March 09, 2012
| by Robert Archer
A few years ago the German manufacturer Adam Audio entered the residential market after having successfully navigated the pro audio world.
Aiming for the prosumer category, which includes a new breed of computer audio enthusiasts, home recording enthusiasts and professionals who need smaller and cost-effective speakers for alternative applications, Adam Audio made a big splash with its A3 and A5 active speakers.
After reviewing a pair of the A5s in a computer audio system and in a recording environment, I thought the Adam product offered a lot of value. Adam offered me an opportunity to check out the replacement products for the A5: the ARTist 5. The ARTist 5 is one of several new ARTist series products and this medium size active monitor like its predecessor can be used for multimedia and recording.
The ARTist 5 includes RCA, XLR, a 3.5mm and USB inputs to provide a variety of connection options. The speaker also incorporates Adam Audio’s Stereo Link option that allows both speakers to be controlled via a single front-mounted volume control. Internally the speaker features two 50-watt amplifiers that are set up to drive the company’s proprietary X-ART ribbon tweeter and a 5.5-inch carbon fiber woofer.
I used the speakers in a computer audio system that included an iMac connected via USB, and in a recording system using hardware from PreSonus and Apple, as well as Apple Logic Pro software.
In the first scenario I connected the ARTist 5 with my iMac using iTunes. Setup was simple: I ran a USB cable from the input of the left speaker and ran RCA cables to the Stereo Link connections to enable single volume knob controls and I went into my iMac’s System Preferences to choose the ARTist 5 output option, which appeared in the computer’s audio menu.
My initial impression of the speaker is that it’s much more consumer friendly thanks to the inclusion of the USB input, which eliminates the need to buy an external DAC.
I think the speaker sounds much more balanced than the A5, and it’s much smoother too. After letting the speakers break-in I began evaluating and found the speakers to produce an airy top end with a variety of AIFF, WAV, Apple Lossless and AAC files. In addition, the speakers produced a focused image that delivered a lot of detail. I did hear a slight bit of ripeness in the 200Hz to 400Hz octave, but I suspect room interactions may have contributed to that.
Getting into some direct comparisons, I listened to a few tracks from Michael Jackson’s Thriller on vinyl and then listened to the same tracks as iTunes downloads (and yes, I realize it’s not quite a fair comparison format-wise). I thought the ARTist 5s did a great job in reproducing the low-resolution files without taking away from the enjoyment of the music.
The Adams didn’t pump up the bass or add shrillness to the tracks’ top end. I also found the speakers locked into MJ’s vocals and presented them right down the center of the image along with a reverb-soaked snare drum. Panning slightly left on the mix of “Beat It,” Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo was reproduced with space and warmth, and as a whole the speakers never missed a spatial cue or transient effect.
Getting into lossless audio, Steve Morse’s cover of Rush’s La Villa Strangiato provided an awesome listening experience through the ARTist 5s. Cues such as the shift in soundstage focus from the song’s Flamenco-influenced intro into the riff-based verse were nailed with guitar and drums pushed to the edges of the left and right image. Other songs affirmed the speakers’ dynamics and displayed nice low-end extension without compression or sloppiness, while fast drum fills maintained their tonality and impact.
In a formal recording environment at Sarrin Music Studios, my friends Chris Maggio and Mike Blewitt helped me create two tracks from scratch. The first track is a Flamenco, Al Di Meola-influenced song that was recorded live using two condenser microphones. They hammered out the chord progression on the spot, with Maggio playing a nylon-string Takamine classical guitar and Mike playing a Taylor 314CE acoustic.
Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.