First Listen: ADAM Audio T Series Monitors
If you’re looking for a quality set of active studio monitors on a budget, look no further than ADAM Audio. Over the past week, I've got to spend some quality time with their new line of T Series studio monitors, the T7V and T5V. I’m pretty blown away with how ADAM Audio was able to provide such quality sound at such a friendly price point.
When you’re first starting out, you more than likely don’t have an insane budget for professional grade monitors, so you try and get the best ones you can and make due with what you have. Of all the monitors I’ve tried in this price range, I personally think the new line of ADAM Audio speakers far surpasses anything in their class.
In this blog, I’ll go over my experience using the T Series monitors in my home studio. Surprisingly, the TV7s and TV5s sound almost identical, the only difference being the TV5s have slightly less volume and attention to detail in the lower sub frequencies. The mid range and higher frequencies are pretty spot on between the two sets of monitors.
In my home studio, I’m currently using a pair of Barefoot Sound Footprint 01s, which sound absolutely incredible on any genre of music, huge low end and detailed high end response. That being said, the Barefoots are about eight times the price of a pair of TV7s.
As I was moving the Barefoots off my monitor stands, I forgot how heavy those bad boys are. For such a small speaker. they surely have some weight. When I pulled the TV7s out of the box, I was shocked by how light they are. The manual says they weigh about 16 lbs, but they felt more like 5 lbs after moving those Barefoots.
My first thought was that the T Series was going to be lacking something in the low frequency drivers or end up rattling when I cranked them up too loud. That was not the case at all. On just about every genre of music I ran through the speakers, they held their ground. Again, very shocked that this light of a speaker at this price point sounded so good.
The quality sound comes from each speaker having two separate Class-D amplifiers built-in. which are custom matched to the tweeter and woofer for optimal performance. The low frequency driver pushes 50 Watts, whereas the high frequency driver is driven by 20 Watts (which is the same for the TV5 series monitors).
Each speaker is also equipped with EQ adjustments on the rear panel, allowing them to be set to your listening environment. Although the frequencies aren’t labeled on the rear panel or manual, you have the ability to adjust the high and low frequency up or down 2dB.
The rear panel also includes a switch that will allow the T Series to accept either +4 or -10dBV, depending on what you are sending into them. You can adjust the ideal playback level with the output dial, which ranges from -60dB to +18dB.
Lower and Mid Range Frequency Response
The woofer has a brand new design from previous series of ADAM Audio monitors to increase focus and power in the low end. It now includes a 7” polypropylene woofer with rear-firing bass-reflex ports. Between the custom amp, new woofer construction and rear dispersion port, the TV7 provides incredible detail in the low end and mid range frequencies.
The TV7 provides highly accurate and detailed frequency response all the way down to 39Hz. Other speakers in its class claim to provide a lot of information down there, but most of them fall short in my opinion. I put this to the test listening to a couple genres of music that exaggerate the low end.
As an engineer and producer, I’m always drawn to the production style and sonic qualities of old Dr. Dre records. I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of most rap music, but there’s something special about his production and mixes that always stand out to me (mostly from an instrumental stand-point). I always have to give one a spin when testing out the low end of new speakers.
After a couple tunes, I was pretty sold on the TV7s. On his older records, there’s a combination of sampled and live instruments. The drums are mostly sampled, but the bass is usually live. Since the kick drums are mostly focused in the lower sub frequencies, it leaves more room for the live bass to stand out in the mid range.
Without the use of my sub, I was able to feel the sub frequencies in the kick drum, something that rarely happens if you’re not using a pair of professional grade studio monitors. But what stood out to me the most was the detail in the mid range. The attack of the kick drum was snappy without ever getting overbearing, resulting in a great relationship with the sub frequencies of the drum.
The bass guitar kind of shines on these monitors. I think the main strength of the T Series monitors is the detail provided to the mid range. Most monitors in this price point do some sort of scoop in the mids to make the lower and higher frequencies more exciting, I don’t feel that way at all with these monitors, the mid-range is in the forefront.
Although I don’t know exactly what kind of bass was used on these recordings, it sounds to me like an active bass such as a Lakeland or Music Man, the sound truly emphasizes the note, string noise and presence of the instrument. All of that came across crystal clear through the TV7s, it seemed like every note of the bass was in the forefront of the mix and never got lost.
Now with all that being said, I listened to a couple different sources throughout several genres of music and the one thing I noticed was what seemed like a limiter engaging as I turned the speakers up. Not that I could noticeably hear it kicking in or it was affecting the sound, but at a certain point the more I cranked my system, it seemed as though the power didn’t increase, just an increase in volume.
It’s not usually the case while mixing that you want the low end to shake your bones or blow your hair back (mostly due to ear fatigue), but sometimes as a listener, you want that to happen. I had my Universal Audio Apollo rig about 75% up (which would probably kill you with the Barefoots, at very least engage the limiters) and still wasn’t getting that airflow happening. On the other hand, the mix still sounded really good, the speaker never seemed to fold into itself.
After hearing that “limiting” situation, I wanted to experiment with engaging my subwoofer. I have a smaller KRK sub in my home studio that I kick on every once in awhile to feel more low end when working on pop, rap, R&B or hip-hop. It really doesn’t do all that much due to it being about a quarter of the way up (and the Barefoots rarely need any support), but I like to have the option.
Just a little bit of the subwoofer made a world of difference to the sound, it turned the speakers into a pro mixing rig. Now when I started to crank the system, the power was increasing. If you work on genres of music that involve great attention to detail in the lower frequencies, I highly recommend pairing a subwoofer with either of the T-Series monitors.
High Frequency Response
Both monitors in the T Series include ADAM Audio’s innovative U-ART 1.9” tweeter, providing pristine and extended high frequency response up to 25kHz. The tweeter is made from high tech polyamide film, which is the same material used on thermal blankets for spacecrafts and satellites. The tweeters innovative folded design is one of the key components that sets the T Series apart from any other monitor in its class.
Most tweeters are constructed as a dome or cone that uses a piston action to move air. The U-ART tweeter is special in design because it uses a pleated membrane that draws air into the folds and squeezes it out in response to the input audio signal. This unique tweeter construction produces four times as much air movement as the standard piston-based design, resulting in higher SPL and far lower distortion.
This allows you to hear great detail while in the mixing or tracking process, which can help speed up the workflow on making final decisions to where the high end response of the mix should be. This also helps with translation between mixing environments.
Sometimes a “consumer” price pointed monitor can lack attention to detail in the higher frequency. It makes you push them way too hard, then when listening in the car or somewhere that is “Hi-Fi,” it will sound as if the mix is attacking you. The tweeter design also helps the listener to listen or mix at lower than average levels without suffering from listening fatigue.
So when testing out higher frequency on new speakers, I like to listen to a combination of classic recordings, acoustic music and modern rock productions. Genres that don’t really focus on an exaggerated low end. One of my favorite records for this is Rumors by Fleetwood Mac.
On just about any system, this record sounds amazing. Even with the older console technology they were using while making this record, you can really hear the space and definition between instruments. The tones are damn near perfect on every instrument and the effects are lush and present without ever being too much.
Listening to a couple songs on this record was another strong selling point to me on the T Series monitors. A tune like “Dreams” is filled with ambient guitars and vocals to fill in all the space around the lead vocal. The T Series monitors take pride in providing a highly accurate representation of the panning happening throughout the recording and detailed focus in the stereo imaging. I was very impressed by how good they sounded listening through this record, I would highly recommend the T Series monitors if this is a genre you are primarily working on.
Another song I love to reference for mid and high frequency presence is “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. Without paying too much attention to frequency like an engineer would, you would think this tune has a lot happening in the low end, but that’s not the case at all. It’s kind of a phenomenon to me that a tune without too much low end can have as much power and impact as "Billie Jean" does. As good as the music production is on the track, the main focus and magic is happening in the vocal performance.
If you listen closely, you can hear Michael snapping while singing the lead vocal. This is something I’ve noticed on other higher end monitoring systems, but it is sometimes lost on cheaper speakers, especially ones that scoop out the mid frequencies. On both the T Series monitors, those snaps are crystal clear, which really helps add excitement while listening to the song.
The snare and effects on the drums are spot on through the T Series speakers. The snare in the intro is kind of swimming in reverb, I’ve heard it sound kind of mushy on other sets of speakers in this class, but the T Series maintained a good snap on the kick and snare while keeping the lushness of the reverb.
Lastly, I listened to a couple tracks from a band called +44. The record is a combination of electronic elements, live drums, aggressive distorted guitars and layers of vocal harmonies. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think the musical production on the record is pretty incredible. The mix is pretty aggressive and inherently bright, which on some systems sound really good, but others it can be a little too much.
Listening to this album brought to my attention where the high frequency driver begins to fold a little bit, which was mostly due to the amount of distortion on the electric guitars. Although I don’t think it ever sounded “bad” per say, I think the amount of distortion on the electric guitars was causing the tweeters to overreact, which caused the speakers to add more distortion. It wasn’t this way when listening at a very low volume (probably close to where I would have them while mixing), but started to stand out when I was listening at louder SPL (as you would when listening to a “rock” record).
That being said, I still think the T Series monitors would be a good fit for someone primarily working on rock music and needs a quality set of speakers on a budget. You shouldn’t be mixing as loud as I was playing back anyways, so as long as you keep them in a “safe” zone, there isn’t any problem during playback.
The TV7s are priced at $500 a pair, which is one of the friendliest price points around for a quality set of speakers. As I mentioned earlier, I think the TV7s are the best speaker in this class and did an excellent job with the playback of all genres of music.
The TV5s are priced at $400 a pair and are a great pairing for a room that isn’t all that big or properly treated. A huge perk of smaller speakers are their ability to fit any size room, and especially sound better in a smaller, untreated room (such as a home project studio).
There wasn’t a build up in any frequency range throughout the entire demo of the TV5s, and I thought they sonically held their ground against the TV7s. They are also very small and lightweight, great for a quality set of travel monitors if you do a lot of work from the road.