Floor-standing Speakers

Adam Audio ARTist 6 Active Speakers

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction to the Adam Audio ARTist 6 Active Speakers

ADAM Audio of Germany is known for two unique design features. One, the use of air motion tweeters which ADAM calls X-ART. Two, a complete line of active speakers ranging from entry level to flagship models. Active speakers have become the standard in the professional studio world yet struggle to get acceptance in the home despite their many advantages over passive speakers.

ADAM Audio provided a 5.0 set of their new ARTist speakers to evaluate. The arrangement consists of dual ARTist 6 mini towers for the front left and right, an ARTist 6H for the center, with a pair of ARTist 5 monitors for the rear channels. The ARTist sub was not provided as my listening space has been tuned specifically for my existing subs.

One advantage of active speakers is space. Traditionally If you want maximum channel separation you use mono block amplifiers. In a five speaker set up you now need a minimum of five separate amplifiers. Each amp taking up space. Now you could also bi-amp each speaker so now you need space for 10 amplifiers. With active speakers you get ideal channel separation and superb driver integration by having amplifiers for not only each speaker, but each driver, all saving space by being housed in the speaker.

The difference between a powered speaker and an active one also revolves around the crossover. An active design crossover works at the line level stage. Rather than using a passive speaker level crossover, a line level active crossover means you can use lower power amplifiers to achieve the same level of output as a passive design using more power. There are other performance benefits as well, active speakers tend to have better dynamics and are usually not as affected by power compression compared to passive designs.

The only issue with active designs has been the lack of models designed for home use. For years I've been using studio monitors in my home theater. Studio models leave much to be desired when it comes to looks, an issue which the ADAM Audio ARTist series has beautifully resolved. The ARTist is an active speaker system designed for home use in both looks and sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

ARTist 6 Active Tower Speaker

  • Design: 2-1/2-way
  • Drivers: One 2" Tweeter, Two 4.5" Carbon Fiber Woofers
  • MFR: 48 Hz - 50 kHz
  • Amplifiers: 35 Watts for Tweeter, 35 Watts for Woofers
  • Input Connectors: RCA/XLR Analog
  • Finish: Gloss Black, Gloss White
  • Dimensions: 33.5" H x 5.5" W x 7.5" D
  • Weight: 20.3 Pounds/each
  • MSRP: $2,000/pair USD

ARTist 6H Active LCR Speaker

  • Design: 2-1/2-way
  • Drivers: One 2" Tweeter, Two 4.5" Carbon Fiber Woofers
  • MFR: 55 Hz - 50 kHz
  • Amplifiers: 35 Watts for Tweeter, 35 Watts for Woofers
  • Input Connectors: RCA/XLR Analog
  • Finish: Gloss Black, Gloss White
  • Dimensions: 19" H x 6" W x 7.5" D
  • Weight: 18.1 Pounds/each
  • MSRP: $1,100/each USD

ARTist 5 Active Bookshelf Speaker

  • Design: 2-1/2 way
  • Drivers: One 2" Tweeter, One 5.5" Carbon/Rohacell/Glass Fiber Woofer
  • MFR: 50 Hz - 50 kHz
  • Amplifier: 50 Watts
  • Input Connectors: RCA/XLR/3.5mm Mini-stereo Analog, USB
  • Dimensions: 11.5" H x 7" W x 8.5" D
  • Weight: 15.4 Pounds/each
  • MSRP: $1,200/pair USD
  • Adam Audio
  • Secrets Tags: Adam Audio, Tower Speakers, LCR Speakers, Powered Speakers

 


Design of the Adam Audio ARTist 6 Active Speakers

It seems odd that the first aspect of the ARTist series I took notice of had to do with the nearly indestructible packaging. In the age of online shopping I can't stress enough how important it is to have packaging that can survive the rigors of shipping. All too often larger speakers suffer significant damage during transit. The packaging on the ARTist 6 was dented and bruised but the well engineered internal foam was fine and the speakers were never in peril. Have no fear in ordering these speakers from an online retailer.

The ARTist 6 is a petite tower using one X-ART tweeter with a dedicated 35 watt amplifier. Dual 4.5" (as stated by ADAM Audio, actual dimensions are smaller, closer to 3") mid-range/bass drivers each with a dedicated 35 watt amplifier. The 4.5" drivers are dual ported on the rear of the cabinet.

Crossover functions are carried out by active circuits before the amplification using line level signals. Each amplifier is fed only the signal range appropriate for the speaker driver being powered. This has several advantages including only needing to primarily swing voltage without much amperage to overcome passive components like inductors, yielding higher volumes than 35 watts would suggest.

Active designs tend to have better crossover performance over a wider volume range as passive crossovers tend to drift as the voice coil heats up and changes impedance. Also because of the short signal path by having the amplifiers in such close proximity to the drivers, active designs tend to be more dynamic and better controlled than most passive designs.

The ARTist 6 come fully assembled with a small plinth (already attached) in either a glossy black or as supplied a stunning gloss white finish. All inputs and controls are on the back panel. These include RCA and XLR inputs, master gain control, bass and treble controls plus an overall tweeter level dial.

Active speakers tend to have low shelf and high shelf controls to tailor bass and treble levels once placed. The ARTist series are no exception. The very nature of being active means the filters tend to be more accurate than passive controls and in the case of the ARTist series these settings are fixed and don't use variable controls which are difficult to match and often inaccurate. The high shelf EQ is fixed to 5khz and has a +/-6db control in what appear to be 1.5db steps (there are 4 settings in each direction).
The low shelf EQ has the same range and is set to 300hz. Both are very useful in compensating for minor room issues such as being too close or too far from a wall or having a reflective surface near the tweeter. Even in what seems like a symmetrical room there are often subtle differences. It's astonishing how much imaging improves with minor adjustments to the EQ settings.

 

The ARTist 6H is essentially the same speaker as the ARTist 6 with the differences being a smaller cabinet designed for LCR use. All drivers and amplifiers are identical to the ARTist 6. For this review the 6H was used as a center channel between a pair of 6 towers. The ports for the 4.5" drivers are at the rear of the cabinet as well.

The ARTist 5 was used for surround duties, the speakers themselves are also very suitable for desktop and near field use and have an integral DAC as well. For the purpose of this review they were exclusively used as surround speakers mounted above and slightly behind my listening position. The ARTist 5 uses a larger single driver, specified as 5.5" by ADAM and measuring closer to 5.25" with a more powerful 50 watt amp. The tweeter appears to be the same unit used in the 6 and 6H but with a more powerful 50 watt amplifier as well. EQ and gain controls are the same while inputs include the addition of 3.5mm stereo and USB.


Setup of the Adam Audio ARTist 6 Active Speakers

Being active designs all five speakers were connected to power, also audio via XLR connections. All speakers were crossed over at 110hz through a Marantz AV7005 for movie listening and run full range via an Audiolab 8200CDQ for music listening.

The front left and right ARTist 6 speakers measurements at my listening position showed a decline in high frequency response and a dip at the crossover between the woofer and tweeter. I suspected the crossover dip was primarily due to my ear level being significantly above the tweeter. The ARTist 6 does not have spike or a built in method of tilting or leveling the speakers. I used some brass feet to tilt the speakers back 3-4 degrees and also raised the overall tweeter level by two notches. Measurements revealed flatter extension to 12k and the crossover dip was all but eliminated. Minor adjustments to the low shelf filter were made to the left and right speakers to even out their in-room bass response.

The ARTist 6H and 5 speakers were left with all EQ settings at their default positions as they would be used with Audyssey XT room correction along with the ARTist 6 when listening to movies. No room correction other than the built in EQ was used on the ARTist 6 for music listening.

The ARTist 6 have a very wide sweet spot and did not benefit from being towed in much. The best balance of imaging and a wide sweet spot happened with just a few degrees of toe-in. Overall the ARTist 6 and 6H proved forgiving of placement with little tonal variation if placed close to a wall or corner or further into a room. Any changes in bass were easily adjusted with the built in low shelf EQ.

All speakers have a back panel power switch with a small LED on the front panel to indicate power or sleep mode. The LED is green when on, and red when in sleep mode. Sleep mode activates if no signal is present for what appeared to be 15 minutes.

I do wish there was a way to disable the sleep mode. During late night listening the surround or left and right channels would occasionally go into sleep mode if the level dropped too low. A minor annoyance.


The Adam Audio ARTist 6 Active Speakers In Use

I started by listening to the ARTist 6 with music being fed by my Audiolab 8200CDQ acting as both pre-amp and DAC. Initial impressions were very good. The bass coming from such slim towers was impressive. As any small speaker relying on ports for additional bass output the lower frequencies at times sounded a bit monotone. During most music bass was taut and tuneful, only when asked to dig very deep did the bass blur into single notes. It's not objectionable and it was s easy to tune out. Bass performance was as well as most lower end subwoofers which is a huge compliment for such a compact speaker. Bass quantity and quality is good enough in small to medium rooms as to put into question the need for a subwoofer if you're not building a 5.1 system. One might actually be able to live with a pure 5.0 or 2.0 system in an apartment or other listening space where excessive bass could travel through walls and disturb others.

At the other end of the frequency spectrum we have effortless levels of detail and complete lack of harshness and fatigue from the X-ART tweeter. The X-ART tweeters are closer in tonality to a fabric tweeter, smooth, subtle, but with considerably extended frequency response more commonly associated with metal domes.. The more you listen the more one appreciates the sophisticated performance of the X-ART tweeter. These are tweeters which will never fatigue or sound harsh. At extremely loud levels when the bass limits of the speaker are exceeded and the mid-range becomes honky and harsh, the tweeters simply shrug off any attempts to deliver anything other than a refined and delicate performance.

Music listening was superb. Tossing everything from Dub Step tracks by Rusko to mellower music from Morcheeba and a lot in between, the listening experience was extremely rewarding. The ARTIst 6 will never be the speaker to physically feel your music. Instead the ARTist 6 is refined and neutral, a speaker that flows forth music into the room with class. Relaxed but not cool in tonality, with an overwhelming sense of sophistication that match their looks. Dynamics are limited for sure but not in an objectionable way as many small speakers can be. If you like to listen at low to moderate levels you'll never be left wanting.

Dynamics became much less of an issue with all speakers crossed over for use with my dual subwoofers. During movie watching that refined sound brought forth immense levels of detail which benefited more subtle mixes such as Lost In Translation. The spatial cues of various spaces beamed through with an incredibly realistic sound field.

Scenes in the elevator of the Park Hyatt hotel are especially wonderful tests of how good an ambient sound field a speaker package can generate. Subtly portraying those delicate mix details is not easy and few speaker packages I've heard do it so well without using identical speakers for each position (as my set up is normally run).

Action movies will never be experienced at movie theater levels of bombastic excitement, no speaker package this small could ever hope to do so. Instead one is treated to a deft, refined experience high on detail, speed and sophistication. Late night listening at low levels is an especially rewarding experience. Nothing is lost by turning the volume down. Low level listening becomes an extremely intimate and rich experience. In both music and movies the ARTist speakers are for those who prefer lower volumes or live in dwellings that prevent high sound levels.

Panning of effects from speaker to speaker is not as smooth compared to using identical speakers but is better than most packages. Integration between the ARTist 6 and the surround channels was particularly good. The ARTist 6H used as a center channel did collapse the front sound stage compared to using three identical speakers but it performed better than most center channels. Dialogue was clear both on and off axis without a trace of box coloration or overly emphasized upper mid-bass.

Having five slim speakers, each with their own amps, driven by a pre-amp, all these factors added up to spectacular imaging. Action, dialogue, and effects are placed with robotic precision. This level of imaging has not been achieved at this price level by any combination of passive speakers and multi-channel amplifiers I've heard so far.


Conclusions about the Adam Audio ARTist 6 Active Speakers

 On paper the advantage of active speaker designs are numerous, in real life these advantages proved themselves admirably.  The ARTist series of speakers are a very sophisticated package which are equally beautiful to look at.  If you live in an upscale modern urban dwelling of small to medium size the ARTist series is a must listen.
The benefit is not just aural but also physical. 

With an active system one is able to achieve the performance of using mono-block amplifiers to bi-amp a speaker while adding no boxes to your equipment rack or furniture.  In an age of ever declining boxes the ARTist series led me to a system consisting of an AV-Preamp, an ultra slim Blu-Ray player and an AppleTV with an equally discreet DAC.  Elegantly simple and incredibly high performing I foresee active speakers growing in popularity.