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Genelec M040 active monitors

Issue #29

Monitoring is serious business, and most serious manufacturers have their own ideas about how it should be done. Finnish innovator Genelec has been right up-there in the A-list of “serious” manufacturers for nearly forty years and its monitors are rightly very highly regarded in professional audio circles. The 8000 series nearfield monitors have been around for a decade or so; they are easily recognisable by both their curved aluminium MDE (Minimum Diffraction Enclosure) and their “family” sonic signature, and are now joined by the M series “Music Creation” range. Given that the 8000s are classified as “Pro Monitoring”, and given the cosmetic similarities, it would be too easy to assume that the Ms are just “not-as-good” 8000s. It’s really not that simple.

The M series may look a bit like the 8000s, it may share the MDE curves, the clever waveguide contouring, 2-way bi-amped architecture, and yes, it may well sound kind-of similar, but it’s actually a quite different beast with solid 21st century environmental credentials. Firstly, the NCE (Natural Composite Enclosure) is made from an environmentally friendly material of injection moulded wood pulp and polymer composite which is claimed to be both completely recyclable (because we all like to think about how we’ll throw-away our brand-new speakers the day we choose them) and sonically inert and rigid. Power is provided by a pair (80/50W for LF/tweeter) of D-class, (high efficiency, low power consumption, low heat output) amplifiers with Intelligent Signal Sensing (ISS) circuits that switch to standby mode (consuming a miserly 0.5W) after approximately a half-hour without a signal being present on the input.

The pair I had for testing is the larger M040 with a 6.5” low frequency driver and 1” dome tweeter and quoted frequency range of 48 to 20K Hz at the usual -3dB level (the smaller M030 has a 5” LF driver and quotes 58 to 20kHz). The rear panel has a set of tailoring switches to help configure the speaker for the space it is being used in along with mains power socket and switch (110 – 230V), and balanced Neutrik combi/unbalanced RCA inputs. 

  • Bass Level (-2dB/flat/-4dB at 100Hz) to help compensate for wall/freespace/corner placement (also helped by the way that the low-turbulence bass reflex port now faces downwards and exits on the insides of the “legs” that support either side of the monitors on the desk)
  • Bass EQ (-2dB shelf centred at  80Hz)
  • Tabletop EQ switch (-3dB at 210Hz) to help with mid-range reflection induced EQ peak when the speakers are placed on a reflective table-top
  • -10/0/-20 dB level controls

It’s always interesting to listen to the effect of the “tailoring” EQ on a set of monitors, and to me the M040 EQs are gentle enough to sound natural and “right” pretty well however you set them. In my space I ended-up with -2dB on the Bass Level, Bass EQ set flat and power at -10dB which happens to suit the calibration I have set on my monitor controller (I didn’t even check the output spec - 0dB was just far too loud for me to mix with). I did try the Tabletop EQ setting with the monitors sitting on a piece of work-surface, and whilst I get the general idea I’d personally rather mount them off-surface and set the EQ flat.

What do they sound like? The bottom end is clear and full with a nice “bounce” to it (to the point where I actually switched-in the low level EQ cut on the occasion when I really cranked them loud). At any volume level the frequency range has a proper sense of being connected and there is the classic Genelec “forward” sound that makes working with the higher frequencies very precise. If anything I might have liked to be able to tame the highs just a little bit purely as a matter of personal taste - I feel that way with almost all monitors, and the clean and undistorted high end never became tiring to work with. With the monitor levels set flat and an unbalanced input source connected but muted, the only sound I could hear was a very low level hiss up to an inch or so away from the speaker - completely inaudible beyond that. Stereo image was stable and wide enough that I never moved far enough to hear it wander, and I never noticed any reflex port “woofing” nor the bass smearing to the infamous ported-monitor “single note smudge”. Very good!

On balance I think they sound pretty much like I remember classic Genelecs sounding, but here’s the thing; when I tried a set of 8040s some years ago I wasn’t convinced that they were right for me, but I liked the M040s straight away. I don’t have any older speakers to make a direct comparison with, but my very unscientific gut-feeling is that the Ms are possibly a little warmer than I remember.  I think the Ms are different enough in their technology to stand on their own; they’re certainly a cheaper option, but at the moment I’m struggling to find very much that they actually seem to give away for the difference (other than the rather nice Iso-Pod mounts), and that’s why I say that the range positioning isn’t quite as simple as “not-quite-so-good” versions of the “Pro Monitoring” solutions. These are certainly not cheap-budget monitors, and they are in an ultra-competitive segment of the monitor market, but I’d certainly put a pair on my “must-try” list if I was monitor shopping and they fit my budget and spec. A great take on the classic Genelec sound, at a lower price point and with environmentally friendly engineering. If you’re in this market, try a pair. 

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