Genelec Studio Monitor 1031A loudspeaker & Studio Monitor 1092A powered subwoofer Page 2

I installed a pair of the 1031As on 28" stands in my 16' by 20' main audio/video room, with the speakers and listening seat at the corners of an equilateral triangle. The rectangular cabinets were oriented vertically, placed symmetrically in relation to the room's side walls, and 4' from the back wall. The listener-to-loudspeaker distance was about 7', and the speakers were aimed straight ahead, as they'd been when I first heard them at Colorado Sound (and as they would be in most other studios). The surround channels went on 6' stands 7' behind me, near but not close to the room corners, and aimed at the diagonally opposite front speakers. The center channel went midway between the front pair, set upright on a low stand that put it right below the bottom of my 6½'-wide projection screen, and propped up at the front so as to aim at my ear height.

The two subwoofers were placed in locations that I've found yield the smoothest low-end frequency response when two subs are used: at ¼ and ¾ intervals across the space between the room's side walls. This helps to ensure that whatever standing-wave irregularities are excited by one woofer aren't excited by the other. For example, with a single subwoofer, I could never find a location that could eliminate a moderate, narrow response dip at 50Hz. With two placed asymmetrically and adjusted to similar output levels, the dip was gone.

The multichannel calibration was done using the Lexicon's built-in test signal and a RadioShack sound-pressure meter. The Genelecs' extensive equalization and level adjustments made it possible to get a wide variety of sounds from them, and it took several days of tweaking before I got just the right combination of midbass bloom, subwoofer/satellite blending, and low-frequency weight. Most subwoofer owners set their levels too high, presumably on the grounds that they paid a pretty penny for those things and they're damn well gonna hear them. But not only is excess bass muddy bass, it also overpowers the deeper bass below the woofer's resonant frequency; the system doesn't sound as if it goes as deep as it can.

Ideally, a subwoofer shouldn't reveal its presence in a system until something really deep comes along. The best way to achieve this delicate balance is to start out with the subwoofer(s) turned all the way off, then increase the level bit by bit while listening to a variety of material with deep bass in it.

But what material with deep bass? Music recordings vary all over the place in their amounts of low-frequency weight: from the wretched excesses of Telarc's bass drums and Dorian's pipe organs to the sparseness of RCAs and CBS/Sonys. The closest to dead-center-on bass that I've found are Classic Records' re-releases, and one of their best for subwoofer setup is the The Royal Ballet: Gala Performances (Ernest Ansermet, Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden, RCA Living Stereo Soria Series/Classic LDS-6065). Not only does it have lots of deep, musical bass activity, it also has frequent interludes of subway rumble that were probably too deep for Decca's early monitors to reveal. The goal here is to balance the subwoofer(s) so that double basses throb rather than rumble, the bass drum thuds rather than booms, and the subway is audible but not obtrusively so.

The Genelec subs had to be reduced by 1.5dB from measured level to produce subjectively proper balance. (Dual subwoofers should be set at the same volume level to begin with, but it will often be possible to get smoother response by tweaking the relative levels. In my case, setting the inside subwoofer 2dB higher than the one near the wall gave slightly smoother bass across the listening area.)

In Stereo
Out of the box, the Genelec speakers sounded raw, tizzy, and plastic—the classic signs of a system badly in need of break-in. I piped pink noise into them from a generator and Y-adapter, cranked the sound up to 75dB, set the Lexicon (footnote 3) to Party mode (which feeds the same signal to all upper-range channels), and spent a long day running errands. That evening, they were ready for serious listening.

After the Genelecs were broken-in, my first and lasting reaction to them was that reviewing them really had been a good idea. There was an intrinsic rightness about their sound that I haven't heard from any review system since the Tannoy 10-DMT II, which I reviewed in Vol.3 No.1 of Stereophile Guide to Home Theater (Spring 1997) and which, despite no longer being available, is still my reference speaker. From a nearfield listening distance of a little over 3', the Genelecs sounded almost shockingly real, with the kind of micro-detailing that is rarely heard outside of a live performance—barely perceptible finger squeaks, page turnings, valve clicks, and glottal sounds from vocals. This was detail of definitely high-end caliber. The Genelec has the best-sounding amplifier of any powered speaker I've heard, and delivered some of the most realistic, alive sound I've heard in my home.

Unfortunately, at a typical home-theater listening distance of 7', some of that magic was gone. Some detail was lost, and the high end became slightly hot, while the range below became (in my relatively dead room) a little laid-back and subtly blurred, as though the system was involving the room acoustics too much. Whether reproducing speaking voice or musical instruments, the Genelec stereo system did only moderately well on the "next-room test." Listening from the adjoining room, there was never any doubt that what I was hearing was reproduced. (This is a nasty test; very few modern consumer speakers can pass it. Thirty years ago, many could.)

The first (–2dB) notch of treble cut on the speakers tamed the HF rise but had no effect on the lower ranges, and none of the other tweaking adjustments had any effect on the darkening that I heard. Nevertheless, this wasn't severe enough to substantially damage instrumental timbres. Voices, brasses, and large-bodied instruments like double-basses and bassoons sounded the right size rather than, as is often the case, larger-than-life. (Our hearing naturally equates timbre with size: the darker, the larger.) But the loss of reach-out-and-touch-it realism was disappointing.

It was still easily possible for me to forget I was listening to loudspeakers and get wrapped up in the music. This is a strong plus for the Genelecs, because not many systems do that for me. Between my winter orchestra-recording activities and summer season tickets, I get to hear a lot of real acoustical music, so I'm picky as hell about accuracy. And I can assure readers who haven't experienced audio reality for a while that live music isn't always as lushly euphonic as most audiophile speakers make it sound. Much of it is harsh, shrill, ugly, and bristling with sharp little spikes, and a sound reproducer worthy of the name must be able to deliver those nasty qualities as well as the beautiful ones. From two channels, the Genelecs were easily in the ballpark.

One thing that sets pro speakers apart from most consumer systems is their ability to reproduce real-world volume levels. The Genelecs have immense dynamic range—they seem to compress things hardly at all, and a mere two of them easily produced more volume than I could take, although not entirely without strain. At levels above 95dB or so, the sound began to lose some of that effortless quality that characterizes a true fortissimo, and became instead a little steely-hard—not nearly as much so as most consumer systems, but audibly. Yet the overload lights rarely flickered red, suggesting that amplifier overload was not a factor.

Similarly, while bass quality was generally very good, with outstanding extension and pitch articulation, sustained, heavy bass (100dB and more) occasionally drove the subs over the edge, changing the musical bass to a generic low-frequency roar. I must add, though, that I never encountered bass that loud from any music recording, only from a very few film soundtracks.

Soundstaging was excellent—wide and deep—but it soon became evident that center fill was more solid and stable when the speakers were toed-in than when aimed straight ahead. With the speakers' axes crossing at about my nose, I could sit anywhere within a 5'-wide spread and still hear a balanced and coherent soundstage—although, unquestionably, it sounded best from dead center.

In Surround
Discrete-surround music recordings in Dolby Digital and DTS are just now beginning to appear in stores, but almost every stereo recording ever made has at least some ambient surround content that can be extracted by a suitable decoder, and many free-standing processors have one or more music modes that can do it. The Lexicon DC-1 THX version has several, some of which can actually reconstruct the original stereo surround field (footnote 4). I used both discrete and derived sources for my surround tests.

Since the center and surround speakers were already set up, converting the system to stereo was a simple matter of bypassing Genelec's crossovers, going into the Lexicon's Setup menu, and telling it the system now had a center channel and two small surround speakers that needed 80Hz crossovers. And firing up the full system opened up a new listening environment, as it always does. The most dramatic differences between surround and stereo were evident on discrete pop and rock recordings, where voices and instruments appeared from any or many directions, sometimes all at once. Derived surround could never approach these for effectiveness, but for classical material, the most startling change was the feeling of immersion in the hall. Recordings made in large performing spaces wrapped those spaces all the way around me, conveying a sense of being right in the hall instead of on the outside listening in. Front-soundstage imaging became a little less tight and precise from the front center "sweet spot" (which is also consistent with the real, live sound), but was much less dependent on listening position. Musical timbres were more rich and warm, and the overall sound seemed louder and more effortless than it had in stereo.

But on top of the system's already somewhat laid-back sound, the added warmth was a bit much. The sound was now definitely on the darkish side, and the system's bass EQ controls could not entirely correct for it. As a consequence, musical naturalness suffered. The startling realism and detail I had heard from the closer-to-nearfield conditions were pretty much gone, and the impression that the room was singing along with the speakers was unmistakable. (Genelec's own polar-response curve confirmed what I was hearing: The more off-axis the listener is, the more the whole range above about 600Hz is shelved-down.)

Genelec's Directivity Control Waveguide appears to work as specified. With all three front speakers upright, the soundstage was gorgeous—wide, deep, and integrated, with almost pinpoint image specificity and only a small amount of picket-fencing with changing lateral position. With the speakers on their sides (Genelec recommends tweeters out, woofers in) but with the original tweeter orientations, specificity was considerably degraded, and picket-fencing increased in severity to the point where instrumental positions hip-hopped as I moved my listening position from side to side. Rotating the tweeters according to Genelec's recommendation eliminated the instrument wander and restored the soundstaging and specificity almost to their original states. But imaging was still best with all the satellites oriented vertically, because that provides the best horizontal symmetry. Except for some home-theater situations, I can't see any reason why they shouldn't always be used standing up.

Wrapping it up
Heard as they were intended to be heard—from up close—the Genelec 1031A Studio Monitor is among the most drop-dead realistic-sounding speakers I've encountered. But Genelec appears to have made the same mistake many high-end speaker manufacturers make, and assumed that a design that sounds great in stereo will sound just as good in surround sound. That this is patently untrue becomes obvious when you compare stereo reproduction with the same signal blended (A+B) to mono. Switching from mono to exactly the same signal in stereo fleshes out the midbass and expands warmth and richness, even though spectral measurements reveal no change in frequency response. The change is all in the perception: more space equals more bass. Going from two channels to four (or more) in a surround configuration does the same thing, adding even more warmth to the already-enriched two-channel sound.

Unfortunately, this change in tonality with increased spatial information, which anyone who listens can readily confirm, is considered to be beyond cutting-edge, and has not yet been accepted by a scientific community that still denies that amplifiers that measure the same can sound different. The absence of measurements that could confirm the perceived relationship between space and midbass bass consigns the whole business to the realm of "anecdotal observation," along with reports of near-death experiences and UFO abductions.

So...would I recommend this system to a Stereophile reader? Not for typical listening at 7'. At around $13,000 for the whole system, the Genelec multichannel system is a bargain compared with what some not-too-suave two-channel systems cost, and its sound from a moderate distance has many of the romantic qualities audiophiles are looking for from stereo reproduction. But I still cling to the quaint notion that audio is at least as much about realism as about euphony, and as euphonic as these speakers sound in surround mode, they are not realistic-sounding.

This really bothers me, probably more than it should, because it is unprofessional to get involved with the products one reviews, but I'll make an exception in this case. 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. But Genelec's 1031A speakers are not crap; they are superb for the purpose for which they were intended—close-range listening. My problem with them in the context of this review is that they are being marketed for applications—far-field and multi-channel listening—for which they were not designed and are ill-suited.

It's obvious, though, why Genelec speakers are so popular with recording studios: Used as they are designed to be used, they are amazingly accurate devices. As someone who hears live, unamplified music several times a month, I can appreciate that.

I recommend Genelec's 1031A for close-in stereo use, but not for surround systems.



Footnote 3: I used the DC-1 for both my stereo and multichannel listening because all my signal sources were digital and the DC-1 has the best D/A converter I had on hand.

Footnote 4: Ambience extraction depends on the fact that reverberation, being random in nature, is 50% anti-phase energy. It's extracted by subtracting the left front signal from the right front signal, and directing what's left to the rear speakers. This is only one signal, though; it's monophonic, lacking both directionality and spatiality. Lexicon and some others (like Citation and Meridian) then compare the surround signal with the same signal as contained in the left and right front channels; if it's stronger in one side than in the other, it is steered to that side in the surround speakers. The result can sound amazingly like discrete surround. In my live recordings, it's possible to pinpoint the locations of applauding audience members all the way across the back of the hall.

COMMENTS
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.
Canada

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

YES !

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.
Canada

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