Engineers often find themselves working in rooms that, for a variety of reasons, may offer less-than-ideal acoustics. Some of the problems can be tamed through the use of acoustic treatment or through analysis and correction of the room response. Genelec’s range of Smart Active Monitors is designed to do the latter, by combining advanced DSP technology and Genelec Loudspeaker Manager 2.0 software. For this review, Genelec sent Mix a set of SAMs consisting of a pair of 8350A, one 7360A subwoofer, and a Loudspeaker Management System.
The 8350A is a two-way SAM with an 8-inch woofer and 1-inch metal dome tweeter. Onboard biamplification is Class D, generating 200 watts for the woofer and 150 watts for the tweeter. There’s no mistaking the 8350A’s distinctive pod-like aluminum housing. Its Minimum Diffraction Enclosure features rounded edges, curved sides and a Directivity Control Waveguide to minimize diffraction, control directivity and maximize internal volume for enhanced low-frequency response. The cabinet is formed from two pieces of die-cast aluminum. It’s lightweight, stiff and easy to damp; it also serves as a heat sink for the power amps and provides electro-magnetic shielding. The cabinet sits atop an integrated IsoPod pedestal that decouples it from the resting surface and allows easy adjustment of listening angle.
Audio input is via rear-panel balanced XLR analog or AES/EBU digital inputs. A digital thru routes audio to the next 8350A in a stereo pair. Also found on the rear panel are a set of DIP switches for stand-alone operation, an IEC power inlet and a power switch.
Occupying the middle position in the SAM subwoofer range is the 7360A, which houses a 10-inch woofer powered by a 300-watt Class D amplifier. The first thing you’ll notice about the 7360 is that it’s heavy. I was just able to manage moving it without help, so I was happy to finish experimenting with its position in my control room.
The 7360A looks different from most subwoofers due to its Laminar Spiral Enclosure; in fact, the enclosure is round while the exterior frame is squared off for stability. LSE employs a patented spiral vent yielding minimal turbulence and squeezes a very long reflex tube into a compact area. Multichannel audio can be handled using the 7360A’s extensive complement of eight analog audio I/Os, LFE I/O, and link I/O connectors. Stereo digital I/O is available via AES/EBU connections, and the 7360A has a set of DIP switches for making adjustments in stand-alone operation. A footswitch jack facilitates easy bypass of the 7360A, in which case the 8350As are restored to full-range operation.
I set up the SAMs in my control room on 36-inch stands alongside the desk, which put the tweeters a few inches above ear level. I was easily able to adjust the focus of the 8350As using the IsoPods, tilting them down a bit toward ear level. Once set, the IsoPods held position securely. I connected the output from my monitor controller to the 7360A’s main analog inputs, then from the 7360A’s outputs to the 8350A inputs, enabling the system to achieve proper crossover and relieving the 8350As from the need to produce the lowest frequencies. After experimenting with placement, the 7360A settled underneath the desk to the right of the room’s centerline.
Using the Loudspeaker Management System was a breeze. The GLM Network Adapter connected to my MacPro via USB, and the supplied Cat 5E cables daisy-chain the monitors to the Network Adapter. A measurement microphone plugs into the Network Adapter via 1/8-inch jack, as does an optional remote volume control.
Genelec has done a nice job on the GLM software, making it very easy to configure (see Try This). After creating a monitor layout, AutoCal is ready to run. Initially, I used AutoCal with the box checked for “Each front left-right pair shares the same equalizer settings.” This should be reserved for rooms that are closely symmetrical. If your room is not, then uncheck the box so that AutoCal can apply different equalization for the left and right speakers. In one fairly symmetrical room I used the same EQ but in another (not-so-symmetrical) control room I allowed AutoCal to calculate EQ separately for the left and right 8350As. AutoCal can run single- or multi-point analysis, and you can store, name and recall different measurement positions in a room—for example, “Producer Desk” or “Engineer Position.”
Running the process produces a series of tones from each monitor; the front-panel LED of the respective monitor blinks while the sweep is playing. Response of the measurement microphone is taken into consideration based on its calibration at the factory, identified by its serial number. GLM software updates the database of microphones periodically, so it’s not something you need to think about.
Working on mixes and tracking sessions, the first thing I noticed after AutoCal was the startling center image. Vocals were presented almost as if there were a center speaker. The midrange, in particular, was very transparent and uncolored—a trait that I value highly, especially when tracking. Transient response on drums and percussion was excellent but never harsh or fatiguing. The bottom end was very tight and controlled but was noticeably reduced compared to what I expect in my room.
Switching AutoCal in and out while listening was an ear-opening experience: I could hear the low end tighten up with AutoCal on, and become exaggerated when AutoCal was bypassed. Spectrum analysis pre- and post-AutoCal (using a Phonic PAA6 analyzer) confirmed that AutoCal smoothed the bass response from 100 Hz down, in some areas by as much as 10 dB. The resultant response after AutoCal was flat within about ±5 dB across the frequency range—which is impressive.
However, I felt like some of the mixes made using the 8350A/7360A system traveled to other studio and home systems with a bit too much bottom end. Like most engineers, I understand the concept that if my room emphasizes the low frequencies, my mixes should sound “bassy” in the control room to sound balanced elsewhere. Listening to the Genelec system after AutoCal, I felt like my mixes were a bit light in the bottom—but if I mixed the bottom to a comfortable level in the CR, then it was too loud when the mixes were played elsewhere. AutoCal’s parameters can be manually edited, so I raised the output of the subwoofer 3 dB to produce a bit more bottom in the CR.
As an analysis tool, GLM is extremely valuable, the graphic response curves clearly showing where problems exist in a control room, and what AutoCal has done to compensate. Keep in mind that GLM corrects through the use of filters, and by definition applies cuts. If you have a notch in the room response, GLM won’t fix it with a boost—which is just as well because such EQ boosts (especially in the LF range) eat up headroom very quickly.
The Genelec 8350A and 7360A combination is an excellent system capable of making extremely sophisticated corrections to room response, but don’t expect it to cure all of the issues in your control room. Anyone who is purchasing a top-notch monitor trio in this price range owes a listen to the Genelec 8350A and 7360A.
PRODUCT: 8350A Compact Studio Monitor, 7360A Studio Subwoofer, Loudspeaker Management System
PRICE: 8350A, $2595 each; 7360A Subwoofer, $2850; Loudspeaker Management System: $495
PROS: Excellent sound reproduction; AutoCal is capable of compensating for room deficiencies
CONS: Technology like this ain’t cheap; You may not like what you learn about your control room.
GLM 2.0 allows you to create a speaker layout that mirrors the components in your system. First connect all of the SAMs to the network and turn on power. Opening GLM for the first time reveals a drag-and-drop box containing the system components and a room layout on the right (or you can create a new layout using File>New). Simply drag each monitor into its respective position. As you drag a monitor, an ID tone is played, ensuring correct position of the monitor in the layout. Before commencing AutoCal, confirm that the measurement mic is equidistant from each speaker. If it is not, the software will apply different time-of-flight delays to the 8350As.
Steve La Cerra is a NY-based live sound and recording engineer.