Genelec update their popular 1000-series monitors, improving the technical specifications without losing the family sound.
Genelecs new series of active studio monitors comprises three models: the 8030A, 8040A, and 8050A. These can be thought of as improved equivalents of the 1029A, 1030A, and 1031A. Because their performance is ostensibly similar, they can be used with the same Genelec subwoofers where additional low-frequency extension is required, and in the case of the 8040As reviewed here that would be the 7060A for stereo or the 7070A for multi-channel surround. If these new speakers have equivalents in the existing models, why produce them at all?
A fair question, and the answer would seem to be that the 8000 series has a little more LF extension, lower distortion, and quieter electronics. The new models also include an extra DIP switch setting on the rear panel to compensate for the 160Hz hump that arises when small monitors are placed on a desktop or console meterbridge. Bass management is provided by the Genelec subwoofer, which removes unnecessary low frequencies from the main speaker feeds. Other claimed improvements include smoother on- and off-axis frequency response and better transient response. As with the previous models, both drivers are magnetically shielded.
The most obvious outward change is that the 8000-series speakers have a distinctive new cabinet shape attributable to Finnish industrial designer Harri Koskinen. In order to maximise the internal volume of the cabinet while keeping the external size as small as possible, the cabinet is now cast from aluminium. This can be much thinner than a wood-composite cabinet and has a high degree of rigidity without the need for bulky internal bracing. Aluminium is also a very good conductor of heat and, by mounting the drivers directly onto the cabinet, the cabinet doubles as a heat sink. Genelec describe the cabinet design as MDE or Minimum Diffraction Enclosure (complete with obligatory trademark symbol), which in real terms means that the shape is designed to minimise edge diffraction (no sharp corners) and also so that the baffle shape matches the directivity of the drivers at the crossover point. Genelec were early adopters of the acoustic waveguide for HF baffles, and this cabinet seems to represent an extension of that. The bass/mid-range driver, which has a concave rather than convex centre cap, is protected by a contoured metal grille, and a similar perforated grille protects the tweeter.
To achieve lower distortion, Genelec have changed every component in the speaker, the low/mid-range driver being a new design with a more linear suspension and a tweaked magnetic assembly. The bass reflex port has been moved to the rear of the cabinet to make the best use of space and also to reduce port noise, and the shape of the port is based on research done when designing the 7000-series LSE subwoofers. Essentially the port is longer than normal, which means it has to be curved, and it has a wider cross-sectional area plus a flared outlet to reduce the noise of air in the port, though additional work was done to minimise the effects of the port resonance, which can be a problem with longer port pipes. Genelec suggest that, as a test, you play a clean sine wave into the speakers at the port's cutoff frequency and listen to the result, then do the same test with other speakers.
Having the port at the rear has no serious mounting implications, provided that the distance between the cabinet and the wall is at least 50mm. However, the positioning of the speakers is less critical if a sub is being used, because no significant bass energy is emitted from the speaker ports when they're set up for use with a subwoofer.
The 8040A features a 6.5-inch bass/mid-range driver complemented by a 0.75-inch metal-dome tweeter driving into a waveguide-shaped depression (DCW or Directivity Control Waveguide) moulded into the cabinet. Both internal amplifiers are rated at 90W, and the crossover frequency is set at 3kHz. At the base of the cabinet is a new mounting system called Iso Pod, which allows the cabinet angle to be adjusted, and the resilient material from which it is made provides a secure mounting without the need for Blu-Tac or other improvised solutions. The overall size is 365 x 237 x 223mm, and the complete monitor weighs a substantial 8.6kg.
Used in stand-alone mode, the 8040A (measured per pair) can deliver SPLs of 105dB short term RMS with peaks of 115dB at 1m across a frequency range of 48Hz to 20kHz ±2dB, though used in conjunction with the 7070A subwoofer the system response goes right down to 19Hz. Connection to the speaker is via an XLR connector, and the input gain trim now has an 80dB attenuation range. The familiar Genelec DIP switches are provided for adjusting the tonal balance for configuring the speaker for use with a subwoofer. In addition to the Desktop mode, these include settings for treble tilt, bass tilt and bass roll-off, where the appropriate settings are illustrated graphically in the manual for various placement configurations. In additional to the Iso Pod mount, there are also threads at the base of the speakers to fit Omnimounts. The smaller 8030A may also be mounted on a mic stand.
The larger 7070A subwoofer uses a single 12-inch driver, and the enclosure has a novel helical structure that provides the necessary porting with no problematic corners or abrupt transitions. It has a frequency range of 19-85Hz and can generate SPLs of up to 112dB. A bass level control gives a +12/-6dB range, while bass roll-off can be introduced in 2dB steps up to a maximum setting of -6dB. There's also a phase switch that goes from zero to 270 degrees in 90-degree steps. Power comes from an integral 250W amplifier, and the overall size is 625 x 555 x 490mm with an all-in weight of 50kg. Six regular inputs plus one LFE input are provided, allowing the sub to be used for surround monitoring — up to seven satellites can be fed from a single 7070A.
The smaller 7060A, which is the sub under review here, has a similar physical design and the same controls, but uses a 10-inch speaker rather than a 12-inch speaker, and the frequency range extends down only as far as 29Hz. There are still surround inputs (left, centre, and right for both front and rear), though in conjunction with the 8040A this subwoofer is recommended mainly for use in stereo monitoring systems. The 7060A is considerably lighter (26kg) and rather smaller (527 x 462 x 360mm) than the 7070A, and it has less than half the amplifier power of the 7070A (120W), the maximum SPL being some 4dB less at 108dB.
The 7060A's cabinet is both simple and pleasing, with a sheet-metal spiral at the centre and thick MDF end cheeks. This means that if you consider the port to be pointing towards you, the speaker is driving out of one side of the box and the control/connection panel is on the opposite side to the port. This panel houses the mains inlet and power switch as well as XLR inputs for a maximum of six speakers, which means you could use this sub in a 6.1 configuration if required. There's also an XLR feed for linking to additional subwoofers, and a corresponding XLR input to accept a daisy-chain connection. A Bypass jack lets you turn off the filtering of the main speaker outputs, allowing them to receive a full-bandwidth signal, but this does not affect the LFE channel. Additionally, an Ethernet-style connector provides a remote control option which offers overload LED, remote bypass switch with status LED, and a switch for +10dB boost, again with status LED — the latter is often used when switching between music reproduction and film soundtracks. A sensitivity control adjusts the input sensitivity of the subwoofer and affects both the six main channels and the LFE channel so as to maintain a constant main/LFE balance.
Of course no Genelec active speaker or subwoofer would be complete without its quota of DIP switches, and there are two blocks of four at the centre of the panel. The leftmost switch adjusts the LFE bandwidth (85Hz or 120Hz upper cutoff), and Redirect decides whether LFE frequencies above 85Hz are sent to the centre front speaker (operates only when LFE is set to 85Hz cutoff). The LFE +10dB switch does what it says, and also affects any daisy-chained subwoofers and the Test Tone mode. Test Tone mode provides an 85Hz test signal, and both the LFE +10dB and Sum In DIP switches must be turned on for calibration, after which they may be returned to their normal positions.
The right-hand block of switches controls the bass roll-off in steps of 2dB or 4dB, and when these are used together they provide a 6dB attenuation. The remaining two switches set the crossover phase to compensate for the physical position of the sub relative to the main monitors. One switch provides zero or 180 degrees of shift and the other 90 or 270 degrees.
My first tests were carried out without a subwoofer connected, and the little 8040As delivered rather more low-end extension than I was expecting for such small enclosures. They have an extremely clean and detailed sound with excellent stereo imaging, though they aren't particularly forgiving if you feed them even slightly harsh or distorted material — they let you know exactly what you're dealing with! Indeed, some commercial recordings sounded uncomfortably edgy played back via the 8040As, but I'd rather have a monitor that puts the spotlight on recording flaws rather than one that glosses over them.
Having said that, I've always felt that Genelec monitors are more 'forward' sounding than suits my own taste, but I know a lot of people like working with them, so it really is a personal preference thing. Overall, I'd say the sound was most definitely traditional Genelec, but with the benefits of some technical improvements, specifically in the area of amplifier noise and greater LF extension.
Some users complained that the 1029As had noisy amplifiers, but these ones are at least 4dB quieter overall, and around 12dB quieter in the 3kHz region where the human hearing system is most sensitive. It's also worth pointing out that 8000-series monitors can be mixed with their 1000-series counterparts in a surround system, although Genelec recommend that the older models be used as rear surrounds and the new models be used for the front three speakers in a 5.1 system.
Tested with the 7060A sub, the integration was seamless, and at no time did I feel that I could hear the sub sticking out at all. The impression was of the main speakers having great bass extension, which after all is the point of a good sub. Finding the best position for the sub in the room requires a bit of work, and you may need to adjust the phase switches, but the manual offers a procedure that makes this fairly painless. Technically, this system is larger than needed for my relatively small studio, but there were no problems in getting it to work correctly.
I think it's fair to finish as I started by saying that these new monitors have the same family sound as the 1000 series, but they have been upgraded in several areas. In other words, if you like the Genelec sound, then you'll certainly appreciate these new monitors, whereas if you're not a Genelec person this new range is unlikely to convert you.
The integration with the subwoofer is near flawless, and the system seems fairly tolerant of room size and characteristics provided that some basic acoustic treatment is in place and you follow the setting-up procedure properly. The extra switch to help with desk mounting is a good idea, though any such compensation can only be approximate.
If you like a clean, clear monitor with plenty of high-end extension and great stereo imaging, the 8040As won't disappoint, and they make a great nearfield monitor without the subwoofer. With the sub you get a full-range monitoring system that's big enough and loud enough for most project-studio rooms, and there's a certain amount of tonal tweakability on the rear panel that can help you get the monitors sounding the way you'd like them if the flat position isn't to your taste.