$ 999.00 MSRP; $749.00 street
Adam Audio is well-known to discerning producers, engineers, and musicians for their top-tier studio monitors, such as the SX and AX series. But Adam has also been working hard to service other markets with speakers that leverage Adam’s technology and build quality, but within a more affordable format. In the ARTist series, Adam aims to provide monitoring and loudspeakers to recording musicians and discerning consumers looking for solutions for their computers, iPods, home theaters, and other multimedia rigs.
The ARTist 5 is a two-way, biamplified (two 50-watt amplifiers, one per driver) speaker system with a 5.5" woofer, a 2" X-ART tweeter, and a fixed crossover frequency of 2.8 Hz. The cabinetry is made of a shiny white surface that is reminiscent of a MacBook. Its corners are not completely square or rounded, but a nice blend of facets and curves. The look sharp and crisp, yet running your end over the corners it feels smooth to the touch. The speakers are quite heavy, and this is a good thing. The ported, rock-solid cabinetry holds the speakers in firmly and won’t transfer energy away—a nice quality in a compact enclosure. Contributing to the weight is a substantial heat sink on the rear panel. Heat prevents electronic components from working efficiently, and it’s obvious Adam takes this principle seriously.
The ARTist 5 uses the same front-panel control scheme as found on other Adam models: a volume knob with a center detent at 0 dB, plus a sturdy rocker-type On/Off switch. Because the controls are placed along the bottom edge, you can easily slide your hand across a desk surface and make quick changes without lifting your arm. A red LED indicates power-on status, and a green LED indicates signal presence. If your levels risk overdriving the speaker, the green LED turns orange.
Ergonomically, I very much like the ARTist 5’s operation and controls, and especially the fact that the 1/8" input is on the front panel (centered between the volume knob and power switch), facilitating quick insertions and removals of iPods, handheld recorders, and other portable media devices. The more permanent connections are found on the rear panel, consisting of two RCA Inputs (one for the source, another for stereo linking from a second ARTist 5 speaker), one RCA Output, and a balanced XLR In. There’s also a USB port for connecting audio via a computer or other audio interface. Counting the 1/8" stereo mini in on the front, that’s a total of four input options. A recessed dual-power mode switch allows for both 230V as well as 115V operation.
Rear panel controls include a tweeter Level knob that allows you to go from -4dB to +4dB in discrete, articulated steps, with a center detent at 0dB. Additionally, there are two trim knobs for a ±6dB change in high and low shelving EQ, with corner frequencies of 5kHz and 300Hz.
The speakers are rated at 50W RMS and 75W peak, which is more than enough to fill your room or office with loud, clean, unclipped audio. With my various upstream levels normalized, I was getting plenty of sound with the front-panel level control in the 11:00 position. The orange light never even flickered, which was encouraging. (It’s not like with guitar levels, where “a little distortion” is desirable.) In fact, to get the overdrive circuitry to visually register, I had to turn the speakers up to an uncomfortably loud level. Even so, I could see—but not hear—warnings of audio clipping. Listening carefully to the balance and quality of the source material, I was assured of plenty of headroom in the ARTist 5’s. They have headroom to burn.
The StereoLink function is handy, because it means you don’t have to drag a cable from the mixer or computer to the far speaker, thus adding to cable clutter. You simply connect the audio source to the near speaker and use the speaker-to-speaker stereo link to complete the connection. Either speaker can control the overall level. Nice.
The sound at all levels was balanced and full, and I particularly liked having the tweeter control for the additional shaping it provides. For nearfield and smaller speakers, I’m much more focused on the mid and high frequencies, and the ARTist 5’s tweeters sounded especially sweet and present on the various program material I provided. This is not to say the bass wasn’t up to the job. It was. On a trio recording of acoustic bass, piano, and drums, the fundamentals of the bass’s low pizzicato strings came out focused and clear. The stereo imaging, evidenced by the spread-mic approach on the piano, was excellent. Harder-edged music fared well too, with blistering guitar solos coming through with the intended edge, but not crossing over into strident. These are excellent all-purpose monitors.
The signature Adam sound is well represented in the ARTist A5, and the gleaming white cabinetry and matte black hardware imbue the ARTist 5’s with a sleek and classy look. Their heavy-duty build quality, along with multiple input options, StereoLink, and EQ options enable them to fulfill a range of multimedia roles. The ARTist A5’s deliver great audio, and they do it in style.