German monitor manufacturer ADAM Audio has built itself a solid reputation with its range of active monitors, all of which feature its very own ART Ribbon tweeters and midrange units.
"Where previous incarnations have felt a little overblown, to us these are just right."
The new AX and SX ranges feature the X-ART, a further development of this design.
The A8X is the biggest of the AX range and is intended as a near or midfield monitor. It is a two-way system with an 8.5" bass driver and ribbon tweeter and the cabinet is a twin-ported design, which looks calmly professional and well put together.
Our one surprise on taking them out of the box was that they felt much lighter than we expected. If you're going to be moving these around a lot, it could be of great benefit but somehow we expected them to be heavier.
Aside from the front-mounted power switch and master level knob all connectors and controls are situated on the back panel. ADAM has sensibly given the option of balanced and unbalanced audio inputs accessed via XLRs or phonos.
We connected using XLRs fed from our SPL monitor controller, and the first thing we noticed was that in comparison to our other monitors the overall level felt a bit low.
Even with the front-panel level controls set full they still came out a fair deal quieter than our Bryston powered KRK 7000Bs and our Sonodyne 100s. A few more dBs of gain wouldn't go amiss for those of us trying to balance between several pairs of speakers.
There are three back-panel controls to help you tailor the sound to your own personal taste and to the needs of your room.
These consist of a high and low shelf with variations of +/- 6dB and a separate tweeter level control with +/- 4dB to work with.
The crossover point is at 2.5kHz so the tweeter level gives an all but linear control of the frequencies above this point.
The high and low shelves are set at 5kHz and 300Hz respectively so between the three controls, you have a fair amount of variation to suit your room and taste.
High to low
Our first impression of the A8Xs was positive. We've used ADAMs in studios before and were always a bit suspicious of the high-end response, finding it too extreme and a little unreal, especially in the very high frequencies.
But these new X-ART tweeters sound stunning. Smooth and clear with fantastic detail and great imaging. Where previous incarnations have felt a little overblown, to us these are just right.
However, with every style of music we put through them, we kept coming back to the same conclusion. While the top sang out with beautiful detail, the mids and lows never really came into balance.
We particularly felt that the mid-range really lacked any presence or bite. In comparison to all the other speakers we heard them against, they just didn't have enough detail in the 150Hz to 2kHz range.
The result is that, although very pleasant to listen to, everything comes out sounding very smooth and hi-fi. Balancing and EQing on them therefore proved to be hard work and in certain circumstances a little confusing.
It felt to us that the extended low end that that 8.5-inch bass driver delivered and the bigger cabinet space somehow tipped the balance for the mids.
With the crossover set at 2.5k the bass driver needs to have a very good mid response and maybe it's just being asked to do too much. But those tweeters do sound great!
We've loved the smaller units in the new AX range and they represent great value too but this big well-built two-way is all about the treble and bass.
Sturdy, with excellent HF detail and imaging, let down by their mid-range response.