Axiom Grand Master On-Wall 5.2 Review
First let me start this review with saying that I know I have been MIA for a bit now, but it just could not be helped due to a ton of commitments in my personal and professional life, but I am sure everyone can relate to that one. That all being said, the reviews and subwoofer testing will start getting fast and furious for the next several weeks so sit back, take a read and be sure to throw out any questions that happen to cross your mind.
Last year I had the pleasure to review the Axiom Epic-80 800 and actually ended up buying the setup once the review was completed. Well, this time up is the Axiom Grand Master 350 so let us jump in and see what is under the hood.
Packaging and Unboxing
The Epic Grand Master was packed as professionally as you would expect from Axiom Audio. Form fitted foam surrounded each speaker which were wrapped in plastic sheathing to mitigate the risk of moisture damage while shipping. All of the boxes arrived in perfect condition, which was a relief considering that FedEx damaged the EP800 that came with the Epic 80 last year.
Fit, Finish and Installation
Now, for me personally this installation was a very long and arduous task, but only because my bride insisted that no wires show when it was completed. That being said, the installation of the speakers themselves took about an hour after the cables were installed. The cables took about 8 hours due to construction issues. Namely crossbeams and crawlspace access. The system is a 5.2 comprised of M22’s for the mains, VP150 for the center, QS8’S for the surrounds and twin EP350’s for the subs.
The system came in a non-standard finish from the custom laminate options that Axiom offers for an additional charge. The finish is nice, but I think the natural wood finishes may be the way to go in the future. The Vermont Maple has a refined look and does meet the SAF (Spouse Approval Factor) requirement so for $215, it may be worth it to let your better half choose the color, especially if it keeps the peace. Shipping will be a bit delayed due to the extra effort involved in the non-standard finish, but not significantly so I highly recommend at least looking at the other finish options before ordering. This option is also available on all Axiom speaker models as well. Below are actual pictures of our living room and how the Axiom’s look in action.
Due to the other commitments that I have had to fulfill over the past several months, I have been fortunate to be able to have these things in place and listening to them in our living room since November. I do want to thank the Axiom team for being so understanding with me about the delays that have pushed the review back so far, working with Amie and team is always a pleasure.
Calibrating the system was as simple as running through six positions within Audyssey . Once I completed running through the setup I made a few additional changes such as leveling the channels and changing the speaker size to 80Hz VS the Audyssey setting of 50Hz. Overall I spent about three and a half hours on the overall setup of the speakers excluding the time it took to run the cables. The mounting brackets for the VP150 and M22's are fairly simple as long as you follow the instructions.
MeasurementsI took some simple measurements of the M22 and the VP150 just for my own edification. These were taken using the Galaxy SPL and REW from the listening position which is about 12 feet away. I will include the EP350 in our upcoming sub testing forum launch, but for now I just wanted to have something in here. I used a 128K sweep from 20Hz to 22 Khz and only measured the VP150 and the M22's. I will also be running additional sweeps on these speakers later using a more appropriate microphone.
One of the things I noticed instantly, when comparing to my M80's, was the brightness of the M22’s and the VP150. This was certainly expected due to the differences in cabinets, drivers and porting size and placement. There is a noticeable difference in mid-bass between the on wall and towers, but again this is clearly a result of the lack of cabinet resonance and port size. As with every other Axiom speaker that I have reviewed, the clarity is absolutely crystalline and these speakers are a complete joy to listen to.
The Axiom On-Wall series does an outstanding job of imaging the sound and gives any audio source a wonderfully wide and dynamic sound stage. That does not mean that there are not better options out there, but not anywhere close to the value that one can get from the Axiom offerings. In my opinion, the Axiom on-wall series provides a rich audio presentation combined with a sleek and modern look without sacrificing overall fidelity. They are the perfect blend of fit, function and finesse while still being financially viable for the average enthusiast.
MusicAkon: Right Now (NaNaNa)
I like to use this particular song for reference for a number of reasons. First is that this song has a very dynamic range to it. There are some great highs, mids and lows accompanied with some very thumpy bass. When it’s reproduced appropriately, you get a real appreciation for all the musicians that were involved in recording this song.
Dream Theater: Metropolis Part II: Scenes from a Memory
“Scenes from a Memory” is a concept album and is a 77-minute song broken into 9 “scenes”. This album is my hands down favorite album of all time. Now that’s a strong statement because I have a very wide range of listening tastes, but I decided long ago that if I were stuck on a deserted island with a single album, it would be this one. The crunch of Petrucci’s guitar, Mike Portnoy’s thunderous drums, Rudess keys, Myung’s bass and of course James LeBrie’s outstanding vocals all collide to create this epic album that I consider the pinnacle of progressive metal. The Axioms deliver on all fronts with authority. It is almost as if the harder I pushed them the clearer they get and it just makes me grin when it all comes together on the song 'Home' and I get chills every time I crank that one up.
Symphony X: Dehumanized
I recently had the privilege to see Symphony X in concert with Iced Earth and must say that they were absolutely flawless live. Their musical ability to recreate the material live is just phenomenal. So it should be no wonder as to why I would pick them for a reference in order to try and generate that same intensity that I got at the live show. ‘Dehumanized’, off of their latest release fit the bill perfectly. Full of raw energy and authoritative musicianship, Dehumanized stirs the primal side in all of us that screams out ‘ENOUGH!’ when we have reached the point that we have reached the end of our rope. The Axioms reproduce every bit of attitude that the song displays with the utmost clarity and sonic fueled rage.
Now normally I would default to some of my more recent movie reviews, but that effort is now being headed up by the outstanding reviews of Mr. Jon Liu; so I actually had to schedule time to sit and do some reference listening.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Ok, for this one I needed to jump right in and get the sub out of the way. As expected, the dual EP350’s performed admirably but fell short of my EP800 and my recent review of the Chase subs, but lets keep this in perspective; while they could not keep pace with those other subs, they are also a fraction of the cost and not near the specs. The emergence scene in War of the Worlds is undoubtedly all of our favorite and when tripod emerges there is plenty of shake, rattle and roll. That being said, I did notice that it couldn’t adequately reproduce the VLF when the tripod stands fully erect. Keep in mind that I am also using this setup in a room that is over 6,000 cubic feet. Still, the EP350 produced an even and tight response for the ground-shaking scene. The rest of the Grand Master system was able to very accurately reproduce the rest of the chaos going on in the scene. The rubble, breaking ground and glass shattering dizzyingly moves around the sound stage from channel to channel with perfect clarity. Voices can be heard through the madness as people run for cover from these other worldly aggressors.
One staple in my demo list is always Hitman. The 'Storming the Hotel' scene is absolutely wonderful for impactful and penetrating gunfire and explosions and I do mean the type that you can feel in your chest as they ignite onscreen. The M22’s and VP150 work in perfect unison with the EP350’s and QS8’s to create another fantastic experience as gunshots and explosions are presented with the utmost clarity and near perfect fidelity. As with War of the Worlds, the directionality and imaging are perfectly aligned to create a full and well-rounded audio presentation.
Lastly there is the one and only original Transformers. The last 30 minutes of this movie is about as good as it gets for some truly phenomenal audio. Once Ironhide does his somersault, the action kicks into full gear and will fill your room with sonic bliss. The Axioms reproduced this outstanding audio presentation with little effort that simply put a smile on my face. As with Hitman, the gunshots are impactful and the explosions and the “somersault sweep” are deep and throaty.
So here is where things get a little confusing. As with the M80’s, I ended up buying this set of speakers from Axiom. But they weren’t my first choice for new speakers in ‘OUR’ living room. Now, note the emphasis on the word ‘OUR’ because ‘OUR’ living room is ‘HER’ living room and my bride was so impressed with the look of the speakers that once they were on the wall, they were not coming off. I admit that they are much more refined than the bulkier Paradigm towers I was eyeballing, but the M22’s offer everything that the Paradigms do save the sub 60Hz stuff. In the end I am really glad we went with the Axioms… She told me that’s how I feel.
If given the option I would have probably gone with some M60’s or some other towers for the mains, but alas it wasn’t meant to be; nor was it my choice. Let’s be honest though, my setup is in the 'Temple of Boom' and my Epic 80 800 serves the purpose wonderfully well. The fact that she even let me buy speakers for the living room is a blessing in itself and I am grateful I was able to get such a wonderful sounding system instead of having to go with something small and quaint like so many of my friends do.
The Axiom On-Wall series are everything you would expect from Axiom. They are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, they will not break the bank, the quality is second to none in their class and they will fill your noggin with a sonic experience that is far and above of what you will find in retail at twice the cost. I would not hesitate recommending them to those with the most discerning tastes as I have come to notice over my time with them that every detail is articulated with sheer perfection. As a bonus, if you are on the fence, or looking for something that your better half can get behind, the Axiom On-Wall can win over the most resistant of personalities. Highly Recommended!
Please use the Axiom Grand Master 5.2 Home Theater System Review: Discussion Thread for Questions and Comments!