Genelec 8040A

Groundbreaking active monitors undergo a new-millennium makeover

By Mitch Gallagher
Finland's Genelec was one of the original proponents of active high-end studio-quality monitors. Founded in 1978, the company's speakers have earned an enviable reputation, and are in constant use in countless studios around the world. So when they re-design - essentially re-create - some of their most popular models, it's big news.

The company's new 8000-series monitors replace the highly regarded 1029a, 1030a, and 1031a two-way active monitors. The new models sport a unique rounded cabinet design, a redesigned bass reflex port, and an integrated Directivity Control Waveguide.

The unusual cabinets have more than just rounded corners; the cabinet sides, bottom, and top are all gently rounded. According to the company, this cuts down on the effects of diffraction from the enclosure.

It also means that the speakers won't stand up on their own, so an Iso-Pod stand was developed that attaches to the bottom or side of the enclosure. In addition to allowing the speaker to stand upright, the Iso-Pod provides isolation from whatever surface the speaker is resting on. It can be slid forward and back, which lets you adjust the forward/back angle of the speaker. Very nice. The new cabinets also have integrated stand-mounting hardware for bolting to floor stands or wall or ceiling mounts.

The back of the cabinet has the new bass reflex port, which has a large cross-section and a wide flare. (The port has the added bonus of serving as a carrying handle - these things are solid and heavy.) As with any speaker, placement in front of a wall or other surface can cause problems. But like their predecessors, the 8000 series have plenty of room-tailoring control built-in. There's Treble Tilt, which can provide 2dB boost or up to 4dB cut above 15kHz (in 2dB steps).

Bass Tilt does the same thing below 100Hz. The "Tilt" switches also allow you to mute the bass or treble driver. According to the frequency response graphs in the manual, the slope of both filters is fairly gentle, so their effects extend beyond the cutoff frequency (up to around 500Hz with Bass Tilt, down to around 3kHz with Treble Tilt).

Two other controls address low-frequency issues. Bass Roll-off attenuates up to 6dB (in 2dB steps) with a cutoff frequency of 45Hz. The Desktop Control is a 4dB notch filter at 160Hz.

It's designed to compensate for placing the speaker on a table, meter bridge, or other reflective surface.

The only other control (besides the power switch, of course) is input sensitivity, which ranges &lusmn;6dB. All controls are on the rear panel; they're set into a "shelf" in the body of the enclosure, so you shouldn't have to worry about them being inadvertently adjusted. Input sensitivity requires a screwdriver for adjustment.

The speakers are all symmetrical and identical, so each can serve as left or right (or center or left/right rears in a surround rig) monitors. They can be positioned vertically or horizontally. Genelec recommends vertical placement for best results.

I received a pair of 8040a monitors for this review. Until recently I had 1030a monitors in my studio; the 8040a is a direct replacement for that model. While I couldn't do an A/B comparison with the two models, after 10 years my memory of the 1030s is pretty good.

The 8040a has a 6.5" woofer, and 3/4" metal-dome tweeter. The low- and high-frequency amplifiers each provide 90 watts of power. The speakers were positioned on stands placed 3' from the front wall, 7' from the sidewalls, and in a 4' equilateral triangle with the mix position. The mix position in my studio is an RFZ (reflection-free zone) design.

I settled in with my favorite reference material, a new project I'm working on with a Nashville singer/songwriter, and some recent minimalist/direct-to-Masterlink classical guitar recordings.

Compared to the older 1030a, the new 8040a is, as you'd expect, similar in tonality and response. However, there are differences. The 8040a's low end is bigger, but at the same time tighter than the older model. The highs seem more open. The midrange also has an open quality, with excellent depth, and no boxy quality or harshness.

The speakers have plenty of power for nearfield applications. They can even hold their own compared to 8" models from other manufacturers, both from an output and a low-end standpoint.

Like the 1030a before it, the 8040a has a smooth, but detailed, sound. It's easy to listen to for long periods of time. You won't find yourself straining to hear "into" your mixes or to balance ambience and reverb. Once you've dialed your ears in, you'll also find them easy to set EQ on, with plenty of depth for adjusting the balances in complex mixes.

If you're a long-time Genelec user, and your old speakers are getting a bit long in the tooth (as my 1030s were after many years of continuous use), you'll definitely want to look at updating to the new models. They'll sound familiar to you, but with noticeable improvements. I felt the lows were tighter and more extended, and that the top end detail was even better than my trusty old standbys.

If you're looking to replace other monitors or searching for your first higher-end active speaker, give the Genelec 8000-series a good look. They provide a balanced, smooth sound that's easy to listen to for extended sessions. Even with the 6.5" woofer in the 8040a, the low end is solid and surprisingly powerful. There are plenty of tonal adjustments for matching the speakers to even the most problematic room. They're not cheap, but you'll get many years of service from them.

Naturally the only way to decide on monitors is to sit down and critically listen to them in your own room. If you do this with the 8000-series, you'll be glad you did.

“Compared to the older 1030a, the new 8040a is, as you’d expect, similar in tonality and response. However, there are differences”