill the room with enjoyable sounds. Later, when I played Cruisin from her album Girl Talk, the percussion attracted most attention due to its speed and lightness but the club atmosphere was still there, and this is a big positive for the speaker. Possibly it’s because large woofers and horns are often used in PA systems.
From Holly Cole in Canada I moved to the other side of the planet to a track that has become a favourite at shows in the Netherlands. Is Hugh Masakela’s Stimela (The Train Song) played a lot at shows in the UK? (Is it ever! Ed.). I haven’t played it for a long, long time but expected spectacular results with the FS 2 and increased the volume before pressing play. My expectations were met with a lot of musicians on a wide stage, a fast bass drum and a silky sounding trumpet with just the right tone to sound real. The percussion is tidy and fast. Height was not that good with this CD but that might be a limitation of the recording. The speakers seemed to enjoy the increased volume and stayed on track. Unsurprisingly dynamics are no problem at all thanks to the high sensitivity of the design. The voice of Masekela, the singers and the band, everything was put in place by the Genuin FS 2.
Analogue of course
Blumenhofer and vinyl unite. Every time I visited the factory we mostly played records so I did the same at home, I picked the Weavers playing the track Guantanamera on their reunion recording made in 1963. The music reminds me of my brief time as a boy scout, when we sat around a campfire and sung our songs, something that’s hard to imagine in the smartphone era, but maybe we just had more fun back then. The recording was made with three microphones and this is quite obvious on the Blumenhofers; information comes from the extreme left and right sides and the voice of Ronnie Gilbert sits in the middle. The stage these people are on is not as well rendered as I’ve heard on other speaker systems, without the clapping it would sound like a studio recording. It might be because the voices and instruments are almost perfect, or because the intelligibility of the singers is great, bonus points for the FS 2, but where is the live concert? Words like detailed, open, dynamic and natural often pop up in my notes, and the voicing of the Blumenhofer could be described as pleasant and inviting.
One beautiful album I hadn’t played for a while is Barbra Streisand’s Love is The Answer, her interpretation of Ne Me Quitte Pas could have been on the radio every Sunday morning on an easy listening show in the Netherlands. I am not a huge fan except for her role in the movie Yentl but this sounds heart rending in its touching simplicity. I couldn’t stop playing the LP, why shouldn’t I enjoy music whilst reviewing after all? (steady on, Ed.) Next I moved on to Diana Krall’s Live in Paris, a record you should hear on Blumenhofers if you get the chance. Take for instance Devil May Care which is full of energy, Krall plays the piano very well and is joined by fast percussion, plucked bass and speeding rhythm. Sitting still in my chair was not an option; the swing in the song moves my whole body and touches my heart. Suddenly the drum solo arrives and the Blumenhofers go wild with a big, live sound. It’s a lovely way to hear this great jazz singer. Should I mention A Case Of You, or do you believe me when I say she gets into the audience’s hearts and into mine? This kind of music, played on a horn speaker of the Blumenhofer Genuin FS 2’s calibre is extremely enjoyable.
What about some classical works you ask, I played pieces from small baroque ensembles to full orchestral works. Just like I played various styles of jazz, pop and vocal music. No matter what you put into the Genuin FS 2, it will reproduce it with great ease, lots of detail, enthusiasm, a wide open stage and if needed a lot of subtlety. Each instrument is placed on its own spot and sounds the way it should do in its particular setting. I admire the way that Thomas Blumenhofer and his team combine a 12 inch woofer with a horn tweeter so effectively, this is after all a real compression driver and not a flimsy piece of plastic with a dome tweeter behind it. Some horns can beam and/or shout, the FS 2 did neither for a single moment over the review period. I must point out a specific advantage of the FS 2; speed. This is what makes music more lifelike and natural. Anyone who wants music to be entertaining and engaging will love this loudspeaker. I heard them quite a lot during my visits to Germany, but also in shops and at shows, but this was the first time I have had a pair at home. Expectations were high, because of the earlier listening sessions and all I can say is that they were fully met. Even though the FS 2 was in a 33 square metre (355 square foot) living room and not in the enormous listening environment at Blumenhofer’s HQ, it holds its place as a great system for whoever has the budget. These Blumenhofers might be big but don’t let their size get in the way of listening to this extremely fine system; it’s a system that convinced me over and over again.