Masters of quality monitoring solutions Genelec have launched a new set of monitors, specifically aimed at high sound pressure level immersive installations - the S360 two-way monitors and the 7382 subwoofer.
Why The New Design?
Genelec are responding to a new sector of the market - immersive audio. Whereas for stereo it is common to mount speakers on stands in a near to midfield configuration, in immersive audio, speakers are incorporated into the structure of the listening area - sofit or bracket mounted. Rear-ported speaker designs can be tricky to place in such environments, especially if they’re active, or being incorporated into existing installations.
The Need For Space
With immersive audio also comes a proliferation in the sheer number of speakers you need. The bare minimum for even a “home” Dolby Atmos rig is nine speakers, three behind a screen, plus a subwoofer. This can increase to 44 and beyond. That amount of speakers requires a larger room simply to accommodate them all.
Why High SPL?
When you increase the size and capacity of the listening area to accommodate more speakers, the chances of any of those speakers being near or mid-field becomes far less likely. So your speakers are going to need to be able to deliver higher SPLs, without losing too much dynamic range or slipping into high distortion figures.
You also face the issue that rear-ported speakers rely on the space behind their rear ports to deliver a large part of their frequency response. The usual way to achieve higher SPLs is to increase the physical size of the speaker. However, in immersive audio installations, where there could be double figures of drivers even behind the screen at the front, let alone in the room around you, there simply isn’t the physical space, unless you’re doing a large IMAX installation, for that number of speakers.
You can see where the new S360 range sits among the Genelec range. It forms an important bridge between the smaller near to mid-field speakers and the larger “custom install” speakers.
I was lucky enough to meet up with Genelec Head of R&D - Aki Makivirta at Metropolis Studios in London, to chat about the design features and challenges of the new S360 monitors and the new 7382 subwoofer.
What Do They Sound Like?
In a heavily treated control room, in a 2.1 configuration with bass management through the 7382 subwoofer, I was quite impressed at how the two way non-concentric design managed to retain the razor sharp imaging from the “The Ones” series (8331, 8341, 8351). The amount of headroom and dynamic range is immediately apparent, giving a serious “depth” to the sound stage and helping with the 3D placement, both in the left/right plane and in the front/rear plane. I was able to perceive the “depth” of individual sounds, as well as their stereo placement.
Bass was incredibly tight, almost to the point of partially fooling you that these speakers are “bass light”. Don’t be fooled - these speakers are devastatingly accurate when it comes to bass, as well as imaging. The new down firing port design really helps avoid the “soggy bottom” often associated with rear ported designs. Genelec avoided front ports as this adds to the real estate taken up by the speaker, but can also disrupt the careful “seamless” design of the waveguide around the tweeter, which contributes to the excellent imaging.
The 7382 Subwoofer
This was the heavyweight of the show - three huge drivers in an enclosure that it took three people to lift. Genelec have been careful with this and the S360, to make the designs as compatible with existing installations as possible. To this extent, the subwoofer is a regular shape, with front and side firing drivers and ports and has external amplification.
Genelec also recognise that you may want to use bass management with a higher speaker count than stereo, so provide the 9301 adapter, which enables the 7382 to be fed by a 7.1 digital input.
Always with an eye for compatibilty, Genelec also enable you to detach the active electronics from the back of the S360 monitors, to rack mount it, thus ensuring maximum compatibility with existing installations and providing huge versatility and convenience when it comes to set-up.
And of course, the S360 and the 7382 are both “SAM” - Smart Active Monitors, so you can use Genelec’s GLM alignment system to get the system working in whichever mode you wish, to the best accuracy.
I would love to hear these speakers in an immersive installation. To me that is always the true test of imaging and dynamic range. I’m hoping to attend an event with a full immersive install in the spring so will report back. With the S360 in particular, Genelec have now come up with a modern solution to a modern problem - how to get the SPL required for immersive audio, but also retain high quality.