Genelec enjoys a stellar reputation among studio professionals, but how do its speakers sound at home?
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Ask any sound engineer about Genelec speakers and you'll get an earful. Pros worldwide revere the speakers made by Genelec, a company founded in 1978 that makes a wide range of monitor speakers for recording and broadcast engineers and discerning audiophiles.
The M030 is an "active," two-way monitor with a .75-inch dome tweeter and 5-inch woofer. Each driver has a dedicated, built-in amplifier. There's a 30-watt amp for the tweeter and a 50-watt amp for the woofer. (Both are Class D amps.) Most Genelec speakers feature die-cast aluminum cabinets, but the M030 uses an injection-molded Natural Composite Enclosure (NCE), which is a recyclable wood fiber composite material. The cabinet measures 10.75 by 7.5 by 7.5 inches (273x190x190mm). Wrap your knuckles against the side of the M030, and you'll quickly get a sense of the solidity of the cabinet; it feels positively inert. Twin bass ports reside on the bottom panel, tucked into the sides of the enclosure. The M030's molded-in feet ensure proper clearance for the bass ports. The speaker is manufactured in Finland.
Moving around to the back of the speaker, you see equalization switches for tabletop, free space, corner or near-wall positioning, as well as three-level (aka, volume) switches: -20, -10 and 0. With those choices, I opted for -10 and controlled the M030s' volume from my computer. Connectivity is limited to RCA, XLR and a 6.3mm jack.
Precision, that's the best one-word description of the M030's sound. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it; the speaker tells it like it is. So, if you listen to cruddy-sounding MP3s, the music will sound cruddier than ever, but the good stuff will sound better than ever. That's what monitors are supposed to do: reveal everything about the sound. It's just that the M030 does a better job than most.
My everyday desktop monitors -- Adam Audio F5s -- are no slouches, but they have a fuller, softer, "more forgiving" balance. Everything sounds nice, which isn't such a bad way to go. Still, with the M030, the clarity gains are substantial. Genelec claims the bass goes down to 58Hz, but I was getting solid bass down to 45Hz. That's really deep bass for a speaker this small.
The big drums pounding out the beats on Afrikan Sciences' "Circuitous" album gave the M030 woofers a serious workout. The album's twisted imaging tricks had tremendous depth and space;the album's mix sometimes sounded like surround sound. The M030's highly coherent sound staging is razor sharp and clear.
Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry made a beautifully recorded classical album last year called "Music For Heart and Breath," and it sounded gorgeous over the M030s. The meaty richness of the double bass and cello's sound took my breath away. The clarinet and oboe floated above the mix, so the M030s disappeared as sources of sound and just let the music be. Wilco's densely mixed "Summerteeth" album was a pure pleasure over the M030s. I loved the way Jeff Tweedy's vocals stayed in front of the band, but still felt like he was in the room with the guys.
The Genelec M030 sells for $625 each in the US, £299 each (including VAT) in the UK, and AU$1,359 per pair in Australia. Genelec's slightly larger M040 speakers play louder and have more bass.