Jerry Ibbotson tests the latest offering from Genelec and finds that sometimes big sound can come from a small package.
It’s not every day I start a review by mentioning waxy deposits but the day the Genelec 8010s arrived at my door I’d gone temporarily deaf in one ear. Not the best start to a test of some new monitors, especially ones as small and neat as these. They’re among the smallest speakers in the Genelec stable and, in keeping with the horsey metaphor, are like Shetland ponies to the stallions further up the range.
You get a clue to their diminutive stature when you unpack them, an experience that combines pass the parcel with playing with Russian stacking dolls. From courier crate to main box to individual packaging, they just get smaller and smaller. What you end up with are two speakers that each fit in the palm of one hand. They have the same solid construction that goes with all Genelec speakers but are an awful lot smaller. I’ve owned a set of 8020s for years and love them to bits but even they look big compared to the newcomers.
The 8010s are capable of pumping out 96dB and have a 25W 3in woofer and 25W 0.75in tweeter. The overall frequency response is 74Hz to 20kHz and each speaker has an XLR input. Oh, and they weigh 1.5kg.
The front fascia of each unit is devoid of controls. The on/off button is round the back and there’s no volume dial – that job is left to the input device. There is Intelligent Signal Sensing (ISS), which puts the speakers into sleep mode if an audio signal is missing for a while (automatically powering the 8010s back up when a fresh signal is received).
Around the back is a set of dipswitches, accessible with a jewellers’ screwdriver or similar. These control disabling the ISS, dipping the output volume by 10dB, a -2dB and -4dB bass tilt, and a Desktop Control. The latter compensates for the monitors being put on a desk by attenuating bass frequencies by 4dB at 200Hz. Finally, on the base of each 8010 are Genelec’s Iso-Pod adjustable rubber feet.
Technical blurb can only tell you so much with speakers of this size. The laws of physics dictate that they should be embarrassed by bigger monitors. But is that the case in practice?
I unplugged my 8020s and dropped the 8010s into place, hooked up to my Focusrite Scarlett audio device and a Windows laptop. To me, this would be a typical set up for the baby ‘Gennies’ – compact and capable of being stuffed in a bag.
Thankfully a visit to a nurse with a clever aural-jet-washing-machine had cured my ear blockage and I started by playing a bit of music I often use for a test of this kind. I know these aren’t hi-fi speakers but I like to have a benchmark and in this case it’s a bit of old school metal: AC/DC’s Back in Black.
Pardon me for a moment while I stoop to retrieve my jaw from the floor. The sound coming out of the 8010s was… wrong. In the sense that speakers this small should not be pouring out a wave of music this rich and deep. It should be small and poorly defined. It should sound slightly ‘mushy’ in places. It should not sound sharp and detailed and easy to listen to for long periods. I should not be transported back to the earlier 80s when my big brother first bought the album from Knights record store in Reading.
You get the idea. The 8010s produce sound way beyond their size.
I then moved onto something approaching work: playing back some interview audio that I was editing. I’d been part way through when I’d switched speakers so I already had one experience of what the interviewee sounded like. Once again, the 8010s did not disappoint. I can’t say they didn’t sound ‘different’ to the bigger 8020s but that’s not a criticism. They still reproduced the voice perfectly, down to each breath and swallow.
They even caught perfectly the background noise, which I’d been working on removing through noise reduction. This was, believe it or not, the subtle trickling of an oxygen tank feeding air to the interviewee (for health reasons). It had seemed rude to ask them to turn it off, so I’d been working on removing it from the recording. The Genelecs reproduced the sound accurately, enabling me to run it through Audition’s Noise Reduction process.
This is the kind of scenario where you’d rather spend more money on speakers than cut corners and be left with something that simply doesn’t let you do the job. I think the phrase is ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. If you’re going to have small speakers that can fit in your luggage, they still need to be up to the task at hand and, believe me, the 8010s were right on the ball.
Okay, so these are small speakers. I once tested a pair of Genelec’s brilliant 8250s. These are true behemoths that wouldn’t even fit on my studio speaker stands. They left me gawping in amazement at their massive but subtle power and pin-sharp level of details. The 8010s could never compete with them nor are they meant to. But in a small set up, in a confined space, or on the road they are mind blowing. I’ve been to radio stations that use bigger Genelecs virtually everywhere. They should try a pair of these instead. They are beautifully made and feel like they will last a lifetime. I have to confess I am more than a little bit in love with the 8010s.
RRP: £259 (inc VAT) per monitor
Jerry Ibbotson has worked in pro audio for more than 20 years, first as a BBC radio journalist and then as a sound designer in the games industry. He’s now a freelance audio producer and writer.