By Frank Wells | As seen in ProSound Network
From a purely technological viewpoint, the Genelec 8351A offers something rare in today’s loudspeaker market—truly innovative technology. Let’s begin with Genelec innovations that have become familiar: internal amplification (which Genelec pioneered); the molded aluminum chassis with rounded edges (what Genelec calls its Minimum Diffraction Enclosure— MDE) for more consistent directivity and controlled internal cabinet reflections; an effective HF waveguide (Genelec calls it the Directivity Control Waveguide—DCW) that is integrated into the MDE; the Iso-Pod foot that both provides vibration isolation and a method of adjusting vertical tilt; the long, curved internal reflex tube (rear ported) that affords extended LF output (both in level and LF frequency response); digital (up to 192 kHz sampling) and analog inputs; and the Smart Active Monitor system (SAM) that incorporates Genelec Loudspeaker Management system (GLM) for configuration, level, delay and EQ control (and the AutoCal room optimization algorithms) under software/network control.
On top of that distinct family of technologies, Genelec introduced a coaxial mid/high driver with its flagship portable monitor, the 8260A. Dubbed the Minimum Diffraction Coaxial Driver (MDC, and I’m almost done introducing acronyms), the mid driver is designed to be part of the HF waveguide, smoothly integrated with the MDE. This allowed a three-way cabinet that achieved size and output level goals. While the performance of the 8260A is stellar, Genelec next tackled the task of introducing the MDC to a compact three-way design, one the size of its 8250A two-way, which incorporates an eight-inch woofer. The MDC is too large for use with a traditional, round, eight-inch woofer in that size cabinet, so a new approach was needed.
As outlined in the PSN “Sound Innovations” column in October of last year, the solution was a new woofer approach. Unique oval woofers, with flat plane surfaces over a honey-comb-like infrastructure, 8.5-inch by 4-inch, were developed. Two of these woofers are in the 8351A, one above and one below the MDC, behind a larger continuous front DCW, with gaps top and bottom between the DCW and the main chassis (giving the monitors a distinct appearance). This Acoustically Concealed Woofer (ACW—last new acronym, I promise) technology allows for directional LF and coaxial performance across all three frequency bands (for more detail, link to the 8351A “Sound Innovations” column and the PAR review of the 8260As at prosoundnetwork. com/may2015)
Enough background; how do the 8351As perform in practice? In a word, stunning. The 8351A shares an operating guide with the operationally similar 8240A, 8250A and 8260A. Horizontal and vertical directivity plots are included for each. While the horizontal directionality plots are familial, the 8351A bests the pack in the vertical plot, the horizontal performance being near identical to the vertical as one might expect from a coaxial system. The 8351As excel in imaging and off-axis performance. I wasn’t in a position to A/B them critically, but I believe the 8351A imaging is a notch ahead of even the 8260As.
The 8351As perform exceedingly well at low volumes. In a dialogue with Genelec’s Will Eggleston, he noted, “The directivity pattern of the LF in the 8351 is also equivalent to about a 18-inch driver, if the 8351As are oriented vertically. Simply more direct sound comes at you and less reflective energy. The 8351A is on par in directivity down to about 350 Hz with our 1038