Genelec 8351: Pushing The Envelope

YES. I’ve been waiting to demo these new speakers by Genelec for some time now: the 8351s, quite possibly the most unique speaker design I’ve seen for a pair of studio monitors. From the outside, one might almost wonder if they’re speakers at all, but these beasts pack a whole lotta punch into such a creative and unassuming design.

These are the next generation of the Genelec SAM monitoring system, which has the ability to automatically calibrate the frequency, time, and amplitude response of the monitors depending on which room they’re in, and how they’re placed. This is done through emitting a tone from each monitor and recording the playback via the mic and GLM adapter, and some clever software.

After unpacking the boxes, and finally laying my eyes on these bad boys, I was immediately impressed by the design. The large wavetable with no visible woofer allows for a much greater sweet spot for listening. The calibration setup was fairly easy: just daisy chain the speakers to the GLM adapter, connect the device to your computer using the provided USB cable, plug in the microphone, put it in listening position, and run the software. The rest is relatively easy with on screen instructions being self-explanatory. My room seemed to be in decent shape, but even the subtle changes were noticeable.

Now onto what really counts, the sound. The first song I pulled up was Adele’s Hello. First of all, it’s a fantastic song, with a really great mix: lots of openness, warmth, great spacing and balance, a smooth vocal, and gorgeous reverbs. It had everything I needed to hear to know what these speakers were made of. And boy did they shine.

Honestly, it just felt like the sound filled the room, as opposed to being projected at you. It was quite nice to hear Adele’s vocal floating right in between the monitors, as if she was in the room with me. The best way I can describe the sound is utter transparency. The piano was warm, full, and clear, no muddiness; the filtered drums felt strong and round, but not boomy in any way; the vocal was perfectly balanced with no weird mid frequencies sticking out, like I can often hear with some monitors; and the reverb tails genuinely felt like they were coming from my room. Absolutely impressive!

But could they handle the knock and low end I wanted out of some of the hip hop records or EDM records I mix with big loud 808s, sharp snares, and aggressive synths? Let me save you the suspense: the answer is YES.

The first record I mixed on these 8351s is the latest single by The Chainsmokers: Don’t Let Me Down. The song has it all: beautiful guitars, airy vocals, punchy drums, and trunk rattling 808s. The monitors give me the perfect blend of a full and round low end, low-mid punchiness, tame upper mids, and top end shine. Could it really be? Did Genelec finally introduce a worthy contender to replace the 1031As?

I started my career on Genelec 1031As, a fantastic monitor, tried and tested throughout the years at just about every studio on the planet. Those monitors always had nice punch, beautifully clear top end, and boy could they take a beating. I could really push the volume and get them to bang, always a crowd pleaser in those hip hop sessions. The sweet spot for listening was a bit narrow, but for me - and many others - they were the standard. It didn’t matter which studio I was working in, whether in New York, Miami, London, or Sydney, they needed 1031s for me to show up.

About 10 years ago, when Genelec moved past the 1031s and introduced the first generation 8000 systems, I was a bit disappointed. The new models didn’t have quite what I wanted out of a pair of monitors, but maybe I had programmed my ears to only hear what I was missing? Whatever the case, I wasn’t an immediate fan.

We all know that Genelec is a fantastic brand, and has always had audio excellence in its core DNA, but it took me nearly 10 years to come back around and give the next models a shot; and I have to say, these 8351s feel like the real deal. At nearly $10,000, they’re pricey, however they do fall in a similar price point to some of the other elite level monitors, and these are far more deserving of that market segment than some of the others (I won’t name names). But pricing aside, I can finally say with full confidence that with the introduction of the 8351s, Genelec is back with something worthy of every studio on the planet. These feel like the new standard in high quality audio monitoring, and will shape the sound of Genelec for years to come.

Review by DJ Swivel