And so to the main event: Genelec's DSP-equipped 8351A Smart Active Monitors (SAM™)
- a product that arrives with a veritable avalanche of bespoke technologies as well as a flurry of trademarked acronyms! Modestly described by the company itself as a "revolutionary achievement in three-way monitor design", visually they are so restrained and tightly buttoned up as to have just a touch of the Fifty Shades of Grey about them. But I suppose that only serves to heighten the appetite for the sonic treasures buried therein. My particular pair came in regulation battleship grey; as drab as a rainy Scottish afternoon and not nearly as fetching (or indeed iFriendly) as the much more appealing white option.


Let's start on the outside with the Minimum Diffraction Enclosures (MDE™). Comprising two die-cast aluminium front and rear halves, this adamantine shell (they tip the scales at 19kg apiece) also effectively doubles as a heat sink for the on-board amplification: Class-D 150W/woofer, Class-D 120W/midrange plus 90W Class-A/B for the tweeter, bandwidth spanning 38Hz to 21kHz and crossover points at 490Hz and 2.6kHz. Around the back you will find two banks of DIP switches covering basic EQ adjustment, along with XLR sockets for balanced analogue and digital AES3 inputs as well as twin RJ45 network connectors. First class imaging and soundstaging were two of the mission goals set at the inception of this particular project and proprietary CAD software has been deployed accordingly to sculpt the perfectly pebble-smooth cabinets ( H 45cm x W 29cm x D 28cm). Indeed the meticulous avoidance of anything even vaguely resembling a corner entails that both internal and external cabinet reflections are successfully minimized.


Next, and to what is undoubtedly the 8351A's very distinctive aesthetic calling card: the integrated Directivity Control Waveguide (DCW™). Super-sized and as bluff as a cow's tongue, it is quite the attention grabber. Designed to facilitate flat on and off-axis response, it precisely tailors dispersion pattern, creating a wide listening window as well as reducing first-order reflections from room surfaces close to the loudspeaker. Resultantly a more consistent performance should be achieved irrespective of the specific acoustical environment. It also serves to optically occlude everything bar the 19mm (¾-inch) metal dome tweeter that peeks out from its centre. Remaining hidden is the surrounding 13cm (5-inch) midrange driver as well as two 21.5cm x 10cm (8.5-inch x 4-inch) lozenge-shaped Acoustically Sealed Woofers (ASW™). Symmetrically positioned and sharing a rear-firing reflex tube, they complete a pseudo triaxial design that can handily be positioned either vertically or horizontally. Precise placement is finalized with the handy Iso-Pod™ rubber supports that also allow tilt adjustment of ±15°.


If these speakers have a U.S.P., it is their comprehensive approach to room correction or Genelec Loudspeaker Management (GLM™) to be precise. And setup couldn't be simpler. After downloading the necessary software, your laptop hooks up via USB to the supplied GLM hub which in turn links to the daisy-chained speakers via Ethernet. Next attach the small Genelec-branded measurement microphone and place it at the centre of the room. The process then commences as a sweep tone emerges from each speaker. All you have to do at this point is sit back, direct your gaze towards the screen and watch the magic happen as your listening space is acoustically mapped out. With the analysis complete, AutoCal room optimization algorithms tailor the speakers' output to perfectly dovetail with the room's unique properties; including adjustment of levels, distance delays and compensation equalization. All parameters and settings are stored both in system setup files as well as locally in each individual monitor and they can be further independently tweaked using the software.


It's something of a disappointment then to have to report that the results I mustered fell well short of the near Pauline experience I had read about on some of the online studio forums (one user describing the before and after effect as akin to eating a pizza in or out of its delivery box). I became convinced in fact that I must have been doing something wrong. So I requested the assistance of a friend who happens to be a long-term Genelec owner (indeed he currently uses S.A.M.'d monitors in his own home studio). After cautiously repeating the setup process, I had mixed feelings when he agreed that no significant enhancements were audible. Comparing the pre and post calibration results could be carried out by simply clicking on an onscreen bypass icon. Although both presentations were indeed slightly different, I struggled to pick a clear favourite - the basic character of the speaker remaining very similar. My colleague did note however that the benefits he had experienced in his own setup (albeit in a much smaller room and in a nearfield configuration!), were definitely worthwhile. But I proceeded to do the following testing with the room correction both in and out of the loop.