Near the end of the review period I compared the AudioEngine 5+ powered speakers ($399/pair) to the ADAM ARTist 5’s. The ARTist 5’s had noticeably better low-level detail and resolution, due in large part to less background noise and the ARTist 5’ superior tweeters. The ARTist 5’s also had a cleaner rendition of lower midrange and bass coupled with a more neutral harmonic balance. In comparison the AudioEngine speakers sounded warm, rich, and slow. While the AudioEngine speaker was unfatiguing and musical, the ADAM was far more revealing of the inner workings of the music.
Sunspot’s “Guardian Angel” from their album The Slingshot Effect [Metebellis Three Publishing] is one of my “guilty pleasures” tracks that helps me quickly determine a system’s ability to handle dense, loud, and occasionally rude pieces of music. This track features searing metal guitars coupled with a pulsing synth, huge drums, and busy rhythm tracks. The ARTist 5’s handled everything that the music threw at them, resolving the speed metal guitar solos without rendering them unlistenable. In the middle of the tune when it drops back to solo voice and finger snaps the ARTist 5’s effortlessly recreated the sense of ambient space and distance between the vocals in the front and the snaps at the back of the soundstage. Finally, near the end of the final cacophonous chorus, the ARTist 5’s had no trouble maintaining clarity and control, which is something many far more elaborate and expensive systems I’ve heard at hi-fi shows have failed to accomplish.
At the opposite end of the musical spectrum, Emma Kirkby’s sublime soprano on “Come Cheerful Day” from the live concert CD Time Stands Still [Hyperion] sounded seductively natural through the ARTist 5’s. Anthony Rooley’s lute retained all its gutty delicacy in this very lively recording venue. It was easy to hear the back wall and sidewall reflections clearly through the ARTist 5’s and all the ambience and spatial cues of the recording were quite evident. I could even hear how the recording space “bloomed” as Kirkby’s voice energized the space when she leaned on a suspended note.
Using my own live recordings of The Deadly Gentleman performing at the Salina Schoolhouse I was impressed by the ARTist 5’ ability to reproduce all the spatial cues of my DSD recording. Even the dog that barked from the back of the room during “Sober Cure” was accurately located in space. The subtle textural differences between Greg Liszt’s banjo chop and Mike Barnett’s fiddle chop were easily discernible, even though they were playing right next to each other on stage.
If you need a small-footprint two-way speaker for desktop or nearfield monitor use and your budget is under $1300 for speakers and the power amplifier to drive them, the ADAM ARTist 5 speakers should be at the top of your audition list. They deliver on all fronts—lively dynamics, fine resolution, surprising harmonic cohesion, and flexible ergonomics. Whether you listen purely for pleasure or plan to use the ARTist 5’s for professional recording projects, you will be hard-pressed to find a powered speaker that delivers greater value.
Consider this powered speaker if:
Look further if:
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced powered speaker systems)