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

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by David Head, Aug 21, 2002.

  1. David Head

    David Head Second Unit

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    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
     
  2. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    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.[​IMG]
     
  3. David Head

    David Head Second Unit

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    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
     
  4. Jason Co

    Jason Co Second Unit

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    Davfe,
    If you don't mind me askin...how much did you pay for the sub?

    Jason
     
  5. David Head

    David Head Second Unit

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    Jason,

    The SVS 20-30PCi is on sale right now for $549.

    David
     
  6. Dan Lindley

    Dan Lindley Second Unit

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    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
     
  7. David Head

    David Head Second Unit

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    Thanks Dan. I got the DVD Marquee from Home Theater Marketplace. It's a nice heavy sheet metal. Unfortunately, they seem to be out of stock right now...
    David
     
  8. KevinGS

    KevinGS Stunt Coordinator

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    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!
     
  9. Kieran Coghlan

    Kieran Coghlan Second Unit

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  10. Chris Tsutsui

    Chris Tsutsui Screenwriter

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    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.
     
  11. David Head

    David Head Second Unit

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    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
     
  12. Bry_DD

    Bry_DD Second Unit

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    I have the M60 and VP150 and I can't be happier [​IMG] I ran them with Denon 3801 with my 25-31cs.
     
  13. Kieran Coghlan

    Kieran Coghlan Second Unit

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    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. [​IMG]
     
  14. Robertto

    Robertto Stunt Coordinator

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    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 ;-)
     
  15. JohnBrianW.

    JohnBrianW. Stunt Coordinator

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    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?
     
  16. David Head

    David Head Second Unit

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    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
     
  17. Jeff Kohn

    Jeff Kohn Supporting Actor

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    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.
     
  18. Jeff Kohn

    Jeff Kohn Supporting Actor

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  19. David Head

    David Head Second Unit

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    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:
     
  20. Martice

    Martice Screenwriter

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    Wonderful review!! It almost put me right in your living room for the listening session.
    Well done and enjoy the music.[​IMG]
     

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