It was five years and one issue ago when I reviewed the Event 20/20 monitors (Tape Op #18), and they've been my mainstays ever since. I raved about them then, and I still like them, but after doing everything on them for so long, I was feeling a little burnt and ready to try something new. So I jumped at the chance (ok, I badgered Andy a little) to check out the new ANF-10 from ADAM, and yeah, you guessed it, another rave follows.
The ANF-10 is a 2-way passive bass reflex speaker, with a 7'' woofer and a newly "redesigned" Accelerated Ribbon Technology (ART) folded ribbon tweeter. (Check out the website for an explanation of the unique ART design.) Frequency response is listed as 50 Hz to 35 kHz, +/-3 dB. They are a lot smaller than I had expected, and they seem to weigh almost nothing. "Fascinating," I hear you cry, "but how do they sound?" They sound awesome. Read on.
The first thing I did when the ANF-10's arrived was A/B them with the Events. I put on my perennial hi-fi favorites, Shellac's 1000 Hurts and Karate's Bed Is In The Ocean, first through the Events, then the ADAMs. Wow. What a difference. The ADAMs were much fuller in the 50- 150 Hz area, yet lacked the annoying bump around 300- 400 Hz that always made my life difficult with the Events. So that was nice, but on first listen, I actually felt the ADAMs were too full in the low end. But then, taking Chris Garges' advice, I moved them about a foot closer together and adjusted my listening position accordingly. Much better. The low end tightened up and the imaging improved as well. I was suitably impressed and decided to leave the ANF-10's up as my main monitor for awhile and see how things went.
I have to confess that, having used the same monitors for half a decade and knowing them really, really well, it was weird at first to work on something different, and I kind of missed the really forward mids of the Events. But, I soon found I was making decisions a lot quicker and way more decisively. Levels, panning, EQ, and compression... it just seemed easier, mixes came together much faster. At first I was a little wary that the ADAMs were hyped and just making everything sound good, but they soon proved trustworthy, as the mixes translated well and the clients were pleased. I used the ANF-10's on a bunch of different mixes, some of which I had started on the Events, and in all cases, I felt like the mixes turned out really well. I had been struggling with one mix in particular on the Events, and honestly I got it together in about an hour on the ANF-10's. Obviously I'm not saying they're magic, I just found that they led me to make good decisions in rapid fashion. Which is exactly what you want in a monitor, is it not?
Some have said they find the high end on ADAMs to be somewhat peculiar and hard to get used to, but I really didn't notice this at all. To me, it just sounds "right." I did notice that the tweeters are very directional-the frequency response is dramatically different if you're above or below the sweet spot. (The smaller sweet spot is due to the ANF-10's folded ribbon employing fewer magnets than the ribbons found in ADAM's more expensive P and S series.) On axis though, I think the ANF-10's are pretty right on. I notice more clarity and detail in the low end, and it's not just "bass"-I can hear more of the character of the sounds. I'm not mixing the bass track 2 dB too loud or cutting too much 300- something from drums and/or whole mixes-two things I was forever doing on the 20/20's. I don't monitor loudly very often, but when I do, the ANF-10's are a lot easier on the ears than the Events, which could get pretty grating in the high mids when cranked.
So, I'm noticing that I've used the word "easier" a lot so far. And I can appreciate using monitors that really make you work hard to get a good sounding mix. Hence the enduring popularity of NS-10M's. And I'd rather work on a monitor like that than one that glosses over problem spots and makes everything sound great. I don't feel that this is the case with the ANF-10's; I think they just sound good. I hate to use words like "detailed," "accurate," and "truthful" because they sound to me like standard hack reviewer phrases, and I don't wanna be that guy. But honestly, all those things apply to the ANF-10's, and I feel like they are just letting me hear what I have to work with, and I really like that they aren't leading me to "fix" things that don't need any help.
I could go on and on about how much I like these monitors, but I'm not gonna. Monitors are kind of a personal thing, and what sounds great to me might not work for you at all, so I'm just going to encourage you to check out the ANF-10's for yourself. And I'm going to tell you the price. $750 street. That's a deal as far as I'm concerned, and I predict ADAM are going to sell a ton of these things. I'm buying the pair they sent me, so there you go. Stay tuned for my next monitor review sometime in 2010. ($750 MSRP; www.adam-audio.com)