Finish: Boston Cherry
Axiom M3 v3 On-Wall Speaker Review
Axiom Audio started back in 1980 by founder and President Ian Colquoun. Over the past 30 years, Axiom has built a reputation for building quality sounding speakers for every income level. I have personally always wanted to hear Axiom speakers, but until now never had the opportunity. This review is also my first hardware review so please bear with me as I make my way through it.
The M3 is one of six new models from Axiom’s new ‘On-Wall’ series. These speakers are very different than normal ‘in-wall’ speakers in that they do not rely on the wall cavity as a means of producing the sound. This is achieved through an exclusively designed enclosure that mounts on the wall instead of in the wall. Each M3 has a single 6.5” aluminum driver and a 1” titanium tweeter and is dual ported through the bottom of the enclosure. They are sold in pairs and are tastefully designed for those with discerning tastes that require an elegant looking speaker.
Each speaker weighs in at 9 lbs and measures 13.6” X 9.6” X 3.6”. The response is listed as +/- 3db 70 Hz – 22 kHz with an impedance of 8 Ohms. As stated earlier, they are sold in pairs for $348 and come in black and Boston Cherry.
My only issue with the construction of the M3 is with the mounting bracket. The clips on either side that are designed to release the two parts of the bracket are plastic and easily broken. I will state that it is properly documented in the mounting instructions as step one however; I misunderstood initially and broke one. See Here
Since my initial review, Axiom has revised the bracket system to a much easier to use and durable system. The concept is identical, the difference being the parts that require pressure being put on them and that could potentially break have been changed from plastic to metal. The other difference is that instead of a latch type of system, the metal conductors now just slide over the speaker post/mount that is attached to the wall. An excellent update to an excellent sounding speaker!
The M3’s are constructed using ¾” MDF for the enclosure. The construction is solid and faced with the appropriate veneer finish. The enclosure is glued together and the only fasteners I could see are those that are holding the drivers in place. The enclosure is very solid and overall looks, feels and performs like a very high quality speaker. See Here
The drivers are attached with hex head screws that protrude a bit off of the enclosure but are hidden once the magnetic screen is on. I received, by request, the Boston Cherry finish and was fairly impressed with it. I like darker wood colors and it gave a very elegant look to the speaker. The grain comes through with plenty of detail and is much nicer than some of the other finishes I have seen. See Here
Something very unique to the On-Wall series are the binding posts. They are actually part of the mounting bracket. One piece of the bracket attaches to the wall with the speaker wire connected and this allows the speaker to just slip over the bracket attached to the wall thus completing the circuit. It really is quite a innovative. See Here
In-room frequency response measurements were taken using XTZ’s Room Analyzer. The space that was used to measure was my dedicated home theater room that has a volume just short of 2900 cu. ft. My listening position was approximately 10.5 ft. away.
I took measurements from a single M3 that was mounted on the wall. One thing that I felt was necessary to do in order to get an accurate reading was disengage the MCACC on the Pioneer and run the tests with a raw signal. I felt running the EQ would be manipulative and the results wouldn’t be true. The first graph is the 1/3 filtered response and the second is the raw response with nothing added to it.
Overall I thought the responses were validation for Axiom’s published specs and show that these speakers have the fundamental building blocks in place. You can see on the image below that the lower frequencies, basically below a spike around 65 hz. This is the sub and not a deficiency in the M3.
For testing I used my Pioneer Elite SC-05 and a combination of Apple TV, Panasonic BD-80K Bluray Player and ASUS EEE Box 1501U running Windows 7 for sourcing the material from. For level, I tried to run music at about 100 –db at peak and mood music between 56-70 -db. For movies I went with a reference level around 84-87 with peaks over 100. I felt this would be an adequate test in determining distortion levels as well as seeing how much power is required to get the M3's to open up a bit. There were a couple of pieces that I played at even louder volumes trying to get them to crack under the pressure. My results are below.
I tried to mix it up quite a bit and pulled from several genres.
Bullet for My Valentine, Fever
Track 1: Your Betrayal
Judas Priest, Painkiller
Track 1: Painkiller
Jesse Cook, Freefall
Track 1: Switchback
Jim Matheos: Away With Words
Track 1: A Way with Words
Billy McLaughlin, Out of Hand
Track 7: Flying Dream
Track 1: Right Now (Na Na Na)
Antonio Vivaldi, Millennium Masterpieces
Track 4: Concerto No. 4 in F-minor “Winter”
Clint Mansell, Requiem for a Tower (Single)
Track 1: Requiem for a Tower
I am all about the Heavy Metal and the first thing I listened to was the song ‘Your Betrayal’ by ‘Bullet for My Valentine’. It absolutely knocked me off my feet. I expected the M3’s to be substantially brighter than my towers, but they really weren’t. The lows were obviously covered by my subs, but the mids and highs were reproduced with incredible accuracy. They were a little brighter, but still packed a substantial punch and from the get-go they really proved they could serve as a viable home theater speaker solution. The thing that stands out most in my mind about these little speakers is the clarity. There was no discernable distortion emanating from the speakers other than the intended distortion from the music.
Next I set the volume to 0, about +110 db and played the drum intro to ‘Painkiller’ by Judas Priest and still could not detect any distortion coming from the speakers. All I could hear was Scott Travis’ thundering drums that I could also feel beating me in the chest. The sound was tight, precise and absolutely amazing.
For my next listening tests, I used something a bit more subdued as my beautiful trophy wife had heard about as much as she wanted to hear from the heavier stuff. Enter Jesse Cook’s ‘Switchback’. The imaging on this song was perfect as Jesse’s furious finger picking comes at you dead center while the percussion slowly builds from the sides just before all of the instruments join in and encompass you in the song. I was pretty taken aback by the whole thing and the crisp sound of the finger picking was flawlessly articulated through the M3s.
Next up was Jim Matheos ‘Away with Words’ which starts with a slow building bass line as the percussion, guitar and violin find their footing into an upbeat instrumental chorus. Each instrument can be heard with clarity and all of the instruments sound natural and full.
I rounded out these tests with Billy McLaughlin’s ‘Flying Dream’ and the title pretty much sums up what I heard. McLaughlin’s tranquil opening can immediately take the edge off any negative mood however; coming through the M3’s really took it to a whole other level. The chorus of the song is a harmony between the guitar and sax and the M3s articulated the separation perfectly.
I chose to test Akon’s ‘Right Now (Na Na Na)’ and I really have to say that it is probably the one that I replayed the most. There is something about that song that just brings the speakers to life. There is a lot of mid bass in it that I think lends well to this kind of test.
For classical music I went with Antonio Vivaldi and Clint Mansell for composers. I am a huge fan of Antonio Vivaldi and couldn’t wait to hear his Concerto No. 4 in F-minor “Winter” on these speakers and must say that I was extremely pleased with what I heard but it could not compare to ‘Requiem for a Tower’ by Clint Mansell and the London Music Works. That piece of music stirs so much emotion within me and blasting through the M3’s gave me chills as the song builds to a crescendo that I personally think bests even Carl Orff ‘s “O Fortuna".
Through every type of music that I threw at them, the M3s performed far beyond my expectations and I am still taken aback by how clear they were. Obviously the bass suffered when the subwoofers were disengaged causing the sound to lack punch however; the same can be said for almost any set of speakers when heard with and without the subwoofer in the mix.
Hitman is a movie I do a lot of testing with. Chapter 16 in particular has become a staple for me because of the array of frequencies that can be heard throughout. The gunshots, explosions, shattering glass are each incredibly articulated with the utmost clarity. My receiver level on Hitman was set to -10 as that is reference level for me listening to a DTS-HD-Master Audio track.
Up next was Saving Private Ryan. Basically I watched the first 30 minutes of the movie as the landing on Normandy Beach commences. The range of sound was once again clear and articulated with profound separation. Every scream, explosion, gunshot, ocean wave and grain of fallout pelting the ground came across with pristine clarity.
The M3’s were capable of reproducing everything I threw at them with clarity, separation and with plenty of authority. If Axiom’s M3 ‘on-wall’ speakers sound this good, I can only imagine what the M80 towers sound like. I for one have pushed Axiom to the top of my short list of speaker companies to take into consideration when I replace my setup in 2011 solely based on what I have heard from the M3 On-Wall series.
I have really become obsessed with sound quality for the past five years or so, and in that time I have had a lot of hit and miss opportunities to learn what I think makes a speaker great. Obviously the materials used and the construction of the speakers are what can net the desired results which a foundation can be built on and I personally believe that flat frequency response and linear phase are those foundational building blocks for great speakers. The Axiom M3’s have succeeded in both of these areas making them great speakers for both music and movies. There is a gradual 10 db loss between 16,000 Hz and 20,000 Hz that I believe is a null in the room as I get a similar response from my deftech towers. My overall conclusion is that I can’t imagine a better sounding speaker with the same footprint for twice the price much less at the same price point as the M3's. I would not hesitate recommending the M3 On-Wall speakers to anyone looking for a truly quality sounding speaker solution, especially when it comes to the aesthetically conscious and budget mindful consumer.
Win a new set of Axiom M3 v3 Speakers: Axiom M3 v3 On-Wall Speaker Giveaway!