Genelec 6040A and HTS4B Package Review

There is no doubt that active studio monitors can give you the most accurate and detailed sound available, but aren’t they all black ash finished and ugly to look at?

by Phil Hinton
Home AV Review

13

Reference Status
Genelec 6040A and HTS4B Package Review
SRP: £9,700.00

Introduction

There seems to be an interesting marketing strategy that some speaker manufacturers have been caught using lately, and that is the ‘used by professionals’ tag line. From the likes of B&W to the now departed M&K, and the others in-between, everyone has jumped at the fact that their speakers have at one time or another been used by the professionals in their studios. This gives the user confidence that George Lucas has used those very speakers for dubbing some sound effects, so they must be good! You would have to agree that it is a clever selling point and there must be some truth in the claims – Right?

Well yes and no, it is true that Lucas uses amongst others, M&K and B&W speakers in his dubbing rooms, but he also uses about 6 or 7 other brands as well. So you then have somewhere between 9 or 10 brands of speaker all using the Skywalker or Lucasfilm connection in its marketing. And it is not just the bearded one who allows such marketing to exist. It seems many of the other film studios all use a surprisingly large amount of various makes and models within their production facilities, so how do you know the speakers you are looking at are indeed studio masters?

Here is a little test for you if you have a spare couple of hours and are bored. Have a look at the majority of behind the scenes footage on your DVD special editions, especially those scenes filmed in dubbing theatres. Also have a look at some pictures of the best production facilities in the world, look up those venues used for the latest number one single and its final mixing. You will start to see that apart from one or two marketing photographs, the vast majority of the studios all over the world used for music and movie production, use just one manufacturer in the vast majority of their facilities – Genelec.

It is no exaggeration that Genelec active monitors adorn more mixing desks and audio facilities across the globe than any other Manufacturer; they are the true first choice of many professionals. It is also true that for the vast majority of their history that is the way Genelec remained. They were a firm popular choice in the Pro market but never welcomed fully, or even marketed to the consumer. That all changed a number of years ago with the introduction of the Home Theatre line of active monitors and they have enjoyed a very successful introduction to some of the best custom installations across the globe.

There is a reason why active speakers have become so popular with the best custom installers and it is a very simple one. The speaker is designed with the correct amplification and drivers from the start, the whole design concept means that they can offer the very best performance, be run hard for long periods of time, yet produce a natural sound which can be easily tailored to the listening room. I use active speakers in my reference system, I have done for the last 5 years and have not felt the need to go back to passive designs, mainly because I have a speaker that does everything so well and never runs out of steam during the most dynamic parts of a movie soundtrack, so you can say from the start that I am used to the active monitor and its plus points.
To move on to the Genelec model we have here on review, the first thing that hits me is how beautiful they look when compared to my existing black ash finished monitors. It would appear that the company have made a real effort to bring design and function to their customers as well as offering the very best in active speaker technology, so lets take a closer look.

Design and Set Up

Genelec 6040A and HTS4B Package

Taking delivery of the 6040a and the HTS4B subwoofer was a hard slog up a very steep flight of stairs. As you can see from the image on the right, they are well packaged and as the mains are floor standing the boxes are long and cumbersome. However it didn’t take that long to get them all set up and as I was taking delivery of a projector for review at the same time, I did a complete system install making sure the picture and sound was at its best. The speakers were set up at their ideal positions in my particular room and a few sweeps later I had everything set up using the Audyssey MultEQ Pro unit. However the Genelec’s do come with their own dip switches which means you can cut or change certain frequencies using their software or by using set up sweeps and an SPL meter so you can tailor each unit to the room. I didn’t go down this route, but have seen this demonstrated by Genelec themselves at a recent training course and it works very well indeed.

Genelec 6040A and HTS4B Package

So what do we have here then, well the main 6040A speakers are made from cast aluminium and designed by Harri Koskinen to give a full floor standing sculpture which is designed to give the speaker its own style statement. It is also functional and means the cabinet has less colouration and resonance from the materials used. There is also a welcome weight to the stand with the amplifier and power sockets situated at the bottom of the speaker, adding a rigid feel and to stop the speaker falling over. You can connect to the 6040 either by balanced XLR or unbalanced RCA and by turning the speaker on its side you have access to the dip switches at the bottom of the unit. The 6040A uses two drivers, a 7” bass unit and a 3/4" (19 mm) metal dome, each with separate amplification which produces around 240watts of total power.
The HTS4B is the subwoofer for this package and features a 12” forward firing driver with two passive 12” cones at each side. Around the back you have the same connection options as the floor stander’s as well as dip switches to help integrate the unit to your room. The sub is the only part of this system which may let it down slightly – not in performance terms, but the fact it is black and looks like the title sequence to Big Brother. The beauty of having a professional background is that the subwoofer allows for fine tuning over and above that provided by your AV Processor or EQ unit and you can get it sounding almost perfect. And if one is not enough, there is the facility to add as many as you like!

Genelec 6040A and HTS4B Package

As a design statement I think these speakers will definitely fall into the love it or hate it category. I happen to like the design and the look of these and could easily see them being used in a living area as well as the dedicated room. I must admit although I love the active monitor sound in my system, the fact that the majority of such designs are black ugly boxes, puts many people off the idea. Here the Genelec’s in my eyes provide a sensual look you could associate with a sports car when stopped at traffic lights, it still looks like it’s going fast.

Music Performance

Genelec 6040A and HTS4B Package

As I have mentioned earlier in the review I use active monitors in my reference system and have yet to find a passive speaker to replace them for both movies and music. The only thing that has recently made me change that view point has been yet another set of active speakers, the 6040A.

With two channel music from a variety of genres and styles these Genelecs just didn’t disappoint with their sound. From the Manic Street Preachers treble heavy new album to Metallica’s bass heavy rock the 6040 shines through with a neutral and convincing style that lets you hear everything that is going on within the tracks. You can easily place voices and instruments with the mix and even feel the lead singers breathing. The first thing that hits you is the extended upper frequencies which at no time sound shrill or offer up any sibilance, but instead add a head room to the sound which with the right material sounds sublime. The problem however comes from poorly recorded material, because the speaker is so neutral and precise you start to notice very quickly which artists take their time in producing good quality finished material and those who just take no time getting the correct sound at all. And it can be surprising who the guilty artists are.

However saying all that when you put quality in, the Genelecs shine through with excellent, fast dynamics and a full range quality to their sound. Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ is one of the best recordings out there for accurate production values, his tracks played through the Gens offer up a snare that bites and a bassline that hits the right spots. I honesty kept playing this album more over my stay with these speakers than at anytime over the last 20 years. Even my regular test CDs came alive in spectacular style, with Annie Lennox sounding Colder than ever. Without doubt and without any colouration at all, these speakers performed at the kind of level where you begin to take notice of the producer more then the artist. They are so honest with their sound that poorly recorded tracks, even from the greats, make you wonder how they were mastered and recorded.

Moving on to classical music and film scores in particular gave me a real surprise. The accurate higher end of the Gens is such that brass instruments no longer sound shrill but have a colour and weight that they only ever have for me in real life. The ‘Raiders March’ is a perfect example of brass and string in perfect harmony and on these speakers, for the first time ever in my room; I was convinced that the orchestra could be there in front of me.

The HTS4B subwoofer should not be ignored in this package as it is a very accomplished performer and once set up properly adds weight and authority to the soundstage without running out of steam easily. One thing it doesn’t do is reach the lowest octaves that only the best in the world do, however it will safely give you around an 18hz tone at 98db before it starts to roll off quickly. When you look at the price to performance quota of the HTS4B it is certainly up there with the big hitters from the likes of Velodynes’ DD range and it just compliments the Genelec system so well. It is safe to say that the package here is a true 20hz-20khz speaker system of quality.

I don’t want to seem like I am going over the top with my comments here, but even though I use actives already, these Genelecs just seem to offer so much clarity and precision that I was looking out CDs I haven’t used in years, just so I could sample what they sound like on these. That has got to be the biggest compliment to give to any speaker, the fact you want to hear more and more.

Movie Performance

Moving on to the movie performance of the Genelecs didn’t turn up any problems with this package, instead, like the music performance these speakers performed as a high end system should.

Many home cinema fans love the sound side of the experience more than the picture, and, likewise there are display gurus who don’t spend too much time worrying about the sound. However as home cinema fans looking for the very best performance you have to give each facet the same amount of your time and dedication. The big plus point with buying a speaker package from the same manufacturer is that they should hopefully all sound the same tonally. The Genelecs excel in this area where each of the five main speakers are exactly the same size and power and more importantly are the same tonally. So why should we care about such things? Well it all starts to make sense when you press play and listen to a well produced movie soundtrack with panning effects. That car passing left to right across the front channels should sound the same as it travels across the speakers, it should be the same tonal quality and volume to sound convincing.

I don’t need to tell people what to do with eggs, but the point I am trying to make with the Genelecs performance is that they melt away and you forget where you are. Watching something like ‘Leon’ and the heroes walk through the Manhattan streets, the walls of your room simply disappear with a soundstage that pulls you straight into the scene on screen. It is done so well and the speakers create such a great envelope of sound that you will not notice this effect straight away. Instead you will be engrossed in what is happening on screen and unaware that the reason you are so engrossed is because the sound mix is working and the Genelecs performance is such that you don’t notice them. It is a hard experience to put in to words, but hopefully you start to see the point I am making.

Moving onto the new sound formats associated with Blu-ray and HD DVD provides us with dynamics we simply haven’t had in the home before. As you would expect from a speaker more suited to mastering the final mix of a film, and costing as much as these do, the Genelecs add a whole new breath of performance to your system. A film such as ‘Happy Feet’ on HD DVD is an animation feature where each element of the soundtrack has to be created from scratch. The trick is to make it sound life like and convincing. The movie might be aimed at the kids but the chapter where our hero is left to wake up on an iceberg; he is being stalked by a seal and suddenly the heartbeat races and you are sitting on the edge of your seat. The pursuit that follows could easily fall into the over the top category of swoosh and bang, but instead it remains realistic and with the dynamics on tap, it suddenly becomes a life and death race, where the Genelecs do their thing without pulling you out of the film, instead you are sitting at the edge of your seat while the bottom end cracking of ice packs get the heart going.

You would expect a speaker system costing this much should provide a great performance and they do not let you down. The sound quality is such that each sound mix you throw at them plays back as they should, you hear everything within the track and in such a way that on the quality tracks, you forget about the speakers and projector and just watch the film, a huge compliment.

Verdict

10
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality and amplifier power
  • Excellent subwoofer
  • Stunning soundstage recreation
  • Build Quality

Cons

  • Design might not be to everyone's taste.
  • Price point

Genelec 6040A and HTS4B Package Review

In rounding up my thoughts I am caught in a bit of a quandary. The Genelecs we have here are of reference quality, the sheer performance envelope that hits you is sublime from movie performances where they melt into the room, and to music that is life like and accurate. What can let the Genelecs down has nothing to do with the speakers at all, but rather the quality of the material you throw at them. You get such a neutral and natural sound which allows each and every nuance of a performance to be heard, but which also suddenly lets you hear just how bad some masters can be. Because they are from a studio background where accuracy is so important you benefit from hearing exactly what is going on within the mix, but at the same time this could be seen as a curse.

However even with this problem of poorly mastered tracks and the price tag of these speakers which is certainly not within the reach of most, I am still very much in awe of the Genelecs. I get to hear quite a range of speakers from many price points and of varying performance thresholds and it is true that when you hit the level of the Gens you have some very capable other brands out there. But what makes the Genelecs special is that love it or hate design and a sound quality that is so accurate and neutral. You can safely say that listening to the Genelecs gets you closer to that sound quality of the best studios in the world and puts you in a position where you are hearing it as the director or producer intended. I simply cannot find any fault with this package and if I could afford to add the Genelec sound to my reference system I would do it tomorrow, these are reference quality and create a performance point to aspire to.

Reference Status

Scores

Sound Quality

10

Build Quality

10

Verdict

10

Value For Money

.
.
.
7
10
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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