Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Jared Rachwalski
- Published on 12 October 2012
Introduction to the Axiom Audio Epic Grand Master 350 Home Theater Speaker System
Axiom Audio based in Ontario Canada, is a long standing internet direct speaker manufacture. They have been designing and building loudspeakers for over 30 years. Taking a look at their website reveals multiple configurations in both size and appearance of their wide variety of speakers. Plenty of information regarding their design principles and research is also available. All the speakers are designed and built in Canada with some accessories sourced overseas.
AXIOM AUDIO EPIC GRAND MASTER 350 HOME THEATER SPEAKER SYSTEM SPECIFICATIONS
- M22v.3 Bookshelf Speakers
- Design: Ported
- Drivers: One 1” Titanium Dome Tweeter, Two 5.25" Aluminum Woofers
- Max power: 200 Watts
- MFR: 60 Hz – 20 kHz, ± 3 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
- In Room SPL: 97 dB/1w/1m
- Crossover Frequency: 3.5 kHz
- Dimensions: 19.8" H x 7.3" W x 8" D
- Weight: 16 Pounds/each
- Price: $498/pair USD
- VP150v.3 Center
- Design: Sealed Enclosure
- Drivers: Two 1" Titanium Dome Tweeters, Three 5.25" Woofers
- Max power: 400 watts
- MFR: 85 Hz – 20 kHz, ± 3 dB
- Nominal Impedance: 6 ohms
- In room SPL: 98 dB/1w/1m
- Crossover Frequency: 2.7 kHz
- Size HxWxD: 7.5” x 27.5” x 7.5”
- Weight: 21.8 Pounds
- Price: $434 USD
- QS8v.3 Surround Speakers
- Design: Sealed Quadpolar
- Drivers: Two 1" Titanium Dome Tweeters, Two 5.25" Aluminum Wooofers
- Max power: 400 Watts
- MFR: 95 Hz – 20 kHz, ± 3 dB
- Nominal Impedance: : 8 Ohms
- In room SPL: 98 dB/1w/1m
- Crossover Frequency: 2.5 kHz
- Dimensions: 8.25" H 11" W x 6" D
- Weight: 13.5 Pounds/each
- Price: $582/pair USD
- EP350 Subwoofer
- Design: Ported
- Driver: One 12” Aluminum
- Amplifier Power: 300 Watts RMS
- MFR: 28 Hz – 150 Hz, ± 3 dB
- Crossover Frequency: 80 Hz or 150 Hz (not variable)
- Phase: 0 Degrees or 180 Degrees (not variable)
- XLR Inputs/Outputs (RCA-XLR adapter included)
- Speaker Level Inputs
- 12v trigger input
- Dimensions: 19.5" H x 15" W x 19.5" D
- Weight: 76 Pounds
- Price: $783 USD
- System Price: $2,182.15
- Axiom Audio
- SECRETS TAGS: Axiom, Home Theater, 5.1
For this review they sent me the Epic Grand Master 350 surround speaker system, which contains the EP350 12” ported subwoofer, two large M22 stand mounted speakers for the front, the VP150 center channel and a pair of QS8 surround speakers. The fronts came in the Black Oak finish and the rest were in Boston Cherry. Rounding out the shipment was pair of the FM-Q stands, required if you intend to stand-mount the surrounds as they have bottom mounted woofers (they do come wall-mountable). Packed price for this complete 5.1 system is $2,182.15 USD. Every speaker is available in a wide variety of finishes and can be matched throughout the entire system. I choose a mismatched set to better sample the options.
Axiom Audio Epic Grand Master 350 Home Theater Speaker System Design
The M22v.3 bookshelves contain two 5.25” aluminum mid range drivers and one 1” metal dome tweeter. The front baffle has magnetic grill fasteners for a clean look and beveled edges to reduce diffraction. The cabinet’s have non-parallel side walls which strengthens the overall cabinet and reduces standing waves. The M22 uses dual midrange drivers which not only increases bass output, but also increases power handling and dynamic range. The speakers are rear-ported and feature Axiom’s unique ‘vortex’ port design. This port is constructed to reduce the possibility of turbulence caused by high port velocity and to allow for a small (and therefore shorter) port. Too small of a port opening results in port noise, make the port opening bigger and you need a longer port to achieve the same tuning. By using the vortex port they can keep the port length and width down and also prevent noise.
The cabinet is constructed from ¾” MDF wrapped in black vinyl veneer. As with all Axiom speakers there is a wide variety of finish colors and options included real wood finishes and custom grill colors.
For center duties the VP150 also has a beveled front baffle, non-parallel top and bottom walls and no port. It does however have two metal tweeters flanking the three aluminum midranges. This does differ from the conventional center design which traditionally houses one central tweeter flanked by mid range drivers. As with the M22 the VP150 is constructed from ¾” MDF, my sample came in the other standard finish, Boston Cherry vinyl veneer.
For the surround is another interesting design, the QS8 speaker has midrange drivers on the top and bottom with tweeters on either side of the angled baffle. With bottom mounted woofers they require either wall mounting or the FM-Q stands from Axiom which raise the speakers up to ear height when seated.
The EP350 is a ported design with a 12” cast basket aluminum driver powered by a 300 watt plate amp. It has a balanced input (and includes a ¼” to RCA adaptor) and speaker level inputs. There is a two position crossover switch, 80 Hz and 150 Hz, and a two position phase switch. The cabinet is also ¾” MDF covered in the Boston Cherry finish, with rubber feet.
Axiom Audio Epic Grand Master 350 Home Theater Speaker System In Use
The speaker system was installed in my main listening room, with blu ray playback handled by a PS3 slim and music playback handled by Foobar on my HTPC. Sources handled by a Denon 4308 AVR with auto-eq disabled. I evaluated the speakers with both the internal amps and a separate Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 five channel amp. My reference speakers, MartinLogan Vista’s are located three feet from the wall, however the M22’s benefited from boundary loading and the midbass response improved when located within 18” from the wall. After level matching and a brief warm up time I commenced the listening.
I began my sessions with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy testing the bass response. From the start the LFE channel came out in full force, and the EP350 handled most of the bass with ease, however the really deep stuff (25Hz and below) was missing. Completely gone, also missing was any port noise and that made the lack of ultra low extension easier to accept. Without knowing what low frequency content (<15Hz) was present you would not have noticed. What really stood out instead was just how immersive the QS8 surrounds sounded. This made me curious how they would fare with a movie which uses ample directional surround cues.
A favorite movie in our home is the eerie Pans Labyrinth. Director Guillermo del Toro took painstaking care with every scene not only visually but also with the sound. An integral character is an insect guide who enters from behind and buzzes around every scene he is in. There was no lack of directional cues when called for and the blend from front to back was seamless and balanced in tone. At times the upper bass (60-80Hz) lingered too much, especially in the toad scene, Chapter 7. The lower bass was smooth and again free of port noise or other nasty issues. As this problem has never manifested itself with my reference system I took a closer look at the configuration. In my reference system my main speakers (MartinLogan Vista) are crossed over at 60Hz, with the subwoofers (MartinLogan Descent I and Velodyne IC600) handled the bass up to 60Hz and the entire LFE channel. Both of these subs employ equalization and have considerably more power and cone area than the EP350 (and also costs more than $3000 more). I lowered the crossover point for the Axiom system to 60Hz. Replaying chapter 7 the excessive upper bass was gone, however the blend between the EP350 and the M22’s was not a seamless, noticeable with other parts of the movie, as the M22’s do not extend deep enough to adequately cover the 60-80Hz range.
Movies are all well and good, and its easy to hide sonic flaws behind the visual impact of a large screen TV. Next up was the 5.1 Blu Ray version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. On Welcome To The Machine the opening bass noise was handled without issue, there was very convincing panning between front and surrounds. The keyboards had a good sense of space with the rest of the instruments and no noticeable power compression at louder levels. On the title track the opening placement of effects in the rear followed by the guitar was decently blended despite being two radically different designs. The bass guitar and percussions were well balanced, with the vocals being very clean. I was concerned with possible issues due to the VP150’s end mounted tweeters. Namely comb-filtering which could cause gross frequency response variations. Interestingly the only noticeable drawback was with slight nulls in the high frequency response only noticeable when I moved my head left to right. Thankfully this is not a practice that I would normally partake while listening.
Looking for a less forgiving recording I choose Cowboy Junkies Whites Off Earth Now 5.1 SACD. The track State Trooper has what can be referred to as scary dynamics. There was some slight issues with dynamic compression on some instruments, yet Margo's vocals sounded very clean and without midrange bloom as found with other center channels. The brushes on the cymbals were a tad lost under the guitar noises, but otherwise not objectionable. On Forgive Me I was made aware of the short comings of the VP150’s tweeter design with the reproduction of the high-hats. When slightly off axis the high frequencies to get a little shrill and caused slight sibilance. Far off axis resulted in an audible drop in high frequency output. Played back in 2ch mode did not have the same issues.
Moving on to more 2ch media I loaded up Pixies Surfer Rosa on SACD. Gigantic’s opening bass line and vocals sounded well balanced and with good weight. There was some confusion of sound when the whole band rips it up but in the cleaner verses the vocals were clean and easily heard. It was only when driven to loud levels that the vocals get a rough edge.
Where is My Mind starts with a three part harmony tracked in behind the lead vocals from Francis Black with a solid and tight percussion holding it all together. The bass lines were again clean and well defined. There is an open sound to this SACD recording that is sadly lacking on the redbook version, and was well reproduced by M22’s. There were some issues with the complex louder passages when compared to my reference electrostatics.
I don't normally evaluate a surround sound speaker system with gaming; however the sound from Modern Warfare 3 was worth a mention. From exploding mines to overhead airstrikes, RPG’s and helicopter extractions the game designers pushed the envelope of gaming audio. The Epic Grand Master was cohesive, solid and very dynamic. The effects that pan from any direction were flawless. The surround audio in this game is dynamic in the sense that if you turn around the sounds will also pan around the room. There was no lack of bass when required and the sound of bullets whizzing from behind to the front stage was startling. I am seeing more emphasis on gaming in the home theater and was rather startled to hear the improvements in gaming audio.
Conclusions about the Axiom Audio Epic Grand Master 350 Home Theater Speaker System
Axiom Audio builds many different speakers available in hundreds of color and finish combinations and does so right here in North America. The speakers they build are neither gimmicky nor flashy and don’t feature the latest in precious metals and space-aged materials. They do however come with a solid design background backed by ample testing and listening sessions, combined with stellar customer service. All that is no guarantee that they will sound they way you like. I found plenty that I enjoyed, and some things that were not to my preference. The midrange was clean, the highs detailed, yet not well suited to uglier recordings. There was a slight hole in the mid-bass/sub-bass response, and there was nothing to speak of below 25 Hz in my room. The mid-bass issue has been noted before with other speakers (notably with the otherwise excellent B&W 804s) and it indicates a room issue around 60-80Hz. Given the total system price I was able to forgive some frequency issues and could overlook the slight concern. Easily recommended for a budget movie and gaming system especially the QS8 surrounds (which would be home in even higher end systems and worked very well my reference front stage). I would however want to audition some of there larger models if I was in the market for a pure music system.