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Distortion/rattle on Adam a77x

fmessier6

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Good morning, first post here, I hope I posted in the right section :)
I'm asking for help because I feel I'm losing my mind.

I recently bought a pair of Adam A77x and there is an unmistakable midrange distortion/rattle on pretty much every solo piano piece I listen to or mix, even with virtual instruments such as NI's The Grandeur. Sometimes is subtle, sometimes is absolutely unacceptable.

- I swapped audio interface (I was using a Scarlett 1st Gen, I tried with a Komplete Audio 2)
- Tried with a different OS (W7 -> Mojave)
- Changed power cables as well, same result
- Experimented with gain staging

I contacted Adam, and I attached their response at the bottom of my post.
"We are aware of the described behavior, which we classify as a part of the speakers’ characteristics, and not a faulty behavior."

I record and mix plenty of piano music, so if this distortion according to Adam is a feature (?), I'll have to return the speakers.

I've asked a couple of colleague and apparently they do not have this harmonic distortion/rattle on their Adams A77X.

What am I doing wrong here?

This is an audio example, captured with a Rode NT55 pointed at the left woofer of the A (right) speaker.

This is absolutely unacceptable on monitors this expensive.

Thank you in advance for your help!
 

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restorer-john

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Send them back for a refund. That is terrible and wholly unacceptable for piano reproduction. Are you playing them super loud?

Find some 3 way speakers with a proper low distortion midrange.

PS welcome to ASR :)
 
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fmessier6

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Thank you for your reply and for your welcome!

I work on piano music really often, so these right now are two expensive black bricks, sitting on my stands.

I was wondering if there were any tests I could do but I honestly run out of ideas, and I'm shocked no one reported this, unless I'm the only one experiencing this problem with the a77x?

As long as it's a track involving a grand piano... it automatically distorts on some degree: Ludovico Einaudi, Yann Tiersen, you name it.

This one from Ludovico Einaudi, I can't get past the 30'' mark without wanting to throw these speakers out of the window.

The distortion is coming from the inner woofer of both speakers (A and B).
 
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dfuller

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This one from Ludovico Einaudi
I hear something on my KH310s, only in the right channel. Going to see if it's there in headphones. EDIT: It is there. I don't think it's what you're talking about though.

I wonder if maybe the piano is exciting a breakup mode in the midwoofer somewhere?

The distortion is coming from the inner woofer of both speakers (A and B).

How do you have them positioned? If A is to the left, then I'm thinking the piano is exciting a breakup mode in the midwoofer.
 
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restorer-john

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Thank you for your reply and for your welcome!

I don't qualify for a return/refund because I briefly missed the 30-days window, but I'm negiotiating this with Thomann.com as we speak.

So far they only accept to take them back and ship them to Germany to repair, but what are they going to repair? Both speakers show the same issue, and Adam will send them back after a month saying they found nothing unusual, especially because they admitted that this issue is actually a "feature".

I work on piano music really often, so these right now are two expensive black bricks, sitting on my stands.

I was wondering if there were any tests I could do but I honestly run out of ideas, and I'm shocked no one reported this, unless I'm the only one experiencing this problem with the a77x?

As long as it's a track involving a grand piano... it automatically distorts on some degree: Ludovico Einaudi, Yann Tiersen, you name it.

This one from Ludovico Einaudi, I can't get past the 30'' mark without wanting to throw these speakers out of the window.

The distortion is coming from the inner woofer of both speakers (A and B).

What you need to do is find the frequencies that are causing the specific issues.

Bear in mind, that link is Youtube and the distortion on those compressed tracks is putrid at the best of times:

"This one from Ludovico Einaudi, I can't get past the 30'' mark without wanting to throw these speakers out of the window."
 

Doodski

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dfuller

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That recording sounds ancient. Otherwise there is something wrong with that gear.
Yes, extremely high distortion. Though, I have no clue how good the quality of Vocaroo is.
 

alex-z

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Do you have a copy of the original piece? I think I can hear the problem in that 14 second clip, not sure due to recording quality.

If you can get a refund, a pair of Genelec 8040B are around the same cost. If no refund, the first thing I would try is plugging the ports and high-passing to a decent subwoofer at 80Hz. If the problem is a port resonance or internal standing wave that will mask it.
 
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fmessier6

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The example provided was this track, called Chopin Spring Waltz, from YouTube.
On my Yamaha's HS8, my previous pair of speakers, it sounds decent, in the sense that there is no audible distortion.

When I plug the a77x, oh boy.

"What you need to do is find the frequencies that are causing the specific issues."

I will do a frequency sweep tomorrow first thing in the morning, but the short answer is... piano. Anything involving a grand piano.

There is an interesting thread here and they discuss pretty much what I'm having here:

1) "Same problem, clear harmony in the 200 - 1000 Hz (piano type sounds) are still distorting."
2) "Same problem here with the A77Xs. Sounds more like rattle than clipping. Very subtle but it's there, especially with certain subs."
3) "I'm having the exact same issue on my A8X. Piano sample and low passed tracks around 900hz are "clipping/distorting".
 
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Webninja

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Have you tried different sources? Maybe something very well recorded.

When I started getting better speakers I started noticing recording and production quality was much more audible.

The frequency sweep will be interesting as a piano has quiet a broad range.
 

dfuller

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There is an interesting thread here and they discuss pretty much what I'm having here:
This makes me think it's one of two things at play, and apparently both are issues with the AX series:
1. The amp is distorting heavily, and is adding a lot of harmonic information that isn't there.
2. The driver itself is misbehaving - you've managed to come across music that heavily excites the area where there are undamped resonances.

Per a former Adam designer:
Hit [the A7X] with dense orchestral or just a simple grand piano, they quickly fall apart for me, at almost any listening level. Has nothing to do with the port notch or the Klaus Heinz "House EQ" (tilt up at both frequency extremes).

I attribute this partly to the woofer power amp. In the early models we used one half **) of TDA8920 (PWM chip amp) for this but when it became obsolete we changed to TDA8950 or 8953 and that one is a truly broken design. Decaying piano notes sound like Digeridoo on those if you listen closely. On the ARTist5 which is technically identical (except for some add-ons) but uses TDA7294's for woofer and tweeter this "layer of confusion" during softer passages of the music is not present. It also has a rear-firing slot port with zero issues (apart from a bit of chuffing).

**) original plan was to use the other half for the tweeter but buzzing crosstalk from woofer channel and the general disortion characteristic was unbearable so we changed the A5X electronics in a last-minute overhaul to use the class-A/B amp on the tweeter. The TDA8920 thus was broken too, for a use case like this. Specs say cross-talk is -60dB (0.1%) @1kHz which would be considered OK but the don't tell us the spectrum of the crosstalk which is basically a high pass filtered full-wave rectified copy of the woofer channel current. Every time the woofer current reverses direction at a zero crossing there was a glitch in the tweeter (which is high sensitivity, pronouncing the issue).

The second factor is cone breakup, IMHO. This cone (more exactly, the dustcap) has strong unsupressed resonances. A third factor is the tweeter distortion near it's XO point.

As ususal, these distortion issues are not showing up so clearly in simple swept/stepped sine measurement. You have to use 2-tone or full IMD to see that and get closer to what is actually heard.
 
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fmessier6

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The a77x show this specific behaviour exclusively when there's a grand piano involved, with very little exceptions.

If it was something minor, I would probably ignore it, but this distortion is pretty apparent, and annoying to be honest.

"Have you tried different sources? Maybe something very well recorded."

I did, yes, but nothing new to report. The only recordings that are immune to this are the one made for felt piano (Nils Frahm/Olafur Arnalds) which do not trigger this distortion. Yann Tiersen, Yiruma, Ludovico Einaudi, their works all distort to some degree.

"The frequency sweep will be interesting as a piano has quiet a broad range."

Using Native Instruments' The Grandeur in its default patch with no tweakings, I can say that pretty much all the notes show some distortion, C1 at the moment seems the worst one. I will be back in the studio tomorrow to run more tests.

Thank you so much for all your answers and for the incredibly warm welcome in your community.
 

thewas

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By the way here is a comment about them from the person who had engineered them:

 

dasdoing

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judging by the a5x review, ax woofers don't do 96dB in the low midrange well. with solo instuments you have mids much closer to 0dBFS than with music in general. they say it's a feature but in the later tv series 96dB meassures much cleaner lol
 

alex-z

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The example provided was this track, called Chopin Spring Waltz, from YouTube.
On my Yamaha's HS8, my previous pair of speakers, it sounds decent, in the sense that there is no audible distortion.
I can definitely hear the distortion in your recording when compared to the reference. I imagine it is even more prominent in person.

The speaker has some kind of fundamental design flaw. The fact that it occurs across a broad frequency range leads me to believe the other commenters are correct about an amplifier issue. Mechanical issues like port or woofer resonance tend to be narrow bandwidth and therefore less audible for sustained listening.
 
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fmessier6

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I can definitely hear the distortion in your recording when compared to the reference. I imagine it is even more prominent in person.

The speaker has some kind of fundamental design flaw. The fact that it occurs across a broad frequency range leads me to believe the other commenters are correct about an amplifier issue. Mechanical issues like port or woofer resonance tend to be narrow bandwidth and therefore less audible for sustained listening.

It is more prominent, as long as you're sitting in front of the speakers. Walking around the room tends to reduce or eliminate this, but it's not really practical, is it?

I'm mentioning this because I've read somewhere (here?) that someone was having the same issue, and if he walked around and positioned himself behind the speakers, he wasn't hearing these distorting frequencies anymore. Not really helpful, but worth mentioning.

Theoretically, if it's a design flaw, every Adam a77x should have these limitations, or was I simply unlucky?

They must have sold hundreds of these, and yet only few people are complaining about this issue?
 

anphex

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"We are aware of the described behavior, which we classify as a part of the speakers’ characteristics, and not a faulty behavior."

Sorry but what the fuck Adam?

I remember having issues with my A8X with clipping, distorted sound after 10 years of use. It was a faulty amp and the replaced it for a pretty penny. But that's an entire different issue as it was only one speaker. You seem to have this issue on all music on both speakers. I can't really think of a reason except for a very bad port resonance, a bad crossover board or a bad amp. Weird.

If you have the option I'd contact my dealer and ask for a refund. Any decent dealer would accept, at least if you're picking another pair of speakers from them. Good time to go with Genelecs as they always perform stellar :)
 

KSTR

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Theoretically, if it's a design flaw, every Adam a77x should have these limitations, or was I simply unlucky?

They must have sold hundreds of these, and yet only few people are complaining about this issue?
All AX series models except A3X can have that issue to varying degrees as it's a problem of the used amplifier chip (and or/circuit design and layout which was outsourced), see post #12. At least when the used chip is a TDA8950 or TDA8953 which was the replacement when the original chip TDA8920 was phased out (it also had the issue, just at lower total level). It is a bit sample-to-sample dependant as well.

I've now listened to your sample and clearly recognize the grainy pattern even with notebook speakers.

AX series, notably A7X, were/are mainly used by entry-level / home-studio EDM, hiphop etc producers where this kind of distortion would not easily manifest itself given the music content :-(
 

AnalogSteph

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Nothing much to add here.
This is an audio example, captured with a Rode NT55 pointed at the left woofer of the A (right) speaker.
Man, that sounds terrible. Buzz city. The original is clean. (K+H O110s or HD580 here.)
This is absolutely unacceptable on monitors this expensive.
I concur. That's a real shocker.

I wonder how one would best go about measuring this. I suppose point a mic at the tweeter, fire up REW and record a sine in the affected frequency range (say 440 Hz, but just try a few values). The spectrum should be showing a whole slew of high-frequency components, similar to crossover distortion.
 
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