Genelec S30D Powered Ribbon Speaker

Like tube amps, ribbon tweeter speakers are often associated with a accurate midrange and treble frequency response. Genelec's S30D high-end studio monitor offers that ribbon-tweeter smoothness - as well as self-power, custom-adjustable tone controls, active crossover and analog and digital interfaces.
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Like tube amps, ribbon tweeter speakers are often associated with a accurate midrange and treble frequency response. Genelec's S30D high-end studio monitor offers that ribbon-tweeter smoothness - as well as self-power, custom-adjustable tone controls, active crossover and analog and digital interfaces.
Product PointsApplications: Studio monitoring

Key Features: 3-way active monitor; 8-inch woofer; 3-inch midrange and 60mm ribbon tweeter; triamped 120 Watts each at 8 ohms; XLR analog and digital inputs

Price: $2,850 each

Contact: Genelec Oy at 508-652-0900 Web Site

Plus

+ Accurate

+ Sibilance free

+ Digital and analog interface

+ Built-in power

Minus

- Rear panel power switches and level controls

The Score: Genelec's ribbon tweeter-based speaker is a premium closefield speaker designed to work in most critical listening applications.
Features

The S30D is Genelec's premium, small closefield monitor. According to U.S. company spokesman Will Eggleston, the speaker is based on a model that was introduced in the 1970s, now reintroduced as the S30D in late 2000.

Priced at $2,850 each, the Genelec S30D contains an 8-inch woofer, 3-inch midrange and the 60mm Genelec-designed ribbon tweeter. Frequency response is rated from 38 Hz to 48 kHz, +/-2.5 dB. The crossover points are 420 Hz for the bass to midrange and 4 kHz for the midrange to tweeter.

The S30D is triamped, with all three drivers receiving 120 watts of power into 8 ohms; distortion is listed at 0.05 percent. The Class AB amps are claimed to drive is a pair of S30Ds to a maximum of 122 dB SPL at 1 meter.

Other features include overall level control, active analog crossover, level controls for treble, midrange and bass, and bass tilt and rolloff controls for custom tuning in a variety of studio locations. The controls are engaged by recessed, rear panel DIP switches, which require the use of a small flat screwdriver (or similar tool) to engage or disengage. Analog and digital input connections are made via separate XLRs.

The amp output level control is a rotary-screw potentiometer with a range from 0 to -12 dB. Because it is rear panel mounted, the level control is not intended for frequent volume tweaks.

The treble, midrange and bass level trim DIP switch controls range from -1 dB to -6 dB - with a mute function for each band. Handy when using the S30D with a subwoofer, the bass rolloff filter (35 Hz) is adjustable via DIP switch from 0 dB to -8 dB in 2 dB steps. The bass tilt (88 Hz) adjustment allows rolloff in 2 dB steps from 0 dB to -8 dB. Incidentally, there also is a fixed, subsonic filter (below 33 Hz) to keep out unwanted low-frequency content that could harm the bass driver. A fixed ultrasonic filter removes sounds above 60 kHz.

The digital input section is designed to be connected to digital source gear with AES/EBU XLR outputs. Each speaker has a digital XLR input, as well as a digital throughput XLR that routes the digital output to the other speaker. The DAC can accept up to 24-bit, 96 kHz PCM digital signals. Dynamic range is stated at 113 dB. In the digital input mode, either speaker can be designated as left or right speaker, via the channel-select DIP switch.

The digital level controls are also accessed via two rear panel DIP switches. The switch levels are: 0 dB (all level switches off), -10 dB (-10 dB switch engaged), -20 dB (-20 dB switch engaged) or -30 dB (both -10 and -20 dB switches engaged). By using the overall amp level control and the digital level controls, the S30D is said to be able to deliver a full-scale digital signal at anywhere between 76 dB and 112 dB SPL.

The speaker's dimensions are fairly compact: 19.5 inches high, 13 inches wide and 11.5 inches deep; weight is 44 pounds each. A horizontal version of the speaker also is available. Genelec offers a number of optional accessories for the S30D, including flight case, wall mount, handles and speaker grille.

In use

I auditioned the S30D in two different setups: in a project studio editing suite with digital source and in a high-end, closefield listening area with analog sources.

In the closefield listening room, I connected the S30D to a Legacy high current analog preamp via Alpha Core Goertz single-conductor Micro-Purl XLR cables. The speakers were placed on Apollo speaker stands about six feet from the front wall and four feet from the side walls. The tweeters were at ear height at the listener position and angled inward slightly toward the listening position. After tinkering with the tone tailoring adjustments, I found the "flat" positions were the best for my listening room, except for the treble level, which I adjusted to -2 dB.

Using a Sony SCD777ES DSD/CD player as the analog source and playing a number of Tom Jung's high-resolution DSD recordings, my first sonic observation was the flat frequency response. The Genelec S30D is one of the most accurate-sounding, powered speakers I have heard. There was no coloration or deficiency. The bass was clean with no hint of boom. The high midrange and low treble did not have any harsh edge that I have found on other powered speakers.

On the DMP DSD recording "Just Jobim," by Manfredo Fest, the piano sounded very natural with the subtle piano plinks relayed very nicely. On vocal DSD recordings, the ribbon tweeter combined with the midrange driver making it a very effective vocal monitor. No cabinet coloration, no sibilance - just the natural voice.

The S30D's stereo imaging was very good - only a few points shy of matching the sonic width and depth of my Legacy Classic II tower speakers. And the Legacy speakers are larger with a front-firing ribbon tweeter and rear-firing ambiance tweeter.

Connected to the Alesis MasterLink for 24-bit, 96 kHz resolution playback via the speaker's DAC, I listened to recent recordings of my Martin D-35; they were dead on. I could plainly hear the enhanced treble of the thinner spruce top of this guitar - the way you hear it live. The guitar was recorded using a pair of Shure KSM32s and Night Pro PREQ3 microphone preamp.

I also played a number of other 16-bit CD-R recordings I have made. Each time, the results were consistent - accurate, smooth and easy-to-listen to. By the way, ribbon tweeters do a great job of reproducing drum cymbals, and trumpet and trombone tones - without the ear grit these instruments can generate on lesser speakers.

The negatives? Just a few quibbles. With only an 8-inch woofer, the speaker is not going to fill up a big room with lots of bass, but it still does an admirable job down to about 40 Hz. The other quibbles are ergonomic; I wish it had a front-mounted power switch and level control.

Summary

Although the Genelec S30D carries a $5,700 per pair price tag, the payoff in sonic performance is worth the money. With built-in DAC, tone control versatility, the smooth treble of a ribbon tweeter, good bass, and enough power to crank it up in most closefield rooms, the S30D is a premium professional speaker that is excellent for stereo or surround monitoring setups.