As bugbitten stated; Axioms are neutral sounding.(with the M3s as the neutralist-is that a word?)
The M3s are often describes as "laid-back" True. But only in relation to the rest of the Axiom line-up!
From going over nearly two dozen "professional" reviews where numerous other speaker brands are refered to in comparrison, it comes out that the M3s are just slightly to the foreward side of dead neutral.
The M3s don't have the clarity and accuracy of the M2s or M22s that most Axiom fans are looking for, and while the M3s only account for about one tenth the sales of the other Axiom bookshelves, they do have a "comfortable" place in the audio universe.
As far as forgiving? Oh Yeah!
Never heard a rude sound in all these years!
I am currently using an M3 as center channel with M50s as mains, but prior to moving into this house, we were using three M3s across the front in a 13x28 room and they were fabulous!! The pans and scans were flawless, and although the imaging isn't exactly holographic, in a good room it's quite detailed with instruments well to the outside of the speakers.
I had looked very closely at the Ascends back a few years ago and found their lack of attractiveness the major pitfall, although I did like the specs and reviews. But, and like yourself, I felt the Axioms were worth a look.
I suspect they don't sound exactly like the Ascends, and really don't know if they're more foreward or laid back or cooler or warmer since I've not heard the Ascends, but I've never regretted my Axiom purchases either.
Would I recommend a person buy the M3s?
Would I suggest they take a listen?