Pros: Very decisive, dynamic, powerful. "big sound"; best nearfield experience I have had.
Cons: Maybe slightly less capable when used in other than near or mid field listening.
INTRO: The Chord phenomenon (or how it opened my ears to enjoying music more)
To get to the hear of the matter, I have been shopping on and off for some highly resolving monitors in order to exploit as much of the potential of my Chord Mojo as possible since I bought mine back in late 2015.
The Chord Mojo has an almost surreal ability to deconstruct music and reassemble it in an intelligible and highly detailed, layered, manner. I had achieved "nirvana" in the headphone department (on a cost-effective level at least) with my K3003 IEMs and T1 over-ears, but my speaker rig was lacking. I have the Audioengine A5s which just aren't delivering what I know the Mojo is capable of and a set of KEF X300As which are great, BUT anything analogue gets converted to digital, and then back to analogue via all the onboard gubbins, with no way to bypass it; I felt that this was a huge downer for any upgrading. Seemed irrelevant at the time of purchase :-)
Both sets of speakers ultimately leave me feeling I am listening through a veil; enhanced when I compare the resolution achievable either with the K3003s or the T1s.
I began toying with ideas involving amps/speakers combos (LS50 Kefs perhaps with Naim amp? etc), but was always stumped by pairings, sitings and such. I was looking more and more into the "pro" market (which seems to be alone in offering high quality, non-digital, active systems at decent prices), wondering just how bad they could possibly be for music listening; the ideal of balance, neutral-yet-razor-sharp sound really appealed to me. I had discovered the world of HD audio and wanted more!! Specifically, I wanted a speaker sound which could approach, at least, the sound I was getting from my cans. A tall order perhaps, given the budget I had available, of under 1000chf/usd; but I felt I could do better than what I had for sure!
My search in pro-quarters soon took me to Adam's door with their range of mini-monitors. Offering seemingly supernatural levels of sound quality I was instantly locked on to them. Common +ve comments being of the "highly resolving", "superb midrange and sublime treble", "holographic soundstage" variety. How could I not be smitten?
Adam supply many different options in their ranges, including the F series which is a lower cost range, seemingly more marketed as for actual music listening, the A range for mixing and mastering and then an S range which is at another audio level and price point altogether.
I focused on the A range which seemed to offer the decisive , razor sharp "Adam" sound, and fell within budget.
My choice was between the diminutive A3X (only about 10 inches high or something and with a 3+ inch effective woofer), the A5X which offered bigger cabinet around 12inch high, 100w RMS per side, and decent frequency response, and finally the A7X which really was my ideal choice, but a little over budget at around 1200chf the pair cheapest option. Also the A7X seemed a big beast at around 14 inches high and with a 7" woofer always seemed a little OTT for a desktop rig; my intended placement for my new acquisitions.
The Adam Listening Experience
Finally, after doing my sums, scraping cash together, I went to a local crack audio dealer who had all 3 in stock and was able to dem all 3 pairs side by side.
1st up were the A3Xs which sounded really great! Surprisingly so, it was all there; definition, clarity, soundstage, and bass (lots of that).
2nd up, the A5Xs; a much more balanced sound. And oddly much less apparent bass than the A3X (clearly the designers had hyped up the bass output of the little 3s)
Finally tried the A7X, just a bit more bass presence than the A5Xs but no noticeable improvement in mid nor treble.
The setup was pretty crappy, it must be said; whole banks of monitors set up with a comparator and itunes feeding it; all in an otherwise empty chamber of around 20ft x 14ft, with the speakers lining up against the long wall . But it was enough for me to make a choice.
I extrapolated what I was hearing in that horrible environment to how I expected it to sound in my small workspace; a timber walled enclosure of about 16ft x 7ft; home to MUCH clutter and furniture. Speakers firing down the room, 2ft from side walls and 1ft from back wall.
I felt the A3Xs may become overblown or "one-note" in the mid-bass; whilst they still sounded great I was a little wary (I would seriously love the little A3Xs as a "play speaker" to wow people with; they sounded so big and rich, it was a WTF! moment). I moved on to the A7Xs and A5Xs and listened to them in detail, in the end I felt that the A5Xs would be perfect because of their compact size, yet very full sound and defined bass. If the A7Xs and A5Xs had been the same price, I would have gone for the 7's of course, but there's about 430chf between 2 sets, which is a healthy wedge and certainly I wouldn't say the A5X's lagged, like, 30% behind in terms of SQ. Maybe even in my small space, the 7's would be too much.
Sound Quality of the A5Xs
So I went for the A5Xs and am over the moon with them. Now they are more or less run in, they are providing an uncoloured, glorious, out of the box, soundscape across my desktop. Close to the sound of my IEMs or T1s? Yes definitely. They are as addictive as the T1s to listen to with Mojo.
Notably, they don't have any perceived deficiencies, certainly not for their price, nor size. Yet we have to put these things into perspective.
I have a sort of check-list which I go through when selecting speakers, and invariably I have to compromise along the way. Let's see how the A5Xs stack up:
1) Out of the box sound - check! Best out of the box experience I have had at my desk (Not so good on stands at 3m away, however, but then these are not designed for that purpose)
2) Clarity and precision - check! Able to pinpoint elements of a mix and focus on whatever aspect one wants.
3) Dynamics and drive (PRAT) - check; rhythms and transients are extremely well present.
4) Bass definition - check! Incredibly defined and tuneful bass. It's dry but not excessively so. Very tuneful and clear; can follow bass-lines very easily.
5) Treble "shimmer" - check! With the advanced ribbon tweeter, the treble is a startling USP on these; very pure and natural.
6) Midrange clarity - check! Vocals are very pure; these things do that weird thing sometimes when you have that sort of double take that you're actually listening to something live rather than recorded. Happens to me a lot with my T1s listening to very well recorded classical; and sometimes female vocals like Tori Amos or Norah Jones.
Overall, it's a heady mix and IDEALLY suited to a DAC output like the Chord series which are so highly resolving-yet-musical that they deserve nothing less.
My initial worry was that I'd end up with something over-analytical with no soul. My fears are allayed as the inherent musicality of the Mojo shines through these clear windows onto the music. They do really rather sound like a speaker version of my T1s and that saying something.
Relative to the KEFs they are a definitive step up in terms of resolution of detail, lower colouration (in the nearfield - equal at distance), bass definition, soundstage depth, separation, dynamics. The A5Xs do sound very similar tonally to the KEFs which surprised me a little; I guess the KEFs are pretty well balanced!
I can heartily recommend them to anyone seeking a small, budget conscious, incisive, audiophile setup for near field listening. Forget the claptrap of Hifi vs Studio sound and let your ears and heart do the listening.