ADAM Audio T7V Powered Monitor Speaker Review – Audioholicsby August 16, 2022
ADAM Audio T7V Monitor Speaker
In the world of studio gear, ADAM Audio is chiefly known for the ‘folded ribbon’ AMT tweeter studio monitors. They were founded in 1999 and gained popularity fast; I remember salivating over their monitors in a Guitar Center in the USA in the very early 2000s. Their speakers were always a bit more costly than entry-level monitors from other well-known manufacturers like Yamaha, JBL, and Mackie. Years ago before I knew more about speaker design and technology, I assumed that since they were more expensive they must be better. I have since learned over the years and in my time as a loudspeaker reviewer that price doesn’t always correlate to sound quality. Even so, after all these years, I am still a bit excited to finally have an ADAM Audio monitor pair in my hands for review. The irony is that the pair I have in for review comes from a recent budget series that was launched in early 2018 called the T series, and what interests me about them is not that they are expensive but that they are very affordable. Times change, people change…
In for review today, we have the T7V, a two-way near-field monitor with a 7” woofer and 1.9″ AMT waveguide tweeter that retails for $500/pair. What separates these from ADAM’s higher-end models is fewer features and less powerful amplification. However, the fundamental sound quality should be largely intact, minus some dynamic range. Now, let’s dive in to see what ADAM has brought into this price range.
One paradox about ADAM Audio’s budget T series is that they look quite a bit nicer than ADAM’s more expensive speakers. In removing some of the features of the higher-priced series, ADAM has simplified the industrial design which has cleaned up their appearance. While monitors are supposed to be just a tool for accurate sound reproduction and aesthetics should take a distant back seat in favor of sound quality, this series of reviews of monitors for Audioholics are also looking at their potential for home audio application, so looks matter for our purposes. As a speaker for home use, the T7V looks nice.
The T7V uses a molded plastic front baffle with a smooth exterior that could pass for a satin black finish. There is an increase in upwards beveling that lends the cabinets some style while ostensibly reducing baffle diffraction. A shiny, black polypropylene woofer with a flat black dustcap blends in with the satin black baffle, while a gold-colored AMT tweeter mounted in a shallow waveguide breaks the monotony of black with a touch of class. A small ‘ADAM AUDIO’ logo adorns the bottom of the front baffle. A textured vinyl wrap is used on the side panels. Overall these look nicer than most studio monitors and could pass for home audio speakers if one were to use them in that application.
As was mentioned before, ADAM Audio’s chief feature has always been the use of AMT tweeters. Back when ADAM Audio first launched, AMTs were not widely used, but nowadays they are fairly common. AMT stands for “Air Motion Transformer.” As opposed to a conventional dome tweeter that pistonically oscillates a little dome, AMT tweeters contract and expand the folds of a pleated membrane to produce sound. To explain using an example, imagine the folded surface of a half-closed curtain- then line the interior folds of the curtain with conductive rods on adjacent sides of the folds, and set two powerful magnets on the sides of the curtain. Run some alternating current through the conducting rods and their newfound electromagnetic field will rapidly collapse and expand the folds of the curtain, and, in doing so, squeeze air in and out of the folds, thereby creating pressure waves that we experience as sound.
A major advantage of AMT tweeters is that since the folds of the diaphragm are much deeper than they are wide, the air is ejected out at a much faster speed than the vibration of the diaphragm itself- as much as five times faster. Another advantage is the very light mass of the diaphragm, which makes it very easy to move and to change direction since it does not have the momentum of the weight of a typical dome tweeter. These elements give AMT tweeters an extended response well into ultrasonic frequency ranges. Also, since AMT tweeters can have a relatively large surface coupled with the air, they can have a very wide dynamic range.
The tweeter is mounted in a waveguide that ADAM Audio calls the ‘HPS Waveguide.’ It was designed with computer modeling to have a wide, even horizontal dispersion with a narrow vertical dispersion. The tweeter is crossed over to a 7” polypropylene woofer at 2.6kHz. ADAM Audio claims a 39Hz low-frequency extension, but they do not give a tolerance to that number. I would guess it is a -10dB figure, but we shall see in the measurements.
The T7V is a self-powered speaker that has a class-D amp for each driver. The woofer uses a 50-watt RMS amplifier while the tweeter uses a 20-watt RMS amplifier. ADAM’s literature says that a pair of these things can hit 110dB at 1 meter. That is quite loud to be sure, but they don’t mention any distortion figures in that specification, which is needed to make it more meaningful. The T7V’s can accommodate an unbalanced RCA input or a balanced XLR input. I would like to have seen a TRS input, but its omission is not a big deal. The output can be controlled by a gain knob along with a high-frequency shelf filter and low-frequency shelf filter. Each filter can adjust the response by +/-2dB.
The cabinet uses ½” MDF side-panels with a 1 ½” thick front baffle. The interior is lined with a thick layer of polyfill damping. The T7V is a rear port-ported speaker that uses a 2” diameter port that has a constant curvature with flaring on both sides.
Overall, the T7V looks sensibly designed with attention to detail along with some promising design decisions. Let’s now see how it sounds in practice.
I used the T7V monitors in two different rooms under different conditions to see how they would cope with different environments. I set them up on my PC desk, which is essentially a quarter space, or a space enclosed by two boundaries. This desktop environment puts the listening distance at about 2.5 feet. I also set them up in my home theater room, which gave them lots of breathing room and a nearly free-space environment. This is a far more acoustically friendly environment for sound quality. The processor used was a MOTU 828x and MOTU M2 on PCs with Qobuz as the source for music. No subwoofers were used. I used these monitors to listen to completed recordings rather than content creation since this is a home audio publication, and we are more interested in seeing how these fare in a home audio application.
It is only in recent decades that Danish composer Carl Nielsen has become a known-name outside of his home country. Many of his compositions were regarded as unusual during his own lifetime, and it was only after World War 2 that he started to gain some international recognition for his music. A new release from the internationally acclaimed Seattle Symphony led by conductor and fellow Dane Thomas Dausgaard endeavors to promote Nielsen’s status in a recent release entitled ‘Symphonies 1 & 2 (Live).’ These sensational works are immaculately recorded at the Benaroya Hall in Seattle in a 96kHz/24bit resolution. This music is on the more energetic side of classical, and if you like your orchestral music with some bombast instead of serene pastorals, ‘Symphonies 1 & 2 (Live)’ certainly merits your attention.
Even though this was a recording of an orchestra in a concert hall, the soundstage was considerably more distinct than most orchestral recordings of this type. Many orchestral recordings place the mic at a distance where some imaging of instrument sections can be distinguished, but there is not usually a lot of precise imaging, especially where concert all reverb can make a further blend of the sound. While this detailed soundstage is most assuredly a quality of the recording, the T7V speakers were instrumental in creating such a vivid picture of the orchestra. Brass, strings, and woodwinds all had well-defined positions. What is more, I didn’t notice any tonal aberration, and the T7Vs seemed to give the recording a balanced presentation. Of course, that is what one would expect in a studio monitor, but it is definitely a positive attribute for home audio speakers as well. The dynamic range exhibited by these monitors was surprisingly good as well. ADAM Audio classifies these as ‘near-field monitors,’ and recommends a three-foot listening distance, but even in my theater room with an eight-foot distance, they were still able to project a powerful sound. Seeing as how most speakers strive for a point source of emission, it is perfectly fine to use near-field monitors at further distances so long as they are able to achieve your desired loudness levels. The T7Vs had sufficient dynamic range for me in a normal home audio listening environment and likely would suffice for most other users as well.
For something with an emphasis on human vocals, I selected jazz vocalist Melody Gardot’s ‘Currency of Man.’ This well-reviewed album takes a turn from her previously jazzy inclination toward a sound more infused with funk and groove, although some tracks are still quite jazzy. Grammy-award nominee Gardot’s albums are always recorded with a very high standard of quality, and ‘Currency of Man’ is no exception. This album is a bit angrier and rowdier than Gardot’s previous albums, and as such the compositions are more complex and incorporate more instruments than her usual outings.
Listening to ‘Currency of Man’ on the T7Vs, the aspect of the recording that I noticed in the first couple tracks was Melody’s dead center vocal imaging against the orchestral accompaniment which spread out all around her. On the third track, ‘It Gonna Come,’ the bass guitar is prominently featured, and the T7Vs gave the bass some real heft even though they aren’t gigantic speakers. The quantity of bass that the T7Vs could belt out was surprising, and it didn’t sound exaggerated or hotter than the rest of the range. Melody’s voice was fastidiously rendered, and one could hear every minor inflection and modulation of her singing. Her vocal control is tremendous (listen to the track ‘No Man’s Prize’ for an example), and the T7V provided a finely-detailed reproduction of her performance. The T7V’s overall presentation of this album was excellent, especially for a loudspeaker of this cost and size.
Trawling through the soundtracks section on Qobuz, one that I ended up enjoying quite a bit more than I anticipated was David Julyan’s score for the 2005 horror film ‘The Descent.’ It is mostly orchestral but with some synthesizer support for atmospherics. And speaking of atmosphere, this atmosphere created by this album is so thick you could cut it with a knife. The orchestral elements and synthesizer ambiance occasionally lull the listener into a trance but are then startled by moments of percussive fury that no doubt accompanied the more tense passages of the movie. Great movie scores are always enjoyable independent of the movies that they were created for, and ‘The Descent’s original soundtrack is among these greats. This score is more than just a tense mood; it also chronicles the emotional journey of the film’s protagonist so well that hearing this album alone is enough to outline her task of overcoming past tragedy in the quest for survival in the face of the grotesque horror of the movie’s plight.
On the T7Vs, one part of the recording that is nicely recreated is the layers of sound used to build up the atmosphere and multiple emotional elements within the early scenes. The build-up to the central crisis is established with orchestral strains and synthesizer drones which create an unnerving tension in the music alone. The bass ability of the T7Vs and their elocution of these disparate sonic elements add up to a vivid narrative. The music, and its reproduction by the T7Vs, is so evocative that I have to wonder how effective the movie would be without the score. As a film score, the music inhabits the available width of the soundstage, so precise imaging isn’t really a thing here except for occasional percussive sounds, and the speakers give this sound mix the intended panoramic presentation. Most of the music relies on bowed strings and so is sweeping in nature, but the sudden bouts of percussion could be startling, thanks in part to the dynamic range of the T7Vs. The music for ‘The Descent’ is unsettling, and it isn’t for everyone, but for those to whom it appeals, they ought to hear this score on a set of speakers on par with the T7Vs.
To see how loudspeakers deal with high drive levels, I usually resort to high energy electronic music, since it typically has a lot of deep bass and it doesn’t leave a lot of room left in the dynamic range of whatever media it is delivered in. Low frequencies are where a speaker is most likely to run into trouble at loud levels. Another reason I like to use electronic music is that I can always hear something new with enough searching, and an album like this that I listened to on the T7Vs is ‘Mutant’ by Arca. I don’t know anything about Arca, and that doesn’t matter. The music on this album is aggressively loud and unlike anything else I have heard. The arrangements are very melodic, but the sounds used to construct those arrangements can often be quite bizarre and unique. I don’t even know what subgenre this music might be classified within if it is indeed classifiable (not that classifications matter). The results are an album that is both engaging but also challenging to the listener, but not so challenging that it isn’t a lot of fun to hear.
‘Mutant’ is not short on bass, and the T7Vs were able to supply much of the low-frequency content in this album, even at louder listening levels. The low-frequency ability of these speakers again surprised me for their size and the fact that they are intended for near-field monitoring. A dedicated subwoofer might have been able to offer a bit more deep frequency prowess, but the T7Vs certainly caught most of what was there. The strange soundscape contained in ‘Mutant’ was sharply realized by the T7Vs. Odd sounds could emanate from anywhere, but wherever they came from, the T7V speakers imaged those sounds with pinpoint precision. I listened to this album at a relatively loud level, but I didn’t notice anything like compression or distortion, although if there was distortion, I don’t know that I could tell given how strange the sound of this music was for much of its duration. Overall, this album was given a terrific reproduction on the T7V monitors. Those looking for a strange new sound should give ‘Mutant’ a try, and capable speakers like the T7Vs are a great way to hear such an eccentric and surreal album.
I’m not really a big fan of the “Mission: Impossible” movies because they were a bit formulaic for my tastes. However, I was looking for a conventional action movie to hear what the T7V’s could do for an effects-driven film, and I saw that ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ was available on a streaming service. It seemed like a good candidate for something with lots of action set-piece sounds, so I gave it a spin. As most readers will know, the “Mission: Impossible” is all about globe-trotting spy missions with lots of chases, double-crosses, and subterfuge. These movies are as big-budget Hollywood as it gets, and the sound production gets the best possible treatment. With the sound cranked up, I watched ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout,’ and the T7V speakers acquitted themselves nicely. This movie had lots of crashing things such as in an extended car chase in Paris featuring loads of crashing vehicles, and the T7Vs gave all the crashes a satisfying crunch of bending metal and broken glass. Aside from that, the most memorable part of the sound mix is Larne Balfe’s exuberant orchestral score. There was plenty of high-tempo percussion accompanying the many chase scenes, and they were all well rendered by the T7Vs where one could take their attention away from the on-screen action to give the sound some consideration. A climactic helicopter chase also sounded lively with lots of swooping engine noises and doppler effects of the choppers passing back and forth. The T7V’s bass ability gave the helicopter engines and various explosions some real weight, and while a good subwoofer would have been able to add more oomph, the T7Vs did a very respectable job with the low-frequencies on their own. Dialogue intelligibility was very good, and the voices imaged from character positions on-screen even though no center was used. This has as much to do with the sound mix as it does the speakers and their placement, but the T7Vs did play an important role in bringing about that kind of soundstage. ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ was a fun action movie, and the T7Vs did a good job in reproducing such a large-scale sound mix.
One movie that I watched with the T7Vs was the Netflix comedy ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’ starring Will Farrel. Will Ferrel’s comedies aren’t normally the kind of thing I would watch for evaluating a speaker, but ‘Eurovision’ has a heavy emphasis on musical performances, so this looked to be the exception. ‘Eurovision’ concerns the dreams of an amateurish Icelandic duo to win the Eurovision Song Contest, so there are lots of spectacular Eurovision type musical numbers, and with Netflix producing it, the production quality is top-notch. The music here was very bombastic, but the T7V speakers were able to reproduce the high energy of the sound mix with vigor. Many of the songs feature strong bass, and the T7V’s were able to recreate the low-frequencies so well that I don’t even know what a subwoofer could have added to this experience. The dialogue was always clear even though most of the cast sported either fake or real accents. Just a pair of these ‘near-field monitors’ managed a full presentation of this blaring movie even at exuberant volume levels. I am sure these speakers have their limits given their design, but I think that most people would never run into them in normal use. To be sure they are not party speakers or head-banging speakers, nor would I recommend their use for a dedicated home theater unless it was in a small room, but for typical movie or music playback in a family room, they have more-than-adequate dynamic range along with far-more-than-adequate sound quality.
James Larson is Audioholics’ primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.
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