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February 2014
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere!
Axiom Audio M100 Floorstanding Speakers
One helluva lot of speaker for the money!
Review By Phil Gold

 

Axiom Audio M100 Floorstanding Speakers  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.

 

Setup
I paired the speakers with a Meridian G08 CD Player feeding an EMM Labs Pre 2 preamplifier, and a Modwright KWA 150SE power amp, all wired up with Nordost Valhalla cables, including a 7' pair of bi-wire speaker cables. My reference speaker, the YG Carmel is dwarfed by the Axiom, and requires an extra 1.5dB of output to match volumes levels on white noise. In practice matching levels proved very difficult between these two speakers as the in room frequency response was so very different between them. The Carmel is far more evenly balanced in my 26' x 12' room and the Axiom sounds bass heavy and treble light, so the type of music itself determined how much difference in gain I should dial in for each track.

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.

 

The Music
The M100 works wonders with Holly Cole's Girl Talk [Alert Music Z281016] but not so well with Taj Mahal's The Collection [Castle CCSCD 180]. Why? Well Girl Talk has relatively little treble energy but a wonderful deep stringed bass while Taj Mahal uses a lot of high energy percussion and steel stringed guitar with relatively little deep bass content. So Girl Talk plays to its strengths and Taj Mahal will sound better with a more refined upper frequency response, higher ultimate resolution and faster reflexes.

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 track.

Axiom Audio M100 Floorstanding SpeakersIn "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.

 

Classically Speaking...
Let us turn to classical music, starting with a magnificent and bargain price recording of a full scale Shostakovich Symphony – Number 10 [Naxos 8.572461]. The M100 brings considerable warmth to the string tones but in general the textures are thickened and the massive attack in the Allegro (a musical portrait of Stalin) is blunted. There is no great definition in the bass or detail in the treble, but on the plus side, the full power of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under its wonderful young conductor Vasily Petrenko is well communicated.

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.

 

Conclusion
What you have to remember is that this is one helluva lot of speaker for the money. You probably cannot find another serious speaker that can put out such prodigious volumes of clean sound or reach so very deep at this price or anywhere near it. That's the target audience – the high volume listener looking for massive dynamics with vanishing low levels of compression, rather than the highest levels of refinement. In fact I think it is better suited to an A/V system where it will do killer duty on the soundtracks of many a Hollywood blockbuster, keeping company with rear channel Axiom Audio speakers and the odd subwoofer or two if the already prodigious bass isn't quite enough for you. This is consistent with some of Axiom's promotional material for the M100:

  These 4-Ohm audiophile speakers will create ultra-clean, high-volume levels in large rooms

  Brings definitive realism to home theater

  You will be blown away by the clarity, detail, powerful bass, and stunning dynamics

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.

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear  
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Special 3-way, 7-driver bass reflex configuration
Sensitivity: 92dB in room, 88dB/W/m in anechoic chamber
Amp Power: 10 watts to 400 watts 
Impedance: 4 Ohm nominal
Frequency Range: 31 Hz to 20 kHz (+/-3dB)
Tweeter: Dual 1" Titanium dome
Midrange: Dual 5.25" Aluminum
Bass: Triple 6.5" Aluminum
Crossover Frequencies: 160 Hz and 2.3 kHz
Binding Posts: Dual five-way binding posts
Dimensions: 47.5" x 9.25" x 17" (HxWxD)
Weight: 70 lbs. each
Standard Finishes: Boston Cherry and Black Oak
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
Price: $2690 with free shipping – no duty or tax in the U.S.A.

 

Company Information
Axiom Audio
Highway 60
Dwight, Ontario
Canada P0A 1H0

Voice: (866) 244-8796
E-mail: sales@axiomaudio.com
Website: www.AxiomAudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

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