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Genelec 8020 and 5040 subwoofer review

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This is all you need for a great sounding hifi. A mains supply to plug the speakers into an an Ipod. Job done! (for the review of the 5040 Sub, please see the update below)

The first time I discovered Genelec speakers was when I was rummaging in a locker in the owner’s cabin of a Swan 65 yacht. The boat was owned by Richard Wright from Pink Floyd. I picked them up. They were quite small but very heavy. If they were owned by a musician of Richard’s calibre they ought to be pretty good. Richard used them with a keyboard so he could play his music on the boat.

No time was wasted plugging them in and seeing how they sounded. To say I was amazed by the clarity and quality of sound would be an understatement. I had never heard anything quite like them. Considering their size these speakers could pack a punch. I was highly amused by the health warning on the back of the cabinets warning that these speakers could seriously damage your hearing and could reach up to 106db!!! That is ridiculously loud and very ‘rock and roll’. I simply had to have some for my boat!

On researching Genelec some time later, I learned that they no longer made the exact model of speaker that Richard had and they had been replaced by the 8020 model which was smaller and rounder in shape and are made of die cast aluminium.

They are really designed to be part of a surround sound system and as such can be daisy chained together so you can have as many as you like. There is a matching 16” Woofer that goes with them for the full system and really big sound. They use the professional standard XLR ‘lock in’ connectors.

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Quality, cast alloy cases, professional XLR connections and clever rubber feet. Made in Finland by Genelec who have been around for over 30 years.

What makes these speakers different is the fact that they are active. What that means is that they have an amplifier built in. In fact, they have two in each speaker. This does mean that you need a mains supply to make them work but the great advantage is that the amp is perfectly suited to the speakers. One amp runs the woofer and the other amp the tweeter. It also means is that there is no crossover needed and so the sound is pure with all the components perfectly matched. It’s a very sensible and intelligent way to go about things.

When I bought mine about three years ago, they cost about £200 each, now they are about £300 each which is a lot of money for a small speaker. But they are quality and they sound fantastic and are worth every penny. When ever I turn them up, visitors are always amazed for two reasons, one, because they sound so ‘BIG’ and two, because they can’t work out where the sound is coming from. That is because they are so small that they are practically invisible, one on each side of the boat on a shelf above the forward bunk.

They are perfect for a small space and they really fill the boat with sound. If I had a criticism it is that they demand to be heard. Even at low volumes they want you to listen to them. They are not the ideal speakers if you want something to play background music with. But if you love music and like to LISTEN to it, then definitely consider a pair of these.

I do not have the matching woofer on the boat because there is simply no need. On paper, the frequency response for these speakers is nothing to write home about with the bottom end a piddly 66 hz but for their size they produce PLENTY of bass. They have a switch at the back so if you use them with the woofer you can reduce the bass still further and have just the mid and top end.

Whether I listen to them from the laptop or from an MP3 player, the sound is fabulous. Ever since I can remember I have been surrounded by quality hifi equipment. I well remember my dad’s leak speakers and very expensive Stax electrostatic headphones. I always had mates who were well into their hifi so I know what a good sound is.

I will try and describe the sound for you. The bottom end is tight and warm and really very good for such small speakers. After all the woofer is only 4” in diameter which is tiny. The bass sound is increased by the special shape of the cases which is round so that the sound gets focused as it works it’s way out of the speaker through a port at the back. The midrange is uncluttered, clear and punchy. The top end is sharp and clean, detailed and very realistic.

They sound best when playing quality recordings. They can be a bit critical as they reproduce sound so well that you really do hear everything. If there are faults in the recording, you will hear them.

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The Genelec 8020B active speakers. They can be adjusted for tilt a little on their rubber feet. On/off volume control and a green LED at the front, all other adjustments at the back. Heavy little speakers at nearly 4 kilos each.

When you place them about 2 metres apart and place yourself centrally about a metre and a half away, they have a very special quality indeed. Close your eyes and you can hear so much more. They really come alive when well placed with superb stereo separation. Voices and acoustic guitars sound so natural it’s amazing.

There are always certain tracks that I use as a reference. Tunes that are either beautifully played or sung and well produced, preferably all three. For guitar I like to listen to Steven Still’s Tree top flyer. Not only is it a great tune but it’s a beautiful recording (not the youtube version though I’m afraid!). John Martyn is always great to listen to. Here he shows his mastery of the echoplex. I love the bass on The Chain. And the Police are always worth listening to.  They seem to cope well with all genres of music old and modern, slow and fast, from easy listening to Motorhead.

But perhaps the best test for any stereo set up is this fabulous track (happiness is easy) from Talk Talk’s superb album ‘The colour of Spring’. If you don’t know Talk Talk, do yourself a favour and give them a go. You may not like them at first but persevere as I did. You will not regret it.

I had a problem with one of the speakers after about a year. It just stopped working. The problem was traced to a faulty transformer. It cost a very reasonable £20 to replace and was quickly dealt with by the UK company that deals with Genelec. Since then the speakers have performed flawlessly. They are left on for as much as 8 hours every day.

They do not pick up any sounds of interference such as alternator noise or mobile phones. This is a quality product. They are supplied with a special rubber stand/feet and a power cable but you’ll need to supply your own XLR cables to connect them to the source of your choice.

Depending on the power output of the source, they can be very very loud, with my Creative MP3 at full volume they are pretty loud but can be much louder with the laptop. They are certainly loud enough to thoroughly annoy the neighbours if necessary!

Would I recommend them? Oh yes. For their size they are fantastic and very portable. All you need is a power supply and you can have real quality sound wherever you are. Perfect for a small space like a boat although it is a bit of a shame that they are not 12V. It’s no real problem though as even the smallest inverter will power them as they only take 20 Watts each and that is at full volume. In practice they take much less than that. It’s almost perpetual motion as much more seems to come out than goes in! They sound much louder than 20 watts to me!

If you would like to know more about them, check out the Genelec site.

 

Update December 2012

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The Genelec 5040 subwoofer and remote volume control. Cast alloy and top quality. The sound that comes out is amazing.

Genelec recently launched an even smaller speaker than the 8020 featured above. They are the 6010s. It has a tiny 3” woofer but even though they are tiny they have been getting good reviews. To go with these little speakers, Genelec have produced a small sub woofer called the 5040. It has a 6.5”  speaker and a 40 watt amp built in. It can produce a very respectable 96 db and has a frequency response that goes down to 35 hz which is pretty low.

Like all Genelec products it’s beautifully made and thought out. Although it is really designed for the 6010s Genelec say it can be used with the 8020s too. It was too much for me to resist so I decided to get one. It lives under the bed in a locker which I rarely visit. A nice touch with the 5040 is that it has a separate volume control which simply plugs in to the 5040 with a standard 3.5mm stereo jack. This control lowers the volume of the sub and the speakers which are connected to it.

If you visit the Genelec site you will find all sorts of info about using a frequency generator to properly set up your sub and loads of advice about speaker position. However much of their advice is academic to me as I have no choice but to put the speakers where they will fit, not where they are best situated. There are a few adjustments you can make to the speakers and the sub to get the sound just right but Genelec suggest trying the standard settings first.

Let me tell you that right out of the box this sub is unbelievable. I don’t know what other word to use. I have never heard anything like it. Now that the 8020s have their bass turned off and the sub is handling that end they are even louder as the little woofer doesn’t have to even try and handle the bottom end. The noise that comes out of these speakers is astonishing.

A friend said that now I will have trouble with things vibrating in the boat but it has not been the case. The bass is so well reproduced and clean that nothing has been set vibrating yet which is astonishing considering the power of the bass now. You can feel it through the entire floor in the boat. It is incredible just how loud you can turn the music up with no distortion at all. It all remains very clear and sharp.

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The underside showing all the controls. This is a serious bit of kit. Designed for the 6010 system but also works perfectly with the 8020s. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work with any active speakers.

There are some tracks that are just extraordinary and have me laughing at the outrageousness of it all. Eric Truffaz’s song Siegfried and Less from his album Bending New Corners will amaze you with their clarity and fatness (for want of a better word!). This combination of 8020s and the 5040 is fantastic on my boat. I don’t know how it would fare in a bigger space but for my needs they are more than enough and loud enough for anyone’s ears.

The sub can be adjusted for volume so you match it to your other speakers and it has various inputs and outputs for many more options that I will ever need. The volume control is pure class. It is extremely weighty so that it doesn’t move when operated. It is just a rotating knob which lowers the system volume. This is a much better system for the boat because I no longer has to press the function and F keys to lower the volume on the computer which was a real pain.

What’s interesting is that the system now seems easier to listen to. The sub is not intrusive, merely doing what it should be doing. The overall sound is great, very addictive, warm, compelling and complete.

Genelec’s may be pricy but it’s a classic case of getting what you pay for. Active speakers may not be ideal for everyone but they make a lot of sense in many ways. We have an inverter on board that we use to run mains powered items including the speakers. At normal listening volume the speaker system takes about 2.5 amp/hr which isn’t too bad and compares to a typical car stereo unit. However when the volume is cranked up you can use three times that amount!

Conclusion:

If the 8020s were good on their own, they are incredible with the 5040 sub woofer. Genelec recommend a far bigger one for the 8020s normally but as far as I am concerned the 8020s go beautifully with the smaller 5040 sub.

The sound is (pick your own superlative) and the quality indisputable. The 8020s have been on board for a few years now and are used for hours every day. They are sometimes used off the boat too thanks to their portability. They get a lot of use and apart from the one small problem which was quickly sorted they have been flawless.

The volume control is a nice touch and makes the speakers very easy to use. They have plenty of adjustment but straight out of the box the system sounds perfect to me. Hard to imagine that I might get it sounding even better. If the sub needs ‘running in’ like most speakers then I can only imagine it getting better and better in time.

Bloody brilliant. Worth every penny. Very happy.

Categories
Motorbikes

Ducati Desmosedici

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All shots: Leica M9 Elmarit 21mm Asph, 160 ISO.

When Yan turned up on his Desmo I had to take some pics. The light wasn’t too bad and anyway, had it been raining I’d still have tried taking some pics. It’s not often you see a Desmosedici in the flesh after all. The colour pics are cropped slightly but otherwise untouched. I couldn’t decide which of the two pics in black and white I liked best so I posted them both. You decide.

The most amazing thing is the noise it makes, even with standard pipes. They exit at the back of the seat on top and are loud. This is at low revs, I simply cannot imagine the noise when it redlines at 14,000 revs. The engine itself fights for attention and between them the noise it makes hurts. It is quite extraordinary.

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I heard Yan coming from a long way off and the kettle had nearly boiled by the time he actually arrived. If I hadn’t heard him I would surely have seen him. This bike is RED. He tells me that the power it makes is incredible and it spends much of the time pointing at the sky. That must be why the front tyre looks hardly worn compared to the rear. Mind you I have never seen a front tyre with wear marks right down to the edge of the tread before.

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The bike abounds in tasty details, it’s almost a shame it’s faired so comprehensively, I’d like to spend an hour contemplating the engine. I told Yan that even if he offered me a ride on it, I’d refuse. There’s no way someone my small size and weight could use it effectively on the road. A track day would be different but the adage ‘you bend it, you mend it’ would be always be there and if I damaged it even slightly it would no doubt cost an arm and a leg.

He did say I could sit on it. This alone is a mark of trust, even dropping the bike at standstill would probably do expensive damage. It really does seem quite delicate. Even though I’m only 5’4” short it fitted me really well. I could easily touch the ground and bars, pegs and levers all fell into place naturally. ‘It suits you’ says Yan. Yeah right, I’ll just sell my home and buy one tomorrow. Oh, but wait I can’t they only made 1500 so are as rare as rocking horse shit.

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Even if I was rich I just couldn’t see myself owning a Desmo, I really don’t think I’m brave enough to even try and tame it but perhaps it’s the worry that perhaps I could. Anyway it’s academic as I very much doubt I will ever be able to spend £40,000 on two wheels. You can’t take a passenger, or even a spare change of pants so it’s obviously not a very practical bike to own.

Special 16.5 inch tyres are needed. No idea how much they would cost each. Don’t suppose they last long either with nearly 200 horse power on tap. If Yan gave it to me I probably even couldn’t afford to own it let alone ride it! No one in their right mind is going to service it themselves so it needs to go back to Ducati every year although they kindly take care of this for the first three years. The bike also comes with a 3 year warranty such is Ducati’s faith in the robustness of their engine but what about insurance? I’d probably have to sell a kidney. Might be worth it though….

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In many ways it’s the Leica M9 of motorcycles. They are rare and hard to get hold of. They represent the best that money can buy. A no compromise product build to a spec and not a price and not everyone would recognise it for what it is. Serious wealthy loonies only need apply.