"Actually, loading is very bad for the music! The typical moving coil cartridge generates a minuscule signal. 0.5mV is typical. Some high-quality cartridges can go as low as 0.2mV. Loading shunts part of this signal to ground. The higher the loading (lower resistance), the more of the current generated by the cartridge gets dumped to ground and the more 'life' is sucked out of the music. Without loading, the music is far more alive, far more powerful and dynamic. Just so, the high resonant peak swamps the electronics in the phono stage and makes things sound harsh and hard. You don't hear the distortion per se, only its detrimental effects on the music. High loading reduces detail and resolution to make for a rounder warmer sound. Once I realized this, the problem looked like a completely different picture. One characteristic of LP playback is the RIAA de-emphasis curve (Recording Industry Association of America) with creates a pre-emphasis on recording and a mirror-imaged de-emphasis during playback as a requirement to amplify the cartridge signal. That is so low that its voltage needs to be magnified by over 1'000 times (>60dB of gain) to get to line-level preamp strength. However, because of the RIAA curve, it must be amplified over 10'000 times (>80dB of gain) at 20Hz yet only 100 times (>40dB of gain) at 20kHz.


"Hence there is a 40dB (100 x) gain difference between 20Hz and 20kHz. With the RIAA de-emphasis curve, the higher the frequency, the lower the desired gain. With that the case and the detrimental resonant peak being 30dB at ultrasonic frequencies, could we design an amplifier that simply didn't amplify the resonance? The typical phono stage is designed as a 3-step process: amplify (by 80dB or more) --> RIAA de-emphasis (filter by up to 40dB at 20kHz) --> amplify or output buffer. There are problems with this approach. The first stage of up to 80dB gain would amplify the 30dB peak by 110dB (over 300'000 times). Here's where distortion creeps in. The typical amplifier circuit is not capable of 110dB gain. Then the musical signal is filtered with the RIAA de-emphasis filter to reduce the midrange signal by 20dB and the high frequencies by 40dB. That means resolution losses. You're throwing away signal. Why not design a variable gain amplifier that amplifies bass frequencies more than high frequencies, then match this variable gain to the RIAA de-emphasis curve? Then, make sure that the gain at the frequencies where the bad resonance of the tonearm cable can come in is low enough to not present a problem. That is exactly what we did with the Genesis Phono: a single gain stage where 20Hz has a gain of 80dB, 1kHz 60dB and 20kHz 40dB to match the variable gain structure of the RIAA de-emphasis curve. 200kHz+ has gain of <10dB, rendering the resonant peak a non-issue (>20dB less than midrange gain). In this case, simple is really better."


When I first received the Genesis Phono, I got somewhat nervous. There is indeed no obvious way to load the cartridge. Yet I knew from experience that my Zu DL103 can sound off when improperly loaded even if less so than the stock version. I should not have worried. Mr. Koh's solution worked as flawlessly with the Zu DL103 as it did with the more linear Ortofon Quintet Black. What you get though—and that's something to keep in mind when choosing a partnering cartridge for the Genesis Gold—is an uncut sense of the cartridge's flavour. Although it is theoretically possible to load it through the RCA inputs, to tame pickups which seriously deviate from neutrality like a stock DL-103 or the to my ears more tipped-up Lyra designs, the Genesis Phono is really not meant to be used in such EQ fashion. To show off its amazing transparency, use it as intended: without loading! Where one design philosophy fights one coloration with another, the whole Genesis brand is founded upon the concept that not to cause coloration in the first place is a far more desirable if also more challenging approach. The Genesis Phono clearly belongs to that design philosophy.


To finish introductions, the Genesis Phono is available in three levels: Gold ($8'000) as reviewed; Platinum ($18'000); and Diamond ($28'000). The fundamental circuit concept is identical for all three and they all ship with matching Genesis power cords and standard mini-DIN-to-Lemo phono cable. The Platinum adds a vibration damping base and separate external power supply. The Diamond upstages that recipe by going with dual-mono external power supplies reinforced by an auxiliary power supply similar to the MDHR available for Genesis amplifiers. In the case of turntables with balanced or RCA connections instead of the more ubiquitous mini-Din like my VPI Scout, customers can order matching custom cables for $1'500. Finally, the Phono Gold offers two different types of input connectors, the ubiquitous RCA pair whose primary purpose is actually to offer grounding and loading options where absolutely needed; and the primary input through a more rarely seen Lemo lock connector chosen for its transparency, balanced connection and tight cable grip. Output is solely via XLR, requiring either XLR-to-RCA adaptors or converter cables as provided for this review. There is a caveat in that the XLR-to-RCA interconnects required with the Genesis Phono would not work with all components. The usual way to do such a cable is to short pins 1 and 3 to ground. On the Genesis Phono, that would result in half the resolution. Hence their cable actually connects the center pin of the RCA to pin 2 on the XLR and the ground ring of the RCA to pin 3 on the XLR. Prospective buyers in love with another cable brand would need to ensure they follow this unusual XLR-->RCA scheme to hear the Genesis Phono at its best. The circuit is not balanced throughout but does use a differential input and transformer-coupled balanced output.