Genelec Studio Monitor 1031A loudspeaker & Studio Monitor 1092A powered subwoofer

Which loudspeakers do audio professionals listen to? And why should we care? After all, it's not as if recording engineers are the kind of refined, sensitive, music-loving types who read Stereophile. As much as they may love music, many audio pros appear only to view the original sounds of musical instruments as raw materials to be creatively reshaped and manipulated. (Okay, there are exceptions. But recordists who care about the sounds of real instruments usually record them in real acoustic spaces rather than in studios, and use as little signal processing as they can get away with.)

This doesn't mean that recording engineers are oblivious to the quality of their monitor systems. Au contraire, they demand the highest possible quality of them—not because they value the real sounds of instruments, but because they need to hear exactly what they're doing to those sounds. They want to hear what the recording sounds like, regardless of how high its fidelity to any actual acoustic event. If you ask, they'll tell you they want "accuracy."

Of course, audiophiles and the people who design our loudspeakers also salaam before the altar of accuracy, but our definition of it is quite different. The audiophile's dream is to find a system that makes all recordings sound like his concept of real, live music—whatever that may be. Many audiophiles hear live music so rarely that their ideas about reproduced sound are bizarre, but even those who attend concerts frequently and want to hear that sound at home may have a hard time judging realism because they can't do direct comparisons. To bring the sound of the real thing from the concert hall to the living room, they must rely on the vagaries of aural memory.

The recording engineer has a much easier time of it: in a studio, real, live instrumental sounds are routinely just a doorway away from the control room's monitors. This is why the raw sound in a recording studio—the so-called console feed, prior to the equalizers and fuzzboxes and other signal processors that engineers live by—tends to be much more realistic than that in most audiophile listening rooms.

All of these things were brought home to me for the nth time at a recent digital-systems shootout at Colorado Sound, a Denver recording studio. I had a chance to compare Colorado Sound's set of Genelec Studio Monitors with the real instruments playing in the next room. I was sufficiently impressed to petition John Atkinson for an exception to Stereophile's review policy of "no pro equipment." Genelec was delighted to loan us a pair of Model 1031As (footnote 1), and a matching subwoofer.

But even though most recording studios still record in two channels (just as most Stereophile readers still listen in stereo), what Genelec really wanted me to review was their home-theater surround-sound system. They insisted on sending me a complete 5.1-channel system with two subwoofers (which I'll review briefly as an addendum). An in-depth review of the multichannel incarnation of this system appears in the July/August 1999 issue of Stereophile Guide to Home Theater.

All Genelec loudspeakers are active designs—ie, powered by their own power amplifiers. This should, in theory, provide better performance and higher reliability than is possible by mixing and matching unrelated amps and speakers. I won't reiterate the litany of reasons why they should, because they've been discussed in just about every review of powered speakers we've ever published.

Genelec's systems are satellite/subwoofer combos of the type now favored by most recording studios, home-theater owners, and me. I spent most of my audio years lamenting the fact that the best imaging is usually obtained when the upper-range speakers are placed symmetrically with respect to the side walls, while symmetrically placed woofers have about the most irregular response it's possible to get. But audio purists tend to be a perverse lot; our dread of compromised time-alignment led us to insist for years that everything be in one box, even if doing so compromised frequency response. Multichannel home theater broke the all-in-one-box tradition—not because separate woofers deliver better sound, but because five satellites and one subwoofer take up much less room space than five full-range enclosures. I, for one, am delighted.

Many audiophiles insist that bass is directional because they can tell where bass instruments are located, but I've cheerfully humiliated enough of them to know that they're flat-out wrong about this. Below a certain frequency, usually cited as 200Hz, our ability to localize sounds diminishes until—at around 80Hz—it is, for all intents and purposes, gone. We locate the direction of bass instruments by their overtones, not their bass content. There are also those who claim that stereo bass sounds richer and more natural than mono bass, but again, the stereo advantage diminishes with frequency. (And many CDs from LP originals have only mono bass on them to begin with, because vinyl couldn't handle stereo bass.)

The Genelec 1031A Studio Monitor is a so-called nearfield monitor (footnote 2). This means simply that it's designed to be listened to from up close, which is how I first heard a pair of them—from a distance of a little more than 30". (They were on stands right behind the mixing console's meter bridge—the superstructure at the back where the volume indicators are mounted.) Nearfield monitors are designed to have a slightly depressed midrange, to make them sound farther away than they really are, and are not intended to be listened to from 7' or 8' away. They have nonetheless gained immense popularity among high-end audiophiles because their laid-back midrange enhances the depth and spaciousness of the stereo soundstage.

The 1031A's 8" polypropylene-cone driver is housed in a 15-liter (0.5 cubic foot) reflex enclosure, and the entire amplifier of each speaker is attached to the inside of the enclosure's back panel. The panel is hinged to provide easy access to the electronics for quick repairs, and shock-mounted to prevent rattles. The system's –—dB point is 47Hz and its low end is 6dB down at 43Hz. The tweeter is a 1" metal-dome unit with claimed "pure piston behavior up to 23kHz." Crossovers are parallel bandpass filters, giving 24dB/octave of acoustical slope. The 1031A's crossover is at 2.2kHz, and its bass and treble amps are capable of 120W peak output each.

The 1031A is rated at 120dB SPL of output at 1m, and its sensitivity-control default is fully clockwise, which gives 100dB SPL at 1m with 400mV input level. (In order to get the speaker's claimed 110dB output, the input level must be at least 1.23V.) Genelec's audio connectors are balanced XLRs, but even with an unbalanced input, the speakers have more than enough gain to allow any surround processor or modern active preamp to drive the speakers to overload.

The 1031A has three DIP switches—treble level, bass level, and bass rolloff—for tailoring the frequency response. The treble control hinges at 3kHz and adjusts the 10kHz level from +2 to –4dB (relative to nominally flat?); the bass level hinges at 400Hz, adjusting 40Hz from 0 to –6dB; and bass rolloff hinges at 100Hz and adjusts 40Hz from 0 to –8dB. The adjustment steps are all 2dB, which is coarse but a lot better than no adjustments at all. They provide a bewilderingly wide range of settings, but Genelec helpfully supplies initial-setup guidelines based on room conditions and speaker placement.

The 1092A subwoofer has three adjustments: input level, bass rolloff hinged at 50Hz (adjusting from 0 to +6dB at 30Hz), and a phase control that adjusts from 0 to –270° at 85Hz in 90° steps. It also includes three 85Hz, 24dB/octave active crossover networks for the upper-range speakers, with balanced input and output connectors for them.

The 1031A uses Genelec's Directivity Control Waveguide to match the tweeter's horizontal dispersion to that of the woofer, for maximally smooth off-axis response. The tweeter frame is square so that it can be rotated in 90° increments, and the 1031A is supplied configured for vertical orientation, at which time the Genelec logo is at the lower left corner of the tweeter.

Each 1031A has a front-panel LED that shows green when the unit is powered up, red when it's overloaded or in overload-protection shutdown. The 1092A subwoofer has the same lights but, inexplicably, they're on the rear panel—you have to peer behind them to see what's going on. Duh.

Genelec's systems can be configured for use with any source, from a simple stereo preamplifier to a sophisticated Dolby Digital/DTS surround processor. I tried them both ways—as a stereo system using the subwoofers' built-in crossovers, and as a 4- and 5-channel music-surround system using the crossovers in my Lexicon DC-1 surround processor.

Footnote 1: The Genelec 1031A was in production between 1991 and 2005. It was replaced by the 8050A.

Footnote 2: In acoustical parlance, the "near field" is that range of listening distances in which direct-sound energy is stronger than the sound of the room reflections, the "far field" is that range where the room sound predominates, and the "critical distance" is where direct and reverberant sounds are equally loud.

Genelec OY
US Distributor: Genelec, Inc.
7 Tech Circle
Natick, MA 01760

Bogolu Haranath's picture

How about Stereophile reviewing the relatively new Genelec 8020-D self-powered speakers? ....... Less than $1,200/pair :-) ..........

Robin Landseadel's picture

"Decades ago, I grew accustomed to reviewing speakers that sounded bad because they really were bad, and calling crap crap was just a part of my job."

Bravo! Encore!

tonykaz's picture

... he covered the entire envelope of Genelec Concept without wasting much attention on nonsense of any sort.

but I disagree on accuracy.

Audiophiles don't want Accuracy, they want it to sound Good or Dam Good or even Outstandingly Superb ( that especially includes me ).

I don't give one hoot for imaging or ideal seating, I want the entire House to Sound good when I'm playing music.

I'd run in those speakers for a month or more and I'd select good sounding wire to match.

I'd shift around various preamps to get my sweet sounding results.

Once done, I'd lock it in and leave it.

Genelec Gear is Pro Gear, all Studios have owned Genelec Gear for decades because it works well, doesn't break, is phenomenally sturdy for "rough" handling by Pro-Audio Sound guys.

The latest Genelec Gear is super qualified for HighEnd Audiophile use, except that: it ain't pretty and it's Class D!

Genelec is some of the Very Best 21st Century Audio Gear, especially if you want to hear the differences in Cabling or anything else.

Tony in Michigan

ps. Genelec has reliable Re-Sale Values

Jack L's picture

...... or Dam Good or even Outstandingly Superb ( that especially includes me )." quoted tony in Michigan.

I don't know I am an audiophile or not though I love music like crazy.
I own & play 1,000+ vinyl LPs via TUBE only preamp TUBE only power amps & 3 powered subwoofers for L, R & L+R channels.

If the above setup of mine qualifies my as an audiophile, then I am going to challenge your above across-the-board statement: "Audiophiles don't want ACCURACY".

Maybe I am one-of-a-kind "audiophile" as I demand absolute accuracy in my music reproduction in term of transient response, transparency, soundstaging, & imaging. I want my music played back at my home sound as close as its live performance as possible as I attend live music performance frequently.

I always use live performance as my yardstick of gauging home music reproduction.

Listening is believing

Jack L.

tonykaz's picture

You are far more correct than I am, but I'd probably think or you as the "Bob Katz" type. Bob Katz being the Mastering Engineer in Florida that was a contributor to Tyll's headphone site and some time writer for Stereophile.

Bob is a brilliant guy demanding and achieving accuracy to fractions of db.

I applaud you for your technical prowess !!

My philosophical position is based on the Foundation of my own Operatic Mother who performed the very same Music as the other Operatic Voices of her 1930's Era ( many of which rehearsed in my childhood home ) . These people could/wound perform the same music with each voice having it's own vocal signature. So, Same Identical Music performed beautifully and sounding very differently from voice to voice.

I think and feel that all the Loudspeakers I've owned, represented and Sold were very much like those Voices sounding distinctly unique.

When I listen to loudspeakers I'm hunting for the voice that "Sings" with a wide octave range, effortless dynamics and sweet Sound. ( like my mom Clara ) ( ProAc, Magnepan )

I'm listening for electronics that don't sound "chalky" ( Elecrocompaniet )

I'm auditioning cable to open-up a free flowing energy pipeline. ( MH-750 )

In Phono Cartridges I'm looking for a group of superb voices like the Range of Koetsu Phono Cartridges I kept on hand, mounted and ready to rapidly change.

When I finally get it arranged and playing properly, My Music delivers an Addictive High, akin to Opiates, I'll stay up listening till I pass out on the sofa at 5:30 AM on work day.

You Accuracy people are not Addicted or Cross Addicted Audiophiles like I was when I ran my Esoteric Audio in Farmington Hills, Mi. I think that you are Scientists while I'm capable of being an owned Audio Dopamine Slave, powerless to stop. My wife stepped in and helped me close our Audio shop, I returned to the Sober Life of a Corporate Manufacturing Trouble Shooter answering to a group of demanding Managers that poured over manufacturing reports like you technicals build your accuracy.

Tony in Michigan

ps. for me, in my world, there is no perfection, except Water which freezes at exactly 0 degrees Cent., boils at Exactly 100 degrees C. at Sea Level

Jack L's picture

..... manufacturing reports like you technicals build your accuracy." quoted Tony in Michigan.

Sorry, as I already told you I maybe one-of-a-kind audiophile who wants accuracy in the produced music performance only, but NOT, repeat NOT, "manufacturing reports" etc etc.

I never look at the technical data or whatever written specs of the equipment. I only concern HOW the piece(s) of equipment sounds.

No technical papers can tell me how good, better, best the music sounds to my ears, period.

I simply want what comes out from the audio system SOUNDS as close to the actual performance itself which has nothing to do with its technical data etc.

So, listening, but no technical data, is believing.

Jack L.

PS: I am an electrical engineer with over 20 years engagement in the power engineering industries. But that bears little to do with my aural perception of music.

tonykaz's picture

I was referring to MY Manufacturing Reports being poured over by Managers, not YOU pouring over technical reports.

I suspect that YOU are listening for your accuracy just as Bob Katz reports working on the care he works thru to build a Monitor System .

I doubt that there is any instrumentation capable of measuring your level of accuracy, except Ears. ( my hearing tapers off over 8k )

I'm sorry, I seem to be struggling with accurate descriptives in MY writing.

Thanks for writing back while I attempt to find appropriate phrasing.

I'm not a Professional Writer, I'm an EE, like you and I appreciate the kind of work you report doing.

Plus, I've only ever been an Average sort of person.

Tony in Michigan

Jack L's picture

.... your level of accuracy, except Ears." quoted Tony in Michigan.

Hi Tony.

"Accuracy" here I mean is not instrumentation measurement.

I want my home music be reproduced sorta as "accurate" as possible like the original performance. I want myself acting like the conductor of the
orchestra or music band so that I can visualize who is playing what & where on the stage.

No instrumentation or measurement can do this visual presentation of a music performance.

Jack L.

tonykaz's picture

Once again I find myself admiring you for what you are doing.

You are well over the horizon of my imagination, almost like I'm understanding and using vintage 78s and 45s and you are building 21st century technology.

Phew, Maybe Stereophile should ask you to contribute a Paper on your work. ( or Steve G. might do an interview with y'all )

Tony in Michigan

ps. right now, my transportation industry is exploring neuro-network chips to replace humans in Driving a Robotic Taxi. I'd love to be in on the Ground Floor of all this but I'm an Ancient, Old-School, Long of tooth, Grey Bearded Gezzzer put-out to Pasture.

Jack L's picture

..... put-out to Pasture." quoted Tony in Michigan.

Never too old for anything, my friend.

An 82-year old lady just started to study in our local university.
The ex-mayor of our adjoining city was 96 3 years back when she gave up her 25 year city major job !!! She is still very busy to pursue her community works !

Like you, I am not young anymore. But I am still working a 40-hour day job & still keep busy in my audio design/builds, & in improving my home audio system in refining its "accurate" reproduction.

Take in easy.

Jack L.

tonykaz's picture

I just shut down all our combined business interests in Michigan and will soon re-locate to the Tropics.

I will maintain an age appropriate physical conditioning Program of walking 5 miles per day while relying on Bicycle for all Transportation needs. I'll be 100% Solar, Bicycles get about 10miles per cheeseburger.

My Minister Wife and I have a portable Antique Buying & Selling Business that we will continue. About 5 hrs. pre day, 1,500 hours per year for me, 500 hours for Judy.

My Minister Wife ( mostly a Caregiving Social type of Role ) has an established position at a Florida Cong. About 800 hrs. per year.

I will organize a Badminton League near the Banyan Tree Park and a steady Checkers Tournament schedule at the Gulf Water Front restaurant lobby.

I'll be participating at the Gulf SunSet Drum Circles.

We are taking-up our places in "Gods Waiting Room" while thriving as best we can in the Florida Tropical Incubator for Old People.

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'll also organize as much support for Bernie Sanders as I can muster.

Jack L's picture

Hi Tony.

Wow, you are still so active with yr antique business, & yr social life. So enjoy it.

Glad you mention about yr exercising day in & out, walking & biking. Great example for many many young guys out there.

Me too. I work out at home in my front porch EVERY morning after breakfast before I go to work & on my days off.

One solid hour NON-stop exercising: thorough warming up, followed by FAST stationary jogging 1,500 times, then 300 times 20-lbs dumb-bell lifting for each arm, & finally 800 times push-ups on proper push-up hand tools (500 fast warm-up push-ups + 300 times formal push-ups).

Well, that's how I keep my physique to beat my old age.

Jack L.

tonykaz's picture


I too should do Sets but the Phone rings, Judy needs something, the neighbor asks a question or my mind drifts off and I loose count. I could do sets if Coach Bueford was walking around with a Whistle but not if I had to supply the discipline.

I walk the first half feeling fine but return with increasing aches. If I'm at home I'd quit right there. I lack discipline to walk thru pain.

Yet, I'm on a Cardiologist Ordered exercise regimen. I'm scared of being a non-ambulatory couch potato.

On bicycle, I've been a bicycle racing USA ametuer since I was a teen. I also raced in Europe ( for Colnago ) as a Mountain specialist. ( pre Eddie Merckx ) Now-a-days I can ride about 20 painless miles. ( I was always able to do 100 )

I'd like to get in a group doing the Canadian Air Force training Schedule.

or find a Retired group of Marines to join.

Tony in Michigan

Jack L's picture

....... our ability to localize sounds diminishes until—at around 80Hz—it is, for all intents and purposes, gone." quoted J. Gordon Holt.

Well. I think I am the only 'sucker' around to have installed an active subwoofer for each L, R & L+R channel.

Yet, with the the low-cut frequency of each sub set at 20Hz, I do hear clearly the L & R channel sub delivering not the same bass music.
One very obvious example is my CD of Mussorgsky Pictures At An Exhibition: "Great Gate of Kiev". Only my left channel subwoofer repeatedly pumps out thundering deep bass, not the other channels !

So this alone has justified my having 3 subs, one for L, R & L+R each !

Listening is believing

Jack L.