A short comparison of studio monitors

Today I have a day off, and since I’m thinking about getting new loudspeakers for my PC, I went to our local music store to compare some studio monitors.

My original purpose was to compare one I was really interested in – but which is kind of expensive – with cheaper alternatives. But that didn’t work out, since the space around my computer monitor is restricted, to put it politely, and so I had to look for the smallest available ones. Which were just two, the smallest you can see on the photo I took:

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Studio Monitor Comparison

The smallest one you see here is the Genelec 8010A, against which I wanted to compare cheaper alternatives. Instead, I went to compare it with the Focal Shape 40 just next to it. And in the end I also connected and listened to a Mackie XR624 which is the one under the Genelec. But that one’s definitely way too big for my desk, and entirely out of the equation. I just wanted to check against something bigger (with a 6.5″ speaker against the 4″ of the Focal and the 3″ of the Genelec).

So how did they sound? Well, that’s hard to describe – which shows that these are good products, since studio monitors should be as neutral as possible.

And that is exactly how I would describe the Genelec. Unobtrusive, utilitarian, it does its job without trying to shine or to shout: “Hey look at me – ain’t I cute?”. It is a wonderful speaker, and from some Youtube videos I knew that already.

Switching to the Focal made the sun shine brighter, life more enjoyable, and gave some kind of sparkling to everything you offered to it. Hard to describe again, because it also didn’t do too much, it wasn’t like it tried to be a “HiFi” speaker, not even “High End”, but it had this little extra which instantly makes one smile. Half of the time I preferred the Focal, the other half the Genelec – which isn’t even a fair comparison, because against a 4″ Focal you should compare a 4″ Genelec – but the store didn’t have one available. It speaks volumes that even the 3″ Genelec compared so nicely, and that for some things I even preferred it.

That Mackie? Not really that interesting for me because I wouldn’t know where to put it – but as you’d expect it had loads more bass than the other two, and it was also quite a bit louder – I had to reduce its level all the way down and crank up the others on the Mackie Big Knob switch to get them to more or less the same level. The Focal needed more boosting than the Genelec by the way, and both of these two also shine when listening not too loud.

Bass response? Quite good, even on the 3″ Genelec which sometimes managed to sound even fuller than the slightly bigger Focal. That Focal on the other hand had quite a wonderful bass, maybe because it has these passive radiators on each of its sides, while most monitors have bass reflex ports. In that lower register, the term “unobtrusive” fits the Focal quite well – but the bass is there, and even wonderfully defined.

Which music was used to listen to these monitors? In the beginning it was the music which was available from the store’s content databases, since the music player – a Tascam SS-CDR200 – didn’t really want to play something off of my own USB stick. But then I went and got some CDs out of the car, and so I could listen to music I knew pretty well – since I both played *and* mixed it. Like this one for instance:

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Listening to Wikiloops music on nice monitors

It was really wonderful to listen to my friends singing and playing, and I was even reminded of Mark, who is in a hospital right now, while listening to his nice saxophone on “Present for You”:

This track is embedded with the friendly permission by the creatives on wikiloops.com.

So after this comparison, all of a sudden that small and lovely Genelec was the bargain in the group. And that Focal? Wow, a piece of art which even looks as nice as it sounds. For what I need tho, with having these monitors more or less at arm’s length, the Genelecs would be perfect (I tried exactly that distance in the store). For a bigger desk or even the top of a mixing console I’d probably opt for the Focals (or some bigger Genelecs, Focals, or Neumanns). And in our living room, we have some 8″ speakers next to the TV set already.

So in case you’re interested in some studio monitors, go and have a listen. I didn’t really want to stop listening 🙂

As always, thanks for reading.