One input not found on a majority of powered speakers is a USB port that can be fed digital audio files directly from your computer. The USB input supports file resolutions up to 48kHz/16-bit and requires no drivers. Although ADAM included USB primarily as a convenience option rather than a primary audio input, the USB input offers audiophiles or recording engineers who need to travel light a useful alternative connection option.
Also on the rear panel of the ARTist 5 you’ll find three level controls for fine-tuning the ARTist 5’s frequency response. The tweeter level can raise or lower the tweeter output by ± 4 dB. The High Shelf EQ switch boosts or lowers upper midrange frequencies by ± 6 dB at or above 5 kHz while the Low Shelf EQ switch does the same thing for frequencies at or below 300 Hz. Given the wide adjustment swings possible with these controls, they should be used carefully to avoid excessive and possibly incorrect settings. Ideally an accurate microphone and frequency measurement software should be used for critical level adjustments.
I used the ADAM ARTist 5’s both with and without a subwoofer. For added convenience the ARTist 5’s also have a line-level pass through that can be routed to a second pair of speakers or a subwoofer. The drawback is that the pass-though only works with analog inputs. The USB input does not generate an analog pass-though line-level signal.
Since the ADAM ARTist 5’s do have a 300 Hz shelf control, some users might be tempted to boost the ARTist 5’s bass extension and “punch” by turning it up. This can ruin rather than improve the ARTist 5’s bass response. It’s far too easy for the bass to go into “woofiness” when the shelf control is boosted, especially if the speakers are close to a wall boundary. My advice is to adjust this carefully to avoid inaccurate and poorly controlled lower frequency response.
On my desktop I used both the ADAM speaker stands as well as my own home-brew speaker stands. In both cases the goal was to place the speaker so that my ears were below the tweeter and above the midrange/woofer. Once properly set-up the ARTist 5s delivered a large sweet spot that produced a rock-solid image that didn’t shift or move with small changes in listener position.
The ARTist 5’s come with removable speaker grills that attack via magnets rather than less elegant methods. The speaker grill fabric is acoustically transparent but the frame is ¼” thick, which could cause some slight amount of diffraction. For critical listening, and especially for nearfield listening, I recommend removing the grills.
ADAM offers the ARTist 5 in two finishes: gloss white or gloss black. My review samples were black. Their glossy finish, which could pass for piano black, was impeccable with no traces of orange peel texture or other imperfections. The finish does show dirt and dust easily, though. Occasionally I had to clean cat slobber off the sides of the ARTist 5s after a cat sneezed on them. After using a bit of Windex they looked as good as new.
According to ADAM’s published specifications, the ARTist 5’s roll off their bass at 50 Hz. Most of the time I fed the ARTist 5’s a balanced full-range signal via XLR inputs from a balanced preamp. I let them roll off naturally without using a crossover and then used a Velodyne DD+ 10 subwoofer I had on hand to fill in the low bass. You could gain some headroom by using a crossover to roll off the ARTist 5’s bass response at 80 Hz or higher if you need an extra couple of dBs in clean level.
All ARTist 5 speakers have a volume control on the front panel of the speaker, but depending on your preferences you can have either have a volume control for each speaker or a master volume control for both speakers via ADAM’s “stereolink” connection. I prefer to have a volume for each speaker since it allows me to make critical balance adjustments and use my preamp as the overall master volume control.
When I reviewed the now-discontinued ADAM Model A5 in our famous sister publication The Absolute Sound, I spent quite a bit of time extolling the virtues of its X-ART tweeter. High frequencies were fast, clean, uncolored, detailed, and the tweeter was superb at handling dynamics. But the mid/bass driver on the original Model 5 just couldn’t keep up. It was clearly outclassed in terms of speed, transparency, and lack of coloration by the X-ART tweeter. Fortunately the ARTist 5 has a redesigned midrange/woofer that is clearly superior to the unit used in the older A5.