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Triple play! Unscientific comparisons between the Swans D1010-IV, Fostex PM0.4N and Adam ARTist 3!

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Source: Furutech GT40

Transport: Samplitude Pro X (WDM as ASIO was a bit problematic on my crappy lappy), JRMC (WASAPI), XMplay (WASAPI), iTunes (MME)

Sundries: Chord SilverPlus USB cable, Chord CobraPlus RCA, Tacima 6-way mains conditioner

 

 

Not reviewed: Onboard DAC and Stereolink of Adam speakers

 

 

Blurb/Acknowledgements: I was in the hunt for some reasonably priced active or powered compact speakers and my search has currently landed me with these three interesting (and somewhat popular) speakers. Many thanks, of course, to Mark of Item Audio who has kindly provided the speakers for this trial!

 

 

post #2 of 15
Thread Starter 

Swans: For those unfamiliar with the Swans brand, they are a Chinese OEM speaker driver manufacturer for some time now and, in these days, cater mainly to the DIY community. They've not too recently decided to take the plunge into designing cabs and speakers for multimedia use. The D1010 we have here today is but one example of the plethora of offerings the make has available.

 

Build wise, these speakers are the lightest of the lot; (probably) solely because these are not bi-amped like the other two speakers. The wood-veneered MDF panels also appear to be a bit thinner than the other two and is a bit prone to fingerprint smudging. As a powered option, you'll have to make do with its proprietary 4-connector pin and sleeve speaker interconnect to daisy the main (right) speaker to the secondary (left) (unlike with Audioengine's or Aktimate's offering, which uses binding posts). Input is via a pair of RCA sockets on the rear panel of the master speaker. A volume control is also found on the left (right, when the drivers are facing you) side of the master speaker. Potential areas of user upgradability include: IEC (Figure 8) power connectors, and input interconnect cables.

 

Sound wise, the Swans captures quite a lot of detail from the DAC and reflects its aural signature pretty well. However, I do regretfully report that this is a pair of speakers that are not truthfully neutral. There is quite a bit of lower-mid and mid-treble colouration (a bit of a boxy sound) arising from a slight mid and upper-bass hump. And speaking of bass, (as expected) we don't get much sub-bass out of the tiny 3.5" polypropylene drivers but mid-bass isn't the monotone nonsense you'd get with lesser speakers. The mid-range, however, loses out on dynamics and transients and isn't really capable of delivering the pacey, lively sound from the GT40. Whatever that's left, however, is capable of delivering volumes of information on instrument and vocal textures, soundstage (almost being Grado-like with soundstage here), warmth as well as generally usable vocal/instrumentation separation without squeezing everything into an incoherent lump. 

 

Overall, a decent entry level speaker. There are plenty of attributes that one would desire more from these, which it balances out by giving some levels of fidelity that entry users would love. So as a first step of departure from your generic Logitechs and Altec Lansings, this is a good start.

 

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

 

Fostex: Likewise with Swans, Fostex is a Japanese label that has dealt primarily with transducer manufacture that targets the high-end side of the DIY community, producing quite a few legends like the FE-series along the way. The PM0.4N is the most basic offering of the PM-series of affordable monitors in their line-up.

 

Overall, a heftier and sturdier build than the Swans (as befits the slightly higher price tag). It has a glossy painted front baffle and matte veneered MDF cabinet for the rest of its construction. TRS and RCA inputs are available to the user on the back and there are built in volume controls on each speaker (as these are meant to be sold singly). Each speaker also arrives with a fixed AC power cord, which does not allow the user to upgrade there. A large heatsink completes the rear panel. The samples I have are made in China.

 

Despite being almost similarly priced to the Swans, the Fostex sounds completely different from the former. Bass is somewhat tighter on the Fostex and the midrange is a lot more focussed. It expands the Swan's wide, expansive soundstage with some depth but vocals are a touch recessed on the Fostex for some reason. One of its weaknesses is that perceived high-frequencies do not seem to extend enough. Which its where it fails to bring out the GT40's almost valve-like sweetness in its trebles. When driven hard, the Fostex would also do well envelope the room with sound. Pretty good job there, especially with films.

 

Being a sensitive pair of speakers, it would be rather picky with the quality of mains power you feed it as well as what you use to hook it up with your DAC. Would-be users are hereby advised.

 

It is probably a bit of placebo here. But I feel that these being speakers meant for the studio, they do sound the part and really are a significant step away from mainstream computer speakers. Highly recommended as a first pair considering the price.

 

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

 

Adam: While I was supposed to try out the cheaper A3X, I was advised that these would be a reasonable estimate on their capabilities. So here goes...

 

Needless to say, these being the most expensive pair of the lot, build quality is great. The glossy finish is quite resistant to smudging and minor scratches and even comes with holes for wall-mount brackets (making it suitable as occasional rear surrounds, probably - as these are rear-ported speakers). Input options are XLR, RCA (for analogue) and USB (for the ARTist 3's built-in DAC only). When this DAC is in use, using Adam's proprietary stereolink (which is really just a regular RCA interconnect), you can daisy chain 2 of these speakers for stereo use (including volume control from the master unit). This works somehow in analogue mode too, but I didn't really bother finding out (as I would have run out of interconnects then).

 

As for the sound, saying that they do a big sound from such a diminutive pair of speakers is a gross understatement. Adams tend to have a reputation in the industry for being extremely sensitive and these speakers are definitely no exception! Thanks to its unique ribbon tweeters, the Adams have an extremely detailed sound; which is able to perfectly capture the leading edge attack and microdynamics of the GT40 with much aplomb. Soundstage duties also seem to be handled mostly by the ribbons and it is able to project not just a wide, expansive image with a brilliant amount of depth but also project a pseudo feeling of the sound actually jumping out to give you a nice warm hug. Sweet!

 

However, this capable tweeter is let down quite slightly by its cabinet design and its overly soft 4.5" midwoofer rubber surrounds. Bass control is rather unruly in these speakers and this is most evident in film/soundtrack applications as well as certain music styles that demand a fast and reasonably tight mid-bass. This is where the bass just descends into quite an incoherent mush that ever so slightly bleeds into the already rather expressive midrange. Shame that.

 

Assuming prices stay where they are now, the ARTist range will probably fade into obsolescence pretty soon and be cannibalised by the A3X and A5X (or even the upcoming F5) respectively. This is especially considering the case where capable DACs and interconnects these days can be had for less than the (roughly) £250 premium they command over their AX-series brethren. Note also, the included DACs in the ARTist range are not really something to crow about, although they do the job as advertised (it's a bit like the FiiO DACs, IMO).

 

 

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

 

Conclusion/TLDR: Three active/powered speakers, three unique flavours. While I'm ashamed to say that I wasn't able to really find something I'd personally keep in this exercise, I would go out on a limb here and say that, on balance, the Fostex is probably a good bet to go for, especially if you're migrating from generic PC speakers to ones that would give a decent amount of fidelity. Bear in mind, though: These are more or less mid-fi speakers and are definitely not the stuff experienced dabblers would run out the door to get immediately. But as a decent pair of "first speakers" for newbie dabblers, they would do the job splendidly in giving you hours of enjoyable music.

 

Personally, I would hope for something that has the build quality, sensitivity and tweeter performance of the Adams, mated with the Fostex's woofer and cabinet characteristics. I wonder if such a speaker exists, though. Or I could just wait for the upcoming F5's to try out. LOL...

 

 

Additional Remark: While it says "compact" on the tin for these speakers, don't expect for a moment there that you're going to get small little boxes like most PC speakers (or even the popular mid-fi ones like the Audioengine A2 or B&W MM-1)! These boxes have a pretty huge footprint for people with desk sizes smaller than 1.5m x 0.7m (or crowded desks in general). Little caveat for would-be users out there!

post #6 of 15

I, for one, have been suggesting the Fostex PM0.4n for a while here as a much better option to "multi-media" and "computer" speakers.  It is not surprising to hear your impressions that the bass is more controlled.  If true, it is probably not unrelatedto the active design which allows for much better damping of the driver.

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Interesting thoughts about the active design principle. (seems to apply to the tweeters, for sure)

 

But it may also be down to basic transducer design too, me thinks.

 

When powered, I did try to do the "little kid" thing by gently pushing the main drivers first and finger tapping it (totally unscientific! LOL!) to get a feel of the cabinet design as far as internal reflections go.

 

The Fostex actually yielded the least, followed closely by the Swans and finally the Adams. And that seemed (somehow) to correspond loosely with the tightness/quality of the bass. I hope, it's not placebo, though! :)

post #8 of 15

Well, yes, no design--active or passive, however sophisticated--can make up for a cheap, flawed driver with inherently poor technical characteristics.  Much improved damping and control of drivers in active designs is real.  For example, the bass driver of a good active speaker will resist your physical pushing of the driver inwards with your fingers.  One reason is that the amplifier is literally hard-wire to the driver, thereby proving much better and much more precise control of driver movement and excursion.  Active really is much better in at least this regard.  Of that there can be little question.

 

Those Fostex are easy on the eye too.

PM04n_013-thumb.jpg


Edited by Mauricio - 4/4/12 at 11:37pm
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

Interestingly enough, the samples I've got are also in white! LOL!

 

Hmm....If the front baffle were slightly more flushed with the rest of the cab, I could somewhat agree on the aesthetics. But as it stands, a 1mm gap is a 1mm gap too wide for me. So YMMV there...

 

Agreed on the damping characteristics of active systems. Though, that said, one must remember that it is still something that exists only on paper. The actual/real-world implementation (where things such as manufacturing and supply chain costs come into play) of it would still be a different matter (depending on how many corners are cut obviously).

 

post #10 of 15

Not quite.  Regardless of the cost, all active speakers--by definition--have their amplifiers hard-wired directly to the driver.  Regardless of the cost, all active speakers--by definition--have the crossover before the amp.  These are significant system design differences that exist--again, by definition--regardless of the cost.

post #11 of 15

seems Swan's have got themselves a pretty good business (Guangzhou plant), considering that a lot was built on copying/cloning other speakers designs. evil_smiley.gif

 

impressive!

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenni View Post

seems Swan's have got themselves a pretty good business (Guangzhou plant), considering that a lot was built on copying/cloning other speakers designs. evil_smiley.gif

 

impressive!



Hehe....all I can say is: Don't ever underestimate the Chinese market!

 

Since they are also expanding (rather rapidly, I might add) into the export market, I'm not too surprised by what I see there. And, indeed, their products are being lapped up faster than you can say "hot cakes"!

post #13 of 15

I am resurrecting this dead thread.....   ph34r.gif

 

I was curious to how the audioengine a2 compares to the fostex PM 0.4n and the swan d1010, as well as the swan m10....  I am trying to plan a nice looking, sounding, and compact system for my computer.  I was also contemplating teaming it with a dayton 8" subwoofer for the occasional movie.  I primarilly care about music though.  These are all in the same budget if you are looking at refurbished products now....

 

This thread seemed to have the most information.  So asking for a bit more information here seemed suitable.

 

edit: I don't think I'll ever be able to justify the Adam a3x, besides my wife wouldn't appreciate me going to extreme with the size and look. Trying to keep it looking clean.


Edited by cheapfi - 11/5/12 at 9:18am
post #14 of 15

the audioengines are passive speakers with built in amplifier. ctive studio speakers are biamplified meaning the tweeterand woofer each have theyre own amplifier. aalso theyhave have active crossovers. For this reasonactivestudioi  monitors are superior  in sound quality. I dont k now about the swans  but the fostex are biamplified and have active crossovers, I use to own those myaelf they are limited in bass buit tother than htat they are excellent.

post #15 of 15

I'm leaning towards the Fostex PM0.4n's at the moment.   I found a cheap source of acoustic foam monitor isolation wedges, those combined with the speaker size and the size of my desk should put them at the right angle. I think it could work out well. Also shouldn't look too out of place with my 25" monitor.  I'm hoping for an excellent near field listening experience.

 

I still am tempted to buy a pair of the others as well to try with my TV. It will probably be a couple more months before I buy though. I just like planning every purchase well in advance.

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