Bookshelf Speakers

Axiom Audio M22 V3 Bookshelf Speakers for the Audiophile

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

My pair of M22s arrived safe and sound via FedEx (Axiom's preferred shipping vendor). The M22s packaging is very sturdy, with the speakers encased in a thick cloth baggie and then placed between two thick foam end caps that are in turn encased in an additional cardboard wrap. As a little bonus, Axiom includes some clear rubber stick-on feet in case you decide to place the M22s on an actual bookshelf instead of dedicated stands. I was also surprised to see a small plastic binding post wrench in the box. I'd also like to take a moment to recognize the excellent instructions that are included with the M22s. The instructions give a novice user just about all of the information they would need in order to hook the speakers up properly, and present it in a very clear fashion complete with excellent illustrations. The only thing I'd like to see added would be some guidelines on how best to place the speakers, though these are available on Axiom's website.

With the M22s now out of their boxes, it was time to get this review rolling. As the M22's bass output is limited, I decided to install the M22s in my main media room system, which currently consists of an Integra DHC-9.9 pre-processor, Wyred4Sound 7 channel amp (with the Bang and Olufsen 1000ASP 570-watt modules), and an Oppo BDP-83SE NuForce Edition universal player. My Hsu Research VTF-3 MkII subwoofer would provide the bass. Cabling was a mix of Kimber and Blue Jeans. I placed the M22s about three feet from the back walls and four feet from the sidewalls (8 feet apart from each other). I toed the speakers in slightly so that they would converge on a point about six feet behind my head. This turned out to be almost ideal in my 16' x 22' room.

A quick listen to the M22s sans subwoofer confirmed Axiom's anechoic measurements: bass response trails off noticeably from about 90Hz down, with 60Hz being about 7dB down in overall level. Room reinforcement should net you a bit more bass, but the M22 was clearly designed to be run with a subwoofer. This is a conscious design choice on Axiom's part and should not be taken as a negative. Getting good bass requires a few key ingredients: large drivers, a large cabinet, and a lot of engineering effort to integrate the bass so that it does not ruin the clarity of the midrange and treble. All of these things cost money or entail making other design sacrifices, which does not fit in well with Axiom's mantra. Bass also requires a lot of amplifier power, which is not typically associated with the average home-theater or 2-channel receiver (particularly budget models). With so many affordable high-performance subwoofers on the market now, a more viable approach is to augment a smaller speaker like the M22 with a quality subwoofer. This gives the user added flexibility by allowing the subwoofer to be placed where it can offer the most balanced bass response. Typically, the best bass is realized by placing the subwoofer in a different location than the front speakers. As much as I like full-range speakers, I do realize that the subwoofer/satellite type system makes much more sense for most users and has a lot of advantages. However, a sub/sat system does bring its own set of issues into play, most of which involve getting the subwoofer to blend seamlessly in with the mains.

To address the above caveat, I spent some time playing with my system's crossover point, eventually settling on 80Hz as the point where my Hsu sub would take over the bass duties from the M22. With a nice smooth blend between the sub and M22s, I now fine-tuned the M22's position. Moving the speakers back a foot (two feet from the back wall) helped to richen up the mid-bass a tad, which I really liked. I also moved the speakers about a foot closer to one another (4.5 feet from the sidewalls, 7 feet apart), which seemed to improve the imaging and soundstaging slightly. I did not hear a large difference when experimenting with toe-in, so it looks like Axiom's new tweeter really does deliver on its promise of greater dispersion. I kept them in their original, slightly toed-in position. I also spent some time comparing the sound of the M22s with their grilles on and off. The sound was practically identical either way, though I do feel that I could hear just a touch more detail with the grilles off. Per Axiom's anechoic chamber testing, there are differences of less than 1dB at higher frequencies, so that could be what I was hearing. As I preferred the look of the M22s "naked," I left the grilles off for the rest of my review period.