R&D Director Aki Mäkivirta

Aki Mäkivirta came to Genelec in 1995 from the Nokia Research Centre. He had gotten to know Ari Varla in a joint venture between the companies, within which they designed a speaker with digital signal processing. Before that, active monitors were based on analogue filtering and signal processing. Mäkivirta made a demonstration of replacing the analogue filters with digital processing using the 1031A. Genelec offered Mäkivirta a job with research and development.

There was a small but intense team of people working in R&D. “It was interesting to observe how deeply Ari Varla and Topi Partanen were committed to their work – you don’t see that very often. Both were strong personalities to whom work was also a hobby and the most important part of their lives. Including Ilpo, they all had a strong will to execute their own ideas,” Mäkivirta says.

“We did some heroic things in the early days of digital technology. We developed a network for the speakers where you could control them (Genelec Loudspeaker Manager, or GLM™), and software that could calibrate the monitors (AutoCal™). Such technology hadn’t been used in the industry before, and it is still so comprehensive and capable that there isn’t a comparable system in the market today. But to develop so impressive a technology requires a big investment and we needed to believe that it would be ready sooner rather than later. There was a desire to market the new product as quickly as possible. But Ilpo encouraged us and believed in us throughout the journey.”

What came to be known as SAM™ (Smart Active Monitoring), was ready for the market in 2006, when the 8240A and 8250A were launched alongside GLM™. The loudspeakers had the ability to use automatic room response control, recognising their acoustical environment and adapting to it. The first models were delivered to broadcasters who demanded the absolute best results. The feedback was entirely positive and SAM rapidly gave Genelec an advantage over its competition.

“If you want to create a better way to do things, you have to create something new,” says Aki, now Genelec’s R&D Director. “We have to perceive what kind of actions we want from people in order to make the whole process work well. Telling people what to do or waiting for an order isn’t the right way to do things. It is still possible at Genelec to have your ideas implemented and to be creative,” he adds.