How is the ARTist 5 mid/bass driver different from the one in the model A5? Both use similar materials, including a carbon fiber/Rohacell/glass fiber cone, but in the ARTist 5 I no longer found discontinuities between the tweeter and mid/bass driver as I did with the original A5.
The published crossover point between the mid/bass driver and tweeter is 2500 Hz. When I had the ARTist 5’s set up on my desktop it was a simple task to cover the tweeters with my hands so I could listen to the mid/bass driver alone. I was surprised to hear how high the midrange driver extended up into the lower treble. I was also surprised when I covered the midrange/woofer to hear how low the X-ART tweeter’s range extended down into the upper midrange. My assumption is that ADAM uses a crossover slope that’s not terribly steep. The advantage of such a crossover is in power handling, but the trade-off is that it can have sonic consequences, the principal ones being group delay and phase shift issues in the crossover region. But no matter how ADAM’s designers are doing what they are doing in the ARTist 5 crossover, the results were impressive.
Given the wide range of adjustments available on the back of the ARTist 5’s, describing their intrinsic harmonic balance is like describing the location of a moving target. You can make the ADAMs sound radically different depending on the settings you choose. While the final settings will depend on your set-up, the speakers’ physical position vis-à-vis the back wall and sidewalls, and your own personal tastes, I advise starting with the controls set to flat. In my desktop set-up I found reducing the bass shelf controls by one click and increasing the tweeter output by one click was all the “correction” I needed. The results were closer to neutral than I would have expected from such a moderately priced speaker.
Something you would expect from a compact two-way monitor is the ARTist 5’ ability to virtually disappear on your desktop or in nearfield listening setups. The ADAMs image beautifully. And while I didn’t notice much change in harmonic balance when the speaker grills were removed, I did hear the imaging specificity improve. Lateral focus, even with the grills on, was excellent, only slightly bettered by the pinpoint-precise PSI A-14 powered speakers ($2390/pair). Since the A-14s have a slightly smaller footprint they have less front panel area for reduced diffraction, which in turn helps prevent loss of imaging specificity.
The ARTist 5 speakers’ depth recreation was also quite good, especially through the front and middle of the soundstage. Only the rear third displayed some truncation in depth and dimensionality. The Silverline Minuet Supreme speakers ($500/pair) coupled to the Parasound A-23 power amplifier ($949) produced more of a feeling of three-dimensionality, especially in the rear half of the soundstage, but in other respects the ARTist 5’s performed on par with these separates. The Silverline/Parasound combination could play louder, courtesy of the Parasound amp, but the ARTist 5’s did have more bass extension.
Another performance area where the ARTist 5 speakers excelled was dynamics. Even when pushing 98 dB peaks at my listening position two feet away, the ADAMs showed no signs of speaker-induced dynamic compression. It was only when compared with the more than three-times more expensive PSI A-14 speakers that the ADAM ARTist 5’ dynamics were bettered. The PSIs can simply play louder without dynamic compression than the ADAMs.
Bass extension and dynamic power through the ARTist 5’s is good for a speaker of its size. Its rear slotted port aides the bass extension, and while I’ve heard cleaner, more controlled bass from similarly sized sealed-cabinet designs, I haven’t heard any similar sized speakers with better bass extension or dynamics. Of course, if you need more bass a subwoofer is the way to go. ADAM makes the ARTist subwoofer that has a built-in crossover to relieve the ARTist 5’s of all bass duties below 85 Hz.
Upper frequencies, courtesy of the X-ART tweeter, are among the best you will hear from a small desktop monitor. The only technologies that I’ve heard that equal its treble purity and power handling are ribbons or electrostatic tweeter as typically found in much larger speakers. Only Magnepan’s desktop Mini-Maggies offer this level of upper frequency refinement in a desktop-specific transducer. But unlike the Mini-Maggies, the ARTist 5s have the ability to fine-tune the tweeter output via adjustment controls (actually, the Mini-Maggies do allow tweeter output trimming, though not boost, via high-quality, user installable padding resistors—Ed.).