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Product Review
 

Axiom M60ti Floor-Standing Speakers, M22ti Bookshelf Speakers, and QS8 Surround Speakers

March, 2004

Kris Deering

 

Specifications:

 

Axiom M60ti

 

● Drivers: One 1" Tweeter, One 5-1/4" Midrange, Two 6-1/2" Woofers

● Max Amp Power 250 Watts
● Min Amp Power 10 Watts
● MFR: 37 Hz - 22 kHz ± 3 dB
● Sensitivity: 93 dB/W/M (In-Room)
● Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms
● Dimensions: 37.5" H x 9.25" W x 15" D
● Weight 47 Pounds Each

● MSRP: $800/Pair USA in Black Oak, Maple, Beech, and Cherry

 

Specs and prices for the other models are included in the text.

 

Axiom Audio

 

www.axiomaudio.com
 

Introduction

I approached this review in two separate ways. First off, I love the opportunity to audition new speakers, especially ones that claim superb performance at a budget price. Axiom Audio is a company from our neighbors to the north, Canada. Completely skipping the retail route, they are only available on the Internet.

The second part of this review is an evaluation of an idea in home theater. See a lot of people swear that the holy grail of speaker setups is a completely matched five speaker system and a powered subwoofer. I have never had the opportunity to use five matched speakers in my setup until this point so I was anxious for the opportunity. I talked to Axiom about this and they were thrilled with the idea of testing the theory in my own setting. But they went the extra mile. Not only did they provide me with five matched M60ti floor standing speakers, they also loaned me a pair of their “quadpole surrounds” and a set of bookshelf monitors for the rear channels. This way I can really get an idea of which combination I liked more.

Axiom uses the same Canadian research facility (the NRC) that many other high-end speaker companies from the north have used including my personal favorite, PSB. This facility allows companies an unprecedented level of flexibility when it comes to testing. Most companies can’t afford to build their own anechoic chambers for proper testing of speakers, so a lot of their testing is either done in a quasi-anechoic way (i.e., test equipment that uses processing to simulate anechoic results) or have to spend big bucks to rent a chamber for testing which raises the price of the speakers. This is a lot of the reason that companies like PSB, Axiom, and Paradigm (who went on to build their own facility) can make such accurate speakers at such a great price.

The Setup

My normal setup consists of PSB Image 6Ts for my mains. I have found these to be excellent speakers both for music and film soundtracks. The Axiom M60's are very similar in size and structure. Both feature a 1” titanium tweeter and 6.5” woofers. But the M60 throws in a 5.25” midrange driver instead of a third 6.5” woofer. The porting is also a bit different. The Axioms feature two ports on the back of the speaker, whereas the PSB's are ported on the front. Both speakers suffer from one of my chief complaints with speakers nowadays though. They both have a slender profile despite their height. This creates a bit of a top heavy cabinet that makes the speakers easy to knock over, even with the provided spikes. I think companies that use these slender cabinets should come up with a wider base solution to eliminate the risk of toppling over.

The Sound

I was very impressed with the M60’s both in music and movie soundtrack performance. The speaker has excellent performance in the midrange which is very important to me. The low end performance wasn’t quite a match to my PSB’s though in terms of depth and control, but the PSB’s feature a third driver. This is not an issue if using this speaker with a subwoofer, which is always recommended. I coupled the Axioms with my three SVS subs, and they blended perfectly with a fixed crossover point of 80 Hz. Some people get pretty bent about how well their towers perform in the lower range, but this is not an issue with a good subwoofer.

One of the best things about these towers was their imaging, especially with two channel listening. I could really get a great sense of where the performers were in the soundstage. I used selections from Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, and Staind. Not the normal high end review selections but the material is excellent for testing separation of instruments and depth of soundstage, especially the Nine Inch Nails material.

The height of the tweeter was a bit low for me, causing the soundstage to feel low at times, almost like I was looking down on the performance. This was especially evident with Big Phat Bands XXL DVD-A.

I also noticed some very slight resonance in the cabinet when using low end test tones from AVIA. I never once noticed any resonance problems when music was playing though.

Imaging was never an issue with movie soundtracks. In fact, this is where the speaker performed its best in my opinion. Having three matched speakers across the main soundstage creates a completely seamless experience, and now that I have experienced it I will never have anything else. The M60's were superb with dialogue in films and never gave off a bloated feeling in the midrange that I have experienced with other speakers. They did an excellent job of just blending into the front room and never really calling attention to themselves with movies; that is what I always look for.

I have heard complaints that Axiom speakers are too “bright”. I wouldn’t classify this at all with the M60. While the speaker remained quite detailed in the higher frequencies, I would never have characterized it as “bright” or “harsh”, even at higher listening levels.

QS8 “Quadpole” Surrounds

The QS8 surround ($470/pair) is unlike any other surround speaker I have used in the past. They couple two 1" tweeters in a bipole configuration on the front, along with two 5.25” woofers, one each on the top and bottom of the enclosure. This produces a remarkable sound that was the most spacious I have heard to date, although the design goes against THX recommendations for a rear speaker setup.

The QS8s have an uncanny ability to blend themselves into the rear soundstage and only calling attention to themselves when needed. They did a far better job of replicating the movie theater experience than any other surround I have used before. They also did an exceptional job with multi-channel music and really gave the room a depth it hasn’t had before. This was by far my favorite of the speakers they sent me, and I will be REALLY sad to see them go.

M22ti Bookshelf Speaker

The last speaker in the lineup is the M22. This is a rather large bookshelf monitor that features two 5.25” woofers and one 1” tweeter, selling for $400 a pair. They are 19.7" in height, compared to the M60ti's height of 37.5". This complements the other speakers perfectly as it uses the same drivers. I set these up for use as rear back channels for 6.1 or 5.1 EX soundtracks. While they did a consistently excellent job, I found the lack of EX movie titles a bit of a problem in effectively evaluating the speakers. So I moved them up to the front to give them a try.

The M22’s would make an excellent main speaker with a subwoofer complimenting it. While it does a commendable job on its own, it just doesn’t have the range to work on its own. The image and detail were almost exactly the same as the M60, which was expected given the similar attributes. The M60 easily surpassed it though in the lower end detail and depth.

I have to admit that using the five matched speakers was nice for music, but I found the rear towers just too directional for film soundtrack reproduction. Panning effects were handled nicely, but the sense of space normally associated with my dipolar surrounds was lost for the most part. The rear speakers were about six feet from the listening position but almost right against the wall. I think I may have felt differently given a larger room.

I listened to a wide variety of music and film with the five matched setup. The highlight of this was by far multi-channel music playback, which consisted of both DVD-A and SACD titles. But again, there were moments when I missed my old dipolar surrounds. Some multi-channel mixes feature very discrete information in the surrounds and this was complemented by the towers, but other tracks tend to use the rear soundstage for depth and ambience, which benefited more from the dipolar design in my opinion. There are receiver and processor solutions that would help this by allowing the end user to select from different speakers for playback. I know this is a very popular feature on some Denon receivers.

When I eventually switched over to the quadpoles, which is more typical of my normally listening system, the depth and ambience of the rear soundstage was once again realized. This is by far the way to go for me. I just love the sense of space this solution creates, making the room feel far bigger then it really is.

Conclusions

I hope that this review helps readers who are on the fence about which configuration would work best for them. Understand that room size is pretty much the deciding factor. If you have ample space, then the matched system may be your best bet, but medium sized rooms and smaller will probably benefit from a dipolar or bipolar speaker.

The Axiom’s were an absolute treat. They are a rare bargain that offers excellent performance at a reasonable price point. Their “quadpole” surrounds were the definite highlight for me with the amazing sense of space they created. Axiom’s speakers also have the plus of including 2-day FedEx shipping in their price and a no hassle 30 day audition. I think it would be a big mistake not to take advantage of the audition if you are in the market for great speakers.



- Kris Deering -

 

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