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Q&A: Genelec’s Music Creation Series

Genelec is poised to release the first products in its new Music Creation line, the M Series of bi-amplified, active monitors: “high-performance, environmentally sustainable active monitors designed with the project studio in mind.” Will Eggleston, responsible for technical marketing at Genelec USA, shares with Pro Sound News the business and environmental philosophy, and the design objectives, behind the M Series.

Genelec is poised to release the first products in its new Music Creation line, the M Series of bi-amplified, active monitors: “high-performance, environmentally sustainable active monitors designed with the project studio in mind.” Will Eggleston, responsible for technical marketing at Genelec USA, shares with Pro Sound News the business and environmental philosophy, and the design objectives, behind the M Series.

PSN: Where does the M Series fit into Genelec’s product portfolio?

WE: These products are new territory for us. If you look back at the products over the years when we had 1030s, 1031s, and 1032s or even earlier, we changed the outlook with the introduction of the aluminum enclosure with the 1029 in 1996, and again in 2004, when we replaced our core line with the 8000 Series introduction. We then had our first extension of the full aluminum enclosure line with the 8200 series in 2007, adding DSP with GLM [Genelec Loudspeaker Management] and AutoCal room response correction. These M-Series loudspeakers are a new departure again for us because we’re not eliminating any products—we’re simply adding to the offerings.

The M030 and M040 are the first products in our Music Creation series. They follow the basic design principles of Genelec, but they don’t incorporate materials and processes that would have been traditionally used as part of the other Genelec products. The enclosure material and design is quite unique, and all of the electronics inside are different as well. The goal is to be able to capture that part of the music business which kind of lives somewhere between the basement and the high-end recording studio. It’s a huge, vast group, so it’s really kind of difficult to say, ‘well, there is the typical user,’ but I think we can visualize who that person is. Sometimes they’re DJs, sometimes they’re at-home music composers, sometimes they are weekend warriors or music students—it’s a huge, huge market.

PSN: While Genelec has a reputation for building the best products it knows how, does the Music Creation series represent a deliberate attempt to create a product for a particular market that may not have as much money?

WE: On the surface, I think some people might want to consider that as part of the rationale, but you have to step back a little bit and think about it from Genelec’s perspective. It’s not quite observable to everybody on the planet how Genelec thinks and feels about what it does. As a culture, the Finish are pretty prudent, I think; they’re a very thoughtful andd cautious culture. And if you’ve been to Iisalmi, where they are based, you know that it’s not like working in a big city. The factory is located in the woods, close to the middle of nowhere. They certainly have their eyes on the world because you can’t escape it, but in terms of how they go to work everyday, they have a very unique perspective and they’re very close to nature; woods are all around. It’s a very quiet community. Many of those people have been working there for decades, some since day one 35 years ago. Ilpo Martikainen, as one of the founders of the company, has a very strong opinion about embedded sustainability.

The company, and all the people that work there and even here [at Genelec USA], and in China, are very respectful of the values that the company’s had over the years, especially as they relate to energy conservation, pollution, to ‘where are we going on this big planet? How are we going to be able to help in some way.’ If your goal is to not use a whole lot of energy making and shipping a product, then your design criteria is going to change.

The M Series design approach came from the direction of reliability and sustainability. We’re using a unique, natural fiber-composite, bio-recycled material. It’s about half wood pulp with additional polymer-based material. There are other recycled materials used. We are trademarking it as the Natural Composite Enclosure. In terms of what it takes to actually manufacture this product, it’s very much hands-off, because it’s pressure-injected. The amount of hand-finishing that occurs with this product is significantly lower than what you would have with the other enclosures that we make. This enclosure material is lighter. The material is self-painted. It’s going to use less energy to ship it. It’s going to take less energy to manufacture it. The packing material is totally made from recycled material.

The class D amplification used in the M Series is something new for us as well. We’ve been working on this amplifier design in-house as a research project for quite a few years now, and we feel very comfortable about its performance and certainly the efficiency attributes that class D amplifiers bring to the project.

The M series also uses intelligent signal sensing power management. For example, it goes into a “standby” mode after one half-hour of not sensing any signal input or use. And it will draw less than 1/2 of one watt out of a wall. The clever part is that once it senses signal input, it immediately comes out of the standby mode. Every one of our products is being serviced with this Intelligent Signal Sensing circuit. That’s part of the philosophy that has perpetuated over the last several years. Genelec’s environmental consciousness is, I think, unique within the loudspeaker industry.

PSN: The M Series monitors are designed for desktop or stand use only?
WE: They’re not made to get screwed into the wall and there’s not a whole lot of mounting accessories, because the profile of the customer doesn’t demand that.

PSN: Did the design philosophy then dictate somewhat the application? You began by process saying, “We’re exploring this material, we believe it’s feasible for cabinet manufacture, we believe that our sustainability goal is best served by this approach.” And then you say, “Given those parameters, is there a product that we can develop that will suit a particular target market?” And you answer, “Well, yes, the project studio.” Then the exercise becomes, “Let’s refine this design with that goal in mind.” Is that a reasonable synopsis?
WE: Yes, if we had to burden the design with, say, wall mounting, well, we probably would’ve looked at the target market and said, “Less than one-half of one percent would probably use that feature, so why incorporate it?

PSN: Some of the common aspects of the 8000s have not been incorporated, like the IsoPods for isolation and tilt.

WE: That is correct; however, we are looking at having a solution available that would isolate the enclosure from the surface it sits on. The M Series design of the legs actually integrates into the port. We call it LIP, for Laminar Integrated Port, where the port is actually part of the mold. On the M Series, the port is part of the front half of the enclosure. The fact that it’s part of what the product supports itself with is even cooler. We had to go back to the design phase a couple of times to make sure that the port flow was as smooth as possible. That’s one of the benefits of injection molding—you can go back and change specific things. It’s worked out very well.

That’s another example of where we’ve been able to save time and energy making the product. While we weren’t overtly trying to make something less expensive, we knew we could have something that would be a bit less money than 8000s with the same size drivers and a product that could be a benefit to the target market.

PSN: This material does allow you to incorporate distinctly “Genelec design” features. Like in the 8000s, where your waveguide integrated the rounded minimum defraction corners and such into the chassis.
WE: Right.

PSN: How about the tranducers used—are they a departure at all from what’s been used previously?

WE: There’s part of the Genelec design DNA that never really changes. The transducers won’t be any different than what you have in any typical Genelec product. We won’t go to a different part supplier because it’s going to save a tenth of a Euro; it’s just not going to make a whole lot of sense for us to do that, especially if there is a potential impact on reliability. We haven’t given anything up in terms of sound character. Indeed an M Series monitor will sound like a Genelec. Did the design team tweak the waveguide knowing that the rooms might be a little bit more reflective? Only a bit. I think that if you had a look at the directivity indexes, they would be only modestly different with a goal of understanding where the products would be headed, or where they would be placed.

You will see some two-dimensional differences on the spec sheet with regards to SPL and LF cutoff, but trying to compare an 8000 to an M series is really not the issue. Genelec always says, “Look, turn the products on, use them, understand what they’re capable of doing and then decide which one you might need.” This is a music creation product with some very strong attributes for that market. If you’re in the music creation business, this is the product for you. It’s a fine line for us to be walking, to be honest with you, but if you have a customer that’s coming through the door and he’s doing work in his basement or his bedroom and he wants the best thing that he could have, show him the M series—this is what he ought to be buying. If you have someone else who has a different caliber of expectation where they need some of the attributes, such as the DSP, that smart active monitors bring to the table, then that probably would be more of a post production profile or maybe even a broadcast profile, and more suited for an 8200 Series product.

PSN: How about frequency contouring and EQ to accommodate placement and room acoustics?

WE: First off, the actual adjustments are easy to get to and set with your fingers. There are a couple of bass level positions for when the monitor is either up against a wall or in a corner. There is a second adjustment that inserts a soft bass tilt or tabletop EQ. The level adjustment is done via a three-position toggle switch, with adjustments of 0 dB, -10 dB and -20 dB. There are a lot of consoles out there and some, even some of the small ones, have more than enough gain on the master fader—but they’re not necessarily clean. On a spec sheet, the manufacturers are more than happy to publish that it’ll put out +22 or 24 dBm, but they make no mention about how nasty sounding it could be if it’s overloading the input to the device downstream. And so, if the customer is only using a small portion of his master fader, say only the first half-inch before it’s blowing you out of the room, he or she has a problem. Lending ourselves more to the typical environment in the project studio is probably not a bad idea. We have enough attenuation and room response controls on the monitors to be flexible and enjoyable.

SPECIFICATIONS: The M030 bi-amplified active monitor utilizes a five-inch woofer and 0.75-inch metal dome tweeter, powered by a 50 W and 30 W amplifier respectively. The free-field frequency response is 58 Hz to 21 kHz (+/-3 dB), while peak SPL is 103 dB at one meter. The M030 measures 10 3/4″ H x 7 1/2″ W x 7 1/2″ D and weighs 8.8 lbs. The M040 bi-amplified active monitor employs a 6.5-inch woofer with a one-inch metal dome tweeter, powered by an 80 W and 50 W amplifier respectively. The free-field frequency response is 48 Hz to 21 kHz (+/-3 dB), while peak SPL is 107 dB at one meter. The M040 measures 13 1/4″ H x 9 1/4″ W x 9″ D and weighs 15.4 lbs.

A shorter version of this Q&A appeared in the March 2013 issue of Pro Sound News.