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Next generation: Adam Audio’s S Series actives at Superbooth ’17

Studio monitors are usually tuned for near-field performance; to sit immediately behind a mixing desk or on a desktop. Extrapolating, this makes them well-suited to an apartment dweller’s smaller listening room.

Back in Sydney last year, I found Adam Audio’s AX7’s bass drive too much for my weighty work desk. Better results came once the German actives were moved to loudspeaker stands located two metres from the couch. Here were loudspeakers with an active crossover and bespoke fit amplifiers, one per driver, for just over €1000. Add DAC and streamer and you’re off to the races.

I’m not the only audiophile to remark upon the incredible value quotient offered time and again by the pro audio sector. AudioStream’s Michael Lavorgna runs a pair of the smaller AX5 as desktop monitors in his New Jersey review barn. A Brit friend has the same model gracing a long TV bench in his Berlin apartment. Both he and Lavorgna spent less than a grand on loudspeaker and amplifier.

Berlin based themselves, Adam Audio didn’t have far to travel to Superbooth ’17. Their headquarters, soon to be visited by yours truly, are in Kreuzberg. The modular synthesizer trade show was a mere twenty minutes south by car.

Adam Audio loudspeakers’ ubiquity stretches beyond my own anecdotal evidence. Walk the floor of Superbooth and you’ll see them in use at roughly one in five stands. The message spilling from Adam Audio’s own booth was that the institutional instability of the last few years is very much behind them. New management, new engineers, same high quality sound (if you want it – we’ll get to that).

UK Sales Manager Kevin Bent was on hand to remind us that Adam still manufacturer the AX- and F- series but that their present focus is on higher-end offerings, namely the all-new, 3rd generation S series that comprises three models: the S2, the S3 and S5, with the latter two available in a horizontal version as well as the standard vertical. The S2 are for near-field use, the S3 and S5 for mid- and far-field.

Many die-hard audiophiles dismiss active loudspeakers because the amplifier is fixed. It cannot be switched up to another model. Instead, they prefer to play mix n match with amplifiers that are designed to work with a broad range of passive loudspeakers (and crossovers) but are optimised for none. The fun is in the swaperoo. The sacrifice, all other things being equal, is in sound quality. KEF’s LS50 Wireless don’t simply tell us that, they grab us by the lapels and scream the message into our collective face: surrender the amplifier choice and enjoy better sound for far less money.

Get any audiophile across the line on an active loudspeaker’s technical advantages and s/he might then bristle at a studio (read: pro) monitor’s neutrality. The paradoxical complaint is often that their sound is “too neutral”. Readers are left to ponder that as we return to Adam Audio’ S Series at Superbooth ’17.

That ‘S-ART’ tweeter apparently isn’t a ribbon but an ‘Air Motion Transformer (AMT)’. On the S3 and S5, we note a new ‘DCH’ hybrid midrange driver that, according to Bent, is part dome, part cone.

However, the real story for this audiophile trying to connect hifi- and pro-audio worlds is the S Series’ DSP engine. It comes loaded with Adam’s own presets but also permits custom settings administered either via a back panel rotary and screen or via USB with the company’s own computer app. Don’t like Adam Audio’s take on neutrality? Apply your own, then add DAC and streamer and/or turntable and phono stage.

Pricing? It’s in the video.

Further information: Adam Audio

Written by John H. Darko

John H. Darko

John is the editor of DAR from which he derives an income from its ad revenues. John is also an occasional contributor to 6moons and AudioStream and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR

10 Comments

  1. So am I reading correctly between the lines that I can save a fair amount of cash by going PRO (Adam, Dynaudio, Genelec or even Vanatoo, JBL, Yamaha, etc) vs the more interior designer friendly LS50 wireless. Or are the KEFs in another league soundwise. I already own a DAC and streamer and calculated that I could cover the cost of the KEFs by selling my current integrated and passive speakers. But then I would lose the convenience of a traditional hub and built in headphone amp. I’m so old school.

    • I’m saying that all other things being equal, actives have it all over passives and that the pro world is where we find the best bang for buck actives. The LS50 Wireless also offer *incredible* value.

    • Mike,

      I would like to recommend an active speaker in the other direction in terms of price that provides extreme value. I have a pair of Emotiva Airmotiv 5s on my desktop and am pretty blown away by the sound. I’ve got it paired with a cambridge audio DAC and using a Schiit Vali2 as the preamp/volume control. The bass is tight, midrange slightly forward, and the ribbon tweeter is incredibly smooth yet detailed. They have a great warranty (5-years) and you can try them out for a small re-stocking fee if you don’t like them. You can size up to the 6s or the 8s if you need more low end.

      My main listening setup is decidedly more high end (Benchmark DAC, Musical Fidelity KW500 Integrated, Monitor Audio Silver S10) and this little desktop rig gives gives it a run for it’s money in terms of balance, tonality, and detail.

  2. I totally agree with your general statement about active speakers with DSP and driver specific amps. Your forgot to mention Devialet Phantom! I think most audiophiles want to play with their LEGO-like stereo-system based on separate audio-bricks including cables and power supplies. The guys in the sound-studios prefer to play with the knobs on their mixing console! 🙂

    • You’re absolutely correct – the Phantom range are also a bona fide option for someone looking for a high-end active. In fact, a pair of the Gold Phantom is probably what I’d own if I didn’t review separates.

  3. Thanks for the article, John. The thing I don’t understand: How would you connect a pair of i.e. Adam Audio S2V to a source device? Budget streamers like the Sonos Connect, Bluesound Node etc. don’t have an AES 3 output, same problem with the average PC /Mac or budget CD-Players. The USB-port on the back side of the S2V says “service use only”, so I suspect this is not where I could hook up a source device?

    • The USB is for the dsp settings to be applied by a computer. Streamers can only connect via the speakers’ analogue inputs. And for speakers with XLR Inputs only, a suitably equipped interceding DAC or pre-amp is required.

  4. I wonder how much better they are than the s2x series. I had a chance to buy Adam classic compact active similar to s2x for 1600$. I let it go becoz of these newly announced system. I was waiting on reviews.

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