Home » reviews » Review: Genelec 8381A SAM™ Adaptive Point Source Main Monitor

The pinnacle of SAM-Series monitoring and beyond


Review by Paul Vnuk Jr.

Recently, I had the pleasure of returning to Natick, MA, to the U.S. headquarters of Genelec Inc. for some one-on-one time with the Finnish speaker company’s latest flagship SAM-Series monitor offering—the already award-winning Genelec 8381A. 

The ONE to Rule Them All

The 8381A is unashamedly at the top of the Genelec range in size, performance and cost, boasting a $32,000 price tag (each). Will Eggleston (Marketing Director of Genelec Inc.) told me that the 8381A grew out of the need for a new freestanding ‘main’ monitor due to many large studios moving away from soffit-mounted designs.

The 8381A, like many past Genelec fan favorites, also comes out of the company’s unquenchable research and design philosophy of pushing loudspeaker technology forward.

This ethos is front and center in the 8381A, comprised of eleven past and new Genelec core technologies, most with fun abbreviations.

Genelec 8381A SAM™ Adaptive Point Source Main Monitor

The Physical

The 8381A measures 57.38″ (H) x 19.63″ (W) x 27.38″ (D), and each one weighs 518.1 lbs. Similar to the commissioning of a professional audio console, included in the cost is one on-site SonicAdvisor™ calibration service with on-site wiring setup, SAM tuning and extended service.

Each black or white-finished MDF cabinet consists of two parts. Each speaker can be set up vertically, or the top section can be angled down to the proper listening position with a choice of incliner wedges at a 4o or 8o tilt. You can add another 12 with an 8381A Height Extension Kit.

The Speakers

The 8381A is a 5-way, active studio monitor built upon Point Source Continued Directivity (PCD) Technology, offering precise imaging and a natural sound stage. PCD is accomplished by ensuring all of the frequencies from the various drivers are perfectly time-aligned so the sound reaches the listener as though emanating from a single point.

The highs and midrange are delivered via one of the company’s Minimum Diffraction Coaxial (MDC) Drivers inside a Directivity Control Waveguide (DCW). This coaxial speaker design can be found at the center of all 8300/ONE Series monitors, although the 8381A features a new high-compression tweeter and midrange cone designed for higher SPL.

Unique Quads

Unique to the 8381A are the four 5″ circular ‘bumps’ surrounding the coaxial driver and blended into the edges of the cast aluminum waveguide—those are speakers, and the bump is the diaphragm. These are dubbed the Quad Midrange System (QMS)—an acoustically coaxial woofer solution. These unique, equally spaced “woofers” lend a helping hand to the center coaxial driver and extend the mids and low-mid frequency range down to the bass driver while maintaining a combined point source accuracy.

Will Eggleston adds that each QMS driver’s optimized spider, voice coil, and surround shape offer linear and significant enough diaphragm movement to match the SPL target at the low-end (250 Hz) of the QMS frequency band set by the 15″ top-sealed woofer.

With that, the final speaker in the upper section of the monitor is a “light and agile” 15″ front-facing woofer that operates in the 100 to 250 Hz range.

Genelec 8381A closeup of the top of the monitor
Corner of the top of the Genelec 8381A SAM™ Adaptive Point Source Main Monitor
Genelec 8381A speaker cone
Woofer of the Genelec 8381A SAM™ Adaptive Point Source Main Monitor

Big Bottom

On the bottom section of the 8381A is the Double Low-Woofer (DLW) System that consists of two powerful recoil-compensated 15″\bass drivers with 100 mm voice coils. These side-mounted, perfectly opposing drivers move as one, offering a comprehensive yet accurate, distortion-free, low-end dispersion. The lower section also includes a sizeable, advanced bass reflex port for an even greater extended low-frequency response.

Power and Tech

The 8381A is an active technology-filled monitor design. It offers Intelligent Signal Sensing (ISS™)—an automatic signal-sensing sleep mode, plus active crossovers, drive/overload protection and Smart Active Monitor (SAM™) capability. However, this technology and the power amps are outside the unit.

Power is supplied by a pair of 3U 19″ power amps (per cabinet), offering a combined 5926 Watts of Class D power. Most importantly, each cabinet’s transducer is driven by its own optimized amp.

Finally, you can connect to the amps/speakers via digital or analog, and there are RJ45 ports for the Genelec Loudspeaker Manager (GLM).

Back of Genelec 8381A SAM™ Adaptive Point Source Main Monitor

Specs and Crossovers

The 8381A has a 126dB SPL level and a 20 Hz–35 kHz (“-6dB”) Frequency Response with ± 1.5dB accuracy,
30 Hz – 20 kHz.

The crossovers are at 1,800 Hz (Coaxial Midrange/Tweeter), 500 Hz (QMS/Coaxial Midrange), variable 150–250 Hz (Front Woofer/QMS) and variable 50–100 Hz (Lower Woofer/Front Woofer).

In GLM, the 8381A can be set up in a fixed ‘continuous directivity’ mode or in a variable ‘complementary mode’ where the calibration algorithm searches for an optimal summed crossover point between the top and bottom woofers that is flattest at the measurement point/listening location.

Genelec 8381A ControllerThree Days with the 8381A (and More)

In the studio at Genelec Inc’s Experience Center—a great–sounding Atmos room—in addition to stereo, two 8381A make up the L/R of a 9.1.6 Dolby Atmos array with an 8351B and W371A Woofer System as the Center channel. The LFE is handled by a 7380A Studio Subwoofer, and the side, rear and height channels are all 8341A models.

The system is fully calibrated (EQ, level and time of flight) by GLM and controlled by the new 9320A SAM Reference Controller—a high-tech yet easy-to-use GLM monitor controller/interface.


I spent quite a bit of time listening in stereo to music in a broad range of genres. This included exceptional mixes, mixes with known flaws (too harsh, too boomy, etc.) and in-progress mixes.

Now, it is reasonable to expect a pair of $64,000 monitors to sound amazing, and I can confirm that these sound freakin’ AWESOME!

They have an impressive evenness across the spectrum—incredibly clear highs, a full-dimensional midrange and a deep-reaching low-end. It’s easy to think speakers of this size are all about volume and power, but these are about even, effortless sonic distribution. From top to bottom, I could discern every detail in a mix.

The magic of the 8381A, however, is not how good everything sounds, it’s how bad mixes quickly reveal their flaws. I am not sure I have ever encountered a monitor where a mix’s breaking points are so instantly obvious. In my in-progress mixes, I became quickly aware of where I was pushing things too hard, undermixing others or making the wrong EQ choice.

It’s also worth noting that the 8381A monitors offer excellent imaging and a visceral phantom center.

Dolby Atmos

I also listened to and learned about Dolby Atmos. Will had every monitor in the 9.1.6 set up and configured to run full range, which, when possible, is the best way to hear and mix for Dolby Atmos.

It was great to become educated about what was a stellar and effective use of the medium, what was simply good, what was subpar, and why.

When done well, you are inside the mix, but the song is still the song, and the format never takes away from that. A bad Atmos mix breaks the illusion either with poor placement, bad EQ or wonky levels, and the Genelec system did well to highlight all of the above.

I was impressed with how well the 8381A seamlessly integrated sonically with the 8341A monitors as a wholesome, balanced system rather than presenting as a set of massive mains with some supporting “surrounds.” Much of this is due to the power of GLM AutoCal 2 calibration.

Wrap Up

It almost feels anticlimactic to reiterate that the Genelec 8381A is a stunning next-level studio monitor of utmost build, function and sound—but that is the case

Yes, the 8381A may be an audio fantasy that we may never be able to own, but as with any ultra-high-end monitor, that does not mean we can’t or won’t get chances to mix on them in professional studios elsewhere.

What I will say is, if you have the chance, you need to hear the Genelec 8381A in action, especially if you are a professional mastering engineer or in charge of a large-scale recording and mixing facility.


Price: $32,000 (each)

More From: genelec.com


Genelec 8381A SAM™ Adaptive Point Source Main Monitor in a studio