Folded-ribbon tweeters are extremely effective at rendering transients due to their low mass and large surface area. Adam Audio—a Berlin-based company that makes both high-end studio monitors and home audio products—demoed its active Pencil ($7000/pair) 2.5-way and passive Column ($7000/pair) 3.5-way tower speakers at AXPONA 2016. Both featured hand-folded ribbon tweeters, and the Column added a folded-ribbon midrange to the mix.

The Pencil ($7000/pair) had that tight, revealing, neutral character that is often associated with active studio monitors. Despite the limitations of the room, the speakers imaged well and sounded neutral. As Dennis Young and I listened to Ellie Goulding's "On My Mind," our ears perked up when a deep bass note surprised us with its clean intensity.

Switching between the Pencil and Column towers while listening to Chris Brown’s "Zero" revealed a difference in character between them Dennis noted the Pencil "Had a lively upper balance, versus the more laid back, dual folded ribbon Column Passive loudspeaker."

The passive 3.5-way Column (left) and the active 2.5-way Pencil (right).

After hearing a few tracks, Dennis and I agreed the passive Column (powered by an Emotiva XPA 3 amp) was the superior-sounding speaker. Having a folded-ribbon midrange take care of 800 Hz to 2800 Hz makes a noticeable difference, the ease with which it rendered vocals set it apart.

Given that we visited the Adam Audio room after hearing a number of considerably more-expensive speakers, the ability of Adam Audio's towers to hold our attention was notable.

The Adam Audio active Pencil speakers playing "On My Mind."

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