These large speakers come
from Axiom Audio, a specialist speaker company, primarily devoted to the home
theatre market and located in Dwight, Ontario, around 150 miles north of
Toronto. They make everything themselves, even the drivers, in their facilities
in Ontario and China and they sell direct to the end user, aiming to offer
outstanding value for money. Axiom's owner and designer is Ian Colquhoun and the
company has been in business for 30 years.
Axiom speakers feature eight-sided seamless cabinets
with proprietary Anti Standing Wave Wedge shaped profile and vortex porting.
Axiom's product line extends beyond conventional floorstanding, bookshelf,
center channel, surround sound and subwoofers to include in-wall, on-wall and
in-cabinet speakers, computer speakers, outdoor speakers and a range of digital
amplifiers. Axiom even invites you to call for free advice at (866) 244-8796.
The new M100 speakers ($2690) sit at the top of their range of conventional
floorstanders, above the M80 ($1500), M60 ($1120) and M50 ($860). Axiom also
make an omni-directional version of the M100 called the LFR1100 ($3760) which
looks the same from the front but features four additional rear facing drivers.
Make no mistake these are large heavy boxes, and with five rear facing ports in addition to a forward facing port, careful positioning is essential. In my room I found they sounded best 30" from the rear wall and about 6' apart, angled slightly in, with three of the rear ports stuffed with the provided dampers. Closing the ports had only a marginal affect on the sound and it didn't seem to be critical which ports were closed.
This was an unusual listening experience since while the Carmel is consistently excellent no matter what type of music you're listening to, the Axiom is not impartial at all. It has the very important characteristic of sounding consistent across a huge range of volume levels – it never runs out of steam, although your room might! It's not a very high resolution speaker (and you wouldn‘t expect that at this price), and tends to smooth out sudden transients, which tends to reduce the pace of music and render it less exciting in favor of a smooth and warm rendition. Imaging is wide but somewhat shallow in depth. But I should warn you now that as a large multi driver speaker with multiple ports, it's going to sound quite different from room to room and can also be quite sensitive to positioning. This is in sharp contrast to the shorter slimmer sealed box Carmel which you can put almost anywhere in any room and not worry. As each Axiom driver is doubled or trebled, no individual transducer is under stress at normal listening levels and you have this nice sense of unburstability and working well within its capabilities that only a large speaker can offer. I can only tell you how it sounds in my listening room . More than at any other time, my message is "Do try this at home". See if it works for you. If it does, it is an outstanding bargain. Axiom sells direct and offers a 30 day money back guarantee on top of their standard 5 year warranty so you can make this happen.
I did a lot of listening so let me cover a range
of music. This may help you decide if the kind of music you play is the kind of
music the Axiom excels in. Let's start with Girl
Talk. Although the bass is looser and less pitch accurate than the
Carmel, and the resolution lower, "My Baby Just Cares for Me" sounds very nice
anyway - magical in fact. Dynamics are huge and the bass output simply
prodigious. The voice is wonderful and the imaging excellent. The title track
has that big fat bass again. The piano also sounds great, giving this track a
huge sense of scale, and Holly's voice emerges without a trace of sibilance.
This speaker seems just ideally suited to the Holly Cole Trio.
Now on to Taj Mahal's Collection.
And yes, I know exactly how he should sound having just caught him live at
Koerner Hall. What a treat that was, with the best version of "Fishin' Blues" I
ever heard. While the Carmel makes this song very easy to decipher it sounds a
bit harsh on the Axiom and the voice is a bit less distinct. "Six Days on the
Road" has rapid fire drumming clearly reproduced on the Carmel, which sounds
harsher and less detailed on the Axiom. "Stagerlee brings a room filling
realistic sounding steel guitar on the Carmel but sounds slower and heavier,
with a much thicker voice on the Axiom. The famous "Take a Giant Step", a warm
country blues, fills the full width on the Carmel, where the high end is
extended and the detail is clearly laid out over a warm and punchy bass.
Switching to the Axiom brings an overall softness and an overpowering bass while
the top end is slow and masks detail. Taj Mahal sings a wonderful "Oh Mama, Don't
you Know" where the Carmel reveals a rich world of incidentals, long sustained
harmonics and brilliant attack. Much of this is missing through the Axiom which
sounds quite closed in here. Finally "Railroad Bill" comprises resourceful
handclapping below Taj Mahal's guitar and haunting whistle, superbly reproduced
by the Carmel, but through the Axiom the guitar drowns out the clapping.
The plucked bass is delicious in "I'm Gonna Tell
You This Story One More Time" from Béla
Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio [Rounder 11661-91422]. The piano is
nicely weighted while the percussion (as always with this speaker) is reticent
and not highly resolved, although not harsh or tiring. The midrange is not
especially colorful. Distortion is low, the sound both relaxed and spacious. "Let
Me Show You What to Do" sounds amazing, with superb grunting and a lovely swing.
The piano lacks sparkle and the banjo also sounds a bit closed in compared to
the Carmel but the Carmel cannot match the deep grunt that defines this standout
"The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" from Dina Krall's great album All
for You [Justin Time JTR 8458-2] there is an overall smoothing and
diffusion which shows strengths and weaknesses side by side. While the bass is
very powerful and extended it is also rather loose while the piano feels
somewhat shut in. Krall's voice is magnificent – sweet, sexy, low but clear.
The speaker shows its great dynamic strengths in a forward presentation but the
pace tends to drag.
The Axiom feels right at home in "You'd be so
Good to Come Home to" on Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section [Contemporary OJCCD-338].
It is a freewheeling rendition, bluesy, powerful and sweet all at once, and the
M100 brings our all of these elements in full force. The bass here is excellent.
At any given volume level you sense there is still power in reserve. It's quite
a different presentation from the Carmel, which is tighter, more punchy, with
more front to back separation, and with a stronger presence for the percussion,
but both speakers are enormously enjoyable and convincing here.
Ali Farke Toure's Talking
Timbuktu [World Circuit HNCD1381], aided and abetted by Ry Cooder as
performer and producer, is not well suited to the M100. In the opening track "Bonde"
the beat is softened, the transients lack the necessary snap and the voice takes
on a nasal tone. The image, though wide is also quite forward and not ideally
well defined. The Carmel is in another class here with speed and attack to spare
and the clarity to follow and place each instrument in the space. So if this
music is your particular poison, look elsewhere.
Every track on the Beatles Love album [Capitol 094637981023] tells a different sonic story. "Because" does rather well, albeit with the edges rounded. The voices are well projected and blended and the track shows strong dynamics. "Get Back" is course and thick, and sounds hard driven. Even "Eleanor Rigby" shows signs of stridency and a lack of the proper sustain, but Paul voice sounds good and the presence is excellent, the image wide and accurate. "Blackbird/Yesterday" fares best of all, warm and rich with lush strings. "Come Together" has lots of the required heft – head bangers will love this presentation. "Back in the USSR" rather falls apart – the resolution just isn't high enough to male full sense of this as the complexity increases and the phasiness makes it a tough slog. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is very enjoyable here, with such a strong forward projection, but the lead voice or instrument does tend to mask lower level instrumental detail. "Sgt/ Pepper's" is strident again, but it's quite enjoyable and had me singing along, always a good sign. So swings and roundabouts, but this is an absolute top sounding album through the Carmel, the Kudos and various Totems I've reviewed recently.
Does it do a better job on smaller scale
classical works? Mozart's Divertimento in E
Flat for violin, viola and cello is one of the master works of the
period and there is no finer performance than the Grumiaux Trio [Philips
4164852]. The sound here is warm and the image well projected and stable, the
string tone is rich. But there is a slight lack of sustain and the sound seems
on the bloated side of realism, with an occasional nasal tonality.
Beethoven Cello Sonatas [Decca 475379-2] show some of the same traits but I like the sound much better than the Mozart. The cello has a rich enjoyable tone while the piano is deep and resonant while lacking the openness of the Carmel.
The M100's best performance in classical music is
in Haydn Quartets by the Quatuor
Mosaïques on original instruments [Astree E8786]. This can easily sound thin or
rough but here emerges smoothly with significant weight, excellent coherency and
strong imaging. The second movement of Opus 20/II sounds suitably monolithic and
slow, making quite a grand statement.
So that's a lot of detailed listening notes, and quite a
lot of different levels of performance for you to ponder. I am reminded of that
girl from Mother Goose - when she was good
she was very very good but when she was bad she was wicked.
So that's a lot of detailed listening notes, and quite a lot of different levels of performance for you to ponder. I am reminded of that girl from Mother Goose - when she was good she was very very good but when she was bad she was wicked.
These 4-Ohm audiophile speakers will create ultra-clean, high-volume levels in
Brings definitive realism to home theater
You will be blown away by the clarity, detail, powerful bass, and stunning
Axiom Audio has recently entered into an arrangement with another Canadian manufacturer, Bryston, to create a range of speakers sold under the Bryston label but clearly heavily influenced by the M100 and other Axiom speakers, sharing for instance the doubled and tripled driver designs and driver materials. This is an arrangement that should work out well for both companies and has already attracted a lot of attention and favorable reviews.