Legendary studio monitor manufacturer ADAM Audio is a stalwart of the studio scene. But can their expertise translate to the headphone scene? In this review, we check out the SP5 to see if it is worth picking up for your studio needs.
ADAM Audio SP5
The SP5 is an impressive first outing from ADAM Audio. But they are also not a perfect pair of headphones. Below are the highlights before we dive into the details.
With a fairly hefty price tag, the ADAM Audio SP5 studio headphones have a lot of competition. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty to see how they stack up.
ADAM Audio studio monitors have a strong reputation for high quality and accurate audio. And for this outing, they have paired up with Ultrasone to deliver that same uncompromising sound but in a headphone package.
The frequency response is 8Hz–38kHz, so these hit nice and low but equally deliver in the top end. With such a broad range, these have a lot of potential. And I’m happy to report that these are exceptionally tight when it comes to neutrality. The curve is relatively flat without any extreme dips or peaks.
The SP5 is lightweight and features a neutral sound profile.
Digging deeper reveals a crisp and clear audio profile without any distortion. An integral feature for studio cans. As a workhorse set of studio headphones, these are pretty good.
The top end is quite pronounced and does lean a little sharp. It isn’t tinny or harsh but noticeably bright. For some music professionals, this will be beneficial, but it can be a little fatiguing for others. This will all depend on your preferred sound signature when working.
The mids are not overly forward and, if anything, a little restrained. There is plenty of body and volume to the sound profile. But the recessed nature may likewise not be ideal for some.
The lows are perhaps the clearest I’ve come across recently. There is a delectable level of punch and kick present. Nice and clear without boominess or mush.
In tandem, the result is a pleasant signature that is capable of serious studio work. But I’ve also come across better and sometimes at an even lower price.
Soundstage and spatial imaging are also vast, thanks to Ultrasone’s S-LOGIC Plus technology. Instead of driving the sound directly into your ear, they project around your ear.
The aim is to simulate a studio monitor setup and it is pretty compelling. But once again, personal preference will come into play here, and some may find it a little too wide to the point of feeling a little distant and hollow.
It is a difficult call to make when it comes to these headphones. On one end, there is excellent clarity and neutrality present. But certain aspects may not appeal to producers that have an ingrained perception of what they want from their cans. So while some will adore these, others may be left wanting more.
For my ears, these are above average. They tick most of the boxes that are important to me with clean bass and dependable neutrality. The top end is a bit much, but the overall balance is impressive. And for a first-time outing, these are a lot better than I anticipated.
The ADAM Audio SP5 studio headphones offer a good level of comfort. But once again, there are a few caveats worth highlighting that may sway your opinion.
The headband features thick padding that rests comfortably on your head. These are not bulky or cumbersome, with a total weight of 0.64 lbs. (290 grams).
The SP5 features thick headband padding and a slightly firm grip.
The clamping force is rather tight. I have a rather large noggin, so your mileage may vary. Interestingly a tight clamping force usually results in good isolation. But these are surprisingly weak in this area. If you happen to work in a noisy environment, you might become frustrated at the number of intrusions you’ll come across.
The ear padding is slimline and not as squishy as other headphones on the market. But this doesn’t detract from the comfort level. The circumaural design gives your ears enough room, and the flexible angling of the ear cups ensures these find a comfortable resting spot.
Heat build-up is present but on par with other closed-back cans. For long sessions, these are pretty good, especially if you have an average-sized head.
Assessing appearance is among the most subjective elements of any review. So I’ll try to stay as neutral as possible here.
At first glance, these headphones display a refined and simple design that will be familiar to many. Furnished in all black with minimal silver accents, these are discreet and unobtrusive in appearance. If you like your headphones simple, these tick all the right boxes. But if you want some more pizzazz and color, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The SP5 employs some fantastic technology.
But under the somewhat restrained appearance, there is some exciting design technology at work. First is Ultrasone’s Ultra Low Emission technology. This incorporates metal shielding to eliminate a lot of low-frequency magnetic radiation.
I’ve already mentioned the S-LOGIC Plus technology, but it is worth highlighting again. This technology helps prevent sharp and directed bursts of sound to your eardrums. This can avoid damage to your hearing while still retaining what feels like a high volume level.
These headphones also offer rotating ear cups that can lay flat. This makes it easy to pack away into the included case. But they will not collapse like some other headphones. But in my experience,few fully-fledged studio headphones offer full collapsibility.
There is one other notable design choice that is puzzling. The two cables offer different connections. The short 3.9 ft (1.2 m) cable features a 1/8″ plug, while the longer 9.8 ft (3 m) coiled cable sports a 1/4″ plug. Neither of these features a screw point for adapters. While not a dealbreaker, it does reduce the flexibility on offer.
At 70 ohms, these sit in the midrange for impedance. Not too high where you’ll need a powerful amp. I’d still recommend a good headphone amp to get the most out of these. But if you don’t have one, these will still be serviceable.
With a sensitivity level of 95 dB, these are appropriately loud. And when coupled with the inbuilt S-LOGIC Plus technology, it will be unlikely that you will need to push these to their limits.
The ADAM Audio SP5 features some fantastic technology and a sleek and streamlined design aesthetic. Even with the odd cable choice, these are great headphones in both sound and appearance.
The ADAM Audio SP5 offers a reasonable level of build quality, but at this price point, I would have expected a little better.
The predominant material is plastic, and while inherently there is nothing wrong with that, I would have liked to see some metal components here and there.
The SP5 is well-constructed despite a full plastic frame.
The plastic itself is pretty thick and rigid, so these can handle the odd knock or bump. The finish to the plastic is also well-executed. A nice matte effect that is perfect for studio headphones. But there is something more premium feeling when some metal is involved.
The quality of the drivers and internal technology is top-notch. The connection points are great. The cable quality is good. There are no exposed wires. No complaints.
The included case is also another standout. It’s tough, hard, and does a fantastic job protecting your investment between sessions. The styling and finish are slick and refined and add to the overall aesthetic.
Despite the heavy emphasis on plastic, the SP5 for ADAM Audio will withstand the rigors of frequent use. Plus, it features a long standard 2-year warranty that extends to 5 years if you register the product.
This is one area where I think the ADAM Audio SP5 falls a little short. These are not cheap headphones, and in this price bracket, there is plenty of stiff competition. With the heavy use of plastic, these don’t scream premium but sport a relatively high premium price.
The included case is fantastic.
With that in mind, several studio cans are double and triple the price of these. And in that regard, when you factor in the law of diminishing returns, these are reasonable. But there are also several options out there that are cheaper and just as capable.
But the technology behind these is up there with the best. Intelligent design with a focus on functional performance in the studio. They may not be the cheapest, but they are a worthwhile investment if you like the sound profile these have to offer.
The ADAM Audio SP5 debuted to largely positive reviews from industry insiders, and it also managed to pick up some awards and nominations along the way. In the hands of the everyday producer, they have also gathered plenty of positive reviews. But I’m also not the only one who found them a little too tight.
Are Two Heads Better Than One?
Collaborations are generally a positive thing. Whether that is in creative endeavors or product development. Combining and melding ideas from two teams can deliver exceptional results.
But sometimes, this can also lead to an unfocused vision and competing interests. I’ve seen many collaborations become a watered-down average. This is a stark contrast compared to the finesse of a team or individual with a distinct idea of what they want to achieve.
Whether two heads are better than one will come down to several factors. In this case, the combination of ADAM Audio and Ultrasone has yielded excellent results. ADAM Audio has a deep source of knowledge and experience in the audio scene. Likewise, Ultrasone has a fantastic reputation when it comes to headphones.
These two companies combined are a force to be reckoned with. And with a strong opening, I’m excited to see if they will join forces again for other products down the line.
You’ve come to the right place if you need a pair of headphones for mixing, mastering, and production. Below are some alternatives to the SP5 that are worth your attention.
Shure SRH1540 Review
The Shure SRH1540 is a closed-back pair of headphones at a similar price point to the SP5. An impressive pair of studio headphones for music production.
- A detailed and accurate response that is super flat.
- Very comfortable fit with low heat build-up compared to other closed-back cans.
- The bass response is not as refined as the SP5.
Read our full Shure SRH1540 review for more detailed information.
Steven Slate Audio VSX Review
This pair of closed-back headphones offers unique features that are ideally suited to a mixing environment.
- It has detailed modeling software that replicates various studio setups.
- An excellent neutral response that is ideal for serious studio work.
- Like the SP5, these are higher in price and not ideal for budget-conscious buyers.
Steven Slate Audio VSX
Sennheiser HD 600 Review
For maximum transparency when mixing and mastering, you can explore an open-back option like the HD 600. This affordable set of cans is a popular choice for studio work.
- Fantastic detail and clarity from the low-end to the highs.
- A secure and comfortable fit that is perfect for long sessions in the studio.
- By design, these leak sound and let sound in. Not suitable for noisy environments.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 600 review for more detailed information.
Sennheiser HD 600
Should You Buy?
I have to hand it to ADAM Audio for the SP5. Many manufacturers that move into a different area in the audio scene fail at diversifying. But the SP5 is a solid opening offering with a lot going for it. The partnership with Ultrasone has yielded impressive results.
These headphones offer a very neutral and pleasing sound profile. Perhaps not ideal for everyone, but I do not doubt that these will please many. A reasonably comfortable fit and plenty of high-end technology make these an enticing option. If you can look past the higher price point, these are a worthy choice for studio use.
ADAM Audio SP5