ADAM A8X Powered Monitor Review

Jul 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Bobby Frasier



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After playing different sources and types of music through these speakers, I have good news and bad news. The good news: These speakers have really good imaging and a large sweet spot. I didn’t have to place my head in one position and stay there. Virtually all instruments’ upper harmonics sounded exceptional, but this could be because the critical midrange is slightly receding.

I like the extended bass response; it really fills the room. You can feel the air coming out of the dual front ports. This low-end response will make many mix engineers very happy because 38 Hz from this sized box is quite a feat. When playing The Beatles’ LOVE CD and DVD-A version, downmixed via a MultiMAX, the speakers reproduced the lower octaves with aplomb, yet vocals and guitars seemed to recede from the soundstage. The bad news: Piano fundamentals and percussion also appeared to recede. To my ears, the tweeter “whistles” at certain upper frequencies. I also noted this in the original series, which is a reason I stayed with conventional titanium designs. Some may say this is simply the original audio being reproduced with more accuracy, but I found a majority of the other speakers I referenced did not reproduce these anomalies.

While listening to opera, primarily female sopranos, the definitive fundamentals were not as pronounced. Midrange strings recede as the cellos fall into the background and the vocalists seem slightly distant. However, low-register horns—tubas and trombones—were faithfully reproduced. With electronica, there was an exceedingly great kick drum response, which is attributable to this speaker’s extended low end. When listening to heavy-metal guitar work, there is a definite difference in midrange reproduction as compared to my conventional titanium-designed tweeters: Guitars recede with the ribbon while they are much more forward with the titanium. Your artist may ask for more guitars and vocals, causing you to add more of those “presence frequencies” than your mastering engineer would like to hear.

I tracked drums against a film cue using the ADAMs and found them to be very punchy—they simply move a lot of air. The toms were reproduced accurately and the kick was fast, with plenty of low end and snap. The upper cymbal harmonics sounded like what was happening in the room. The artist was very happy with the representation of his kit. Another engineer in the room thought they sounded a bit too bright in comparison to the speaker system he had been using. He also noted that same “missing midrange.” The cymbals’ initial hits were missing the LF swells, with the upper harmonics being a bit more emphasized, giving the overall sound a brighter soundstage.

Oddly enough, I like listening to these speakers. As a hi-fi listening experience, they sound classic; as a critical tracking tool, I’m hesitant to make recording decisions based on the recession of the critical midrange. There’s that classic dip in the middle that a novice mixer or casual listener will revel in. This could lead to a more experienced engineer attempting to compensate for “what they’re used to hearing” in a conventional design.

The A8X is a very modern-sounding speaker that can be easily learned and is easy on the ears. I experienced no ear fatigue after hours of continuous listening. There is no question that its design will reproduce sound differently than conventional dome- or horn-based tweeter designs because it does. This doesn’t make it a bad speaker, only different, and worthy of a good, critical listen. Find a dealer, take your favorite references with you, compare these speakers with your favorite conventional design, and you just might like what you hear. Many award-winning professional engineers have made the switch to ADAM, working with them on a daily basis. The A8X shares some of the legacy of the company’s higher-priced models, and, in some regards, it sounds very similar. This could become your next favorite speaker in this price range.

Bobby Frasier is an educator, audio engineer and Beatles fanatic.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the A8X product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the A8X product page.

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