If you have been into HiFi for a while you’ve probably heard or read about Adcom. Adcom is widely known to be a brand that offers excellent performance/dollar. I remember the rave reviews by Stereophile for many products from Adcom. But, until you listen for yourself on your own gear against like products it is hard to take the word of a magazine that has received x amount of dollars from brand A or brand Z:)
I first set-up the Adcom pair in my smaller listening room which consists of a rotation of stand mount speakers, and a few amplifiers I either own or am reviewing. Taking the GFA-545II I noticed solid, no frills build quality. The matching GTP-450 Pre-amp featured the same good build quality, all knobs felt solid and overall very respectable pieces as far as build quality. I swapped out a NAD 7150PE Integrated which had been powering my Dynaudio Contour SE’s. The first thing I noticed upon hooking up the Adcoms was less low end authority, an increase in midrange detail, and slightly grainy highs. I like to do some listening sessions at very low listening levels as that is where many amplifiers lose clarity and low level listening is often what people with wives, small children, or close neighbors are used to. The Adcom combo bested the NAD in low level listening clarity. The sound was more fleshed out and I didn’t find myself slowly turning the volume knob up to find the music as with the NAD. When I cranked things up the Adcom combo could not match the NAD. The NAD held bass lines and kept the bass drum visceral and tight as the volume went up. The Adcom combo’s bottom end was looser with more fatigue in the treble.
I began to wonder if the GFA-545II was having trouble with the Dynaudio’s low impedance dips. I switched the Dyn’s out for a set of Vintage Boston Acoustics A70’s. The A70’s are perhaps my favorite speaker from Boston and fly way under the radar these days. From the first track I felt a bit of relief. The Boston-Adcom pairing worked much better than the Dynaudio-Adcom. No longer did the music sound strained at higher listening levels and the lower level listening advantage over the NAD stayed. I next compared the 545II with the Parasound HCA-1000A, another budget contender. The difference lied in the bass and treble. The Adcom had a more detailed treble, but the Parasound had better bass depth and accuracy. The differences were not huge but big enough to tell on each speaker I tried.
Overall, the Adcoms were decent performers. For their current going rate, I think their might be a few better performers in certain categories. I would choose any of the NAD PE series integrated amps over the Adcom combo if I didn’t need a remote and I could regularly listen at levels higher than late night quiet. The price of the NAD is much lower than the Adcom pair, leaving more money for speakers, gas, beer, wine, etc…Another great performer is the rare ADS A2 integrated. This unit is a level about the NAD and Adcom and can be had on Ebay for cheap. Another thing to consider is reliability. The Adcom combo will likely be more reliable than the NAD and the ADS is so rare that finding replacement parts may prove difficult. Buying new, their aren’t many options if you want to stay under $1000. A new integrated from NAD, Creek, Music Hall, will likely have more features but not better sound. Even with build houses moving overseas the cost of manufacturing and parts has gone up so much that finding something decent costs far more than 15-25 years ago, a time when the market for stereo HiFi was thriving.
Build Quality, Fit & Finish: 7/10
Sound Stage Depth: 5/10
Sound Stage Width: 4/10
Bass Accuracy: 4/10
Midrange Accuracy: 5.5/10
Treble Accuracy: 5/10
Percussion Disc Dynamic Test: 5/10
Ease of Use: 7/10