Hands-On Review:ADAM A7 Powered Monitors
Take the sunglasses off your ears with a pair of A7 monitors
By Darius Van Rhuehl
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer
I’ll admit, to the casual observer and the uninitiated, my sunglasses subhead is a bit bizarre, but I promise it will all come clear to you—just like your tracks when heard through a pair of ADAM A7 monitors. Hmm, perhaps I should have saved that comment for my conclusion, but the truth is, with all the industry awards and positive reviews from world-class producers and engineers extolling the virtues of ADAM A7 monitors, I figure one more isn’t really going to hurt. Not that I’m trying to insinuate myself into that crew, but I did learn how to mix from a platinum-selling producer-engineer who used ADAM S3As exclusively—so I know what ADAM monitors can do and I’ve also heard them severely spank similarly priced monitors in shootouts. That said, let’s talk about the A7s.
Normally, this is where I would talk about the A7’s features, its stellar build quality, state-of-the-art 6-1/2" woofer, front-panel volume control, and rear-panel high-frequency gain and Hi/Lo EQ controls. Next, I’d briefly discuss the revolutionary technology behind its highly musical ribbon tweeter. However, I’m reminded of a quote by Robert Heinlein, “Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it’s supposed to do.” And since the A7s do, I’d rather get right into their performance in terms of mixing. (If you’re interested in the science behind the ribbon tweeter, look up the ADAM A7 at musiciansfriend.com.)
Right now I’m mixing a song that will be submitted to a well-known recording artist. It’s a very important opportunity for me and obviously I don’t want to blow it. Even though I have a pair of near-field monitors that are considered world-class (at least they were seven years ago), having the A7s show up when they did was opportune to say the least.
ADAM Audio A7 Powered Studio Monitors
Before we get into the behavior of the A7s under fire, let’s talk about mixing music in terms of color. Colors blend to make other colors that can then be combined artistically to make a painting—just like overtones combine to make different timbres and different timbres combine to make a mix. Now, let’s say you’re painting a landscape. You want to mix colors that will give you blue for a sky but you have a red gel filter over your eyes. What color do you think you’ll get? Not being a visual artist, I can’t say, but I’m pretty sure it will give you a lovely sky … if you’re painting a landscape of Gallifrey, Doctor Who’s home planet. Sounds silly, yes? Nobody is going to try to paint a realistic-looking landscape with red gel over their eyes—but that’s exactly what you’re doing when you mix using monitors with hyped frequencies and a less-than-linear response. The point is that mixing with marginal monitors is like painting with sunglasses on.
That’s why the guys with the gold and platinum records on the wall will tell you that next to your ears, your monitors are absolutely the most important piece of kit you’ll ever have.
ADAM in the garden of even
Once the A7s were in place I played the mix, which I thought was sounding quite good through my present monitors. Listening for the first time with the A7s, the mix sounded a bit hyped in the midrange and kind of harsh in the upper frequency range. I’m thinking I must have done something wrong, but what? Looking at the inserts on my main stereo bus revealed the reason for the harsh sound: I had my Abbey Road/Chandler mastering plug-ins set with a +4dB bump at 2-7kHz and again at 10kHz (separate plug-in for each frequency range). I had over-EQed the mix so it would sound right on my so-called world-class monitors. Basically, I had EQed my monitors to sound right, not the music. As far as the sound of the actual mix was concerned, all that processing was unnecessary, because once the plug-ins were disabled, the song sounded right. That much processing is also expensive in terms of CPU usage, so being able to eliminate unnecessary plug-ins makes my computer happier and opens up more creative options for me.
Thanks to the linear frequency response of the A7s, I could hear what the instruments were actually doing in the mix. Here’s where a little theory does come into play. The frequency response of the A7 extends from 46Hz to 35kHz, while most monitors top out at 20kHz. Though 35kHz is well beyond the range of human hearing, the effect of a linear response over such a wide bandwidth is the reduction of phase error and an improved transient response in the audible spectrum, which in turn improves the spatial and harmonic relationships of instruments in a mix. The A7s also made it easier to hear the subtle effects of plug-ins at various settings without lots of boosting—essential if you’re going to make valid processing judgments (try seasoning food without ever tasting it).
ADAMant about this
With the A7s I felt as though I were sitting in front of a very serious set of no-compromise professional monitors. After hours of nonstop mixing/listening, I never once felt like I needed an “earbreak,” and the sweetspot seemed to follow me wherever I moved. Thanks to the A7s, I was able to realize a fully professional mix and submit my song with confidence. If I had bounced the pre-A7 mix to stereo and submitted it, I would have delivered an unlistenable product that at most, would have cost me an important opportunity and, at least, tied my name to a bad sound. Either scenario is unacceptable. Having the A7s show up when they did was nothing less than a gift from the audio gods. Even if you’re not submitting music to pros, just posting your music on the net, you still want it to sound right, yes? Then a pair of ADAM A7 monitors should sit at the very top of your must-have list.
Features & Specs
- A.R.T. (Accelerating Ribbon Technology) tweeter
- 2-way active bass reflex speaker
- 2 - 50W RMS amps (one per driver)
- Front-panel power switch and volume control
- Woofer: 6-1/2" Rohacell/carbon fiber sandwich
- Frequency response: 46Hz-35kHz (±3dB)
- Input/HF gain, Hi/Lo EQ controls (rear-mounted)
- Inputs: XLR (bal), RCA (unbal)
- Dimensions: (7"W x 13"H x 11"D)
- Weight: 17.8 lb.
- 5-year warranty