ADAM’s A Series speakers continue to impress.
When ADAM Audio replaced their AX series of active speakers with the new A Series last year, they included no fewer than three portrait‑format models. The A8H midfield monitor is at the top of the range and, like the others, features onboard DSP‑based voicing, room correction, six‑band parametric equalisation, Sonarworks SoundID Reference integration and LAN‑based remote control.
The A8H’s black enclosure features a deeper version of ADAM’s signature deep‑bevelled baffle, which is designed to reduce cabinet diffraction, and thicker panels to minimise unwanted resonances. The cabinets come in left‑ and right‑handed versions, with the treble and midrange drivers sitting on the inside position, and the 8‑inch bass driver and its large, front‑facing port on the outer. However, there is nothing to prevent you from swapping them over if you prefer. The port and its internal flare are aerodynamically designed to optimise airflow, minimise port noise and produce greater bass extension and higher efficiency from the A8H’s compact enclosure.
The A8H’s bass driver is an all‑new design based around an MLM (Multi‑Layer Mineral) cone made up of layers of mineral fibres baked together to create a lightweight, rigid and very stable composite material. The composition and layering of the MLM and the geometry of the cone are designed to optimise the cone’s stability and frequency response. In combination with a new magnet assembly, this new cone enables the AH8 to put out high levels of low‑frequency output with low distortion. It also looks very attractive.
Frequencies between 400Hz and 3kHz are handled by a new 3.5‑inch driver, which is a derivative of the DCH (Dome Cone Hybrid) midrange driver developed for the ADAM S Series. As its name implies, a DCH driver is a part‑cone, part‑dome hybrid that combines the clean decay characteristic and linear frequency response of a dome driver with the high‑excursion advantages of a cone. It too is constructed from MLM, and its dome form factor makes it very stable. This driver also features an underhung magnet system, in which the entire voice‑coil winding remains inside the magnet’s magnetic field even at extremes of excursion. This achieves linear cone excursion (the entire voice coil is providing motive force all the time) and low inductance modulation, which translates into improved midrange clarity by significantly increasing the ability of the driver to reproduce multiple simultaneous frequencies without distortion. Overall, the A8H’s DCH midrange driver has a frequency response that extends below that of more conventional designs, and also behaves pistonically well beyond its upper crossover frequency, allowing it to deliver clean reproduction across its operational midrange bandwidth.
The audio spectrum above 3kHz is the domain of ADAM Audio’s signature X‑ART (eXtended Accelerated Ribbon Technology) high‑frequency driver. Handbuilt in Germany, the X‑ART’s pleated ribbon construction has the same surface area as a 2‑inch conventional tweeter and is said to have precise transient response and a frequency response extending to 50kHz. In the A8H, as in all A Series monitors, the X‑ART driver sits inside a 120x70‑degree HPS (High‑frequency Propagation System) resin and glass‑fibre waveguide. This waveguide is designed not only to match the X‑ART’s horizontal dispersion angle in the crossover region to those of the bass and midrange drivers, in order to create a larger usable sweet spot, but also to reduce reflections from studio desks, mixing consoles and the like.
Another feature of the HPS waveguide is that it can be rotated through 180 degrees, which allows you to position the A8H vertically or even upside‑down, thanks to the M8 inserts on the underside of its cabinet. Finally, a small, multicolour LED sitting in the top of the HPS changes colour to show the AH8’s functional status — for example, solid green indicates power on, pulsing green means that it is sleeping, flashing red warns that the monitor is muted, and flashing gold or solid violet mean, respectively, that short‑ or long‑term signal limiting is taking place.
The A8H’s drivers are powered by a hybrid setup: a PWM (Class‑D) amplifier provides 200W RMS to the bass driver, a Class‑A/B amplifier delivers 55W RMS to the midrange unit and a 15W RMS Class‑A/B amplifier takes care of the X‑ART tweeter. This combination can cover a frequency bandwidth of 34Hz to 41kHz (+0/‑3dB) at a maximum peak IEC‑weighted 116dB SPL at 1m from a single A8H, which is far, far above any level that I would want to be listening to in the midfield.
Other than the power on/off switch and the ±12dB input level trim, all A8H rear‑panel functions are accessed by momentary push buttons and are under the control of a DSP system that not only provides tuning precision and consistency, but also enables future enhancements and firmware upgrades. Audio input to the AH8 can be switched between balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA connectors, with a green LED illuminating next to the selected input.
Like all A Series monitors, the A8H has three DSP‑driven voicing options, which are cycled through using the Voicing button. The first two are the flat‑response and neutral‑sounding Pure and the UNR (Universal Natural Response) presets. The latter, according to ADAM, is a dynamic, natural‑sounding response curve based on legacy ADAM loudspeakers, up to and including the previous AX series. The third voicing option is Ext, which is configured using the A Control app’s ADV(anced) mode. This not only gives you access to the six fully parametric onboard equaliser bands (each of which can be configured as either high‑cut, low‑cut, parametric, low‑shelf or high‑shelf filters) but also allows you to select a Sonarworks room calibration profile if you’ve already loaded one into the monitor’s onboard DSP. As with the inputs, there’s an associated rear‑panel green LED to visually indicate the selected voicing.
The four‑band rear‑panel Room Adaptation function allows you to modify the response of the Pure and UNR voicings to help deal with any room or positional issues, without requiring the use of a computer. The Bass band is primarily intended to allow you compensate for the increase in bass that occurs when a monitor is placed in a corner or close to a wall, and offers shelving adjustments of +2, ‑2 and ‑4 dB, with a corner frequency at 80Hz. The Desk band, as its name implies, attempts to compensate for low‑mid issues arising from first reflections from the surface of a desk or console, and is a parametric equaliser that delivers narrow cuts (Q=1.1) of ‑2 or ‑4 dB over 1.25 octaves centred on 200Hz. Presence, meanwhile, is a gentle +1 and ‑1 dB broadband (Q=0.7) parametric adjustment over 1.9 octaves centred on 2.5kHz, intended to enable you to deal with midrange issues caused by room or equipment reflections. Finally, the Treble band offers shelving adjustments of ‑1.5 and +1.5 dB at a corner frequency of 7kHz, targeting issues arising from either too much or too little high‑frequency absorption in a room.
Not long after I reviewed ADAM’s two‑way A7V monitors last year (SOS March 2023), the A Control app was updated to include numerous improvements and added functionality. There’s now a built‑in firmware updater with automatic update notification; copy/paste when setting up the ADV Room Adaptation six‑band parametric/filter; the ability to initiate a factory reset; and an increase in maximum delay time from 5ms to 10ms in 0.1ms steps — which means that you can time‑align loudspeakers within approximately 10 feet of the listening position in steps of roughly 1.2 inches.
The app’s user interface also gained a slicker look and workflow, which makes connecting and configuring A Series monitors a simple and intuitive task. It brings the entire process into a single workspace that also includes the ability to select between the RCA phono and XLR inputs. This is a game‑changer for those who, like me, not only own vintage kit that operates at ‑10dBV, but also like to use it!
A 60‑day trial of Sonarworks SoundID Reference room calibration software is offered with every A Series monitor purchase, and this program also has been updated since my A7V review. It is now more user‑friendly, offering video guidance at every step of the relatively lengthy process of generating a calibration profile.
If you would prefer not to get involved in network cabling and A Control software, and you’re able to access the rear of your monitors fairly easily, it is perfectly possible to set up the A8H monitors for your room very effectively with just room analysis software on your mobile phone, tablet or computer and the back‑panel Room Adaptation buttons. In my case, given the confines of my studio, the combination of A Control, Sound ID Reference and the monitors’ onboard DSP was the only way to go. Having connected an Ethernet network switch between a Mac Mini (running macOS Monterey) and the two A8Hs, all that remained was to make the monitors active in the A Control UI, run the SoundID Reference calibration process, export the calibration file in ADAM Audio format, and load it into the A8Hs’ DSP from A Control.
Since the A Control app gives you full remote control of all the A Series DSP functions, and can store multiple versions of Room Adaptation, Voicing and six‑band parametric filter setups (and multiple room calibrations, if you like to take your monitors with you wherever you go), you can set up profiles for various situations — tracking, overdubbing, spoken‑word recording, mastering, listening for pleasure — and recall any of these at will.
The first thing that struck me was the speed, taut precision, transient response and extension in its low‑frequency delivery.
When I began listening critically to the A8H, the first thing that struck me was its speed, taut precision, transient response and low‑frequency extension. As usual, I’d opened up with Deadmau5’s Grammy Award‑winning 4x4=12, an album whose detailed synthesized low end is a stringent test of a loudspeaker’s ability not only to accurately reproduce low frequencies, but also to reveal the detail inherent within them. With a superb performance in this area helped, no doubt, by having its ‑3dB point at 34Hz, I’d be absolutely confident in making low‑frequency tracking and mixing decisions on the A8H. Mind you, if EDM and the like were a core part of my work and I needed to accurately monitor down to 25Hz or thereabouts, I could see myself happily adding an ADAM Sub12 subwoofer...
The A8H’s midrange is extremely revealing. Crossing over at 400Hz and 3kHz, the A8H’s DCH driver delivers an articulate, highly detailed and precise midrange with a clarity and presence that helps to pinpoint sources precisely in the stereo soundfield. This ability came to the fore not only in the A8H’s superbly delineated reproduction of the complex harmonic and transient interplay between the baroque instrumentation and powerful vocal performances of L’Arpeggiata’s Via Crucis, but also in reproducing the midrange detail in both synthesizers and vocals of 4x4=12.
When it comes to reproducing high frequencies, ADAM Audio’s X‑ART tweeter offers a superb level of clarity and detail in a seemingly effortless manner. One of my monitor benchmarks is the ability to reproduce the high‑frequency detail of echoes and reverberations — a mark that the A8H passed with ease.
However, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the A8H’s performance is the manner in which these three drivers come together to produce a coherent, totally integrated performance. The monitor as a whole has a wide, deep, highly detailed and solidly centred soundfield, in which all elements are clearly defined and precisely located. Mind you, the A8H in Pure mode, or with an active SoundID Reference calibration file running, is ruthlessly revealing, so for tracking, writing and recreational listening I have stored room adaptation profiles created with the six‑band parametric EQ/filter that are more forgiving.
Having owned ADAM’s A77X monitors, and having reviewed the A7V a few months ago, I had an idea of what I might expect from the A8H, but its level of performance in my listening room exceeded all my expectations and preconceptions and had me reaching for my credit card.
With an outstanding audio performance coupled with an attractive price, to me the ADAM AH8 represents terrific value for money. Whether you’re looking either to purchase your first pair of active three‑way monitors, or to upgrade or replace your existing speakers, the ADAM A8H should very definitely be on your audition list. I’ve purchased the review pair, so my money is very definitely where my mouth is, and my ears are too.
You’ll find active three‑way compact monitors from Dynaudio and EVE Audio sitting at price points either side of that of the A8H, together with higher‑priced alternatives from the likes of Genelec, Neumann and Focal.
- Outstanding audio performance.
- Mac/Windows app‑controlled DSP‑based room adaptation.
- Sonarworks SoundID Reference integration.
- Compact form factor.
- Good low‑frequency response courtesy of the 8‑inch woofer.
- Attractively priced within its sector.
The A8H is a compact active three‑way studio monitor that offers excellent audio performance at an attractive price.