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Review: ADAM Audio S3H

Review: ADAM Audio S3H
Brad Watts

Recording

11 August 2017: By Brad Watts

Brad Watts tries out this new monitor that aims to build on the success of the firm’s most popular models.

Brad Watts tries out this new monitor that aims to build on the success of the firm’s most popular models.

I’ve not auditioned many ADAM monitors, however I’ve experienced the ADAM designs in various spaces, primarily in rooms where EDM is the order of business. Most often this would be the now discontinued A7 – a monitor that broke cost-versus-performance ratios and wedged ADAM’s technology firmly into the prosumer and budget markets.

The A7 became a minor classic with its detailed and unfatiguing high frequency performance. Responsible for that high-end is ADAM’s tweeter design. Often referred to as ‘ribbon’ tweeters, the concept is correctly known as an air motion transformer. Air motion transformers, or AMTs, use a light material folded into an accordion pattern. This is bonded with aluminium strips and suspended within a magnetic field. Once an audio signal is applied to the aluminium the accordion structure expands and contracts, expelling air forward.

The advantages are twofold: the surface area of the accordion structure is approximately four times that of a dome driver, so a large amount of air can be moved; plus, the speed at which the structure moves is extremely fast – around five times that of a conventional dome driver. The design offers extreme high frequencies, along with less distortion and breakup of the signal and resulting dynamic limiting.

ADAM has applied its own twist to the AMT, releasing various iterations under the ‘Accelerating Ribbon Technology’ moniker. This led to the X-ART series of tweeters, and has been the company’s mainstay for high frequency drivers since inception.

What’s new?

ADAM recently announced the third-generation S Series, comprising five near- to mid-field designs. For appraisal I’ve been bestowed with the S3H, which incorporates two 7in woofers, a 4in dome/cone hybrid mid-range driver, and ADAM’s latest S-ART high-frequency driver. This S-ART designation is courtesy of greater precision manufacturing and more rigorous quality control.

Cone composition of the 7in woofers is proprietary, and designed for extended excursion and low weight using ADAM’s ‘HexaCone’ material. The results are impressive, with the S3H delivering clear, punchy and alarmingly precise low-end.

The 100mm mid-range unit is also proprietary. It’s a part-cone/part-dome configuration, offering the linear frequency response of a dome driver with the extended excursion of a cone driver. The single-piece cone/dome is manufactured with a laminated carbon-composite material and reportedly doesn’t induce driver wobble.

The high frequency driver is mounted within a waveguide designed for a broad horizontal axis yet tightly focused vertical plane. Placed directly above the mid-driver (again with waveguide), I can attest the result is a gorgeously solid stereo image. Crossover points come in at 250Hz and 3kHz. Overall frequency reproduction from the S3H starts at 32Hz and winds out to 50kHz – such are the highs possible from S-ART tweeters.

The S3H cabinet uses a bass-reflex design, with two ports emanating from the front baffle beneath the two low-end drivers – soffit mounting is possible, with corners radiused to aid avoidance of edge-diffraction. A peek inside reveals a work of art. All internal surfaces are finished and sealed, with the rear of the ports curved to avoid internal turbulence along with pyramid cut foam for damping. All construction is 32mm fibreboard, with the two low-end driver compartments sealed from each other – two separate cabinets in essence. ADAM has reassuringly gone to town with the engineering.

There’s an assortment of amplification systems throughout the S Series. Low and midrange drivers use class-D amps. The low-end drivers are individually amplified at 500W, with the midrange using a 300W amp. For the S-ART tweeter ADAM uses a 50W class-A/B design for its lower distortion and linear response up to 300kHz. That’s 1350W per monitor spewing a staggering 126dB from a pair at one metre.

ADAM’s S Series utilise DSP for crossover, equalisation, and connection to the monitors via AES/EBU. Digital connection is a matter of connecting AES/EBU to the first monitor, daisy-chaining to the next monitor and setting each to reproduce left or right.

How does the selection happen? On the rear of an S Series monitor is an OLED display with a variable potentiometer/push button. This also accesses input level and EQ adjustment. EQ-wise there are two presets: ‘Pure’ for straight-up flat response, and ADAM’s ‘UDR’ curve (Uniform Natural Response). Then there’s two parametric shelving filters (one for low-end and the other for highs) as well as six full-parametric EQs. Alterations can be stored into three memories. Slightly different is the S3H, which offers an additional preset EQ curve emulating the sold-by-the-truckload ADAM S3A.

You’ll recall my mentioning of soffit mounting the S3H monitors, and the fact DSP adjustment is rearward. There are access issues if the monitors find themselves soffit mounted, but the S Series will negate this dilemma by way of software. S Series monitors house a rear USB-B port to enable software upgrades to the DSP and adjustment of EQ and presets via computer, yet the software is so far unavailable.

Equally as vaporous is the ‘Network’ slot. It’s marked ‘optional’. The manual states the Network slot “...will hold two RJ45 connectors for future expansion...” Two things spring to mind: will the network card cost as much as previous digital cards, and will it possess AES67 smarts? With AES67 you could route digital 96kHz audio straight from your computer – sans interface.

Conclusion

So what’s to dislike about the ADAM S3H? Nothing, I’m convinced. ADAM has pulled no punches with the S Series. The stereo imaging is simply immaculate, the three-way model seamlessly transitions between frequencies, and low-end is tight, predictable, and detailed. I’d gladly sit in front of these for a day – unlike anything with a metal dome tweeter. I’m no fan of metal tweeters, yet they offer advantages such as finessing infinitesimal effect details. The S-ART high-end drivers are a best-of-both-worlds option – unfatiguing, yet brilliantly detailed.

However, the S3H isn’t for the feint of pocket. At £4,800 a pair they’re a sizeable investment. Yet, in an age where audio production requires translation to umpteen streaming formats, iTunes, gaming, virtual and augmented reality, vinyl and good ol’ compact disc, you could advocate this figure to be a prudent expenditure.

Key Features

  • Handmade S-ART tweeter with HPS waveguide
  • 2 x 7” Hexacone woofers 
  • Frequency response: 32Hz – 50kHz
  • Cumulated amplification power RMS: 1,350W
  • AES3 digital inputs and various expansion options

 

RRP: £4,800 a pair

https://www.adam-audio.com/

Brad Watts has been a freelance writer for numerous audio mags, has mastered and mixed various bands, and was deputy editor of AudioTechnology in Australia. He is now digital content manager for Content and Technology.