For about two months now, I’ve been using a pair of ADAM A8X monitors for all my recording and mixing work — as well as for general listening — in my little home studio. During that time, one thought kept repeating over and over again in my mind: “How can I make it look like an accident, faking that something happened to the speakers so that I can just keep them? I don’t want to give them back!”
But in all seriousness, one of the many great things about these unbelievable-sounding mid-field monitors is that they are very affordably priced; I won’t be tempted to lie or break the law to keep them.
Berlin-based ADAM Professional Audio went from a “pro audio insiders” secret in the late 1990s to arguably the hottest company in higher-end studio monitoring. First, it was all about ADAM’s premium-priced flagship S Series, then later the acclaimed A5 and A7 models in 2009 — which incorporated the company’s proprietary Accelerating Ribbon Technology (ART) tweeters — extended its reach into the studio monitor market.
Now, the AX Series, the most affordably priced ADAM monitors ever, offers newly improved features, such as the X-ART tweeters, to an even broader range of potential users.
The self-powered A8X monitor ships with an IEC power cord and concise manual to get you powered up and running ASAP. Out of the box, each A8X weighs 29 lbs. (not exactly lightweight, so lift with your legs, please). Its sleek black and gray finished cabinet measures 15.5 inches (400mm) by 10 inches (255mm) by 12.5 inches (320mm), which should complement or simply blend into just about any studio aesthetic.
On the monitor’s face, its two top corners are tapered in a scalene triangular shape to minimize sound reflections (see product image); this is just one visible example of unique and innovative attention to detail, many of which exist on the inside of the cabinets. Although the AX Series does not come magnetically shielded, it is an option you can select at an additional cost.
On its front panel, the A8X provides the two variables you deal with in a “set it and forget it” capacity: the on/off switch and an input sensitivity knob (∞ to +14 dB), along with a green LED power indicator light. The rear panel boasts a few more bells and whistles, but not so many that you feel you need to attend the local junior college for a refresher course in algebra: three attenuators that raise or lower high and low-frequency shelves (±6 dB) and tweeter gain adjustment (±4 dB). Rear-panel analog input connectors include a standard three-pin balanced XLR (+4 dBu) and an unbalanced RCA (-10 dBV).
The X-ART tweeter is a technical improvement upon the already impressive ART ribbon design as it provides 4-dB higher efficiency over its predecessor and is capable of frequency reproduction up to 50 kHz. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Up to 50 kHz? Why?” ADAM proposes that such a frequency response provides an absolutely flat (thus more natural) performance past what is discernible by the human ear — normally at the very best, around 20 kHz — rather than the slight top-end roll off that often happens with conventional tweeters.
ADAM claims significant strides in employing new tweeter materials: traditional aluminum coupled with DuPont’s Kapton (a flexible, insulating and moisture-resistant polyimide film) folded into an accordion shape to maximize surface area within the AX’s nearfield design. ADAM explains that this allows the X-ART ribbon to cover almost four times the real estate as a conventional dome tweeter. It is also in constant contact with air outside of the monitor’s structure, thus instantly cooling and maintaining a strict temperature, for optimal performance.
The AX’s 8.5-inch mid-woofer and driver assembly is built of carbon, Rohacell and glass fiber materials; though differing from the materials originally found in ADAM’s upper-end models, it delivers bass and midrange frequencies with notably impressive flatness.
The woofer and tweeter are powered by separate power amps. The tweeter uses a 50W RMS, A/B type amp that was designed in-house at ADAM. The woofer is driven by another ADAM-designed amp, a 150W RMS Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) design. Combine all these A8X components and they deliver an overall frequency response of 38 Hz to 50 kHz (±3 dB), producing a clean 112 dB without breaking a sweat.
When reviewing studio monitors straight out of the box, I prefer to go for the most “low budget” — far from critical listening — application, to first test their resolve in a “worst-case scenario” sort of way. So, I hooked my iPod straight into the RCA inputs of the AX8 in about a minute flat. As you might expect, the results sounded great. But let’s face it, that’s kind of like putting a monkey in a tuxedo.
So, next I wanted to see how quickly and easily I could integrate them into my studio monitor setup, one in which I am very comfortable. I took down my mid-fields, swapped in the A8X pair via the XLR thruputs of my powered sub (a KRK 10s). With very little adjustment to the input sensitivity knob on the front panel and absolutely no adjustments to the rear-panel trim pots (leaving them flat), I was in business and comfortable within 10-15 minutes, tops.
Over the next two months I used them exclusively on several projects with spectacular results. Even on their own, without the subwoofer’s support, low-end response was surprisingly full, wide, clear/clean and accurate; I expect the low end gets significant help from the A8X’s twin tuned bass reflex ports on the front panel.
Midrange response was also uncompromisingly clear to my ears, even biting when working on things like highly distorted guitars or vocals; as such, A8X performance translated flawlessly to the other outside listening environments/setups I regularly depend on to tell me if I am headed in the right direction.
As for the high-end accuracy, it is literally off of the charts, due to the X-ART tweeter and driver components design. It is so unlike anything else in the market I’ve heard before that I honestly don’t think I have anything to compare it to (other than saying it’s the aural equivalent of cold fusion, faster-than-light space travel, or even the myth of perpetual motion). Yet in all seriousness, ADAM’s ribbon tweeter technology is a truly groundbreaking innovation that continues to evolve and improve the tools we audio engineers have to work with.
Pack all of the power described above into a speaker box that streets for $999 (each), and we have a winner all the way around in a world where similarly performing monitors have much bigger price tags. Living with this A8X pair, I truly felt that I was hearing back exactly what was recorded and/or mixed, not an interpretation or the colored characteristics of the monitor itself. That is how transparent and flat I found these speakers.
I contend that A8X mid-field monitors are just what the studio professional on a budget needs — or even aspiring ones, considering the price point. They are designed, handmade and tested all in-house, under one roof, by a known manufacturer with high-quality components. And if it sounds right played back on these monitors, it will translate that well everywhere else.
Price: $999 each
Contact: ADAM Audio USA | adam-audio
Sterling Winfield is a producer/engineer and mixer with multiple Grammy-nominated, platinum and gold album credits.