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Wayne Myers (AudiocRaver)
- 3-way Tower
- Frequency Response: 31 Hz – 20 kHz (± 3 dB)
- Power Handling: 400 W
- Sensitivity: 88 dB anechoic, 92 dB in room (2.83 V/1 m)
- Impedance: 4 Ohms
- Woofer Size: 6.5”
- Midrange Size: 5.25"
- Tweeter Size: 1"
- Crossover: 160, 2.3 kHZ
- Tuning Port: One On Front, Five On Rear
- Dimensions: 47.5" H x 9.25" W x 17" D
- Weight (Each): ~70 lbs.
- MSRP (Pair): $2,690
The Axiom MM100 is a 3-way tower with three aluminum woofers, two aluminum midranges, and two titanium dome tweeters. They feature Anti-Standing-Wave cabinets that suppress internal resonances and Vortex ports to reduce port noise.
Setup and Placement Flexibility
The Axiom M100 were not difficult to place. We took a little extra time with them because it was clear they were going to deliver a first-rate soundstage and imaging and wanted to be sure we found their performance peak.
Frequency Response, Bass Extension
The M100 were very bass heavy. The frequency response as we measured it seems to tell the story. The response is almost ruler strait but with a slant that puts the lowest frequencies 12 dB hotter than the 10 kHz level.
The acoustic instrumental on Ode to a Butterfly sounded tubby, overweight. Vocals did not suffer, though, seemed balanced and natural. Even Melody Gardot's voice, which tends to have a deep resonance on Baby I'm A Fool, was well controlled. Brad's baritone on Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm had a crisp reality.
But the overall tonal balance of most tracks was more bass-heavy than I preferred.
Soundstage and Imaging
It is no secret that I am nuts for a great soundstage. The soundstage and imaging from the M100 simply took my breath away for a moment as we were finishing the setup process and I realized the quality of soundstage we were witnessing.
Over the last few years, my definition of an ideal soundstage has changed a number of times as I have witnessed better and better ultimate examples of them. It was in that very room that several of those "best soundstages ever" had been witnessed, all within the last seven months. The first time I heard one of the kind the M100 gave us was from a $50,000 pair of speakers at RMAF last October. That experience has been challenged, to my utter delight, three different times with speakers costing a fraction of those that set that original benchmark, and I have been privileged to be involved in the setup of all three. It has been a bit overwhelming, and hearing that kind of soundstage from the M100 as we completed the setup process was just a bit much.
Imagine a soundstage with imaging that appears to go a level beyond sound waves into the realm of actually seeming to materialize in the air before you. The soundstage is carved in space with such density you feel you could walk among those solid images and explore them as they hang there, morphing at the rate of the flow of music and sound right before your eyes and ears. The image clarity and depth acuity are so precise that each image source seems outlined like the figures in cartoons from the 30's and 40's, a boundary that defines with stark clarity the edge of each sound. Every pluck, crackle, tone, drumbeat, breath, chord, kick, syllable, and every echo, delay, double, and splash of reverb, is simply popping into existence as an individual three-dimensional entity in space before you. The soundstage that POPS!
Okay, this all sounds a little over the top. The experiential contrast, though, between this quality of soundstage and a merely great soundstage with sharp imaging and depth acuity is a quantum leap, from a different dimension of the sonic universe. That is why the experience leaves me feeling inadequate using normal descriptors.
Then one gets a good laugh and is re-grounded by realizing that the nature of the event is shared readily by some and almost shrugged off by others. Leonard seems to have been somewhat knocked out by the density of that soundstage, to use his own descriptor, yet our other two listening companions that day were distracted by other listening qualities and only offered a Oh, yeah, nice on stage, but...
Fair enough, we each have our priorities. For me, the M100 knocked the Soundstage and Imaging category out of the park. The acoustical instruments on Ode to a Butterfly might as well have been right there in the room. The pounding drum at the beginning of Chant popped right out of the wall before us, and the accompanying snare drum owned its volume of space about a foot in front of the wall. Each tinkle from the panning rain stick created a little impact crater in space as it struck, as did each note through the piano solo.
The soaring synthesizer in Rhinestone Eyes left a sonic trail in space behind it. The detail from the Dobro guitar on Strange Fruit was so succinct that it jumped forward in the mix with a real dynamic punch.
Cranked up for the Also Sprach Zarathustra / Star Trek orchestral sequence and the rocking Shallow, the M100 maintained the same three-dimensional image clarity and natural (supernatural?) openness at all volume levels from too loud to whisper soft.
Clarity & Power Handling
the M100 did not even flinch at the deep opening BOOMS of our Star Trek power handling test. Even our highest volumes and deepest bass never came anywhere close to revealing any kind of dynamic range limitation for the M100. They liked being pushed and thrived on revealing dynamic detail for us. I heard more close-up detail in Cassandra's voice on Strange Fruit than ever before. Struttin' With Some Barbecue was especially alive, the saxophone rattling in space before us.
The cymbals in Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm had a gorgeous ring to them. You almost have to hear a good quality cymbal live once in awhile to appreciate the wonderful complexity of clear individual tones they can produce. The M100 gave us cymbals with perfect clarity and explosive dynamics. Shallow was fun and dynamic and almost dared me to open up the throttle and ROCK.
Performance at Final Position With Audyssey MultEQ XT32
Audyssey MultEQ helped tame the bass beastliness of the M100, but detracted from the wonderful carved-in-space quality of the soundstage and imaging. The change was subtle, but they seemed forced, not as free and natural as without the correction applied. Dynamic range seemed restricted, like some of the detail had been sacrificed. Although not a drastic difference, I preferred the M100 without MultEQ, although it is easy to see that some would go for the controlled bass over the slightly more dynamic soundstage. Given the means to accomplish it, a single low shelf or perhaps a low shelf plus an attenuating peak parametric EQ band would probably be all needed to settle down the bass without disrupting other M100 qualities.
Performance Close to the Front Wall
The first rule of Axiom M100 placement is DO NOT place them close to a wall. The second rule of Axiom M100 placement is DO NOT place them close to a wall.
At the wall, the M100 bass response was stronger, sluggish, thick, and SLOW. It took a couple tenths of a second for each note to form, each percussive hit to develop, and again for them to fade. Every bass note was slurred and way too strong.
Imaging was fairly-to-good, and the soundstage was okay, although not deep. But the thickness and slowness of the bass response were absolute deal killers as far as using the M100 close to a wall.
Physical and Visual
The M100 is an imposing structure. They are big towers, and are meant to sit in a listening room wherever they need to be placed to sound their best. To use them in any other way seems a terrible waste. They look and sound big and powerful, commanding the space they occupy just the way they command the air they vibrate. The finish is simple, a flat black with grain showing, contrasting with the white driver cones.
Overall Listening Experience
Listening to the Axiom M100 was a genuine treat. Other than being bass heavy, I can think of no flaws in the way they present any of the music we heard. They left me wondering, How do they do it?[!I] They delivered simply awesome performance.
Leonard Caillouet (lcaillo)
It was the best of sounds, it was the worst of sounds…OK, my apologies to real writers like Dickens. The Axiom was one of the speakers that I looked most forward to hearing. When we started the listening with the speakers on axis to the listening position I was dejected. I could not believe how thick the bass and mid bass were, how recessed the vocals were, and I was thinking, OK this is a trip back to the 1970s and the classic ARs which have been exceeded by so many fine products in the past few decades. Flat sound, even bloated. Moving them to the perpendicular near wall orientation did little to change anything. The image was moderate, but nothing to excite. Not a speaker to own if you are not going to place it carefully.
BUT, occasionally, one finds a Dickens’ packaged in a Hemingway jacket (I never could get Hemingway). When we moved them out into the room they simply came alive. I was stunned at the difference, and found the siren was calling me to the listening position. I think I went through every second of my playlist and went through all of the songs on a couple of the other guy’s lists. The image was impressive. I have not heard the “density” of image like this in many speakers and I have heard many over the years. I must explain what I mean by density of image. When some speakers produce an image and you get a pinpoint location of instruments it is quite impressive. Precious few have that precision but with the sense that there is a solid instrument or a real person standing in front of you. This requires not only exceptional detail but the ability to move a lot of air and deliver the precision with authority. The precision of the locations of the instruments in the soundstage, the depth, the width, it was all so engaging. But it felt like something more.
As I moved through the playlist I kept listening for the flaws that I can detect in most speakers. While nearly all of the speakers in this event had few if any flaws that stood out, the Axioms not only lacked issues, but did so much so well that I just kept on listening. I was tired when we started, and after hearing them near the wall was expecting the session to be drudgery. Boy, was I wrong. The emotion in Melody Gardot’s vocals, the off-balance neurosis of Joni Mitchell and Donald Fagen, the subtle detail in the lower strings of an acoustic guitar that makes you want to go out and buy one and take guitar lessons, or at least get out your Chet Atkins vinyl, it was all there. When Fagen’s smarmy voice makes you want to lock up your young cousins and you want to go to California and be one of the people that Joni digs…OK, I could go on and on about the great experience listening to these, but I think you get the idea. These touched a string in my head.
So they have all the subtleties. What about screaming rock and pounding funk. Yep, they do that too. In fact, one of the things that I noticed is that the image did not become chaotic at very loud volumes. It seemed quite stable. When playing Honey Bee by Stevie Ray, I could enjoy it from the front row or the back at incredible levels. Never a complaint. I felt like I was in a blues joint back home in Baton Rouge and it was time to walk to the bar and get a beer, but I did not want to miss anything.
The overall balance is slightly heavy on the bass, but when placed properly they prove to be very articulate and not obscure the mid bass and lower midrange that I look to for detail. I tend to like my speakers a little lean on the bottom compared to Sonnie, but I would have no problem loving these.
The detail from bottom to top and in the soundstage is all there. One of the tracks that shows it all is Chant. The panning of the rain sticks, the deep bass, the snap of the drums, the detailed attack and harmonics of the piano, lower strings detail…outstanding on all counts. The Melody Gardot track is one that can excite a lesser speaker with sibilance. No problem here. I went off the reservation a bit and pulled up some classical music (the Telarc Pictures at an Exhibition track that someone had stored) and it brought back memories of the kind of wide ranging articulation of multiple instruments with a huge powerful sound field that I recall from the old Acoustat 8s. Not quite the transparency of electrostatics, but very close.
Of course, my preference for eccentric vocalists and guitars makes for difficult tests for speakers sometimes. As I mentioned above, all of it was revealed and none of the tendencies toward annoying brightness ever popped up. I just keep coming back to the feeling that I got listening to these speakers. It is hard to quantify performance at this level, so I listen with my gut, for the big picture. The forest was there, but the trees, down to the leaves were clearly defined.
These are a solid performer in all regards. The detail and image precision was much like what one gets with larger electrostatics, not quite the openness, but the solid delivery was just plain fun. You do have to take the speaker out well into the room, and make the effort to locate the right position, but the result is pretty exciting. My fabric/clothing analogy here would be a very fine merino wool suit, tailored perfectly, with great attention to detail.
Joe Alexander (ALMFamily)
We are starting to get to the speakers I have not heard before, and this is the exciting part for me. While it is a thrill to hear the same speaker in a different environment, there is a "first date" feel to listening to a speaker I have not heard previously.
I always seem to start with this, but, really, the finish is the first thing you see so it seems natural to discuss it right off the bat. You know, it is funny. Most people look at a black walnut type finish and think it looks plain. I, for some reason, have always really liked that type of finish (my bedroom set is finished this way) and this one is done extremely well with no visible defects. I like the choice of white colored drivers as it gives the front baffle a very clean look which I personally like. Packaging was really well done with reinforced cardboard corners and plenty of foam. They even include sliders to make moving them easier which was good because these were the heaviest of the bunch - although I did not use them. :flex: The cabinet had a straight front baffle with a tapering to the rear which gives the speaker some character.
When placed close to the wall and toed-in, the banjo in Ode to a Butterfly images just inside the right speaker as expected while the mandolin and violin image just right of where I have been hearing them previously which was an odd start. The rain stick panning effect in Chant imaged just fine as it panned from left to right. However, low end is really loose as it feels like it rolls on just too long. Reasons Why has very little depth which is not unexpected with this location. Strange Fruit has good spatial imaging of each piece, and the trumpet and lap guitar are where I expect them to image with the height difference between the lap guitar and Cassandra's vocals able to be discerned. Hells Bells had a tad better low end, but it was still not precise. Once we moved them to facing straight, the mandolin moved out more toward the left speaker with much better separation between it and the violin with the banjo still just inside the left speaker. However, the rain stick effect in Chant now had a hole in the middle and low end was still flabby. The vocal depth in Reasons Why has better depth off axis. With this orientation, the kick drum in Hells Bells sounds off as one kick drum sequence seems to bleed together.
These did not take long at all to find a great location - the hardest part was the actual process of moving them. Did I mention that they were the heaviest?
Track 1 - Ode to a Butterfly
Wide soundstage – great separation between the instruments – mandolin and violin especially. Great string detail on both the mandolin and banjo. Images perfectly.
Track 2 - Chant
Rain stick panning effect handled perfectly. Fantastic low end – great impact and can hear that kick of the drum. Nice snare drum punch! Excellent piano detail. Guitar vibrations – heady stuff!
Track 3 - Reasons Why
Deep vocal soundstage. Good, open female vocal sound. Stand up bass has good impact here.
Track 4 - Strange Fruit
Images perfectly including the height difference between the lap guitar and the vocals. String detail is really good here too. Each piece is even in level – no one overpowers the other. Excellent vocal detail.
Track 5 - Struttin' with some Barbeque
No sense of horn fatigue. Nice piano action.
Track 6 - One
Precise kick drum imaging in the first sequence – really crisp. Can hear the kick drum rolls clearly in the second sequence too.
Track 7 - Hells Bells
Excellent bell ringing. Guitar riff at start sounds great and high hat splash is crystal clear. Precise kick drum here too.
Track 8 - Let It Go
Good vocal depth to soundstage but with an "in-your-grill" presence. Handles dynamic shifts effortlessly – no signs of compression at all.
Track 9 - Where Do The Children Play
Excellent string detail here. Good vocal depth to soundstage with presence here too. Can hear more vocal detail when he trails off in the chorus. Handles dynamic range at the 3:20 minute mark effortlessly.
Track 10 - Tricycle
The dynamic swings really get the ol' heart jumping. No signs of compression or strain.
Track 11 - Just One Of Those Things
Excellent piano detail.
Track 12 - Walking On The Moon
No comments here.
On the Melody Gardot track, sibilance at higher volume (-8) was borderline uncomfortable.
Overall, an excellent speaker that does several things really well - string detail, vocal presence and piano detail really stood out for me personally in these speakers and the low end imaged very precisely as well. That said, I do feel that this is not a speaker that is going to perform as well when you are forced to locate it close to a wall, but if you can get it out into the room, you will definitely be pleased with its capabilities. The only thing I struggled with was the sibilance, and it was not horrible to the point of not being able to listen, but I could tell after a few hours of listening (maybe less), it would be fatiguing. Again though, the Gardot track was listened to a -8, so if you listen at more moderate levels, I do not think it would be an issue at all.