9th June 2022 saw the UK launch of Adam Audio’s new A Series speakers. Held at Tileyard in London – a fabulous creative hub for the audio industry – it was great to mix with a slightly different bunch of people. Adam Audio focuses on the Pro sector, supplying active speakers to studios. The launch seemed to have attracted half the next generation of recording engineers! The vibe was good, helped by demonstrating the speakers in real recording studios. Think much chatter, lots of friendly jostling for the sweet-spot engineer’s chair, not a few laughs. All in all, a hugely enjoyable day.
Based in Berlin where it still has manufacturing facilities, Adam Audio started out in 1999, recently joining the Focusrite Group (which has many other Pro interests). The new A Series supersedes the previous AX one, which was current for 13 years. That’s an aeon in audio terms and apparently it’s still popular. How to entice new customers whilst keeping your existing ones happy? Include a DSP emulator on the new models to make them sound more like the old ones. Applied technology or what?!
Pro speakers for the HiFi Starter?
Active speakers may well be of interest to the HiFi Starter. This article explains why (it started out as a preamble to this one but quickly grew into its own post). The gist is that as well as reducing box count – amplification is usually inside the cabinet – modern active speakers allow the use of sophisticated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) that can improve sound quality and ease setup. And we the consumer don’t need to match the amplifier to the speaker, the manufacturer does it for us.
Adam Audio itself is also aiming the new A Series at consumers as well as the Pro sector. Could they be an ideal choice for those juggling music creation with music listening? Or just a good choice for the HiFi Starter full stop? Quite possibly, hence us requesting a pair to review. In the interim here’s the lowdown……….
Five new models
Andrew Goldberg, head designer at Adam Audio, kicked things off by taking us through the new range. The series comprises two vertically oriented models (A4V, A7V) and three horizontal ones (A44H, A77H, A8H). Pricing is below, all per pair. UK / Europe prices include VAT, US prices exclude taxes (Pro sites often price per speaker and/or exclude VAT). Note that the old range doesn’t map directly onto the new one e.g. the A4V is between the A3X and A5X.
The first three models fall fair and square into HiFi Starter territory. Ideal for a sub £2k system, just add a source. If you can stretch your budget then the A77H and A8H options are well worth a listen too.
All models use Adam Audio X-ART tweeters that are handmade in Berlin (they’re folded designs that require a high degree of skill to construct). The tweeters sit within a glass fibre polymer waveguide (not cheaper plastic) that’s rotatable for alternative positioning. For mechanical integrity you need to unscrew the guide before rotating it. The waveguide is also rebated, which helps maintain consistency of sound between studios (partly by directing the sound to avoid reflections).
The woofers and midrange units are made from a new multilayer mineral (MLM) material of Adam’s design. Its thickness and profiling varies by driver. The woofers sit within a die-cast basket rather than the usual pressed steel found at this price level.
Amplification is hybrid. Lower-power bespoke Class AB amps for the tweeters, efficient high-power Class D amps for the mid/bass drivers. The power ratings vary by model. The power supply is a switched-mode device, which means one power supply handles all voltages worldwide. Audiophiles sometimes get a bit snooty over non-linear power supplies. That uber-high-end company dCS Audio uses a mix of linear and switched mode supplies in its £100k+ digital converters tends to nix the argument though.
The clever bit
The A Series typifies the new breed of active speaker in deploying a lot of DSP capability. All done at 96kHz rather than the more common 48kHz.
First up are the different voicings, or tonal characteristics. Opt for UNR on the rear panel to mimic the sound of the previous AX Series (that’s simplifying it somewhat but you get the gist). Or go with ‘Pure’, which is set flat for accuracy, something that’s important to sound engineers. Neither of those attractive? Go External, which links to the free-to-download A Control software to tailor things to your bespoke preference. A Control allows you to make adjustments remotely, in real time, from a connected computer (Mac or Windows).
Sonarworks’ sophisticated Room Correction software has also been incorporated into the new A Series, allowing sonic profiles to be developed on a computer then downloaded to the speaker itself. Adam Audio points out that Sonarworks is something of an industry standard now. And hardware manufacturers partnering with software specialists is also becoming a norm in audio now. The two hooking up makes sense to us.
The A Control / Sonarworks options do require some effort by the user though. For a simpler option use the equalisation (EQ) available via the speakers’ rear panel. This allows 3-4 choices in each of four frequency ranges. Operation is straightforward – hit the relevant button until you get to your chosen setting – so you don’t need the manual on hand all the time. A good design touch for sure.
Overall the A Series’s equalisation capabilities make the speakers very flexible whilst maintaining ease of use. Adam Audio envisages home users adapting the tuning by use case – one setting for music, another for movies, maybe a third for gaming. It will certainly be interesting to experiment in a review.
Brief listening impressions
Goldberg’s talk was refreshingly straight, as becomes a Pro sector guy. Then it was onto demonstrations that were held in two different recording studios. The different models were stacked on top of each other. It might look haphazard but was done to ensure a single sweet spot for all speakers. Goldberg had also spent considerable time optimising each model to its environment.
Which made a real difference according to one fellow attendee. He’d already worked with one of the models in the very studio in which they were being demonstrated (Adam Audio had seeded several models ahead of the launch). “A very different speaker” and “much much better” were two comments that stuck with me. It was a powerful advert for the EQ capabilities of the A Series.
My own listening was limited. With the smaller A4V & A7V models I didn’t even make it to the sweet-spot engineers chair. Given both models are intended for nearfield use it’s no surprise I found them bass light from further back in the studio. They did sound detailed though. I’m looking forward to getting one of them in for review; careful listening will reveal their true nature. Oh and check those monster bad boys behind them in the photos. Adam Audio S5H monitors, yours for £18k a pair. I was itching for someone to switch them on.
The amiable Andrew Goldberg
The larger A77H and A8H models took me very pleasantly by surprise; they were much richer and fuller than expected for a studio monitor. Clinical they were not. Partly down to strong bass, which in practise all but negates the use of a subwoofer (all A Series have connections for subs). Partly because that’s just their sonic signature. Whatever, the sound left me wanting more. A shame they’re slightly over the usual HiFi Starters budget or I’d request a pair for review.
And that’s about it. It was certainly an informative day, the A Series looking really interesting. And experiencing the Pro sector view of the world first hand was both informative and refreshing. As I write I’m about to chase up the review model request, so watch this space. If you need any more information beforehand then Adam Audio’s website is very informative, as the time I’ve spent there shows. It just remains for me to thank Kevin Bent, Adam Audio UK Sales Manager, for the invitation to the launch.
“Bass is just controlled wind” – an unintended Andrew Goldberg comment, his face a picture when we laughed!
“RCA phono sockets are the fish fingers of the audio world.” The perfect putdown (Pros use balanced connections) even if the quote was borrowed.
Six subs to heaven
In conversation Goldberg detailed the best way to set up subwoofers. Three across the front of your room to give a bass ‘line’ rather than a wave. Three more at the back, phase reversed so they don’t cancel out the front ones. Then set both arrays up so the bass reaches the listening position at the same time.
Very difficult to achieve according to Goldberg – he’s only heard it done well twice (and one of those he set up himself). Utterly captivating when you get it right though.