Review: ADAM Audio A77X AX-Series Powered Studio Monitors

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These “ideally priced” monitors are nicely frequency balanced, thoughtfully designed, capable of loud performance and factory guaranteed for five confidence-boosting years. 

Certain audio manufacturers become known for a singular iconic design that defines their philosophy and market placement, and the ART folded ribbon tweeter from ADAM Audio is a perfect example. Known for its crisp detail and non-fatiguing musicality, this ART tweeter was updated via its X-ART incarnation in 2009. Then in 2010, ADAM Audio first introduced the AX-Series featuring that X-ART tweeter plus significantly lower prices than their flagship SX-Series. The A77X, the AX-Series’ horizontally positioned, three-way loudspeaker, is the top of the five-model series.

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Features

Starting with the X-ART tweeter, its actual diaphragm area (if unfolded) is four square inches (the equivalent of a 56mm dome tweeter in area) with a velocity ratio of 4:1. Crossover is at 3kHz and the tweeter reaches up to 50 kHz.

The A77X’s 7-inch woofers appear to share all the characteristics of the premium SX-Series, a “double sandwich” of fiberglass/carbon fiber/Rohacell and high excursion. One of its woofers handles only 400 cycles and below, while the other reproduces lows as well as mid content up to 3 kHz, where the ribbon takes over -- a “2.5 way” design, perhaps? Each woofer is powered by its own 100W PWM-type amp, whereas the tweeter has its own 50W A/B-type amp.

The rear panel houses both XLR and RCA inputs, a low- and high-frequency shelving EQ control (at 300 and 5kHz, respectively, + or -6 dB) and a tweeter level control (+ or -4 dB).

The cabinet is a bass reflex design with dual front panel ports and optional magnetic shielding. ADAM Audio defines the A77X as suitable for both nearfield and mid-field monitoring considering its high power (114 dB output longterm), high SPL levels (122 dB max.) and radiation characteristics. The A77X carries a five-year warranty.

In Use

I incorporated the A77X pair into my workflow during a business lull, fully replacing my quite-similar Blue Sky SAT8 main monitors (3-way, “upper-mid level” priced, mid-field design) atop my Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers and workstation furniture. I chose to position the mid-woofers towards the outsides of my sweet spot (the A77X pair are marked as either A or B models for this), which was the placement that sounded the best with the best imaging. I kept my Blue Sky subwoofer in service, slightly adjusting levels for harmony with the ADAM Audio monitors.

I proceeded to do only clientless editing and rough mixing work for the next week and a half. During that time, I honestly never felt comfortable with the A77X monitors. Previously, I had reviewed the earlier ADAM S7 monitor, and I did not remember what I was hearing this time around: arguably “rude” high-mids, cold low-mids, and an overly forward presentation. Seriously vexed and doubtful, I called in a knowledgeable, speaker-designing friend — Bill Weir, Senior Designer with Clarity, Inc. — to second guess me, and he agreed, suggesting the A77Xs didn't sound “broken in yet.”

Two days later, I had a “mix hell” day: 11 nu-metal songs to be mixed in less than 8 hours (so, it was more like “budget hell”). The work was honestly punishing, but even with loud mix levels (metal is, after all, consumed this way or louder), the A77Xs took the job in stride. The client approved all 11 mixes, the EQ balance was A-OK, and I wasn't even frazzled at session’s end! However, during this session I noticed my client wasn't hearing what I was hearing, and he only concurred my findings after mix checks on headphones and bandwidth-limited Auratone-style speakers. 

The very next day, I resumed editing and it seemed the A77X pair changed completely; the harsh top end was now extremely detailed; clacky high-mids was now musical; and “aluminum” low-mids now sounded woody and rich. The bottom end changed the most, however — thanks to some adequate spider and surround exercise — it’s not tight and overly-damped, but actually round, pillowy and delightfully lingering. In fact, I was impressed with ample bottom and punch, even with my subwoofer bypassed.

So, I just had to bring Bill Weir back for another listen, and his opinion changed, too. We had previously trimmed the tweeters back 2dB; now with the A77X pair operating “flat,” Bill also appreciated the full bottom end, cleaned-up mids and ever-so-slightly-forward top end representation. In fact, it seems the break-in period helped the A77X pair cross a quality threshold, as Bill now declared, “I'd buy these. I could work on these.”

Don't let the smallish A77X cabinet size, diminutive weight, or 7-inch woofers surprise you:these boxes will rock. They never shut down, although they will distort if pushed very hard and they get plenty loud enough to cut guitars in the control room. The manufacturer’s literature doesn't address speaker protection though, so I hope they'll hold up over time.

My only significant concern is a very particular one. Although the X-ART tweeter provides even distribution along the vertical X-axis, there is some unevenness horizontally across the Y-axis. As one moves from center, there is substantial drop in high-mids at about two-thirds of the way towards the other monitor and then, in front of the other monitor, those high-mids “reappear.” This makes for a narrow sweet spot, thus not ideal for situations with more than one critical listener.

Summary

Despite an awkward start on my part and given enough time in use, the ADAM Audio A77X won me over. This powered monitor is nicely frequency balanced, thoughtfully designed, capable of loud performance and factory guaranteed for five confidence-boosting years. 

In my carefully weighed opinion, they could use some magnetic shielding, are a bit hard to break in, are slightly “highs forward,” a little uneven in their dispersion patterns, and could throw a little more evenly for mid-field monitoring. Conversely, I believe the A77X disperses nicely for a single listener application; centered in the sweet spot, they excel in the nearfield and have the richest low-mids and most delightfully bouncy bottom end of anything I'd dare to call “highs forward” monitors. 

At approximately $2,800 per pair, the A77X is certainly not a budget monitor; they are destined for professional use. Yet for the market, I believe they are ideally priced, as the quite-similar Adam SX-Series S3X-H (with identical drivers and same horizontal config as the A77X) are priced at approximately $7,000 per pair. I’ve listened to the S3X-H monitors, too, and I find the A77X to be its impressively affordable alternative. 

Rob Tavaglione is the owner/operator of Charlotte’s Catalyst Recording and a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review. catalystrecording.com

Price: $1,399 each, street

Contact: ADAM Audio | adam-audio.com