Genelec 8341AM Black by FaveDave
I have been mixing on a pair of JBL 4328 monitors for about 20 years, but music was a side thing. During the pandemic, I went into music full time. I realized that the JBL monitors were fun to listen to, but they were just too much for my 10’x12’x12’ untreated room. They are just too midfield.
After much research on the best nearfield (and I mean near — like 2’ away) monitors, I gave the Genelec 8341A a listen at the dealer. Well, everything those-who-know-better-than-I were saying online about these was true. They used fancy technical terms and displayed graphs befitting their decades of knowledge, but I summed it up for me in this one simple sentence: I gotta have these. Listening to them was like going from an old tube TV to HD.
The big question was: will they sound as good in my untreated room? Genelec’s hype on their website says “In conjunction with our GLM calibration software, the 8341A will also compensate for detrimental room acoustics and distance delay…” Review after review said that they minimize bad rooms. There is really nothing like them on the market.
I sprang for the $2,950 price (EACH!). I justified it by saving money during the pandemic by not dating I also justified it by reasoning that if it allowed me to improve my mixing skills so I wouldn’t have to hire an outside mixer, they would pay for themselves in about six months.
I am primarily a songwriter and occasional film composer. For me, it’s easy to write solid songs — what takes time is producing the tracks, including mixing. So being able to hear everything accurately would speed up my workflow. Less time wondering if the mixes would translate, if this particular synth sound is as yummy as I think it is, if that singer is present enough.
The speakers have something called “Coaxial Drivers,” which is a fancy way of saying that the midrange cone and the tweeter are superimposed over each other, which does a couple of things:
1. You can place them vertically or horizontally and it makes no difference.
2. The sweet spot for the stereo image is larger.
3. Smoother frequency response. Normally in speakers, the tweeter and cone are a little ways apart, which means it’s hard to get those two sounds arriving at your ears simultaneously. Genelec fixed that.
There are other technical leaps built in to these, but the other big deal for me is the GLM Software, which allows you to calibrate the speakers to your room automatically.
So who cares about technical stuff — how do they sound?
I ran the GLM software and the Genelecs corrected themselves for my room. They sounded great! They have clarity. For the first time in my life, I was compelled to use the word pellucid. I can hear *everything* on these. At moderate listening levels — 75 to 85 db. (Yeah, you can crank ‘em if you want, but I don’t want to lose my hearing.) BTW, the GLM software and microphone kit costs an extra $300, but it’s a must-have with these speakers.
It took me a few days of relearning to listen to tried and true tracks to get used to these.
It turns out “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode has a very flabby kick drum — I never heard that before. Boy, does it work.
And the delightful flams in the choruses of “Take On Me” were even more piquant.
And everything Steely Dan was even more Steely Dan.
And modern EDM/Techno/Synth Wave off of Spotify was vibrant and bouncin’.
After a few days, my ears have adjusted to hearing all these details and it’s obvious these monitors are a very valuable tool. I had one small but annoying complaint — the stereo image was not nearly as good as it was at the dealer in his perfect room. Maybe it was my 27” computer monitor in between the Genelecs? I put a heavy blanket over the computer and yeah, that helped, but that’s no solution. But how to fix it?
Also, the Genelec equalizer software (which you can adjust if you want) does not boost any frequencies. It only cuts! Apparently, if you boost frequencies like some software does (I’m looking at you, Sonarworks) it makes the problem worse. I’m no expert — this is what the audio scientists who take deep dives into this have concluded. (Which means you should buy better monitors or room treatment instead of spending the money on room EQ software unless you plan to only cut, not boost.) But that explained why the software was not boosting the 10 dip at 100hz it showed.
So I downloaded REW (Room EQ Wizard), a free software that lets you measure everything audio in your room. It confirmed the big 10 db dip at 100hz. Yikes. After much research, I realized I would need massive bass traps or… a subwoofer as recommended by the experts.
I hopped onto Reverb.com and snagged a used Genelec 7350A subwoofer for $900 (free shipping!) which also uses the GLM software. The aforementioned experts had also said that a subwoofer improves other things besides bass because it allows the main monitors to do their thing more accurately.
I hooked it up and ran the GLM software again, setting the sub crossover at 85 hz. This whole procedure takes less than a minute, BTW. I measure from the listening position.
I fired up my test songs, and… bliss! The stereo image was a great as it was at the dealer’s! And the bass was super accurate, though the 100 hz dip was still there, but much reduced to -5db. Songs that would be a bit boomy before were well-defined now. I have run into the limits of the room correction software, and only room treatment will fix that 100 hz issue. Although, if I learn to mix to it, I won’t have to treat the room. (I think.)
So, are these speakers worth $2,950 each? (And they are rarely if ever on sale.) My answer is a resounding yes. However, in hindsight, I would have bought the 8331A, their little brother, for $2,250 each and used the savings to get the subwoofer. That would get me pretty much the same sound, according to reviews. These monitors were a major purchase for me, one that I did not make lightly. But considering I spend 8-12 hours a day listening to my monitors, I consider this a worthwhile investment. As Genelec says on their website: “…they also extend listening time, because unnatural imaging - a main contributor to listener fatigue - is minimized.” I can verify that’s true. I am definitely less fatigued with the 8341A. To check my mixes now, I plug in my Apple ear buds to my system and am pleased to find that my mixes are translating better than ever. Ditto with the tiny bad speaker test.
I am no audio expert, but for any songwriter/producer who wants to stop wondering if their monitors are doing their job, I would recommend the 8341A (or 8331A) as monitors for smaller imperfect rooms like mine. Now if my productions sound bad, it’s my fault, not the monitors.