Yamaha’s HS series has become a favorite for bedroom producers the world over (me included), while Adam Audio’s AX series has earned recognition as some of the best quality monitors at this level of the market.
Whether you’re a producer, musician, singer, all three, or simply a music lover, you need the best quality output you can get your ears on.
So, to give your ears the love they deserve, I’m going to be pitting these two giants of the industry against one another in a head to head review. Is it going to be a monitor massacre or a grueling sonic war of attrition? Let’s find out.
Yamaha’s cosmetics are on point with their HS series. They’re a classic design featuring sleek lines, with a little bit of futurism thrown in by the rounded corners and Venn diagram style overlapping of the dome and tweeter perimeters.
Great news if your studio/bedroom/wherever you’ve found space has a certain aesthetic you need to stick to, the HS series comes in three beautiful finishes. You can choose between the standard black, a spacey futuristic white, and a very smart charcoal grey.
No matter what finish you choose, the edge of the cone remains black which stands as a nice counterpoint against the other colors, and the light near the base activates when powered.
At 14” x 16” x 21” and 23.6lbs, the Yamaha is quite a bit larger than the A7X, but somehow it doesn’t seem quite as bulky.
Adam Audio have stuck with solid black for the A7X. It’s not a total wash though. The cone wall is a very enticing gunmetal grey, while the gold ridges of what I believe to be polyimide film, peaks through the tweeter grill.
Shaping is unique when it comes to the A7X. It doesn't have the ‘every man’s eye’ quality about it that the HS9 does, but I’m sure the angled front and sharp corners appeal to loads of people.
Measuring in at 7.9” x 11” x 13.3”, it’s far smaller than the HS8, which may be perfect for those already up to their ears in gear. Shockingly, it’s almost as heavy as the Yamaha, at 20.3lbs.
The HS8 takes this one for me, mostly because of the color options and the timeless design.
The angular A7X feels a little dated.
Woofers and Tweeters
What’s going to color the sound of a studio monitor is the size of and materials used for the woofer cones and the tweeter.
Aptly named, the HS8 has an 8-inch poly cone. Poly is a specialized plastic that’s great for speaker cones as it’s both rigid and lightweight.
Tweeter-wise, it’s a one-inch dome, but I’d have to guess at the materials. Historically Yamaha used thermoplastic resins on silken fabrics, but these may well be titanium or aluminum.
Just as well named, the A7X has a 7-inch composite woofer cone which is carbon, Rohacell, and fiberglass in construction. Rohacell is rigid, expanded foam.
The carbon and fiberglass will work to reinforce it. This is a really clever design as it keeps things as lightweight and rigid as possible; however, foam is a dampener.
The tweeter is a proprietary re-working of the material used in thermal blankets for space travel. It’s known as X-Art and is technically a ribbon tweeter. It’s going to be able to pump out ridiculously high frequencies with listenable qualities.
I have to give it to our boy Adam here.
Adam Audio really show their craftsmanship when it comes to cones. They’re one of the most innovative companies out there in this respect.
With modern popular music exploring wider areas of the frequency spectrum, it’s important to find a monitor that can handle these extremes.
The HS8 has a frequency response range of 38Hz to 30KHz, which is pretty wide for a mid-woofer.
The bass can get a little bit flappy way at the bottom register, but otherwise, it’s a lovely flat, warm sound.
The mids are fantastic, while the tweeter rounds a shrillness from the high ends without sacrificing crispness.
You can expect a range of 42Hz to 52KHz with the A7X, which is incredibly impressive for a smaller monitor.
Not quite as adept in the lower registers, it still manages to destroy the HS8 in the high end. This wasn’t a surprise to me as their patented Art-X tweeter design is out of this world.
The mids are lovely but definitely set lower in the mix, providing a murkier tone than the HS8.
Some may feel the mids are a little too rolled off, but ultimately, that’s going to thicken out the huge high register potential, keeping it very listenable.
Obviously, sound is subjective, but for me, the HS8 knocks it out of the park here. The sound pallet is more dynamic and lively than the A7X that feels a little muffled in my ears.
Adam Audio’s high-frequency leanings just don’t really appeal to me all that much. I’d rather have the advanced low end of the HS8
The HS8 is a bi-amped design which means that there are actually two dedicated amplifiers inside, one powering the tweeter and one powering the woofer, providing a more articulate and powerful sound profile.
The enclosure is specially designed to reduce extraneous resonance that can taint the purity of the sound. The thick MDF surround acts as an acoustic dampener and rear speaker ports help to further reduce invasive noise.
I would claim that both the tweeter and the woofer could be considered special features in the A7X’s case. They provide unmatched sound pressure levels in monitors of this size and create a pretty much distortion-free response.
On top of that, The A7X is also bi-amped for maximum articulation and punch, and the large 1.5” voice coil endows it with even more power.
Adam Audio should also be commended for the A7X’s nearfield monitoring capabilities. This function retains maximum sonic details at very low volumes, perfect if you work as a sound engineer and need to protect your ears.
Adam Audio take this one without a doubt.
They’re the mad scientists of the monitor world and their experiments are paying off.
The biggest difference between the controls on these two monitors is that the Yamaha’s are all stationed at the back and the A7X’s master level is on the front.
The Yamaha looks neat and sleek, but the frontal control of the A7X’s volume is definitely more practical.
On the back panel of the HS8, you’ll find the main level control, a 3 stage room control switch from 0 to -4dBA, and a 3 stage high trim switch from +2 to -2dBA.
These will help you when mixing in different environments and protect the drivers from damage.
You get lots of tweakable parameters with the A7X.
The main level dial is on the front as mentioned above, but turning this thing around you see you get input sensitivity up to +14dBA, high shelve > 5kHz: +/- 6dBA, low shelve < 300Hz: +/- 6dB, and a tweeter gain: +/- 4dBA control.
These will allow you to precisely finetune your output.
I’d say it’s a draw on this count. The A7X has great parameter altering options, but the HS8 provides you with security and ease of use.
I love the flexibility of the A7X, but it’s likely overcomplicating things, especially if you’re a relative newcomer to the world of studio monitors.
With the HS8 you get a female XLR port and a TS headphone/instrument input.
Looking at the A7X, you get the same female XLR port, but instead of the TS instrument line, you get a smaller RCA connection for unbalanced lines.
The Yamaha clinches this one with what I’d consider more universal connectivity.
Being able to use a standard guitar/instrument cable to hook your synth up is preferable to shopping around for expensive specialist leads.
Value for Money
Let’s confront the elephant in the room. The HS8 is way cheaper than the A7X, like...way cheaper. It almost seems strange to be comparing the two as they both exist in totally different price zones.
This is going to be a massive deciding factor for most of you because remember, you’re going to need two of these monitors for a proper setup, and the A7X is literally twice as expensive per unit as the HS8.
I do kind of understand some of the price difference. Adam Audio have done loads of research, used a lot of high-end components, and worked hard to offer flexibility and control. But does that pay off when it comes to fundamentals?
The HS8 takes this one by a country mile, no question. The sound quality it provides is totally unparalleled at that price point.
In fact, the difference in price between the HS8 and something that’s objectively bigger and better is going to be massive, as it outperforms a lot of pricier monitors.
Pros and Cons
Let’s distill everything we’ve talked about to a simple pros and cons list to make the results more digestible.
- Timeless look
- Color options
- Bi-amp design
- 8-inch poly cone
- Amazingly affordable
- Lively and articulate sound profile
- Fantastic low-end response
- Smooth highs
- Thick yet crunchy mids
- Simple connections
- Driver saving controls
- Not so many control parameters
- Not so many specialized components
- Lower frequency response
- Main level is hard to reach on the back panel
- Bi-amp design
- Proprietary X-Art ribbon tweeter
- Reinforced foam cone
- Unreal high-end response and potential
- Advanced control parameters
- Front level control
- Incredibly loud for a smaller monitor
- Great nearfield capabilities for producing music
- Really expensive
- Slightly muffled sound
- Less low-end potential
- Heavy despite their size
- Very stylized look that won’t fit in everywhere
Both of these monitors are great bits of gear, and if this is the level you’re starting your sound production journey at, you should consider yourself very, very lucky.
It’s been an incredibly close and bloody battle, but I think the Yamaha is generally the much better option, and it’s not just because of the pricing (although that is a huge part of it).
To me, the HS8 just sounds better, not by a small margin, but by a gulf. It sounded so close to the ear and defined, so articulate and lively.
It translates all the bounce and immediacy I associate with live music, and somehow blends it with all the engineered finesse of the studio mix.
The A7X just sounded a little deadened to me, as if it were screaming into a pillow.
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