Genelec is about as close as you get to a market leading monitor manufacturer. It makes everything from small compact desktop speakers to enormous main monitoring systems. Its products are typically active designs and have a reputation for delivering smooth detailed high frequencies alongside a clear mid range and balanced low end.
Up for review we have the M030 and M040. These form a new line from Genelec, currently just the two models, aimed directly at the music making market. This is in contrast to their pro monitors such as the 8000 series, which are aimed at post production and broadcast as well as music production.
In the box
The M030 and M040 have 5-inch and 6.5-inch bass drivers respectively, so for us the M030 is a compact nearfield and the M040 a more typically-sized nearfield. With retail prices of £778 and £1,158 per pair they are almost half the list price of the comparable 8000 series monitors (8030 BPM and 8040 BPM), but in general terms they are by no means cheap.
"Designed from the ground up, the M Series include the new Natural Composite Enclosure and new onboard class D amps"
Designed from the ground up, the M Series include the new Natural Composite Enclosure, new onboard class D amps and the new low turbulence bass reflex port. There's also Intelligent Signal Sensing (ISS). This power saving feature switches the monitor to standby if it receives no signal for half an hour. When it next gets a signal there's a short delay as they power up (about a second) and a tiny click.
Connectivity round the back is via a combination balanced jack/XLR or phono, and here you'll also find the main AC power input and switch. There are four toggle switches for Output Level (0dB, -10dB and -20dB), Bass Level, Bass EQ and Tabletop EQ. Each of the EQ options tackles slightly different aspects of the low frequency behaviour, with the Bass Level providing three settings (0dB, -2dB and -4dB) to tilt the response very gently from the mid range near the crossover point downwards. The three settings are sensibly labelled for free standing, wall and corner positioning respectively.
Next up, the Bass EQ option offers a further 2dB bass cut at 80z, sloping from about 200Hz, and this is for even trickier bass build up situations. Finally, the Tabletop EQ is a peak shaped cut of 3dB at 230Hz for the M030 and at 210Hz for the M040.
Out of the box, the M Series monitors are pretty simple to set up. First step is to affix the stick-on foam feet as there's no Iso-Pod like the 8000s. Although the M030 and M040 are different monitors, we found many similarities in their behaviour, and went through the same set-up process for each.
Feeding them from a standard monitor controller, we found we needed to engage either the -10dB or -20dB level control otherwise they were way too loud. Next up, the EQ. The most important setting is the Bass Level. This gives you instant control for your particular set-up and they've wisely told you what to do, with -2dB for close to a wall and -4dB for corners.
Although the shape of this setting is very gentle, sloping from the mid range downwards, the impact on the sound is considerable, and even in situations where the monitor is away from the wall, tweaking this control should be your opening move.
In our test room we have the monitors about half a metre from the wall, and although we could work with either pair set flat, for the M040s in particular, the -2dB Bass Level gave us a more manageable bass balance. Moving them closer to the wall made the bass buildup more marked, and although we tried the Bass EQ setting, this felt too much, unless we were monitoring at very loud levels.
"The M030s impress with their ability to deliver sound way beyond their scale"
The Tabletop EQ is also quite interesting to say the least. This basically scoops the low mids, and to our ears sounds the most artificial of the EQ options. Obviously it's designed for less than perfect situations, but if your monitors are at tabletop level, you might be better off raising the monitors up on to something solid. Again, monitoring level can influence things, so if you like listening loud, it may come in handy.
As noted, both monitors deliver plenty of level, and much like other compact Genelecs, the M030s impress with their ability to deliver sound way beyond their scale. The M040s are more predictable in their sound, but overall it's bigger and more expansive.
With the bass sorted, our attention turned to the mid range and high frequencies. Both monitors have the top end gloss we expect from a Genelec, and although this is good, personally we would like to see a gentle trim option available. This would be particularly helpful to avoid ear strain when monitoring at medium to loud levels.
As far as the mid range is concerned, although both monitors have plenty of detail, we preferred the smaller M030s, where I felt things were just a little more precise. Either way, both monitors still have good horizontal directivity in the mid range.
Given that a pair of 8030 BPM Genelecs will set you back well in excess of a grand, it would be easy to see the M series as poor man's Gennies. But these are no poor man's anything. Yes, they are in some respects less flexible than the 8000s, but the M Series are better suited to awkward spaces.
We would love it if they'd included just one HF tweaker so we could trim down the HF gloss a bit. But aside from that, these are solid monitors that are easy to listen to and will help your mixes translate very well to many other systems.