Review: Genelec 1237A SAM™ Studio Monitor

Review: Genelec 1237A SAM™ Studio Monitor: It convinces at both low and (very) high levels, plays dynamically, spaciously, openly and involvingly

“At some point there has to be a boxy Kaventsmann from Genelec here,” I’ve been thinking about for years. But as it is, we usually opted for the organically rounded models from the Finns, not least because they supposedly fit better in private listening environments. But is that even true? What about the target group that puts BBC-inspired big boxes à la Spendor, Harbeth, Graham in the living room and rightly thinks that’s pretty cool? You don’t really have to come up with “organic shaping”.

In any case, Genelec can be edgy and official, which quickly becomes clear when you look around at what they call “main monitoring”. It wasn’t difficult to decide which model to test: the ones with double bass configurations look too crass, and boxes that are wider than they are also require longer sales talks in German living rooms. And since we have already discussed the famous Genelec S360 , the 1238A and the 1237A (price: 12,778 euros) ultimately remain – the latter seems to me to be the optimal size: It is pretty much in the middle between a Harbeth Super HL5 Plus and a Harbeth M40. 2, to give the BBC crate fan a clue. So I picked up the phone, called the German distributor Audio Pro.

Genelec 1237A – all around and inside

If you opt for the Genelec 1237A, the best thing to do is to look around for slightly stocky speaker stands, as are often found on relevant Brit monitors of this format. That must look pretty cool then. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any on hand, so the 1237A had to be placed on my normal-height stand, which looks a bit cute, but works well acoustically.

I don’t know exactly why, but I think the front of this speaker has something: In addition to the macho appearance, the contrast between the matt waveguide and the shiny 12-inch woofer appeals to me. But whatever, it’s all a matter of taste. What are we actually dealing with here?

The Genelec 1237A is an active 3-way loudspeaker for medium listening distances, as the Finns put it, by which they mean distances from 1.5 meters (!) that no one at home thinks of going below. For me they were about 3.5 meters away from the listening position.

Since these are active speakers, they bring their own electronics with them. This includes a powerful digital signal processor (DSP), which among other things ensures the separation of the paths at 450 and 3000 Hertz, as well as three power amplifiers: two of the class D type with 500 and 250 watts for bass and midrange and a class AB -Amplifier that supplies the tweeter with up to 200 watts.

Since such monitors are often built flush into the wall in studios and air circulation is a problem within such a wall, the complete electronics can be removed from the back of the 1237A and stowed away separately in an equipment cabinet. Apparently this has little relevance for us “home users” – but indirectly it does, after all it means that the electronics are not located in the loudspeaker, as is usually the case with active loudspeakers, but decoupled with rubber buffers on the back, which increases susceptibility for microphonic effects should be significantly reduced. Nice by-catch of the concept!

And where we are on the back: In contrast to other Genelec speakers, there are no DIP switches to adjust the sound characteristics. The same is done with the so-called GLM kit (392 euros), and it is always advisable to order this with Genelec loudspeakers anyway.

The housing of the Genelec 1237A measures 68 x 40 x 38 centimeters (WxHxD), each box weighs 42 kilograms – so you are well advised not to move the chunk alone during installation and alignment. The loudspeaker cabinet was made of MDF and stiffened properly on the inside, according to Genelec. The midrange/treble unit sits in a separate chamber, protected from the tumult caused by the 12-inch woofer, which is mounted quite hard inside, at least according to hi-fi standards. As you can easily see, the two bass reflex channels are located on the front of the 1237A. By the way: A front cover is also available as an accessory. But who wants something like that anyway?

… a wired rotary controller made of aluminum. In both cases, the GLM kit must remain connected to the speakers.

Approximately 65 liters are available for the 12 incher with the coated membrane. A 5-inch cone with an unspecified composite membrane and a phase plug in the center is responsible for the middle positions, and a 25 mm metal dome works from 3000 Hertz. Midrange and tweeter sit in a so-called directivity control waveguide, which ensures a defined radiation behavior and acoustically “marries” the chassis – the acoustic axis lies pretty much exactly between the two drivers.

Connection & calibration

The signal can be fed to the Genelec 1237A in two ways: analog via XLR or digital via AES/EBU. Of course she relies on a symmetrical connection , after all she is a studio plant. But you can also feed the Finn asymmetrically, that works, all you need is an adapter or an adapter cable. Of the other interfaces on the back, the two RJ45 sockets are of interest to us, because the GLM set for room measurement can be connected here.

Said Genelec Loudspeaker Management Set consists of a “box” and a calibrated measurement microphone. As a third party, you need a laptop/computer on which the GLM software, which can be downloaded free of charge, has been installed, and after a bit of wiring you can get started.

The calibration process is quite uncomplicated and we have described it several times, most recently when testing the Genelec 6040R . The room response is measured using two sine sweeps, after which an algorithm calculates the best interventions in the frequency response up to 2000 Hertz, which mostly boils down to room modes in the bass range being smoothed out. In addition, runtime and level differences between the left and right channels are compensated, which is a plus point in itself, as it contributes to the stability of the image. Of course, you can also intervene manually, which I did for our test, because “linearly measured” and “felt neutral” are two different things, which is why a shelf filter was added from 225 Hertz and up with minus 3 dB.

Genelec 1237A: listening test and comparisons

Since we’re already on the subject of tonality: Of course, these Genelecs can play from boiling-warm and powerful to ethereally fistulous – like all loudspeakers that can be measured and offer corresponding possibilities via a DSP. However, since I assume that potential buyers of such a studio monitor are not afraid of the “truth” and have a penchant for a basically balanced pace, I have adjusted the 1237A accordingly. Boring you say?

On the contrary: I have seldom had speakers as guests that sounded so different with different recordings, and that too in terms of tonality. If you consider differentiation to be a virtue, then you’ve come to the right place at Genelec. I had expected Julia Jacklin’s “Don’t know how to keep loving you” (album: Crashing) to be quite balanced, but served with a rich bass, and Poliça ‘s “Wedding” (album: United Crushers) in contrast comes across as less lush, too – but not as clearly: The tonal temperature of the two songs differs more than I would have expected. That seems to be the job of this box: show differences. With pure listening pleasure things likeAccordingly, Joy Division’s “Love will tear us apart” (on 100 Greatest Sad Songs) is difficult. My God, what were they thinking about when they were mixing in the eighties?

Probably not much. Or they thought of the average hi-fi system of the time: overcast, cloudy and far too much sloppy bass (yes, yes, not all of them, I know). In such a context, sparse, thin productions make more sense, but a lot has happened in audio technology in a good forty years, which is why such recordings sound as if they have fallen out of time. Especially with the 1237A in “neutral mode”, which simply documents such historical events without comment.

My tip: For such cases you need another setup. Nothing is easier via the GLM software than, for example, adding more to the basic tone/bass, which does not make the Joy Division classic an audiophile pearl, but at least makes it appear less harsh. With the Genelec 1237A you can run through umpteen correction curves. I’d do with two setups – one for current productions, another for my 80’s/90’s indie stuff. Or you just take an average. Do you want a bit more action down below for the film experience, which would be rather annoying with music? Of course you can also get there. Actually not a disadvantage, this flexibility, right?

From the overall impression to the end of the frequency response: the Genelec 1237A has a very wide bandwidth. Everything is there at the top anyway, even in the super treble, i.e. there where the Brit monitors mentioned at the beginning like to fade out discreetly. Not so with the Finns, they can do it, and with great resolution. It is true that the somewhat more expensive, also active Abacus Oscara 212 (14,900 euros) adds a bit more fine detail thanks to its large AMT in the air band, but that does not change the fact that this must also be seen as a strength of the 1237A

And so does the bass department: Wow, that can rightly be called “fabulous dry tracing”. There isn’t anything that slobbers after it, and it’s always pushed up substantially when it’s called for. Incidentally, I believe the 32 Hertz at -6 dB immediately, this monitor plays much deeper than you would think at first glance. Which can also manifest itself in really large, sovereign sound panoramas when there is a lot of bass on the recording, such as in Spain’s “Nobody has to know” (Album: The morning becomes eclectic session). More on the spatial impression later.

A side view of the Abacus is interesting again – the larger speaker goes a little deeper into the bass cellar and presents the basement semi-dry, while the Genelec understands extra dry. In other words, it offers comparatively more contour and edge in the frequency range.

Loud and quiet

With the Genelec 1237A, music can be heard very well, both loud and quiet. To check the latter, I gradually turn down the level on the album Albinoni, Douze concertos, Op.5 and see what happens. Of course, the dynamic spread also decreases with decreasing level, seen in absolute terms, but in relation to the correspondingly quiet average level, it is better, i.e. more lively, than one often hears. Above all, I find the stability of the image impressive, since nothing blurs or looks as if it is from the off. No, the members of the orchestra sit neatly in their places, the framing of the instruments remains precise, it just gets quieter and quieter and quieter… Very good.

If you want to let the famous cow fly, you can do just as well with the 1237A. If you develop higher level requirements than this speaker is capable of, you should consult your audiologist. I’m going full throttle on Erika de Casier’s “Polite” (Album: Sensational) – heavy number. You don’t hear that louder in the club either, just worse. The Genelec pulls through in an impressively controlled manner, never seems strained and is also completely unimpressed by the massive bass waves. That reminds me of another Genelec speaker, the S360 (about 8000 euros), which was just as stable in level – and yet sounded different in terms of dynamics, spatial representation and resolution.

Resolution & fine dynamics

In terms of coarse dynamics, the Genelec S360 doesn’t let its bigger sister take the butter off its bread, it’s in the same league, although it is “more horny”, even harder with impulses (which is too much for some and just fine for others). But in terms of fine dynamics and resolution, you can tell that the 1237A is in a higher league. Especially in the midrange, with voices and acoustic instruments, you get a more differentiated presentation of timbres and textures. Mid-band resolution is a key virtue of the 1237A. It also conveys a little more here than the Abacus Oscara 212 mentioned, which may not only, but also be due to the fact that the Abacus is in the presences a little more withdrawn, so that it plays a little less clearly and at the same time more forgiving.

If you want even more detail and middle charm than the 1237A offers, then you have to reach for something like the Lyravox Karlina , but then don’t cry that you have to put 20 instead of almost 13 kEuro on the table. More is always possible – but the price-performance ratio of the Finn is first class, I am very impressed with how much air, sensitivity and microdynamic finesse a voice like Julie Byrne’s (from the LP: Not Even Happiness) is transported.


Another strength is the representation of space, although that is of course also a bit of a matter of taste.

The first thing that strikes you is the sheer size of the stage. While I still find the depth gradation to be normal, the width of the sound panorama in particular is quite splendid, it also goes well beyond the outer edges of the speakers, if the recording bears it.

The second thing is: the 1237A comes a little closer to the listener, which with the right level has something almost involving and embracing. It doesn’t go as massively forward as with the Genelec S360, the smaller sister sometimes sits on a singer’s lap; but the 1237A is more open-minded than good on the baseline. Goes well with her crisp, dynamic gait.

Thirdly, the image quality: precise, three-dimensional, a great thing for the course. But am I wrong, or aren’t the “alu eggs” of the Finns even more precise and precise? I’m thinking about an 8260 that I tested years ago. Perhaps that’s no wonder, since the aluminum models from the Finns are deliberately designed to be round in order to minimize diffractions – an angular example like the 1237A, at least free-standing, probably doesn’t have an advantage. On the other hand, of course, there are also listeners who consider the almost mathematical precision of the reproduction to be exaggerated, who will rate our current test subject as more natural/organic. Be that as it may, the charm of the 1237A results for me primarily from the size of the stage, its stability and the sympathetic, open and involving gait.

Analog vs digital

The Genelec 1237A can be controlled analogously as well as digitally. The latter was realized in the test via the AES3 output of my music server Antipodes K22 , in the naturally longer analog chain there were also the Rockna Wavelight DAC and the pass preamp X12 as players .

First finding: It looks very, very similar. From room volume upwards, the digital playback sounds at most slightly less resolved, sound textures and colors a little more washed out and the depiction of the individual voices a bit less vivid; the emphasis, mind you, is on: minimal, idea and tick. Nevertheless: the so beautifully direct and technically more elegant digital connection is at least not acoustically at an advantage. But would I be willing to invest as much as a pair of 1237A costs, as it would be necessary with the equipment mentioned? If I only heard “digital”: never ever. Too expensive for the small profit.

Admittedly, if you listen very quietly, the differences become greater, then the analog way has the edge more clearly than at normal or higher levels. However, I don’t really know why you should put such cool boxes in the room and then enjoy harp music at 55 dB. But hey, every Jeck is different.

Conclusion: Genelec 1237A

More is always possible, but what this active monitor achieves at the price called is really good. The Genelec 1237A convinces at both low and (very) high levels, plays dynamically, spaciously, openly and involvingly – and puts into action a wealth of detail that you have to find elsewhere for the money.

Nevertheless, this loudspeaker is not for everyone, as a studio monitor it explicitly shows how the recording is going. Crap in, crap out – nothing is sugarcoated. But you can do the “pretty” yourself, if it is necessary, by storing a corresponding correction curve via the GLM software, which defuses overly sparse or mediocre recordings. The possibility of depositing a wide variety of setups is a real benefit.

Nevertheless – the Genelec 1237A is and remains a studio loudspeaker and thus appeals less to the “sound romantic” and more to the listener who really wants to know. And for him it is a revelation.

Characteristics Genelec 1237A:

  • Basically, any tonal alignment that you like can be set via the GLM software, and of course different correction curves can also be saved for different applications (film, good recordings, thin recordings, etc.). In most cases, the standard measurement should aim for a balanced and neutral overall tonality.
  • The 1237A plays very broadband, is completely there in the super treble and reaches far down in the low bass for its size, whereby that goes through as normal for the concept and money.
  • The bass is bone-dry and very defined – since there is also a good amount of membrane surface available, the tonal lower floor appears very dynamic and does not lag a bit behind the very good impulse processing in the middle/higher registers. Very coherent timing.
  • The resolution – especially in the midrange – is a real strength of the speaker. Sound textures and colors are very finely differentiated, even the tiniest details are meticulously worked out. This also applies to the high-frequency range, although some loudspeakers in this league, for example those with panel radiators, can offer a little more.
  • The Genelec not only plays (very) loudly, distortion-free and stable, it also convinces at low levels. Dynamically, it is – fine as well as coarse – absolutely stable and, as already mentioned, very coherent.
  • The localization sharpness and plasticity of the imaging of individual voices is good and seems natural, but here and there one has heard even sharper edges, for example from the aluminum models of the Finns.
  • The 1237A can unfold a huge sound panorama, the stage width in particular is impressive with the corresponding recordings. The Genelec tends to be a step ahead of the baseline of the boxes, which is pleasantly involving but not too frontal. With a decent level and (deep) bass portion on the recording, the virtual stage almost “floods” the listening room. Fascinating.


  • Model: Genelec 1237A
  • Concept: active 3-way monitor loudspeaker with bass reflex housing
  • Price: 12,778 euros
  • Dimensions & Weight: 680 x 400 x 380 mm (HxWxD), 42 kg/each
  • Colours: black
  • Miscellaneous: symmetrical analog and digital (AES/EBU) controllable, extensively controllable and measurable via software (GLM kit: 392 euros), optional wired volume control (105 euros), wireless remote control (92 euros)
  • Warranty: 2 years, 5 years upon registration