ADAM Audio Classic Column MK3 loudspeaker Page 2
Considering all the technical attention ADAM has lavished on their X-ART drivers, it was interesting that my attention was first drawn to the low end of the audioband. The extreme bottom end was extremely detailed and extended. A classic test track, "Cosmic Hippo," from Béla Fleck's Flight of the Cosmic Hippo (CD, Warner Bros. 26562-2), offered a good demonstration of the Column's bass. The first verse usually sounds full and deep through most competent systems, but in the second verse the bass line is an octave deeper, which often results in a significantly more woolly texture or in outright woofer stress. Through the Columns there was none of that: the second verse simply sounded awesomely deeper. In the same range, all the timpani strokes in Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony's new recording of Beethoven's Symphony 7 (SACD/CD, SFS Media 10116) were tight but resonant and lively, the impact of mallet on skin unobscured.
Moving up the audioband, first male and then female voices were imbued with their characteristic chest and head resonances, but in seemingly perfect equilibrium with the rest of the range of each voice. Whether the voice was low, such as that of Leonard Cohen on his I'm Your Man (CD, Columbia CK 44191), or of bass Gottlob Frick as Rocco in Beethoven's Fidelio, with Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra (CD, EMI CMS 7 69324 2)or higher, such as soprano Dawn Upshaw's in Golijov's Three Songs, with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony (CD, Deutsche Grammophon B0009069-02); or Lisa Gerrard's in Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth (CD, 4AD 45384-2)each was portrayed with uncanny clarity.
Similarly, cello and guitar had a natural balance of fundamentals, harmonics, and transients that added up to a most realistic presence right there between the Columns. Of course, aside from their fundamental tones, most of these sounds get their unique qualities from frequencies above 800Hz; the great success of the Columns must also have been due to the excellent blend that ADAM Audio has made of the outputs of their X-ART ribbons and these cone drivers.
Now for the real glory of the Classic Column MK3: From the midrange up, the sound was marvelously transparent. Almost every disc I listened to through the ADAMs offered new revelations of detail and nuance, regardless of how familiar I was with it. It didn't matter what I playedthe Column's extraordinary X-ART midrange and treble drivers never failed to impress me. Nor were their detail and clarity byproducts of a tipped-up HF range. Switching from the McIntosh MC303 three-channel amp to the Bel Canto REF1000 Mk.II monoblocks, I noted some softening of the HFand even more with the Anthem Statement M1 monoblocks. John Atkinson's measurements will augment these impressions, but at no time did the Column's treble sound bright to me. The delicacy of its detail was come by honestly.
I pulled out the original CD edition of Atrium Musicae de Madrid's La Folia de la Spagna (CD, Harmonia Mundi 1951050), which combines sound effects with music ranging from the serious to the silly. The great variety of instrumental voices, wide dynamic range, and spacious soundstaging has long made this a great system demo, and all of those qualities were evident as never before through the Classic Column MK3s. In fact, I heard a few whispered comments by performers that I'd never noticed before. Dynamic shading was both exquisite and broad. My wife thinks her cat lost more than a few hairs when, in past playings of this disc, he levitated in response to the crack of a whipbut had he heard it through the Columns, he probably would have lost a few of his nine lives. It almost knocked me overand I knew it was coming.
The Columns carried over all of these felicities to bigger, denser music, which they portrayed with no loss of transparency or detail. The finale of Mahler's Symphony 2, with Iván Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra (SACD/CD, Channel Classics CCS SA 23506), was spacious and massive. The low and midbass were full and well defined. The soundstage, even in just two channels, was broad and deep, with an imposing feeling of presence and proximity. However, as in the concert hall, the Columns allowed me to revel in the waves of glorious exultation and focus on the melodic lines woven by individual voices and instruments.
Overall, the characteristics of ADAM Audio's Classic Column MK3 include a smooth and natural spectral balance, remarkable transparency across the spectrum (and most notably from the midrange up), and tight, full, well-extended bass. It could also deliver dynamic contrasts both subtle and staggering. Its excellent soundstage, however, was quite forward, and seemed to begin in the room, right at the speakers' baffles. Indeed, it created the illusion of listening in the nearfield, even at my normal listening distance of 12'.
The Classic Column MK3 will thrill many listenersit did mebut some, also including myself, prefer to look into a soundstage without being smack up against it. Of course, this is greatly a matter of taste and a function of one's choice of music. The Columns delivered thrilling impact and presence with pop and rock. I listen mostly to classical music, which is composed, performed, and recorded to be heard some distance from the stage. Nonetheless, the Columns' presentation of all sorts of music was thoroughly engrossing and convincing, however much it differed from my usual preferences.
In appearance and footprint, the Classic Column MK3 bears some resemblance to the Aerial Acoustics 7T, which I reviewed in the March 2012 issue ($9850/pair). The 7Ts' sound is smoothly balanced and open, and they produced what was, for me, an appropriately distanced soundstage with classical recordings. The Aerial's bass seemed less full than the Column's, but the 7T was unperturbed by organ-pedal notes at high volumes. Although the Column seemed to go deeper at any reasonable volume, I could get them to misbehave if I pursued such a cruel intention. If you audition both, I don't think you'd have difficulty choosing between thembut I wouldn't presume to predict what that choice would be.
All that said, I'd choose ADAM Audio's Classic Column MK3 in a heartbeat if my listening room could accommodate more than one speaker system. Compared to the awesome spaciousness and warmth of the Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond, the Classic Column MK3 is a splash of cool water in the face and a kick in the butt. It gave me an alternate and entirely refreshing depiction of everything I threw at it. ADAM Audio may be a name new to the American high end, but my hat's off to them: The Column MK3 is aptly named a Classic.