ADAM Audio T8V by Arthur Stone
Introducing the...ADAM Audio T8V, a 2-way bi-amped studio monitor with 70 Watt 8" woofer and 20 W 1.9" ribbon tweeter, the largest of the T-Series range, which includes the T5V, T7V and T10S subwoofer.
Price: $299 USD / 299 € (incl. VAT.) / £259 incl VAT (per speaker)
ADAM Audio currently produce several ranges of monitor: the T-Series (reviewed in this article); the AX-series; the S-Series (reviewed here); main studio monitors, and subwoofers; in addition, the proficient SP-5 headphones (reviewed here).
Notably there is no 'dud' monitor; no substandard version at a cheaper price. The T-series have many of the sonic attributes and characteristics of the vastly more expensive S-Series. The marketing blurb of 'Clarity. Precision. Honesty. Detail.' is well-deserved and even the lowest-cost range has the advantages of trickle-down technology from more expensive predecessors. The price is very good for the quality of the product.
The quick start guide is a good read as it contains well-written and useful info.
The T8V's need at least 8 hours 'burn-in' time with complex music before critical use. Even after long sessions they don't get hot....just lukewarm in Summer temperatures.
All materials and finish to ADAM Audio's usual high standard.
When tapped the cabinet didn't sound particularly musical and the pitch changed with density across the cabinet. A took-took sound. Not expensive; not cheap. Solid plastic in a moulded design.
Positioning: The T8V's are easy to handle and position; not too heavy. The depth is around 12" (1 ft or 0.3m) with, at minimum, another few inches needed for the rear port to breathe. The cabinets are quite large for home-studio but not dominating considering their purpose. Visually, the T8V's angles recede in the light.
ADAM Audo describe the T8V as a nearfield monitor and the low self-noise makes it perfect in this role.
I positioned the T8V's in a wide 6' (2m) triangle pointing to (just behind) my ears and heard a good stable centre image (e.g. bass, vocal, mono source at centre pan) with a full soundstage: good depth and stunning width that filled the room so that a left panned source would come from the room wall. The side detail was extremely good without sounding awkward or misplaced.
So, even in a semi-treated home studio room, the T8V's soundstage was coherent, plausible, detailed, enjoyable.
The U-ART ribbon tweeter: ADAM Audio's ribbon tweeters have been popular (and award-winning) for good reason: airy, smooth, plausible, detailed, non-fatiguing. Despite the consistency of appearance, some things have changed under the hood: the ribbon material is polyimide, a type of lightweight plastic film with strong mechanical flexibility, shape-retention, electrical insulation, and heat-resistant properties.
Part of the success of the ribbon tweeter is in the design and the way it moves air (pressure). Around 2 decades back, ADAM adapted and refined Dr. Oskar Heil's original 1960's AMT (Air Motion Transformer) to the ART (Accelerating Ribbon Technology). The T8V tweeter diaphram is folded into pleats (concertina-style). The surface area unfolded is approx. 4" square so larger than most traditional tweeter designs. During operation air is drawn into and expelled from the pleats.
Basically, this (bellows-style) configuration achieves a fourfold increase in efficiency over conventional 'pistonic' tweeters.
The ribbon weighs just 0.17 g so the 20 W (RMS) pulse-width-modulation (PWM) amp isn't going to be too stressed out.
These modern Class-D amps are remarkable for their smooth power, presentation, reactivity, and low noise.
The HPS Waveguide - the same design as the more expensive S-Series - directs and shapes the tweeters output into a signal that is more intelligible to the ear and avoids primary room reflections whilst offering a wide listening field for the high frequencies.
A pleasure to listen to.
The 8" polypropylene woofer: Plastic is an underrated, invaluable material. Plastic never sounded as good as in a carefully crafted speaker like the T8V. Older plastics and associated technology were probably not 'intelligent' enough to be up to the task: stability and longetivity. The new plastics, emergent from a multi-decade development, can perform precise tasks repeatably.
If we re-imagine plastic as a novel, exotic material then the 'cheap/disposable' label creates less bias - sound can be heard as it is: warm, comfortable, liquid, reactive, and dynamic. ADAM Audio's success is in making the polypropylene speaker material responsive at the wide range of frequencies from 33 Hz to the 2.6 Hz crossover, rather than having a pleasing monotonic 'beach ball' sound at just one frequency. I don't hear anything to give away the T8V's woofer as being plastic (in a cheap sense) or distinguishable from any other material. The port, amplifier and overall speaker design work perfectly with the polypropylene.
The woofer is powered by a 70 w (RMS) Class-D PWM amplifier: in use there was good linearity at midrange (safe) monitoring level (not too quiet or too loud) and overall, good delivery of un-hyped punch, dynamic movement, and throb. Notably, for the nearfield monitoring position, there was not a sense of the speaker being over-powered and producing self-noise or electro-magnetic waste energy. The amp seemed a comfortable fit for the speaker, cabinet, and intended role.
Streaky made a good observation when reviewing the T8V's: that with the addition of a sub, the T8V can focus it's sweet spot on the upper bass and mids. Maybe this is less important for nearfield position and low-to-mid volume but something to consider for detailed, loud, reference work. ADAM make the T10S sub to match, if needed.
Still, in the semi-treated home-studio room (12' x 14' x 8'), at lower-to-mid levels, I didn't feel/hear the need for a sub. The woofer segues well with the detail of the ribbon tweeter and the 2.6 kHz cross-over frequency works perfectly with the cabinet shape and volume. No woofer coupling with the rear wall.
Pulse Wave Modulation (PWM) - amplifiers: The T8V speakers are powered by PWM/Class-D amplifiers - 20 Watts for the tweeter and 70 W for the woofer. ADAM Audio's website has a PWM info page
The T8V Experience: I unpacked the ADAM Audio T8V studio monitors; positioned them in a nearfield scenario, allowing enough breathing room for the rear ports. Set to 0dB with EQ flat; fed by XLR from a KRK Ergo (with Room Filter off).
I left the system playing for a few hours in the background to warm up and run in; then listened more critically for a few weeks.
Some general media to start: discussion podcast (all the flaws in production immediately evident in a clear but not harsh way). Next I played the video of Spanish Harlem sung by Rebecca Pidgeon; this track is recommended by Bob Katz in Mastering Audio for setting up subwoofers. I explain this in detail in the ADAM S3V review; the short story is that the bassline should run smoothly through the lowest notes without fading or dipping. I've adapted this method for checking bass capabilities on all monitors I review.
The T8V's handled Spanish Harlem impeccably and also the other elements in the track - the wonderful vocal, drums, etc.
The T8V's soundstage was also impressive: even in a narrow home-studio, semi-nearfield configuration there was a wide and deep soundstage. This was confirmed by listening to Miles Davis Kind of Blue: deep bass, dynamic drums, horns with mechanical and human noise, percussive musical piano. The T8V's bass is beautiful; the air is detailed without harshness.
Several times I was surprised by side-info e.g. the presence of a rattle or snare wire buzz that appeared to be an actual noise in the room at first. I had to double-check. This level of detail and plausible side-positioning is very good for an affordable monitor.
Aside from the subtle but important sonic advantages of the more expensive 3-way S3V the big difference is in linearity of sweet spot (or performance and adhesion to the loudness curve). The T8V's sweet spot - the window of optimum performance) is smaller than the S3V. The S3V's can go much louder than the T8V's - and still sound perfect.
Easily my best (leisure) listening experience for general media from monitors of this price and above. The 2-way T8V's seemed less room-dependant than for example the 3-way S3V's.
Despite the relatively large size for nearfield the T8V's are perfect in this role; for mixing and audio production, also leisure-listening/general media.
In comparison: I was able to directly compare the ADAM Audio T8V's with a range of other monitors: Focal CMS40, Mackie XR625, and JBL One w/sub. From memory, the T8V doesn't compare directly with high-end monitors - ones that cost 10 or 20 times the price - but there are characteristics that the T8V shares: a good soundstage, good resolution of individual sources within the soundstage, stability across all frequencies, good width and depth, low self-noise, plausibility. The T8V's never sounded fake or strained.
So the ADAM Audio T8V's offer extremely good value in their price-bracket, compared to the competition, and in general. In fact, this quality of monitor, and I'd include other brands, have never been this affordable. Good times indeed for those on a budget.
The T8V sound also segues well with ADAM Audio's SP-5 headphones: the precision and resolution of the headphones fills in detail in the T8V's coverage. In tandem they make a comprehensive reference and leisure-listening rig.
Some of the smaller monitors don't offer enough grunt as main monitors for tracking sessions; even with a sub attached, there's a sense of disconnect, a lack of presence and immediacy. The T8V's had the power and range necessary to make tracking enjoyable (e.g. overdubbing a DI electric guitar part over a drums and bass guitar).
Conclusion: I was surprised at how good the ADAM Audio T8V's were, especially for the money. Having used/reviewed the large, 3-way S3V monitors and detailed SP-5 headphones, I thought the T8V's might be a step-down to lower-quality sound with cheap giveaways such as obvious distortion or cabinet resonances - but there were none. In fact the T8V displayed many of the qualities of it's more expensive counterparts and the sound is remarkably consistent between them all.
The T8V's are a bit larger than some nearfield monitors but, if sonics are your primary concern, then you'll get used to them quickly, with their light-bending aesthetic.
The T8V's are less detailed and have a smaller sweet-spot window than the more expensive ranges; the soundstage is not quite as immersive or encompassing, but that is not obvious.
If you want a professional reference monitor then please consider the S-Series; the extra % of refinement is well-worth the investment - but, for everything else, for the money, the T8V offers incredible value and a satisfying, full-range sound.
Sound quality: 5/5 Stellar performance for the money. Lovely ribbon highs and smooth punchy deep bass. Pleasing to listen to and a reliable reference for translation to other playback systems.
Features: 5/5 Effective EQ and gain range. Full bandwidth. Excellent soundstage; depth and width. XLR balanced and RCA unbalanced connections cover most bases. Excellent build quality and finish. Advantage of trickle-down tech from more expensive monitors.
Ease of use: 5/5 Wide sweet spot e.g. a few people listening, or off-axis, tracking. Comfortably light to manouvre and position. Power LED on rear so no indication that monitors are on from front position. Non-fatiguing and suitable for general hi-fi use.
Bang-for-buck: 5/5 Excellent value; the T8V's are not shabby or compromised despite the relatively low-cost. Design, components and build quality add longetivity and value. Most importantly they sound great and using them for making or listening to music is an enjoyable experience. 5-year Warranty.