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A Review Of My New Axiom Speakers and SVS 20-39PCi (long) (1 Viewer)

David Head

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 5, 1999
Messages
302
I upgraded my speakers and sub two weeks ago and wanted to share my impressions so far. I’ll start off with a few disclaimers. I am not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or retailers that I mention and I am only expressing my opinion based on my tastes.
I bought a set of PSB speakers (3LR/8T/1B) last September that I was pretty happy with, but I wanted to improve the bass response I had listening to 2-channel stereo. I’d decided to order a new subwoofer and was considering Adire Audio, HSU and SVS. When SVS announced their summer sale, I decided to order a 20-39PCi.
I had the opportunity to listen to a set of Axiom speakers while I was in Canada a couple of months ago and was very impressed. When I returned from Canada, I decided to order a set of the Axiom speakers (M60ti, VP150 and QS8) also and sell the PSBs to a co-worker.
Background:
I’ve owned various speakers over the years from Infinity, JBL and PSB. I spent a good deal of time listening to B&W 600 series and Paradigm Studio series speakers when I was considering the PSBs and am also very familiar with Apogee and Magnepan speakers thanks to a friend of mine.
Product Descriptions:
The SVS 20-39PCi is a powered cylinder sub with a new 320 watt BASH amp. I ordered a Bettercables subwoofer cable (one of the silver serpent interconnects) from SVS at the same time as the sub. Everything that I’d heard about the service from SVS was correct. Ron Stimpson patiently answered my emails prior to my order and the packaging for the sub was excellent! I knew that it was 39 inches tall and 15 inches in diameter before I placed my order, but my initial impression on opening the box was “WOW, this is BIG!”
I live in Florida, so my options were limited for ordering the Axiom speakers. I could order the speakers directly from Axiom for full retail or from the Axiom Factory Outlet at a discount for blemishes. Either of these options includes shipping costs in the prices and offer a 30 day in home trial period (you get your money back minus shipping if you aren’t satisfied). I chose a third option and placed the order with Marc Hallam at Audioshop. Marc offers great discounts if you are willing to forego the 30 day trial, which means no returns. I had already heard the speakers and knew that I liked them, so this was a safe option that saved me $150-$400. Marc was also excellent to work with. He kept me informed during the order process (there were a couple of glitches with my credit card company needing to verify a large purchase with a foreign company) and ensured that the speakers were not only double boxed, but also braced at the corners. The speakers arrived in four boxes (one for each M60ti, one for the VP150 and one for the QS8s) two days after I placed the order. One of the outer boxes was damaged in shipping, but the inner box didn’t even have a scratch and the speakers were in perfect condition.
Axiom speakers all have Anti-Standing Wave (ASW) cabinet designs. They are not the usual square boxes that many other manufacturers use. The sides of the M60ti are tapered from front to back so that they are not parallel to each other. This shape reduces internal standing waves, which decreases reverberations and allows the internal air to move easier. Another design feature that is different from most speakers I’ve looked at is there is no crossover on the woofer. The woofer’s natural mechanical roll-off characteristic achieves integration with the tweeter. The speakers all include aluminum-cone woofers, ferro-fluid cooled titanium tweeters and gold-plated five-way binding posts. The M60ti has dual binding posts for bi-amping or bi-wiring, is 37.5 inches tall (before installing the included spikes or rubber feet) and includes two 6.5 inch woofers, a 5.25 inch midrange and a 1 inch tweeter. The VP150 has a different driver configuration with three 5.25 inch woofers mounted horizontally in the middle and two 1 inch tweeters on the outside. The QS8 are unique quad-pole surround speakers that include two 1 inch tweeters mounted on 45 degree angels on the front of the speaker and two 5.25 inch woofers mounted in the top and bottom.
Fit and Finish:
The build quality of the speakers is very good. I ordered the Black Oak vinyl veneer, which has a fine wood grain look. Boston Cherry or Light Maple is also available. The application of the veneer is first rate, especially on the angled edges and corners. This was the one area that I was most concerned with since I hadn’t seen the Black Oak before, but I am VERY happy with how they look. The speaker grills fit snuggly against the cabinets.
Setup and Calibration:
The M60ti came with rubber feet, spikes (which I installed) and a wrench to tighten the binding posts. The QS8 came with wall mounting brackets, which I used. The brackets come in four pieces; one set is installed on the back of the speakers and one set is screwed into the wall. I found the that brackets were a little tight to the wall to slide on the speakers, so I added a couple of washers to each set which made them perfect.
I connected my Bettercables Premium II Speaker Cables to the M60ti and VP150 speakers. I’m using bulk 12-gauge wire from Home Depot with gold-plated banana plugs at the receiver end for the surrounds. I added a couple of rubber door stops under the VP150 to angle the speaker toward my listening position.
My listening room is 15’ by 12’ with 10’ ceilings. I have about 8’-9’ from the TV to the sweet spot in the center of my couch. I used Video Essentials with a Radio Shack Analog SPL Meter to calibrate the speakers (75 dB) and sub (77 dB). The SVS was extremely simple to set up and integrate with the Axiom speakers thanks to the well written owner’s guide. I let the speakers play for about 40 hours over the next week before I started to listen critically.
Equipment Used:
Onkyo TX-DS696 Receiver
JVC XV-SA70BK DVD Player
Sony SCD-C555ES SACD Player
Bettercables Premium II Speaker Cables (Front Left, Front Right and Center Channel)
Home Depot 12-gauge bulk speaker wire with Radio Shack Gold Plated Banana Plugs #278-306 (surrounds)
Bettercables Silver Serpent Interconnects and Subwoofer Cable
Radio Shack Analog Sound Pressure Level (SPL) Meter #33-2050
Video Essentials Calibration DVD
2-Channel Stereo Mode (no sub used):
CDs used:
Acoustic Alchemy - Reference Point
Jones, Norah - Come Away With Me
McLachlan, Sarah - Sufacing
Merchant, Natalie - Tigerlily
Santana - Supernatural
Scott, Tom - Target
Steely Dan - A Decade of Steely Dan
Sting - Brand New Day
Toy Matinee - Toy Matinee Special Edition
SACDs used:
Boston – Boston
Vaughan , Stevie Ray and Double Trouble – Couldn’t Stand The Weather
After the initial break-in period, I began to play with the location of the M60ti speakers and ended up with them toed in slightly. I decided to start out with some acoustic music and listened to Acoustic Alchemy – “Reference Point”. The minute the music started playing I knew I was going to love these speakers. On track #3, “Take Five”, there was a very wide soundstage that I was used to with the PSBs, but also a depth to the acoustic guitars that I had not heard before. The sound seemed to extend in front AND behind the speakers. On “Target” by Tom Scott, the title song was clean and detailed with a lot of punch. On track #3, “Aerobia”, the opening sequence of synthesizers seemed to appear above and to the left of the left channel M60ti. On track #5, the cowbell was clear and precise. I moved on to some Steely Dan and loved the way the cymbals sounded on track #4, “Deacon Blues”. Each new instrument I heard was reproduced exactly as they should sound. On Toy Matinee, the wind up toy in the title track sounded like it was close enough to touch. The bass on “Maria, Maria” from Santana’s “Supernatural” was strong and centered. The M60ti have plenty of bass for me without using a sub, but those people that like organ music or rap might want to use a sub to extend down a little farther. I love good female vocals and these speakers really do them justice. The vocals from Norah Jones, Natalie Merchant and Sarah McLachlan all seemed to float in front of me with a layered sound to the background vocals. Sting’s “Brand New Day” is one of my favorite CDs and I’ve listened to it quite a few times now on the Axioms. Track #2, “Desert Rose”, seems to have a wide, tall and deep soundstage and imaging presence. I could have sworn the center channel was on during Track # 4, “After The Rain Has Fallen”. The guitar tracks on the SACDs from Boston and Stevie Ray Vaughan were amazing. They seemed to hang in the air and stretch out wonderfully.
Home Theater Mode:
DVDs used:
Last Of The Mohicans
Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring
The Matrix
Silverado: Collector's Edition
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
U-571: Collector's Edition
The SVS lived up to all the hype that I’d read. It puts out incredibly clean, low and flat bass with very little effort at all. I used some of the some of the standard killer bass tracks from U-571 (#15, “Depth Charged”), The Matrix (#15, “Landing In Fight” and #31, “Chopper Shootout”) and Star Wars: Episode I (“THX Intro and #20, “Pod Race Tunnel Exit”). I won’t bother to reiterate was has been written many times about the performance of the SVS, but I will say that this may be the single best purchase I’ve ever made for this hobby!
The Axiom speakers are fantastic home theater performers. I started with Silverado, which includes one of my favorite opening sequences in a movie. The scene starts in almost complete silence and adds layers of sounds (wind blowing, birds crowing and chirping, fire crackling, etc.) before exploding into action. The sound of the door being crashed in with guns shots, wood splinters, and metal on metal were all perfect. Once all of the bad guys are killed, the lush deep sound of music that builds with the background of shell casings striking the floor made for a great contrast. The Axioms didn’t even appear to break a sweat keeping up with each of the transitions.
In “Last Of The Mohicans”, Chapter 11 – “The Siege”, canon shots came from right, center and left channels with deep base impact. One canon ball is shot from the right through the left soundstage. The transition from right to center and center to left channel speakers was seamless.
The QS8 surrounds got a workout with Star Wars: Episode I and Lord Of The Rings, which is my current favorite sound demo disc. During the Pod Race in Star Wars, Anakin’s ship loses a part that causes it to start to spin. I had the distinct impression of the sound circling in front of me over me head and at my feet. In Lord Of The Rings, Chapter #29 – “Balin’s Tomb”, the scene with the cave troll made me feel I was there (literally with the SVS!). When the cave troll swings its weapon for the first time, I heard it fly over my head before landing right beside me. The Axioms and SVS kept up with all the action effortlessly.
Conclusion:
I highly recommend all of these products. I think the midrange and treble on the Axiom speakers really shine. Even inexperienced listeners would be able to hear the extended, airy smoothness that these speakers exhibit. These speakers do have a more forward presentation similar to the Apogee speakers, but nothing fatiguing in my opinion. I was able to listen for hours at a time and enjoyed every minute. I have read some people express that Axiom speakers are too forward for their tastes, so these speakers won’t be for everyone. Of course these same people seem to prefer speakers that sound dull and lifeless to me. The soundstage and imaging is also wider and deeper than the Magnepan or B&W speakers in my opinion. The SVS sub is an incredible value and fantastic performer.
Customer Service from all four of the companies listed below is excellent:
Audioshop
Axiom Audio
Bettercables
SVS
My next upgrade will be a widescreen TV to replace the 32” direct view set that I have now…
Photos:
View From The Sweet Spot
Angled View of Setup
M60ti
M60ti Top View
M60ti Side View (Black Oak wood grain)
M60ti Tweeter
M60ti Midrange
M60ti Woofer
M60ti Binding Posts
Bettercables Premium II Speaker Cables
M60ti and SVS 20-39PCi
SVS Packaging
VP150 Side View (with rubber door stops)
QS8 Top View
David
 

Chris Tsutsui

Screenwriter
Joined
Feb 1, 2002
Messages
1,865
Nice review, organization, but you forgot one thing...
The cons/negatives/weaknesses about the setup. No HT is complete without the bickers/complaints. Everyday we hear good reviews, maybe you could shed some darkness over the Axioms.:)
 

David Head

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 5, 1999
Messages
302
Chris,

I meant to add that to the review, but forgot. Thanks for reminding me. I'll edit the original post and add my thoughts.

David
 

Dan Lindley

Second Unit
Joined
Sep 19, 2000
Messages
396
David,

Nice post. Just curious where you got the "Now Playing" display?

Note to Ron/Parker: HTF should make a "Now Playing" display and sell them.

Thanks, Dan
 

KevinGS

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Nov 21, 2001
Messages
62
David, glad you like them.

I myself have the Axioms M80Ti, VP150 & QS8 along with SVS 16-46 CS+ (/w Samson 1000) and absolutely love it when the sounds start flying.

I myself only have a 32" TV but will be possibly upgrading to a projector soon.

Hope you enjoy your speakers for a long time!
 

Kieran Coghlan

Second Unit
Joined
Oct 26, 1998
Messages
262
Another design feature that is different from most speakers I’ve looked at is there is no crossover on the woofer. The woofer’s natural mechanical roll-off characteristic achieves integration with the tweeter.
You say this as if it is a feature! I would think that this is a cost-cutting measure, no? I thought it would always be better to use a high quality crossover, than no crossover at all.
 

Chris Tsutsui

Screenwriter
Joined
Feb 1, 2002
Messages
1,865
Don't be mistaken,

I believe that a signal path maintains more integrity when not being run through a crossover. This is also pretty obvious since the more components in a signal path, the more it degrades and loses sensitivity.

There are some High end loudspeaker manufacturers designing speakers that don't use crossovers. I've auditioned the Avangarde Trio 3.0s, a $60,000 full range loudspeaker that utilizes a horn to physically alter the sound and create a natural roll off. I highly doubt they left the crossover out to cut costs cause $60,000 sounds like they didn't hold back.

I don't meant to argue with anyone, I know that just because I have a single counter-example doesn't mean that having no crossover is "always" better. It depends a lot on the speaker's intentions/design.
 

David Head

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 5, 1999
Messages
302
Kieran,

You are correct that eliminating a crossover does reduce cost and minimize design complexity. Chris did a good job of explaining the benefits of this design philosophy. Every review I've read on Axiom speakers has mentioned that the lack of a crossover is a good thing. It would be interesting to hear from any DIY people to hear their thoughts.

David
 

Bry_DD

Second Unit
Joined
Dec 29, 2000
Messages
340
I have the M60 and VP150 and I can't be happier :emoji_thumbsup: I ran them with Denon 3801 with my 25-31cs.
 

Kieran Coghlan

Second Unit
Joined
Oct 26, 1998
Messages
262
I can see how not using a crossover could be advantageous... no phase shifts to deal with, etc. However, one would have to choose their drivers VERY carefully, and be very confident about their tendancy to resonate (or preferably NOT resonate in this case) at harmonics of a frequency that is beyond the driver's flat range. If a driver drops off below 150 Hz, say, and you feed it an unattenuated signal at 75Hz, what's to say that the 75Hz signal won't resonate the driver at 150Hz?
To be clear, I'm not saying I'm right. I'm more voicing the way I understand things in hopes of being corrected by someone who knows better, as obviously, by the $60,000 example above, it CAN be done. :)
 

Robertto

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
May 23, 2002
Messages
68
Man you hit the nail on the head w/the Axioms I have the M22s and can't agree w/you more on the great clarity they provide on HT and Music with great vocal tracks the lyrics just float in the between the 2 speakers. I have my VP150 tomorrow and just can't wait.

More importantly is your experience w/the Audioshop. I had a problem w/the original VP150 I ordered (it was a return item in the first placeBTW). Marc resolved the problem quickly and w/out hassle. I cannot reiterate how great this guy is to deal with, Highly reco doing biz w/him!!! I will be buying my M3s or QX4s from him in the near future.

Now I just need to replace my Sony Sawm 40 w/a SVS sub ;-)
 

JohnBrianW.

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Aug 21, 2002
Messages
156
Great review David, did you preview the M50's? I was wondering if their is a significant difference between the 50's and 60's?
 

David Head

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 5, 1999
Messages
302
Thanks John! I have not heard the M50ti, but you can do a search over at the Axiom message board and one of the members did post a thorough comparison.

David
 

Jeff Kohn

Supporting Actor
Joined
Dec 29, 2001
Messages
680
About the x-over issue, somebody correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I know this is only true for the M3ti, the other speakers do use x-overs.
 

Jeff Kohn

Supporting Actor
Joined
Dec 29, 2001
Messages
680
Great review David, did you preview the M50's? I was wondering if their is a significant difference between the 50's and 60's?
The M50 is a two-way speaker, the M60 is a 3-way with dedicated midrange. I haven't heard the M50 (love my M60's though), but people who have compared the M60's against the M40's or M50's have said they're a definite step up.
 

David Head

Second Unit
Joined
Jul 5, 1999
Messages
302
I thought I'd post a quick update to my review.
I did find out that Jeff was correct that the M60s do have a crossover. Ian Colquhoun, the President & Chief Engineer at Axiom, answered a thread I started on their board with the following:
The M60 does have a x-over on the woofer because we need to have the x-over point quite low to blend with the 5 1/4" mid-bass woofer. As much as possible we try to design woofers to have natural response characteristics that are an integral part of the overall system response. Beyond this we use x-over design to achieve the desired final result...It is only the M3, M40, and M50 that work with the natural roll off of the woofer. All the other woofers use a x-over for the upper end roll off.
I have about 100 hours on the speakers now and they seem to sound a little less forward than when I wrote the review. This just may be my ears adjusting to the sound. I had the opportunity to participate in a review of the new Rocket speakers through Home Theater Talk. You can read my thoughts about the Rockets here. The Rockets are some georgous looking speakers and do sound sweet, but I still prefer the sound of my Axioms. This may be due to my listening environment which is much smaller than Mike Knapp's room. I could also be that I just like the way the Axioms sound with my Onkyo receiver. I've been listening to more SACDs lately (Meat Loaf - "Bat Out Of Hell", James Taylor - "Hourglass" and The Rolling Stones - "Hot Rocks") and can't believe how good the M60s sound. I had my friend that owns the Magnepans (with Adcomp amps and Sony ES pre-amp) over to listen to more music and he has told people that my setup sounds better. He's one of the big reasons I've been upgrading over the last couple of years and I NEVER thought I'd hear him say that!
I would say that my two areas for improvement would be the finish (use real wood veneer) and the depth of the brackets for the surrounds (to make mountng easier). I can live with both of these because the speakers sound so sweet...
David
 

Martice

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 20, 2001
Messages
1,077
Wonderful review!! It almost put me right in your living room for the listening session.
Well done and enjoy the music.:emoji_thumbsup:
 

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