4 Genelec 8010a Alternatives

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What studio monitors can you name? Any producer who hasn’t researched the topic in depth may only be able to name two: The classic white-coned Yamaha HS series and the flashy yellow-coned KRK Rokit series. The two are among the most popular studio monitors for amateur and semi-pro producers, as well as the most eye-catching. The Yamaha HS series are modeled after their iconic NS10 series. These were a staple of pro studios in decades past (Thriller was mixed on them, for instance) so they carry an air of tradition and credibility. I don’t think it’s possible to have even a passing interest in music production without noticing KRK Rokits, which so many fresh producers favor.

Yet as long as people have been recording music in studios, there have been dedicated studio monitor speakers. Most models come in different sizes, suited for different sizes of rooms. But the basic purpose of studio monitors has never changed. To hear the music you are working on clearly and accurately. To create music that you know will sound good on any system imaginable, from tiny FM radio or phone speakers to bone-shaking club systems.

Monitors are Crucial

I’ve posted about this before: you can only make music that sounds as good as your speakers. One of the first and most important lessons any new producer should learn is the effect of your listening environment on the quality of music you can produce. People find audio a little hard to visualize- music is an ephemeral experience, yet powerful! So I like to use visual examples to make it easier to understand. Imagine you are drawing or painting, but your glasses are smudged, and you can’t see what you are doing clearly. How can you know what you are doing, if it’s distorted? Yet this is is the same issue you face when you try to produce or mix music with poor monitors.

As you dive into studio monitor options, you will quickly become aware of Genelec. This Finnish company was founded in the 1970s, and developed a reputation among professional studios. Their monitors were never aimed at consumers or amateurs. Their prices are high, but their popularity in pro studios speaks for itself.

The New Music Scene

Rapper in StudioThe music production landscape has changed, and a new paradigm has emerged. The rise of streaming music services means recording music is no longer about creating a product to sell. Now, it’s about creating music to give out for free, in the hopes of building a fanbase and selling merch and concert tickets. The digital revolution means that music production technology has gotten easier to operate and much smaller and cheaper to own. Dedicated recording studios largely existed because no musician could reasonably afford recording equipment, or learn to operate it on the side. Now, more and more musicians of all stripes are picking up basic recording or production gear, and learning the fundamentals of studio recording at home.

With this new paradigm, the studio monitor market shifts. The shift has created a greater demand than ever for very small studio monitors. The potential reasons are numerous. If you are producing in a small room like a bedroom, large monitors can be a liability. While smaller speakers have a smaller bass response, of course, larger monitors have issues in untreated small square rooms. Those bass frequencies can do more harm than good in a bedroom. Another reason- perhaps you have a good set of large monitors, but you want something portable to take on the road. Maybe you have a secondary music room and you want speakers that do the job there. Or maybe you just want something inexpensive to learn on, before investing in a more powerful system.

Genelec 8010a: Big Sound in a Small Package

Genelec has responded in kind to this new demand, and introduced monitors that match this new semi-professional market. The Genelec 8010a monitors have recently made a splash. With their 3” drivers, weighing about three pounds each, they seem unlikely if not impossible. Yet Genelec is not wasting its nameplate on them. Diminutive as they may be, these are no Logitech multimedia speakers. Their relatively steep price tag belies the fact that these are serious music production tools.

Dozens of reviews attest to their value. The 8010a monitors have impressive bass response for their size (their range starts at 67Hz, just above the sub-bass range) and overall, a much smoother and transparent sound than their size would suggest. They are also shockingly loud and powerful for their stature. These speakers aren’t going to take the place of larger speakers in serious studios. Yet their clarity of sound ensures that producers could use them to create rich and beautiful music, especially in genres where bass is not as crucial.

The Genelec 8010a speakers have more great features that make them ideal for many producers. They include built-in adjustable rubber bases, to easily isolate them from whatever surface they are placed on. The bases also make it easier to point the monitors directly at your ears without clumsy after-market maneuvering. These monitors are engineered for hardiness; their aluminum enclosures and metal speaker grills provide added protection on the go.

Genelec 8010a Alternatives

So with all these positive things to say about these speakers, why am I writing an article about the best alternatives? People could have numerous legitimate reasons to seek an alternative. Perhaps they want their research to be thorough before making a decision. Maybe the hefty price-tag is outside of their budget. On the other hand, maybe money is no issue and they want to know if anything is available that’s even better.

I present here four alternatives to the Genelec 8010a monitors. I have chosen them based on several criteria- price, sound quality, and just a different flavor of music production.

Best Ultra-Low-Price Option:  PreSonus Eris E3.5

There are now a number of very small monitor speakers, or even “monitor” speakers, on the market at extremely low prices, around $100 for a pair. Some of these options actually present themselves as “multimedia” speakers,” but are categorized in stores or online with other monitors. Think about how some very super-cheap ice cream is legally barred from using the term “ice cream” and instead is sold as “frozen dairy dessert.” This should also tell you all you need to know- you get what you pay for. And if the company walks back from presenting it as a legitimate competitor, there is probably a reason.

That said, in this category, the PreSonus Eris E3.5 speakers stand head and shoulders above the rest. At their bargain-basement price, it’s essentially miraculous that they can be called studio monitors in any sense of the word. The Eris speakers are slightly larger than the 8010a’s, with 3.5” drivers. Reviewers praise their clarity, flatness of frequency response across the spectrum, and bass response.

Of course, all this praise is not made in a vacuum, it’s in reference to their size and price. Overall, expect them to be worse in every way than the Genelecs. They are made of cheaper material, their bass response is not as low (80 Hz vs 67 Hz, a significant difference) their sound is not as clear and they are not as loud. But at ⅙ the price- if budget is the most important consideration for your situation, you can’t do better than the PreSonus Eris E3.5.

Best Sound Quality, Price be Damned: Three-Way Tie

The Genelecs are the most expensive and best-sounding monitors in their size, hands-down. But of course, increasing size can offer increase in power and quality- that’s simple physics. If you look at speakers with 4” drivers- the next size up from the 8010a’s, but still very small as studio monitors go- you find some very compelling choices. In this category, the three most expensive options are the Neumann KH80, the Focal Shape 40, and in fact the Genelec 8320a.

These monitors are able to charge the prices they do for very good reason. They are all from well-established and well-respected brands at the top of their field. All have ingenious engineering to produce shockingly big sound in small packages. All are designed with professional sound applications where space is at a premium (such as mobile rigs), and consumer/amateur needs are secondary. Translation: these are not made to trick green producers into dropping too much green. These are designed for professionals who need very small monitors for one reason or another.

Was it lazy of me to declare a three-way tie? On the contrary, I think that if you are in the market for these speakers, there’s only so much guidance an article can provide. They all have slightly different characters, slightly different engineering solutions for different scenarios. Realistically they all perform extremely well. I’d recommend finding a way to try them in person and decide for yourself.

Overall, they are twice as expensive as the Genelec 8010a’s, or more. They are slightly larger, but better in essentially every way.

Best Moderately-Priced Option: IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors

Considering my other low-price choice was ⅙ the price of the 8010a’s, I wanted to provide a moderately-priced option as well. The iLoud Micro Monitors by IK Multimedia are about ½ the price of the Genelec 8010a’s, but 3x the price of the aforementioned PreSonus Eris E3.5.

IK Multimedia is a funny company, difficult to pin down. They were known foremost for software, including the fabulous Amplitube amp-modeling software (this producer personally uses Amplitube for pretty much all his electric guitar and bass tracking, in lieu of physical amps.) IK has been expanding into more and more hardware, with fascinatingly mixed results. They have released several tiny audio interfaces aimed at recording into tablets and phones, bypassing computers, and hinting at the upcoming stage of technological wonder in music production. Some of their hardware gets rave reviews for functionality and price. Others get panned for low build-quality, compatibility issues, and terrible customer service. In fact I have seen single IK products where the reviews are split down the middle.

Overall, it seems IK has a coherent goal- to create a new generation of prosumer music production gear and software, to generally be the lowest-price in their class without sacrificing professional quality. As I’ve said, the results seem mixed so far.

IK Multimedia Has Their Moments

But the praise for the iLoud has been pretty unanimous. IK’s strange marketing angle almost undersells their products. To me, “iLoud Micro Monitor” screams cheap knock-off, like an outdated bluetooth speaker. But these speakers are the best in their price range and class. They proudly proclaim to be the “smallest and lightest reference speakers in the world.” Indeed, they have 3” drivers just like the Genelec 8010a’s, and unbelievably weigh about half as much.

How do they compare professionally? They are certainly more in the “prosumer” class while the Genelecs are in the “pro” class. The iLouds have some odd design decisions, like no balanced inputs, and have a bluetooth function. These hint at their target market’s needs (no professional engineer has ever wished their main studio monitors were bluetooth.) In use, they are not as clear or transparent as the Genelecs, but more so than the PreSonus. Most reviewers are blown away by their bass response, possibly the best in class- they claim a range down to 50 Hz, which is outright magical for 3” drivers.

So if you are looking for extremely portable and shockingly powerful speakers, the IK iLoud Micro Monitors are a great choice. Even if the Genelec 8010a’s are in your budget, you might prefer the iLouds if you work on music with powerful bass, like hip-hop or EDM.

Best for a Different Flavor: KRK ROKIT 4 G3

Enter the aforementioned iconic yellow speaker cones. Throughout this guide I have stressed transparent monitors for the best versatility. You want to avoid speakers that “color” your sound. But some people want a colored sound- the bottom line is that it might feel good to produce certain genres of music in this context.

If you work on hip-hop, pop, EDM, or trap, consider the KRK ROKIT 4 G3. They have 4” speakers so they are larger than the iLouds, but they are priced similarly. They are less portable, but better designed physically. Since they are larger, you can expect more powerful bass.

Many producers praise the ROKITs. They prioritize bass power and high-frequency clarity, but mid-ranges are not as clear- that’s what I mean by colored sound. If you like the way these speakers look and feel to use, you should use them- it’s as simple as that. I just recommend making sure to check your mixes on other speaker systems to make sure things sound the way you think they do.

Conclusion

So there you have it. If you are in the market for small but surprisingly powerful studio monitors, you have a range of options to suit different styles and budgets. Don’t be afraid to reach out to professional mixing and mastering services- they are more affordable than you realize. They’re a great resource to compare your own mixes, and learn from your mistakes! Happy producing, and keep the joy of the music alive!