Cards on the table time - I've long been a fan of Genelec - I like the sound their monitors make, and personally feel that they translate well. However I am very aware that they're not to everyone's tastes, and I've experienced quite a few installations where they've been forced into speaker locations and acoustic environments that don't help them sound their best.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Howard Jones (not the 80's singer) of Genelec and John Johnson of HHB at their brand new 11.1 Demo room in Fitzrovia, London. I was very mindful that their room is not heavily acoustically treated, and not an "easy" shape, so was very interested to hear how the Genelec SAM system handled it.
The dazzling array of equipment in their basement room includes -
- Avid S6 Control Surface
- Avid S3 Control Surface with Dock
- Pro Tools HD
- Seven Genelec 8351A SAM studio monitors in L, C, R, Lss, Lsr, Rss & Rsr positions
- Four Genelec 8330A SAM studio monitors ceiling mounted covering "height" duties
- Two Genelec 7370A SAM studio subwoofers
- Five Genelec 8320A SAM studio monitors and one 7350A SAM studio subwoofer
- Genelec 8010A studio monitors and two 8430A audio-over-IP SAM studio monitors
- Five Genelec AIC25 active in-ceiling speakers and one 5041A active in-wall subwoofer
- Two Genelec AIW26B active in-wall speakers that can be run in stereo mode or in 2.1 mode in conjunction with the 5041A
- Four Genelec 4030B installation speakers in the Scrub sales office
- BSS BLU-806 (DSP & Signal Routing for the Dante Source / Destination Matrix - GUI hosted on a generic Windows Touchscreen)
- Focusrite A16R (AD-Dante-DA)
- Focusrite D16 (AES-Dante-AES)
- Focusrite AM2 (Dante PoE Headphone Amp)
- Marantz AV7702mkII (AV Receiver / Atmos Decoder)
- Sony PS3 (Blu-Ray Player)
- LG65” 4K HDR TV (Capable of Dolby Vision)
- AKA Design bespoke studio furniture
Smart Active Monitoring
This is the name of Genelec's interactive monitoring control system, that runs over ethernet.
Different models of Genelec monitors can accept input from a variety of sources, through analogue, to AES digital, to AOIP. The GLM control network helps manage the various methods.
When you run the GLM software, for each speaker you are presented with a graphic display, and full over-rideable controls.
RED is the measured response of the speaker, BLUE is the response that the GLM system is applying and GREEN is the effective resulting frequency response of the speaker.
The GLM display gives you a graphic display of your speaker configuration, and allows you to easily switch between setups and view performance data.
HHB complete the system with a BSS controller, which puts all the possible speaker configurations within easy reach.
The 8351A SAM monitors
These monitors really got my interest. With basic sound physics principles in my head, I cannot work out how these speakers work. I've never known a loudspeaker to have a fixed baffle in front of its drivers. I can't make it add up in my head. It is actually a three-way design - two 8.5 x 4 inch Oval Woofers and one Coaxial Midrange/Tweeter, using their Acoustically Concealed Woofer technology, combined with Minimum Diffraction Coaxial drivers and Directivity Control Waveguide. Behind the trademarks lays some incredible loudspeaker technology, which results in a striking unconventional design. There is also the Smart Active Monitoring and Genelec Loudspeaker Manager 2.0 software with Autocal, which allows for the fine adjustment of all the monitor settings.
Enough Jargon, What Do They Sound Like?
I have to admit that I'm a bit of an auto-alignment sceptic. In my experience, from domestic level in-amplifier home cinema solutions to professional bespoke multi-mic systems, they all seem in my opinion, to suck a lot of the life out of the signal, and can actually blur the imaging rather than resolve it. Most auto-aligned systems I've heard have needed serious human intervention to get the system sounding "right".
This is where the Genelec SAM system blew my mind. Even in a "difficult" room, with unconventional speaker mounting and rear ported speakers placed against (and even in) partition walls, it delivered a punch and accuracy that was incredible. There was also an amazing consistency between the different models, meaning that you can have very good faith in how your mix is going to translate. Even the ceiling mounted 5.1 system sounded incredible, and after a while you forgot that you had the speakers above you.
For me this is an excellent return to form for Genelec. I would go as far as to say that if you're considering a multi-channel installation in challenging environments, a Genelec SAM system should be your first port of call. I'd even go as far as to say that if Genelec "dis-likers" were to hear these monitors in a blind listening test, they may well change their opinion.
Go and take a listen. I'm absolutely certain you'll be impressed.