However, no room is perfect. Many producers work in bedrooms or basements where installing treatment, be it bass traps, diffusers or acoustic panelling, is either difficult or impossible. While acoustic room treatment is much cheaper than a new pair of monitors, it's easy to see the appeal of Genelec's 8340A, and the proprietary GLM (Genelec Loudspeaker Manager) calibration package designed for them.
The monitors arrived with the GLM User Kit, comprising a GLM Adaptor (which acts as a central hub between the monitors and the computer) and a measurement microphone. These are connected to the monitors using supplied CAT5 network cables. Together, this bundle makes up the SAM (Smart Active Monitor) system. The GLM User Kit is also sold separately.
Genelecs are known for packing a lot of power and definition into a small package. But unlike most of their products, the 8340As are large. Weighing in at 18.5lb each, they're not something you'll be carting round to a friend's house for a jam. Still, the distinctive curved body that houses the 6.5" woofer and 3/4" tweeter help to slim the profile much more than the boxier style favoured by other manufacturers. Compared to other monitors of this size, these wouldn't look out of place in a small home studio setup. The Iso-Pod stands included in the package allow the monitors to be easily targeted towards the listening sweet spot, as well as enabling the monitors to be used either vertically or horizontally depending on preference, room layout and size.
The 8340As are capable of reaching down to a very impressive 38Hz and can push up to 110dB at maximum volume. This should prove more than enough for most producers, making an additional subwoofer more a luxury than a necessity. Should one be used however, the GLM software has an additional AutoPhase screen designed to set the subwoofer's phase at the crossover frequency of the monitors, ensuring harmony between the highs and lows of your system.
They also include a number of Genelec-patented, acronym-heavy features. These include a Minimum Diffraction Enclosure (MDE), designed to reduce first-order reflections and unwanted secondary sound sources. Then there's Directivity Control Waveguide technology (DCW) for a flat frequency response, reduced distortion and diffraction, and Intelligent Signal Sensing (ISS), a sleep mode that drastically reduces power-consumption when not in use (Genelec takes pride in its high-level of sustainability and minimal environmental impact). The only real downside is the lack of input options. With no TRS or RCA connections and only one analogue and one digital XLR input, you may find that new cables or adaptors are required, depending on your setup. This also makes it difficult to integrate multiple sound sources directly into the speakers themselves. My current monitors, the Focal Alpha 80s, have unbalanced RCA inputs as well as analogue XLRs, meaning I can run my DJ setup into them alongside the output from my studio mixer with ease.
The SAM calibration process is pretty painless. After setting up the measurement microphone at the listening position and connecting the monitors, GLM System and computer together, the next step is running the GLM 2.0 software. You first define the approximate layout of your room by dragging and dropping the monitor icons onto the grid. Once the group layout is saved, the calibration process begins. Each speaker kicks out a full frequency sine-wave sweep. It must be noted that these sweeps are overwhelmingly loud, something that isn't mentioned in the manual or quick-start guides. I'd highly recommend dipping out of the room during this phase. The AutoCal software then measures the responses from the room and optimises each monitor individually, utilising a combination of up to 20 parametric filters to produce a custom EQ curve for each speaker. In my experience only eight of the filters were used, so the fact that models lower down in Genelec's SAM range offer between five and 11 filters shouldn't be too much of a concern.
The results of AutoCal's work are displayed on a colour-coded graph within the software. A red curve represents the initial measured response, a blue curve the correction applied by the system and a green curve the final result of the calibration. The image below shows the result of calibration in my small, untreated studio.
Here you can clearly see resonant, problematic frequencies at around 40Hz, 120Hz and 360Hz. AutoCal has applied some fairly dramatic cuts here, notching down to almost -12dB at the very bottom end. The only boosting has taken place right at the top, with a gentle high-frequency shelf adding 0.8dB from 8000Hz. The software also allows for manual control of the frequency, gain and Q settings of each filter, should you disagree with AutoCal's results.
The outcome is impressive. The low-end boom disappeared, replaced by a much tighter, more controlled bass sound. The weight and feel can still be clearly perceived but the low-end no longer overwhelms the other frequencies. With bass creeping into the lower-mids, your perception of the mix as a whole benefits greatly. This makes the tricky balancing act of getting a kick and bassline to sit well together a much more enjoyable task. The highs are also brighter and more present, a result of the slight boost applied by AutoCal and the extra room lower down the frequency range. These adjustments at either end of the frequency spectrum make the mid-range more perceptible in the mix, so troublesome frequencies are easier to spot and correct. All of this adds an incredible degree of stereo separation. Using Objekt's recently released "Needle & Thread" as a reference track, I was pretty blown away by the clarity of the higher-register sounds as they pinged around the stereo-field. There's a 3D-like quality to the sound that lets you hear your ideas that much more clearly.
While the accuracy and clarity that the SAM system offers is impressive, at times I missed the all-encompassing nature of uncalibrated bass. Vibe is an essential element of writing music, and sometimes that's lost in the pursuit of accuracy. Handily, the GLM software allows for this. By duplicating the calibrated group (or simply starting from scratch), you can dial in a more hi-fi style of EQ for those moments when surgical precision is not on the agenda. This easy adjustability does go some way to justifying the price, as you're getting a number of different listening possibilities when monitoring with this setup.
Most home studios will have less than ideal acoustics, with monitors positioned close to walls, corners and other reflective surfaces. Genelec's SAM system helps massively in rectifying the resulting sound issues, though at a cost that may put it out of reach for much of its target market—if you're still working out of a home studio, you're unlikely to drop €3000 on monitors. Cheaper and smaller models that also use the SAM system are available, though they will still set you back around €1300 at the cheap end with the bass extension suffering as a result of the smaller size. Saying that, if it's something you can afford, you probably won't find a monitoring solution that adapts itself so smoothly to it's environment while providing such a clear, powerful and versatile sound.
Ease of use: 4.7