Interview: Aki Mäkivirta, Genelec R & D Director

The new UNIO Platform from Genelec empowers professionals to confidently work anywhere. As a key UNIO element, the 9320A integrates in-room and headphone monitoring for a single, reliable workflow – completely personalised for total accuracy.

With its flexible connectivity, reference grade headphone output and physical control of Genelec’s adaptive technologies, the 9320A is the ideal hub for professional audio work – from stereo to immersive – in any space.

We caught up with R & D Director Aki Mäkivirta to find out more…

The room and headphone monitoring process being unified – was this based on customers requesting it or you saw that you could do it and it would appeal?

We see an increasing use of headphones as well as other forms of lighter production environments. It’s become clear to us that this change is now happening, and we’re looking for all options to ensure that as it happens, engineers and creatives always have access to the most accurate tools for monitoring. This is the main theme of the UNIO platform concept, and has also inspired the development of both the 9320A Reference Controller and the personal binauralisation in our Aural ID plug-In technology. All of these blend perfectly with a traditional monitoring approach to enable total freedom whilst avoiding any compromise in sonic quality and access to details.

Producers and engineers increasingly work everywhere now as technology allows – is this a trend you’ve seen in your own research?

Absolutely. Mobility, and the need to work in the home – or in other improvised environments – is an ever-expanding trend, and in some ways was normalised by the pandemic. Our emphasis is now on enabling all of this to happen without compromising the quality of the final product being created.

The 9320A is update ready – what type of updates do you see in the future and are these Genelec updates or a combination of Genelec and third party updates?

As in all of our Smart Active Monitoring designs, the firmware of the 9320A is customer updateable. This is important as it means we can maintain the quality and compatibility of the 9320A with any changes in DAW technology and any underlying operating systems – giving the 9320A a long lifetime of reliable performance.

Where do you see the system being used most – traditional studio, live streaming, broadcast, game development hubs or home studio?

All of the above! The 9320A is a perfect companion for all kinds of audio creators, whether in the field of music, recording or gaming. For these purposes, the 9320A is a highly mobile yet solid, professional tool. At the same time, the 9320A can create a very natural, intuitive workflow for fixed studio installations, making it a great choice for managing monitoring tasks in the studio. I’m sure that the 9320A will also find use in the highest quality home listening installations, where we’re seeing an increased demand from consumers for professional grade loudspeaker systems.

The price means an easy entrance to professional monitoring that people can build on with more software and speakers. How do you support that in terms of education around taking those first steps?

Particularly during the pandemic, we started to put an increased emphasis on educating our customers via regular webinars, livestreams and video tutorial material – as demonstrated by our G Learning Lab initiative. So we’ll be doing the same for the UNIO platform and the 9320A. With UNIO, there’s a lot to absorb – so we’ll be working hard to guide people through the platform and how to get the most from it.

It’s due for launch in January but have you road tested it with users in the field and what is the feedback?

Yes, we’re currently running an active field testing campaign to ensure that when January comes, we can offer a completely smooth and intuitive user experience.

It’s a landmark product – how long was it in the making?

The complete UNIO platform concept has effectively been developing since the launch of the Smart Active Monitoring range back in 2006. We’ve also been evaluating different methods of approaching monitor control and system management to find the most natural, intuitive solution. At the same time, recognizing that audio production technology is developing towards a lighter and more mobile direction without compromise in sonic quality, we have gravitated towards a solution that is compact yet provides maximum access to all sizes, designs and layouts of monitoring needed today.

You had live demos at IBC – what was the reception like?

We’re extremely happy with the customer responses at IBC. Wherever we’ve shown the 9320A, the response has been an overwhelming ‘yes, this is exactly what I need’. This gives a comforting feeling that we’ve made the right choices and selected the correct way forward, in a way that is very natural for users to adopt and approach.

What headphones did you use as a reference when developing the system?

We actually assembled a very respectable selection of all the key professional headphones on the market today. We evaluated them all, in order to understand how we should build the workflow in order to best support the seamless use of high quality professional headphones. It’s also worth noting that the 9320A also provides a personal calibration feature to fine-tune and tailor the headphone frequency response to achieve the highest accuracy and detail, levelling the field considerably to make all high quality professional headphones viable for precise mixing work.

Exclusive: Genelec 8381A interview with Aki Mäkivirta at RAK studios