- Written by Chris Eberle
- Published on 03 June 2013
The Axiom LFR1100 Omnidirectional Speakers and ADA-1500 Power Amplifier In Use
I decided to christen the speakers and amp with one of my favorite concerts, Foo Fighters at Wembley Stadium from 2008. This Blu-ray has some of the best audio I’ve ever heard from a live rock performance. As it began, I immediately noticed a curious sensation on the bottom of my chin and a dry tickle in my throat. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my jaw was on the floor! The depth and width of the soundstage was simply astounding. And the LFRs begged to be played loud. I usually watch this video a couple of dB under my usual startup volume but this time I had to turn it UP. And twirling the dial never made the tone harsh. It just became more and more present. I’ve experienced a large sound stage before; even to the point where my room disappears completely. The LFRs made it sound and feel limitless. I can’t imagine being more in Wembley Stadium without actually being in Wembley Stadium. And the transparency! That’s not an adjective I usually associate with rock concerts but this one had it in spades. The reverb of both voices and instruments was tremendous lending an incredible sense of spaciousness to the presentation. After the first two songs, I was hooked.
And don’t think for a moment that all this lovely diffusion caused muddiness; quite the contrary! It’s pretty hard for anyone to mix a rock concert where the guitars have any sense of separation. And I couldn’t really tell the difference between Chris Shiflett and Dave Grohl’s tones before. This time though, it was crystal clear. And the spatial cues were much stronger than I had ever heard. The tone of every drum in Taylor Hawkins’ kit took on its own personality, no matter how fast or slow he played.
Another thing I noticed right off was the immense size of the listening window. I often move around the room during listening sessions to hear how well speakers sound off-axis. It’s always easy to hear lobing effects or roll-off of various frequencies; sometimes just moving my head to one side can make an audible difference. With the LFRs playing, I could get up and move from side to side and hear pretty much the same sound no matter where I stood or sat. These speakers are just the thing for a large room with many seats. Even my reference M80s don’t have a listening window this large.
With sound this enormous, I had to try out a couple of blockbuster movies, so I chose The Avengers and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Both are state-of-the art examples of modern sound design and mixing. The Avengers was pretty much a non-stop thrill ride that produced many physical responses as I watched. My heart beat faster, my breathing quickened and I definitely perspired! The sense of immersion was incredible. The rest of my surround system was unchanged; a VP180 center, QS8 surrounds, and an EP800 sub. There were so many ambient environmental effects going on, I truly achieved sensory overload!
The Hobbit is a bit more subtle in its approach. Here you’ll want a speaker that brings out all the little bits and pieces that add up to an environment. It’s not in your face most of the time so finesse is of the utmost importance. The LFR1100s showed their ability to play soft with the best. I didn’t have to imagine I was walking through the woods with dwarves and elves, I was there, experiencing everything but the poison ivy. The QS8s are excellent surround speakers and the LFRs made them even better thanks to their extra-large sound stage.
For pure music listening, the LFRs are equally stupendous. I tried mainly stereo CDs and of course, my reference recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in surround SACD format. I switched between various multi-channel and stereo modes and also listened with and without the Audyssey room correction engaged. In general, the eq made little difference which is something I had not experienced with other speakers. Usually it’s quite easy to hear Audyssey’s effect but the LFR1100s had such tremendous presence and depth by themselves, they didn’t really need any help! I listened to dozens of recordings whose quality ranged from amazing to average. I’ve detailed a few standouts below.
I started with the Grammy-winning recording of Chicago Symphony principal players performing the concerti of Richard Strauss. This is a benchmark CD with superb playing and equally superb fidelity. As I listened to Dale Clevenger play the horn concerto, my first impression was of tremendous spaciousness and transparency. Classical music, especially complex compositions like these, can really show the presence of, or lack of, detail in a speaker. The LFR1100s gave me everything and more. The balance was excellent with a refined warmth and truly tactile bass. Yes, even in a classical recording there was bass to enjoy. Using the pre-amp’s Direct mode, I removed all processing and the subwoofer from the mix. These are truly full-range speakers.
Next up was my old familiar Mahler Five SACD from the San Francisco Symphony. Again the sheer width and depth of the sound stage awed me. I have never felt more like I was actually in a concert hall than I did listening to the LFR1100s. In fact, I felt as if I were standing in Michael Tilson Thomas’ spot on the podium. Thanks to the enormous size of the listening window, all the instruments’ individual positions on stage were clearly delineated; so much so I actually turned my head a few times!
Turning to some good old rock ‘n roll, I dropped in the Foo Fighters latest album, Wasting Light, produced by the legendary Butch Vig. Dave Grohl favors layered guitars in nearly all his songs. Sometimes there are as many as eight parts. It’s easy for this to dissolve into a wall of mush, like it does on my car stereo. The LFRs handled this recording with ease. And turning up the volume only served to enlarge the presentation rather than simply making it louder. I suspect my ears would bleed before any harshness ensued.
I was curious to hear the new Van Halen album, A Different Kind of Truth. This recording is fairly bass-heavy and sounds pretty mediocre on most systems. In this case, it was better than ever. Even compared to Axiom’s own M80 speakers, on which I’ve listened to this disc many times, it was markedly better balanced and detailed. For this and all the discs I listened to, the LFR1100s were musically engaging in a way I had not experienced before. In fact, I’d venture to say, these speakers, neutral though they are, will make bad recordings sound better. If anything, the sheer size of the soundstage will help you forget the flaws in your source material.