I've had a pair of ADAM S3-A [Tape Op #33] powered monitors for about a decade at Jackpot! Recording Studio, and they've treated me well. I had been through a number of speakers before them, and in most cases, I either outgrew these monitors' limitations quickly, or I blew out too many drivers. Using my S3-A pair led to some great mixes, and many freelancers praised the detail that the folded-ribbon tweeters offered. But a new era dawns, and my S3-As slowly began to feel a bit restrictive to me. I wanted clearer bottom end, especially around the range of bass guitars and toms, and I wanted something that would translate around my room better. The ADAMs always gave me a lot of information to mix with, but the phantom center was lacking, and the dispersion in the room was uneven. I began looking, and along the way, ADAM offered to send over their newer A77X monitors - ones that looked strikingly similar to the S3-As. Over the years, I'd also purchased a pair of ADAM A7 [#57] monitors for use at home. These felt similar to the S3-As, but of course, having smaller drivers, they had less bass response. The great thing is they were affordable, and when ADAM moved into their X-ART (eXtended Accelerating Ribbon Technology) phase, the A7X and its AX siblings (A3X, A5X, A8X) popped up. But the king of the A line is the A77X, with the X-ART tweeter and two 7'' woofers. One woofer operates from the 3 kHz crossover point down, and the second kicks in at 400 Hz to augment the first - effectively doubling the driver surface area and amplifier power - to bring the low-end response down to 38 Hz.

When the A77X arrived, I swapped out the monitors and started working. My first impressions were favorable. The A77X has a clearer and deeper low end - less confusing and obscured - than the S3-As, and the phantom center is somewhat better. Overall, the speakers were quite similar, and I was able to work on the A77X pair for several weeks and still get accurate mixes and make proper decisions. But the A77X is selling for far less than the S3-A did, so I wondered what the tradeoff was. Soon I found that it was a question of loudness. When pushed really hard, the solidness of tone and ability to fill my room (16 ft × 30 ft with 12 ft ceilings) was limited. I could still get mixes and hear details on tracking sessions where I wanted them, but I could not get the thick, visceral playback experience that I used to have. The three amplifiers in the A77X are all lower in power output, and perhaps there is some cost- savings in the drivers too, but for thousands of dollars less, that makes sense. For a pro studio like mine, where clients expect to be knocked over by playback volumes, the A77X was falling a tiny bit short, and from what I can tell, I should have tried out the ADAM S3X-H model instead. But for a smaller studio or a very nice home setup, oh hell, these would be amazing. The detail of the X-ART tweeter and a solid low-end response are the selling points, and in a smaller control room, they would be an asset. Put it this way: It was hard to send them back when I did like them so much, but I knew that down the line I'd still want to upgrade my studio monitors to a pair with a fuller range and even more wattage. And this did come to pass, but for $6,100 more than the price of a pair of ADAM A77X monitors. Damn.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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