Finnish YLE broadcasts with Genelec DSP monitors

YLE Studio
A year after hosting Eurovision, national broadcaster YLE is reaping the rewards of investing in Genelec’s DSP monitors.

We dwell often on Eurovision , but if one talks about broadcasting and Finland, it’s only a matter of time before the subject comes up. Horror rock act Lordi snatched victory for the Finns in 2006, which meant Helsinki’s Hartwell Arena played host to the show in May 2007.

YLE sound supervisor and audio designer Pasi Vatunen played a major role in setting up the broadcast infrastructure for the Song Contest. A decision to utilize Genelec 8250A monitors back then has converted the Finn wholesale to the philosophy of DSP-driven speakers. But Vatunen knows Genelec well already.

“Genelec and YLE have a history together, from back in ’76,” he says. “YLE built the radio house, where they needed a lot of active speakers for different purposes, and they were looking for a Finnish company. It was discussed with Ilpo Martikainen and Topi Partanen, who decided to put together the Genelec company; they got a huge order from YLE and that’s how Genelec began.”

It’s a story we’ve heard before in pro-audio: someone develops a solution to fill a need, and out of that initial design, a multi-million dollar company is formed.

YLE has been a fabulous customer for Genelec, of course. “I don’t know, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of Genelec speakers around YLE,” says Vatunen. YLE is based mainly in three cities – Helsinki, Tampere and Vaasa – with regional studios elsewhere in Finland. There are four main channels: YLE 1 and 2 (mainstream programs in Finnish); FST for the Swedish speakers (it’s the country’s second language) and YLE Theme, the cultural stream. There are five national radio channels to boot. The digital switchover has already happened in Finland – this country of five million is ahead of most of Europe in this respect. 

Vatunen’s main role is as an audio designer for station’s music programs. “Big events… like Eurovision!” he smiles. “Then there’s a big TV show on Finnish Independence Day, December 6th, one of the most popular programs in Finland, that’s one of mine.” The Finnish equivalents of the Grammys and the Emmys? Vatunen gigs too. But he’s also one of the main ‘systems guys’ and an adviser and specifier of equipment for the studios.

The 8250A’s in Studio Two control room include the original units specified for Eurovision. A 7271A handles subwoofer duties. “We made a temporary room in the ice hockey locker room at the Hartwell arena,” recalls Vatunen. This was part of the playback area: two Pro Tools systems fed a Lawo mc2 90 consoles with the backing track material for the show. Vatunen and his colleagues had to work in rather unsatisfactory conditions in that room.

“I was quite familiar with the DSP series quite early on,” continues Vatunen, “because YLE were beta-testers. Even before the Eurovision Song Contest, we tried a set of DSP speakers in Studio 2 – the 8240A model – we were so pleased with those. “Then when we were in the ice hockey room, it was really bad: we had wool blankets for walls, some curtains, we needed to change the acoustics.” But the AutoCal room EQ technology in the Genelecs was key here. “I couldn’t imagine how else we would have done it.” 

That was Vatunen’s Road to Damascus moment. “That was the moment I realized that this was the way to go. Especially in the TV control rooms where we have lots of monitors and all the other equipment and acoustically it’s not a good room; there has to be another way to treat the acoustics other than putting wool on your walls! DSP is the perfect solution.”

Are there any immediate plans to upgrade further? Vatunen reveals that YLE is building two Dolby Digital-ready facilities, for completion next year. In fact, there has been some ‘surround’ broadcasting – a Leningrad Cowboys concert, a Christmas special and – hey! – Eurovision, but generally, although Vatunen has prepared a lot more material in 5.1, most of the time just the stereo downmix has been broadcasted. But more 5.1 is on the way, inevitably. And for that, you got to have the right speakers to mix on.

“I would put 8250A’s in every studio if I had the money,” laughs Vatunen. “In the next two or three years there will be quite a lot of new stuff coming through, because the studios will be ten years old or more and it will be time to rebuild them. So we will take the DSP speakers. That’s obvious.”