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This review first appeared in the July 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Genelec active speakers in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Genelec - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: VPI Scout II, SME MS  12-inch, VPI JMW 9T, Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Zu Audio DL-103, SAC Gamma Sym, Luxman D-05, Logitech Squeezebox 3, Readynas Duo, HP Notebook, Benchmark DAC1 USB, NorthStar USBdac32
Amplification: Octave HP300 with phono, Electrocompaniet AW 180,  Denon PMA 2010AE
Loudspeakers: Ascendo System F, Thiel SCS4
Sundry accessories, cables and racks
Review component retail: €1.250/pr Syno 30, €2.400 for Syno 30+ system, €1.970/pr Syno 40

Finnish speaker house Genelec
now desires to expand beyond its established core audience—music, television and radio studios—into the hifi arena and banks on good chances with the 'new' Syno models. Speaker builders from the pro industry routinely encounter two problems crossing over. One, their boxes tend to be active and in the bright light of day most high-fidelity consumers prefer passive. Two, many pro speakers aren’t exactly pretty. What’s put up with in the recording studio may not encounter the same tolerance in the domestic living room.

The latter shouldn’t be problematic with the Syno range whose five active two-way models look like identical twins save for size. They’re so white, curvy, organic and multi-functional that one could nearly replace the name Genelec with Apple. This bodes well for the ominous WAF. How about the passive majority? That should still exist but it’s equally likely that the computer-fi/DAC/music server times have already bred a new audience that’s more open-minded towards smart active solutions. In either case the Synos cut a great figure next to the laptop and particularly with the two smallest models that’s probably exactly by design. But this review is about the two middle models 30 and 40 and the 5051 subwoofer meant to augment the 30 system and then add a '+' suffix to its name.

Syno 10 through 50

So what’s meant by a ‘set’? These are primarily the speakers of course—which as the models 8030A and 8040A have been to market for a while but new campaigns thrive on new names—plus wall mounts and home-hifi suitable cables, i.e. RCA-to-XLR and 3.5mm-to-XLR leashes.

Genelec founder Ilpo Martikainen
Harri Koskinen

Styled by popular product and furniture designer Harri Koskinen, the Syno enclosures don’t merely aim for baby-duck cuteness with their curves but pursue obvious acoustic aims. First there is the material. These chassis are clam shells of cast aluminium which guarantees excellent stiffness and allows for radically thinner wall thicknesses (5-8mm) than comparable MDF constructions. This makes for greater cubic volumes and hence lower-reaching bass says Genelec. The shape itself minimizes edge diffractions which otherwise set up secondary sound sources to interfere with the main response; and benefits dimensional soundstaging. These are very familiar speaker-building solutions which the Finns call minimum diffraction enclosure or MDE.

With the Genelec 8030A bass tilt (level adjustment) offers three step, treble tilt one 2dB step. Bass roll-off at 85Hz hands over to a subwoofer. The 8040A adds input sensitivity and the desktop control rolls off below 160Hz to compensate for table-top bass lift

Integrated into the enclosure as well is the DCW or directivity control waveguide. This linearizes the radiation patterns between tweeter and mid/woofer in the crossover region and increases the HF unit’s sensitivity to make for less involved effort and thus lower distortion.

The five Syno sibs grow in stature to form numbers 10 through 50 which impacts their drivers as well. With our Syno 30 and 40 testers the mid/woofers are 13/16cm respectively and onboard amp power grows from 2 x 40 watts for the 8030A to 2 x 90 watts for the 8040A. Concomitant gains are in achievable SPL and how the F3 lowers. Time for a test drive. I of course started on the Nuremberg ring of my writing desk to have 'em flank my computer monitor. Small, white, curvaceous and with a rubber foot, how could one resist? I figured a bit of desktop noodling wouldn’t hurt to put some time on. A reach deep into my grab bin netted a cheap external Creative soundcard and a brief but wild cable orgy beneath the desk later, I cued up the first thing Foobar spit up. That happened to be Francois Breut’s "L’affaire d’un jour" and I duly got nailed to my cross.

Toktok the Finnish dwarves tapped me on the sternum with the opening bass drum. A guitar run whipped pearlescent and life-size past my nose and smack in the middle of my screen a precisely mouth-sized area sung to me in French for a near-field encounter of the intense kind. All this sounded so big, real and accurate that my expectation for (or perhaps judgment of) desk-top speakers couldn’t get a grip and diverted into salutary laughter instead. Not a bad beginning.