The Adam Audio A5''s small footprint permits placement in crowded quarters.
The Adam Audio A5 is an active, close-field monitor suitable for a variety of stereo and surround applications. Its diminutive footprint and magnetic shielding allow use where space is limited, such as in cramped control rooms, mobile recording rigs, and post-production edit bays. The A5 measures 11.2×6.8×7.9 inches (H×W×D) and weighs only 11 pounds.
Like other monitors made by Adam, the A5 uses a proprietary A.R.T. (Accelerating Ribbon Technology) folded-ribbon tweeter. The 5.5-inch Rohacell/carbon-fiber woofer employs a more conventional design and is protected by a fixed metal grille. The crossover frequency for the two drivers is 2.2 kHz. A 25W (RMS) amplifier powers each driver.
ON THE FACE OF IT
The monitor's front has radiused and beveled edges to reduce diffractive effects. Two front-firing bass-reflex ports extend the frequency response (cited to be 55 Hz to 35 kHz, ±3 dB) at the bottom end. Each monitor sports a power switch, power-status LED, and detented volume control (which attenuates to total silence at the bottom of its travel). The detachable AC cord is roughly six feet long.
Balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA analog inputs are provided on the A5's rear panel. The XLRs don't latch. An additional pair of unbalanced RCA jacks — labeled Stereo Link — allows setups wherein you can control the volume of two speakers at once using either unit's volume control. An example setup would be to patch the left and right channels of your mix to the respective analog and Stereo Link RCA inputs of the left monitor, making it the master. Then route the supplied 6.5-foot coaxial cable from the left monitor's Stereo Link output to the right monitor's Stereo Link input. A white LED on the master monitor's front panel lights when you plug a cable into its Stereo Link output.
On the A5's back panel, three rotary controls — trimmers you turn using a slot-head screwdriver — have multiple detents that enable precise adjustments. One control adjusts the tweeter's volume level as much as ±4 dB. If your control room has a lot of absorptive acoustic products installed, boosting the tweeter's level should yield a better spectral balance.
Two other trimmers provide a maximum 6 dB of shelving-equalization boost or cut above 6 kHz and below 150 Hz, respectively. You can use low-frequency cut, for example, to decrease bass boost resulting from placing the A5 too close to a wall.
NOW HEAR THIS
I set up a pair of A5s on top of Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers (outstanding acoustic decouplers reviewed at emusician.com), situated on the shelves of an Omnirax workstation. An Acoustic Sciences Corporation Attack Wall (a modular arrangement of tube traps) at the front of my control room further optimized imaging and impulse response.
The A5s require burning in after purchase. After a couple days of playing music continuously on the pair I received for review, I was ready to listen intently. With all rear panel controls set flat, the upper bass sounded slightly pronounced. The midrange was also a tad understated, pushing vocals, fiddle and pedal steel tracks back into the mix. The overall effect was a slightly veiled but unfatiguing sound.
Boosting the tweeter level on both monitors a couple clicks, or about 1 dB, brought vocals and midrange instruments back into proper perspective. I didn't need to use the shelving filters. Imaging, detail, and reproduction of transients all sounded very good after that, although not the best I've heard in a mini monitor in this price range or even cheaper. Low-frequency extension was also very good considering the A5's tiny size, but the bass was also ever so slightly flabby (a common tradeoff with ported monitors). You'll need a subwoofer or alternative full-range reference monitors to evaluate the extreme bottom end of your mixes.
The A5's stereo-linking feature worked great when I used the master A5 to control both monitors' levels. Control of both monitors' volumes from the slave A5, however, was not very symmetrical at low levels. Stereo linking doesn't work at all with the XLR inputs, which means you'll have to sacrifice balanced inputs if you want to use stereo linking.
The A5 costs $799 per pair with a matte black finish, or $879 with a glossy black or white coat. That's more costly than roughly two-thirds of competing mini monitors (some of which also offer digital inputs, which the A5 lacks). But despite my criticisms, the Adam A5 is a high-quality monitor with a unique sound and definitely worth an audition.
Value (1 through 5): 3