Bookshelf Speakers

Axiom M3 v3 Bookshelf Speakers

ARTICLE INDEX

Design

The Axiom M3 has been part of Axiom's lineup since 1997 and this second re-design (hence the "v3" for version 3) was launched last year as part of a line wide upgrade program. Cosmetically Axiom changed the woofer dust cover and added magnetic grills. In the "guts" department minor details like the cross over, tweeter and woofer were re-designed as well. Historically the M3 had a somewhat unusual crossover in that the midrange-woofer driver didn't. Huh???? Simple, the woofer rolled off naturally and the crossover was used solely for the tweeter.

I confirmed with Axiom's Alan Lofft that this is still the case in the M3v3 and when I added a question about the 2.2 kHz crossover point being lower than some similar sized speakers Alan passed on a quote from Ian – that 2.2 kHz "is a comfortable crossover point, on the low side of the comfort zone for off-axis performance reasons given the size of the M3's woofer." There's that NRC philosophy again – designing a speaker that sounds good and performs well both on and off axis.

With a 1" dome titanium tweeter and 6.5" aluminum cone woofer the M3 is the middle speaker in the bookshelf line for Axiom with the M2 and its 5.25" woofer being a couple inches shorter and the M22 straining the definition of "bookshelf" with an additional 6" of height (19.8") and utilizing two 5.25" woofers. To spread the love around even further variations on the M3 are also available as: an on wall, an in wall or a mixed "on/in" wall version (with depths of 3.6" 0.4", 3.6" respectively). As you may expect the flat "on wall" version gives up some bass and sensitivity while the "in wall" and the "on/in wall" with their larger volume enclosures provide enough enclosure volume to return some bass extension. Interesting variations on a theme.

Axiom offers two basic finishes for the M3: Black Oak or Boston Cherry, both with black magnetically attached grilles (a v3 upgrade). However there are also a further 14 vinyl finishes, 6 real wood options (each with 6 stain options AND 3 gloss levels (semi, satin or high gloss "piano" finish) and 2 solid color high gloss (Black or White) to choose from. Not enough? You get your choice of 6 different grille colors. Still not enough? Axiom also offers a custom color matching service where you send them a sample, they match it and send a sample back for your approval. Wow, I have enough trouble finding two matching socks on in the morning.

My sample was finished in "Vermont Maple" from the custom vinyl range. Look and feel were good for vinyl and the seams are well done although there were a few points where a minute gap (only visible under intense scrutiny) was present. The change to magnetic grills leaves the 4 hex head speaker mounting bolts on the tweeter and the woofer as the only items (other than a small portion of the woofer surround) that extend beyond the finished front baffle. They look fine straight on but at an angle they protrude slightly and a countersunk bolt would clean up the look of the front face that much further.

The unit is rear ported with Axiom's "vortex port" which is a crimped sort of design to reduce port noise via an increase in the port sidewall surface areas. The port is approx. 5.5" deep and 2" wide and reveals a generous fibre fill stuffing inside the enclosure. Feeling clever, I had estimated that the port's frequency was about 60Hz which is in line with the low end of the speaker's frequency response range. This was before I saw the impedance vs. frequency graph on the last page of the axiom manual. Guess that one is confirmed! (link) Since it is a rear port you'll need to leave some room for the speaker to breathe if you do actually "bookshelf" them although the manual states you can get away with a minimum of 2" clearance.

Finally, the M3 also comes with a bolt on the rear that connects it to Axiom's "Full Metal Bracket" for wall mounting. Sigh… Wouldn't want to violate the rules of speaker warfare with a hollow point bracket now would we?