Designed for working in challenging acoustic spaces, Genelec's compact 8020A biamped monitors and the matching 7050B subwoofer (sold separately) comprise the smallest monitor/subwoofer configuration in the company's current generation of 8000 MDE Series loudspeakers. Although tiny in size, this trio is not wimpy in delivery, offering transparent highs, a detailed midrange and punch in the low-end. This should be no surprise for anybody who's used its predecessors, such as the 1029A monitors. For those of you who haven't, I'll characterize how Genelec's signature sound is present in the 8020A/7050B combination. Of course, I'll cover how the pair of monitors sounds by itself, as well as how both configurations stack up against larger systems.
The 8020A is a rear-ported design featuring a ¾-inch metal dome tweeter and a 4-inch woofer, both magnetically shielded and powered by individual 20W amps for a maximum peak acoustic output of 105 dB. Its die-cast aluminum enclosure is available in either white, silver or black finishes, measures roughly 5 by 6 by 9 inches, and weighs a tad more than 8 pounds. Given its listed frequency response of 65 Hz to 21 kHz (±3 dB), the 8020A provides remarkable range for a speaker barely the size of a football.
With the 8000 series, Genelec has introduced a tapered-edge design that it says will minimize diffraction caused by sharp edges of other enclosures, thus the term MDE (Minimum Diffraction Enclosure). The 8000 series also features a bass reflex port design imported from Genelec's LSE (Laminar Spiral Enclosure) subwoofer that integrates a long, curved tube that snakes through the enclosure to optimize airflow and improve bass response. The 8020A can be mounted several ways: on its Iso-Pod hard rubber stand that insulates the enclosure from vibration, via ⅜-inch UNC threaded holes compatible with many microphone stands, or via two rear points where you can either use an Omnimount-style bracket or a wall-mount adapter that ships with the loudspeaker. Even though you can position these monitors on their sides, Genelec specifically recommends not doing so, and I second that. The imaging suffers noticeably if you do.
Rear inputs and outputs are XLR (+4 dB) and snap-in vertically on the right side of the AC socket in a recessed area. Above the XLR section sit DIP (recessed) switches. Like other compact monitors, such as the JBL LSR25P, the 8020A includes these switches to adjust the monitor's frequency curve for different spaces and applications. Listeners are provided three levels of bass attenuation (-2 dB, -4 dB and -6 dB for frequencies below 2 kHz) to help compensate for bass buildup when using the monitors near a room's boundaries, as well as treble attenuation (-2 dB for frequencies above 5 kHz) to soften an overly bright image. If the 8020As are being paired with the 7050B, you should flick the bass roll-off switch on for highpass filtering below 85 Hz. This matches the monitor to the lowpass filter of the 7050B and avoids unwanted overlapping of frequencies between the two. The company's useful eight-page manual provides several suggested tone control settings for the 8020A based on their placement in a room and whether or not a 7050B is being used.
LOW END THEORY
Designed to match the 8020A in stereo or surround applications (and compatible with several other Genelec monitors), the 7050B extends the performance of a system down to 25 Hz. It features a single, magnetically shielded, 8-inch, low-frequency driver placed within an elegant black LSE bass reflex cabinet. This cabinet weighs close to 40 pounds, so the top handles are more of a necessity than a convenience. All connections and adjustments are made on the right side on the monitor. These include XLR inputs and outputs, a power cord connector with a power switch above it, an LFE In connector for the discrete “.1” of a 5.1 surround-sound application, an input sensitivity adjustment that is variable between +12 and -6 dBu and, finally, DIP switches that provide bass roll-off, LFE bandwidth adjustment and phase switches.
You can connect the 7050B to the 8020As for stereo applications by either running the master output to the 7050B inputs and then back out to each 8020A, or in the opposite direction — from the 8020A outputs to the 7050B inputs. I chose the latter method, because it allowed me to adjust the volume of the subwoofer via the on/off/volume control on the front of each 8020A. With this setup, I'm “slaving” the 7050B volume to the 8020As.
A number of concerns surface when you add a subwoofer to a pair of monitors, such as phase differences between the mains and the sub. Genelec suggests experimenting with placement of the 7050B but to make sure it's less than 24 inches from the front wall, which will increase acoustic loading. Depending on where you place it, the company offers some suggested bass roll-off settings. After finding your desired spot, it's best to employ acoustic measurement equipment to accurately align the system. This may not be a viable option for everyone, so users can also apply an approximate phase-matching method where an 85Hz signal is fed to the subwoofer and phase switches can be adjusted in 90-degree increments to arrive at the truest bass response. If you can manage it, use a pink noise generator and frequency analyzer to address phase anomalies in the setup (such as a dip at the 85Hz crossover point). It's one step toward making sure your mixes are accurate and translate well to other systems. At the very minimum, have recordings at the ready whose sound you know intimately when you do your setup, and position the system while listening to these reference recordings.
IN THE SWEET SPOT
I set up the trio as close to Genelec's recommendations as I could. The 8020As were roughly four feet apart, angled slightly toward each other and about four feet from my listening position. The Iso-Pod they rest on also permits you to angle them down slightly if they are, say, resting on a meter bridge and not directly in line with your ears. Genelec suggests placing the 8020As at least three and a half feet from the front wall. I was able to manage three feet without feeling cramped, but naturally, this optimal arrangement could be very prohibitive for musicians pressed for space — another good reason to devote time to proper alignment. I was also concerned about whether the bass response of the 8020A/7050B pairing would be accurate and if the low-mid frequencies would lack definition. To anyone who doesn't already have them, I highly recommend looking into putting some bass traps in your space — especially if you're opting to include the 7050B subwoofer. You may be surprised how this simple change will tighten the low-end and improve the overall image.
I tested this trio of speakers over several weeks, playing back familiar pieces mixed on larger systems (such as the Genelec 1031As and Meyer Sound HD-1s). These were primarily electronic music records — both vintage and modern — and all of them featured large dynamic range. I was really impressed with how consistently I was reminded of the 1031As, and how I didn't hear any of the blurring that I feared might present itself in the low-midrange frequencies. The 7050B's bass was full and round — never muddy or excessively boomy — and I loved how the 8020As handled the mid- to high-end frequencies. With my favorite jazz recordings, I could hear the space that instruments were recorded in and catch small details I had missed before. I also experimented with monitoring at low volumes and was really pleased with the imaging. Then I turned around and slammed the Genelecs with high sound-pressure levels, and they again responded like champs.
Since some users may only be interested in the 8020As, I also switched off the subwoofer, disabled the bass roll-off on the 8020As and auditioned all the same material that I did with the full trio. While I wouldn't want to finish mixes of any bangin' hip-hop with this configuration, you could still get plenty of work done with only the 8020As. However, I simply can't recommend buying the 8020As without the 7050A subwoofer, as well. The combination provides the kind of full-frequency experience that I wouldn't want to miss.
After several years of listening to 1-inch tweeters and 8-inch woofers, I found myself willing to adopt a different approach because of this ultra-compact system's performance. Not once did I miss having larger monitors in my space, and the ease of expanding to a 5.1 surround system that these Genelecs provide made me even happier. I used to complain of listening fatigue after using Genelecs for several hours, but the 8020As don't possess any of brittleness I noticed in earlier models. Mind you, these are not “warm” monitors that will be overly flattering to your mixes. Rather, they are spot-on accurate for critical listening, and I'd think twice before ignoring them just because they're small. Big things do come in small packages, and these speakers prove it.
8020A BIAMPLIFIED MONITOR > $430 EACH 7050B LSE SUBWOOFER > $1,095
Pros: Very portable. Remarkable delivery of full-frequency range for its size. Iso-Pod vibration insulator. Mains and subwoofer handle high SPLs without distorting. Very accurate when set up properly.
Cons: Could require room-testing equipment for optimal arrangement of all three speakers. Subwoofer is pricey. Difficult to access DIP switches.