In this review, we are going to compare the monitors of the two companies: the German ADAM Audio and the French Focal.
The monitors of both companies have long been known in the professional audio market.
The price range of these monitors is approximately the same, so they are direct competitors. Therefore, we will cover their basic characteristics, sound, design, and practical use.
|Focal Alpha 50||ADAM Audio A5X|
|LF Driver Size||5"||5.5"|
|LF Driver Type||Cone||Carbon, Rohacell, Glass Fiber|
|HF Driver Size||1"||2"|
|HF Driver Type||Inverted Dome||X-ART tweeter|
|LF Driver Power Amp||35W||50W|
|HF Driver Power Amp||20W||50W|
|Frequency Response||45Hz-22kHz (±3 dB)||50Hz-50kHz|
|Maximum Peak SPL||103 dB||≥110dB SPL @ 1m|
|Input Types||1 x XLR, 1 x RCA||1 x XLR, 1 x RCA (unbalanced), 1 x RCA (stereolink)|
|Enclosure Type||Front Ported||Front Ported|
|Weight||16.1 lbs.||14.6 lbs.|
What’s in the box?
The A5X comes with a manual and power cable, RCA-RCA cable and four small damping legs in the form of round tablets with a sticky side.
The ADAM Audio A5X is a front-ported monitor. Legs or special rubber pads on the bottom of the monitor are not envisaged. However, there are threaded holes on the back for an alternative type of mount (e.g. wall mount).
The body is made of MDF with non-rounded corners, the front panel has two symmetrical edges in the upper part. The power switch with indicator and volume control knob are conveniently located at the bottom of the front panel. The documentation says that the monitors do not have magnetic protection.
The dimensions of the monitors are 11” x 6.5” x 8.5” (28 x 17 x 22 cm) (H x W x D). Weight is about 14.6 lbs. (6.6 kg).
While the monitor is of very high quality, it looks more expensive than it costs. The sharp, futuristic design catches your attention right off the spot.
The woofer/midrange speaker is made of fiberglass. This is a composite of glass and carbon fiber known on the market under the brand name Rohacell. This material is lightweight with exceptional mechanical strength, high heat resistance.
The woofer is driven by a class D amplifier. This allows you to optimize the efficiency of the amplifier, since it gives power only at the moments of the signal resolution, unlike class AB amplifiers in Focal Alpha 50, which cap the power regardless of the actual load. For low and mid-range frequencies, such amplifiers become a standard for manufacturers of speaker systems.
The second amplifier is built just according to the AB scheme. The load is served by a tape MF / HF tweeter, designed according to X-ART technology. “X” stands for the extended frequency range and the sound pressure level. The upper range of the frequencies reproduced by such a speaker is about 50 kHz, comparing to the 22kHz from Focal Alpha 50.
Features and Connections
On the rear panel of the monitor, there is a power cable connection and a voltage selector. At the top of the monitor are audio jacks and settings controls. There are two shelf filters, low and high, with an adjustable level in the +/- 6 dB range.
The cutoff frequencies for them are set, respectively, at 300 Hz and 5 kHz. The gain level for tweeter can be changed relative to the level of the woofer/midrange amplifier in the range of +/- 4 dB. To rotate these controllers a screwdriver with a thin flat slot is required.
Model A5X is adapted to work as a multimedia or Hi-Fi system with single volume control for both monitors in a stereo pair. To use this mode, an optional RCA-RCA cable is required. And by the way, the model only works with unbalanced connections.
At low frequencies, the monitor sounds unexpectedly good. Not in terms of frequency response, but of detail and depth. Comparing to the Focal’s 40 Hz, the bottom end on ADAM starts from 50 Hz. Sure, the bass is not as boomy and beefy as it is on Focal, but it has its own punchy and detailed sound in the kick region or in the region of 100 Hz.
The reason why ADAM is quite popular for rock/pop music mixing is a mid-frequency region. It is bright and straight in the face due to the X-ART tweeter and fiberglass material of a woofer. The lower mids are in the back of the mix, bringing out the lower register instruments and male vocals higher than they should sound.
But you can deal with this, both by making adjustments to the acoustics of the room and by playing with the midrange level control. In the upper middle area, the monitor sounds perfectly transparent and wide with an amazing level of detail. High frequencies are distinguished by good brightness and decent dynamics, which is just as great for guitar and vocal recording.
- Detailed, clear mids and highs
- Front ported design
- Acoustic space control
- Quality build
- A bit sharp high frequencies
- Lack of bass for electronic music producers
Focal Alpha 50
Comparing to the ADAM A5X, the Focal Alpha 50 is a speaker of a much lower price range as well as design and sound quality. However, it includes certain features that are not included in the ADAM A5X series. That’s why it’s a great option for those who can’t afford high-end monitors.
The first thing that you would notice is size. These are BIG speakers comparing to ADAM as well as any other monitors of this price range – 12.3” x 8.7” x 10.2” (31 x 22 x 26 cm) (H x W x D). Housing made of 15 mm thick MDF – partially with a vinyl finish. All of that greatly affects the weight of the speaker – 16.1 lbs. (7 kg) comparing to ADAM’s 14.6 lbs. (6.5 kg).
If you are looking for the desktop monitors with a lack of space in your room, keep in mind these are extremely beefy and do not include mounting points, meaning you will not be able to place them on the wall or ceiling.
Like the ADAM A5X, Focal Alpha 50 also has front-ported design, which allows you to place them closer to the wall without distorting the bass frequencies.
The frequency response is 45 – 22,000 Hz, comparing to 50 – 50,000 Hz for ADAM.
The monitors are built on the technology of separate amplification (bi-amping). That means separate amplifiers are used for the low-frequency and high-frequency speakers.
The amplifiers have an Auto standby mode that is activated when the power is turned on. Next to the power button, the red LED lights up. To “wake up” the amplifier, you just need to give an audio signal to the input (enough voltage of about 3 mV).
Activation occurs automatically, from one to two seconds. If there is no signal at the input for more than 30 minutes, the amplifiers automatically switch back to sleep mode.
The gain level controls are not provided in this line, so to adjust the volume, use the knobs of your mixer or audio interface.
5″ Polyglass subwoofer is driven by a 35 W amplifier and 1″ Inverted aluminum dome tweeter by 20 W.
Connections and Features
Focal Alpha 50 includes manual frequency correction. LF shelving EQ: (0 – 300 Hz): +/- 6 dB
HF shelving EQ: (4.5 – 22 kHz): +/- 3 dB.
As usual, all the connections are located on the rear panel. The monitor supports balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA which can be used simultaneously.
One of the features of this line of monitors is that they maintain tonal balance in a wide range of playback volume. The detail of the sound when the signal level changed remains at a good level.
To date, the production of all components for assembling monitors of all Focal series is located in France.
The factory employs experienced craftsmen with many years of experience. They provide consistent product quality since many operations are carried out manually. It is simply impossible to replace them with any conveyor.
If placed correctly, Focal Alpha 50 will deliver detailed sound with a great stereo. All your instruments will be right between the monitors.
Focal has more than enough bass for the five-inch speakers. That’s where they actually beat ADAM.
If you add those low frequencies with a built-in low-shelf filter (from -6 to +6 at a fixed cutoff frequency of 250 Hz), the sound starts to resemble upper range models of the same brand with a larger woofer diameter, however, there is still more energy and clarity on the latter due to the woofer size.
A wide stereo image is also there, you can move behind the computer and you will hear all the panning of the instruments.
The mid frequencies are boxy though comparing to sharp and bright ADAM’s.
These monitors will be great for EDM, electronic, hip hop music producers due to punchy and boomy lows.
- Front ported design
- 2 signal sources connection
- Standby mode
- No ear fatigue on the high volume
- Inconvenient design
- Dull mids
Choosing between these two monitors you should rely mainly on your goals, music preference, budget, and room environment. If your budget is around $900, you are working with live music (guitar amp recording, drum or vocal recording), have some experience with mixing, you can’t go wrong with ADAM. This is a standard among all the musicians who are working with rock, pop, indie music.
Indeed, Focal is a flagship company, but this exact model can’t by any means compete with ADAM in terms of sound. However, if you are in the segment of budget monitors, they do stand out among most of the monitors of this price range.