ADAM ARTist 3 Desktop Speakers
Some audio professionals and audiophiles have a mild contempt for each other. OK, maybe contempt is too strong a word, but there's a certain, er, distance between the two camps. The engineers are put off by audiophiles' fascination with cables and overpriced tweaks; and some engineers are deaf to audiophiles very real concerns about the declining sound quality standards of contemporary recordings. The divisions run deep, so very few companies serve both communities, but when I hear about a manufacturer that caters to pros and 'philes I'm always curious to see what's up.
Adam Audio was founded by physicist Klaus Heinz and electrical engineer Roland Stenz, in Berlin in 1999. Advanced Dynamic Audio Monitors may have started as a pro sound company, but now also makes audiophile speakers. To get a handle on the Adam Audio sound I started with the ARTist 3, a compact desktop monitor.
Klaus Heinz met Dr. Oskar Heil in 1982, a few years after the good doctor caused quite a stir with his then radically new Air Motion Transformer (AMT) drivers. Heinz continued to develop and refine Heil's driver, which he now calls X-ART (eXtended Accelerating Ribbon Technology). Instead of vibrating back and forth like other tweeters the X-ART's "pleated" diaphragm compresses and expands with the audio signal. Air is drawn in and squeezed out, "like the bellows of an accordion," and the tweeter's response extends to 50kHz! The X-ART has a much larger radiating surface area than a conventional dome tweeter, which is one of the reasons why it produces less distortion than dome tweeters. Unlike Emotiva and GoldenEar Technology's similar looking tweeters sourced from Chinese manufacturers, Adam Audio designs and hand builds its own tweeters in its Berlin factory.
The ARTist 3 is Adam's smallest speaker, it has a 4-inch carbon-fiber woofer and an X-ART tweeter. The speakers sell for $800 a pair (the next model up, the ARTist 5, goes for $1,200 a pair). The ARTist 3 is a bi-amped design, and each speaker has separate 25 watt Class A/B amps for the woofer and tweeter. The ARTist 3 is available in high gloss black and white finishes. They come with grilles, but I never took them out of the box.
Connectivity options are broader than what you get with most desktop speakers, there's RCA, XLR, and a USB 1.1 port that feeds a 48-kHz/16-bit DAC on the back panel, plus a 3.5 mm input upfront. The rear panel has a tweeter level control, and a slotted port near the top of the rear panel. Each speaker has a volume control, but you can tie two ARTist 3s together via the included "Stereo Link" cable, that allows you to control both speakers with one volume control. I used the ARTist 3 as a desktop monitor, with my Halide DAC HD inline from my Mac Mini computer, but I can't see why they couldn't be used as hi-fi speakers in very small rooms. The speakers can be oriented vertically or horizontally.