There are lots of small speakers. Compact size doesn’t justify their existence. The biggest problem I have with small monitors is that they usually earn praise as long as one qualifier is applied: “They sound really good for their size.” The other common qualifying phrase is “for the price.” I don’t like having to make either excuse for gear.
That said, the ADAM ANF10s are both small and inexpensive — the boxes they come packed in are smaller than my normal monitors. Their price is $750. That’s per pair, not per speaker.
Two questions: Will I need to make excuses? And how close is the resemblance to the other ADAM siblings?
The ANF10 is the first passive ADAM monitor, which means “BYOA” (Bring Your Own Amp). The ANF10s seemed very happy with my Harman-Kardon Citation 16A (175W RMS a side) amps. That’s a lot of power for a small speaker. They only complained with very low frequencies at full power — and what 7" driver wouldn’t cough with 40Hz at 175W?
ADAM monitors use Accelerated Ribbon Technology (A.R.T.) folded ribbon tweeters, a pleated diaphragm that squeezes air out instead of pushing it like a conventional voice coil. The ribbon on the ANF10 is a redesign of the one used on bigger ADAMs, with the same diaphragm but smaller magnets. The woofers in most ADAMs are made of a special material called HexaCone. The ANF10s use a 7" coated-paper woofer instead, with a smaller voice coil.
My first impression of the ANF10s was very positive. I set them up and put in a CD, listening at a moderate level while I worked. They’re pleasant speakers to listen to. They seemed a little darker than my Tannoys, which surprised me, because the signature ADAM sound is clear and open on top. I discovered the directionality of the tweeter was responsible for that impression. I had the speakers sitting above ear level and the vertical dispersion of the tweeter is best at ear level, which is where most console-mounted loudspeakers reside. After living with them for a while, I noticed this trait often.
CRANK IT UP
With enough power, these babies will play loud. The bottom has a lot of output around 120Hz, so you feel like you’re hearing more low end than the speaker is putting out. It’s a faux-bass reminiscent of the NS-10, where you know there’s nothing below about 65Hz but you can enjoy listening anyway. I found judging the mix level on bass guitar was easy with the ANF10s. Judging the bottom of a kick drum, on the other hand, was difficult.
I tried them with a subwoofer, which I’d recommend. The sub filled in the 20–65Hz range making the bottom easier to judge. The ideal environment for these speakers would be with an active sub with built-in crossover, relieving the ANF10s from handling the bottom two octaves (from 20 to 80Hz).
Excellent imaging is one of ADAMs’ strongest points, and was evident with the ANF10s. The clarity was also very good. I heard overzealous de-essing on albums that I hadn’t noticed before, and discovered panning details that I’d missed in the past. Noises and other problems were very apparent, which is a good thing in a studio monitor.
I’m impressed with the ANF10s. Their pleasing sonic character and the honest (sometimes too honest) presentation of mixes make them a good studio monitor. While you can use them without a sub, I’d recommend adding one, which turns them into a capable full-range monitor that’s still affordable. My friend, George Cumbee of Classic Recording, echoed my sentiments after hearing them side by side with the $3K active monitors he normally uses. “Wow — I could actually mix on these!” I agree. There aren’t any other speakers I’ve heard under $1,000 that I can say that about.