Bookshelf Speakers

Axiom Audio M22 V3 Bookshelf Speakers for the Audiophile

ARTICLE INDEX

Design (Customized)

The M22 is definitely not the average bookshelf loudspeaker. For starters, it is noticeably taller than the typical bookshelf, with a height of nearly 20 inches. This extra height allows for the installation of the single 1" titanium dome tweeter and two 5.25" aluminum cone mid/bass drivers. By sticking with the smaller 5.25" mid/bass units, Axiom is able to keep the overall width of the M22 down to just 7.3". This allows the M22 to appear deceptively small when viewed from the front. Then there is the tapered, almost trapezoidal design of the cabinet, which narrows from the front baffle to the rear. In contrast to the typical "rectangular box" speaker, this type of cabinet design breaks up standing waves within the box, which in turn prevents colorization of the sound. On the back panel, Axiom's Vortex-port resides above a single pair of 5-way binding posts. There is also a single bolt that can be used to attach the M22 to Axiom's novel "Full Metal Bracket" wall-mounting system.

Moving towards the front of the speaker, we have Axiom Audio's 1" titanium dome tweeter, which is rated for frequencies up to 22 kHz. This all-new tweeter is the biggest change with the "V3"version of the M22. The new tweeter exhibits increased dispersion and better linearity off-axis, which should help increase soundstaging. Crossed over to the tweeter at 3.5kHz, the two 5.25" aluminum cone mid/bass drivers handle the remaining frequencies. Why two 5.25" drivers instead of a bigger mid/bass unit? Axiom's Alan Lofft explains, "Using dual 5.25-inch woofer/midranges enables the M22 v3 to have excellent high power handling (up to 200 watts per channel) and less compression at loud playback levels than a single larger woofer would. Another big advantage is that the smaller dual woofer/mids remain smoother and more linear into the upper midrange, whereas a single larger woofer can't reproduce those frequencies as accurately. The latter would need to use a lower crossover frequency than the M22, which would result in less smooth performance through the all-important midrange region. Axiom's M3 v3 bookshelf speaker uses a single 6.5-inch woofer and the same tweeter as the M22, and while it's an excellent speaker, its midrange response isn't quite as linear as the M22s, so it's a bit more "laid-back" in the mids because the 6.5 inch woofer's output sags a bit over the crossover region. The other significant change with the "V3" version is the new speaker grille. The grille itself is little more than a simple plastic frame covered in fabric, but in a design that would make any college physics professor proud, the speaker grilles are attached via a slick magnetic system that doesn't require any visible blemishes on the front baffle. The grilles use magnetism to "self-align" and are incredibly easy to install or remove. This is quite possibly the best grille design I've yet seen.

While performance and value are the key drivers for Axiom Audio, customization is a just as important. The M22s come standard with a choice of two vinyl finishes; Black Oak or Boston Cherry at a price of $488 per pair. If neither of those two colors work for you, $538 per pair will get you a choice from an additional 13 custom vinyl finishes. There are also two additional "high gloss" vinyl finishes that will run you $598/pair. You can also opt for high-gloss white or piano black paint at a cost of $881.80 per pair. If you crave the look and feel of real wood, there are 30 real wood veneers available for $708 per pair. Rosewood veneers will run you $840 per pair. You can choose from satin low-gloss or semi-gloss finishes at no additional charge when choosing any of the real wood veneers, but if you want the high-gloss "piano finish" on a wood veneer, tack on an extra $173.80 per pair. Trying to match the wood finish on an existing piece of furniture? For $150 Axiom will create an identical match from a sample that you provide. But wait, there's more! Once you've created the finish of your choice, you have the option of choosing from one of six available grille fabrics. Axiom will also create a custom rear label for you at no additional charge. My review samples arrived in a beautiful walnut veneer with the semi-gloss "natural" finish for an as-tested price of $708 per pair. Don't forget that these prices include FedEx shipping and aren't subject to sales tax (at least here in the U.S.) so the value factor is further enhanced. The M22 is also available in an "on-wall" as well as an "in-wall" version for those of you who prefer a more "stealth" look to their speaker installation.

Overall, the construction quality was far better than I expected for the price. The speaker has good weight to it and the cabinet is solidly constructed. If I had to nit-pick, upon rigorous inspection I could notice the seam where the veneer of the side panels met with the top panel, but I've only seen perfect seams on speakers that cost far more than this. To be honest, I've rarely seen real-wood veneer on any speaker under about $1000 per pair, so don't take this as a complaint. I'd also like to see flush-mounted screws used for the driver mounting. The current hex-head screws stick out a few millimeters, which breaks up the clean look of the front baffle. I would also like to see Axiom make a brushed aluminum "Axiom" logo available, as it would match the aluminum drivers better than the chrome-plated plastic logo that was on my review samples.