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Adam Audio T5V review: Amazing sound for sensible money

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Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
138
inc VAT

Adam Audio’s T5V active monitors deliver crisp, balanced sound and deep bass in a keenly priced package

Pros 
Balanced, detailed sound
Deep bass
Affordable
Cons 
Treble is a bit lively
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Adam Audio’s studio monitors are regular fixtures in dedicated music studios across the globe but, while the brand is synonymous with high-end music production, it has never had a reputation for being particularly affordable. Thanks to Adam Audio’s T Series – a trio of active studio monitors that deliver a taste of the brand’s high-end magic for sensible money – that’s all set to change.

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Adam Audio T5V review: What you need to know

The T5V are the most compact, affordable active studio monitors in Adam Audio’s lineup. These little speakers combine a 5in woofer and unusual-looking 1.9in ribbon tweeter with integrated Class-D amplification, balanced and unbalanced inputs suitable for both professional and consumer audio devices and built-in EQ for tailoring the sound to your room.

The studio monitor designation might suggest that these are strictly for use in the studio but they’re far more versatile than that. The 179 x 297 x 298mm (WDH) dimensions aren’t teeny tiny – the cabinets are a little deeper than you might expect given the relatively dainty front profile – but the T5V remain compact enough for desktop use with a PC or laptop, narrow enough to squeeze onto a bookshelf, and don’t look out of place alongside a TV for home cinema duties.

Crucially, though, sound quality is top-notch, regardless of what calibre of device you connect them to. These are superb-sounding speakers that rival options at several times the asking price.

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Adam Audio T5V review: Price and competition

The T5V retail for around £138 per speaker – it’s worth noting that, unlike hi-fi speakers, studio monitors tend to be sold singly – and while that doesn’t make for the cheapest studio monitors on the market, it compares very favourably with rivals.

Look further up the range and the larger, pricier T7V (£148 each) and T8V (£196) models grow in stature, while upgrading to larger 7in and 8in woofers respectively. If you crave deeper bass extension or need more volume than the T5V can muster and can accommodate a markedly bigger speaker cabinet, these may be a good option.

Our previous favourite affordable active monitors were the JBL LSR305P MkII (£125 each), but the Adam T5V outclass the JBLs in almost every possible way. The T5V’s sound quality is noticeably better balanced than the JBL LSR305P, they play louder and the design is easier on the eye, too. Unless you can find the JBL LSR305P MkII going for a song, the T5V is the better buy.

If you’re tempted by more traditional hi-fi separates, then you’re unlikely to be able to match the T5V without spending significantly more money. Partner our favourite affordable passive hi-fi bookshelves, the Q Acoustics 3010i (£149 per pair), with a decent budget amplifier and you’ll struggle to sneak under the T5V’s £276 asking price. What’s more, you’ll have to put up with dramatically less bass and a more uneven frequency response. Pound for pound, separates simply can’t compete in the sound quality stakes.

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Adam Audio T5V review: Design and setup

The all-black finish and lack of speaker grilles won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and particularly not if you’re considering these speakers for living room use, but the T5V do look and feel surprisingly refined for the money. The matte black finish and chamfered front edges give the T5V the same purposeful, professional look as the rest of Adam Audio’s lineup, and the whole package feels nice and solid, too.

The T5V’s cabinet houses a 5in woofer alongside Adam Audio’s unusual-looking U-ART 1.9in ribbon tweeter, and there are dedicated internal Class-D amplifiers for each driver, with 20W driving the tweeter and 50W for the woofer. Each speaker is powered by a single IEC kettle lead.

Around the back of each speaker there’s an XLR connection for balanced inputs and an RCA input for unbalanced devices. It’s worth noting that you can’t use the inputs simultaneously, though, as you need to select between the two with a switch.

A small gain knob smoothly adjusts the volume for each speaker, and two three-way switches allow you to choose from -2db, 0db and +2db settings for the low frequency and high frequency shelf EQ circuits.

The only logistical issue worth mentioning, particularly if you’re considering the T5V for home use, is one that applies to the vast majority of studio monitors: the separate gain controls on the rear of each speaker aren’t intended for use like a volume control on a hi-fi amplifier. Instead, you set the T5V’s gain controls to a level that produces an acceptable maximum volume when your laptop, PC or whichever device is connected has its volume set to 100%, then control the volume solely via the connected device.

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Adam Audio T5V review: Sound quality

In short, these are very, very good sounding speakers. Bass is remarkably deep and powerful, reaching down smoothly to around 40Hz before rolling off fairly rapidly, and the overall sound quality is smooth and detailed. Treble is a touch bright – and it remains so even with the high frequency EQ control set to its -2dB position – but it’s not unpleasant to listen to. Overall, I did prefer the T5V with a little bit of software EQ to bring down the top-end by a couple more dB, but it’s not essential: the rest of the frequency range is so balanced, and the bass so extended, that it doesn’t end up sounding overly sharp.

The T5V go much louder than the similarly priced JBL LSR305P MkII, too, and that means there’s more than enough volume to fill small to medium-sized rooms – frankly, most people won’t want them to go any louder. For bigger rooms, higher volumes and lower bass extension, partnering the T5V with a subwoofer is a good bet, as is filtering out the bass frequencies being sent to the T5V’s modest little woofer. I experimented with an 80Hz crossover on my Yamaha AV receiver and it certainly seemed to help the T5V handle movie soundtracks far more confidently at higher volumes.

One reason why the T5V sounds so good is that the design uses a waveguide. This small scooped-out region around the tweeter helps to integrate the treble frequencies with that of the woofer below and, as a result, the sound reflected off walls and ceilings sounds very similar to what comes directly out of the speaker. This means that the character of the sound – the balance between bass, mid-range and treble frequencies – remains as consistent and balanced as possible at the listening position.

As ever, the proof is in the listening, and the T5V sounded great in every room I tried them in. The T5V sounded consistently good in my acoustically treated office, in an echoey, wooden-floored living room, and they were quite happy shoved on a desk, bookshelf or on speaker stands, too – something you can’t always take for granted with more traditionally designed hi-fi speakers.

The T5V’s design also produces a pleasingly wide sweet spot – the location where you need to sit to get the best stereo image – so you can move around more freely before the stereo image completely collapses towards one speaker or the other. Whether you’re using the T5V in a studio where you might be scooting left and right, or just perched on the end of your sofa, that leeway is very welcome indeed.

I spent around a month with the T5V and it’s to their credit that I didn’t feel the need to swap back to my usual system. Given that the usual system is a pair of Revel Concerta2 M16 (~£799) speakers with a chunky 250W Yamaha power amplifier and a towering SVS CS-Ultra subwoofer, that’s pretty impressive in and of itself. The little T5V have such impressive bass extension that I was quite happy to listen without the subwoofer and the overall sound is so refined and balanced that it’s very hard to tell you’re listening to an affordable pair of active studio monitors.

At this price point, there are some concerns about tweeter hiss being audible – the basic internal Class-D amplifiers in this calibre of speaker often produce a hiss, even when nothing is playing – but the T5V are inoffensive in this regard. You can hear a hiss once you get up close to the speaker, but it’s not audible once you move around a metre away, and it’s completely inaudible once music is playing at even a low volume.

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Adam Audio T5V review: Verdict

If you’re thinking that £276 per pair isn’t exactly pocket money, you’d be right, but the Adam Audio T5V’s price-to-performance ratio is off the scale: I’ve not heard a better active studio monitor for the money and they genuinely rival hi-fi separates systems that I’ve heard at two or three times the price.

Ultimately, the T5V are compact, well-designed speakers that sound great in every way that matters. Regardless of whether you’re looking to up your music production game or just want superb quality sound for your desk or living room, they’re an astonishing achievement at the price.

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