Monday, 25 March 2013

Some Studio Monitors

Adam A7X, Adam A77X, Event 20/20 BAS & Eve SC207

Some time back I had the chance to sit down at the Production Room in Leeds to test some studio-monitors. You can read my comments here, but if you desire a complete analysis you should also read some of the more comprehensive reviews available. This one will not be as in depth. But that said, it has not been hard to choose a winner amongst the tree models I tested!

The set-up at the Production Room. Notice the stylish Zaor iDesk!
The three models in question are Adam A7X, Adam A77X and the Event 20/20 BAS. Having used both the old Event TR-8 and the ALP 5 for many years I was extremely excited about the re-release of the 20/20.

Event 20/20 BAS
Adam A77X

Adam A7X

The speakers were fed signal from a computer through the USB connection on the new Yamaha 01V 96 VCM (sorry for all the Yamaha-letters!), and distributed through a Coleman Audio MS6R. For better or for worse, the music was streamed from online. Still, the tracks had high enough resolution to give a clear idea about the individual character of the monitors in question.

I have used three different reference-tracks when testing. I’ve written my rather un-edited notes for each monitor under the different tracks. I know both the Miles Davis and Corinne Bailey Rae mixes very well from a number of different reproduction systems.

1. Miles Davis “Freddie Freeloader”:

Event 20/20 BAS
-       Pulled down the low shelf to half past ten and kept it there for the rest of the session.
-       They exerted a comfortable double-bass sound for listening.
-       The whole recording sounded classic analogue and warm.
-       Stereo image was not very wide, but neither is the recording.

Adam A77X
-       Unnaturally bright and wide stereo for this old recording.
-       More forward sounding than the Events.
-       Had to pull down the high shelf eq.

Adam A7X

-       Sounds truthful, a little more forward sounding than the 20/20’s, but still realistic.
-       Less bass extension than the two above, so you might want to consider a sub to check mixes in a large room.

Later I have found that lowering the bass shelf on the A7X can actually give a greater sense of bass-extension. The logic seems to be that the higher end of the bass-spectrum doesn’t get to mask the lower register to the same degree as it rolls off. A good reference track to try this on is D’Angelo’s “Feel Like Making Love.”

2. Corinne Bailey Rae “Put Your Records On”:
(This has become one of my regular test-tracks for assessing midrange and vocal clarity)

Event 20/20 BAS
-       Mix sounds familiar, but slightly boxy.
-       Much “bigger” sounding than the A7X.
-       Lacking some crucial information in the midrange.
-       In spite of what sounds like a huge bass extension it has less definition in the bass than either of the Adams.

Adam A77X
-       Amazing bass extension, but too forward sounding to reveal how the mix really sounds.
-       Seems to have the most accurate bass levels of the tree.
-       Most “comfy” to listen to.

Adam A7X
-       Appears as the most truthful.
-       The whole mix sounds amazing.
-       Round and nice bass, but not with a lot of extension.
-       Bass is clearly defined.

3. A piano piece by J. S. Bach
(I’m sorry I didn’t have the foresight to write down what it actually was). The recording was done on a 20th century grand piano, so there were no fortepiano-sounds.

Event 20/20 BAS
-       Losing midrange information again! Feels like standing outside the door to a recital room. May work as background music for your living room, but not useful to represent acoustic sounds in a studio!

Adam A77X
-       Too bright! No grand piano sounds like this, and the brightness doesn’t help you to make a better mix here!

Adam A7X
-       Definitely the winner for this track!


I really wanted to like the Events! I know so many mixes on the TR-8’s and I have loved them for years. I have always loved how the TR-8-sound translates very well between different listening systems. As you can imagine I was pretty pumped when I heard there was a new 20/20 on the way. But I’m sorry to say that they did not deliver. If you’re reading any of the major reviews out there I feel Sound on Sound for example is giving it even more credit than it deserves. It is said that this is a speaker first and foremost for the electronic musician, but I can’t find any useful application for it as a monitor to mix or record on at all. There is just too much lacking in the mids for it to be able to present any instrument (and especially vocal) in a truthful way. I’m curious to try them out in a different room and see if there’s a hidden epiphany somewhere, though I have my doubts.

Lots of bass extension and lots of highs. In a home-cinema this speaker might do well, but I don’t really understand how the makers of the critically acclaimed A7X thought that their customer group could mix on these? Lots of top, lots of bottom, not much balance.

By far and away the winner! I both wanted and expected it to be a closer race! To my ears Adam has one of the most detailed midranges in this marked-segment at the moment. That’s also why I find myself playing the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae and D’Angelo on them whenever I have the chance, to unfold vocal textures in the mixes. I have later found that lowering both the eq. shelves is beneficial to tidy up the bass and remove a bit of excess brightness.

Other alternatives

Eve SC207

Not long ago I bought a pair of Eve SC207 for a small studio I have designed in Norway. At first run-through they sound rather “boring,” but when you get used to them it’s easier to appreciate how clean they sound. If you want midrange details for editing vocals I would go for the A7X. But to get a transparent overview over your entire mix the Eve SC207 might be just as good. One of the main distributers in Scandinavia has told me that they expect the Eves to have less technical faults than the Adams as well, but ultimately it’s down to what sound you prefer working with.

Now, you go test some speakers and tell me what you think in the comment box!

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