What you do not realize is that the simple on-axis curve published by the reviewer in Sound&Vision is a relatively primitive measurement by comparison to the sophisticated set of measurements Axiom is able to do in a large anechoic chamber (the latter is a duplicate of the chamber at the National Research Council, where Kevin Voecks, the designer of Revel, learned much of what he knows about speaker design, along with Ian Colquhoun, and Paul Barton (PSB), Andrew Welker Mirage/Energy, Scott Bagby (Paradigm) and others). It's all about the "family of curves", not just an on-axis curve.
In your room at home, at least 50% of the sound reaching your ears is a combination of off-axis sounds reflected from room surfaces and radiated at increasing angles away from the center of the speaker. These, combined with the on-axis radiation, make up the overall spectral balance presented to listeners. So to properly gauge the output of a speaker, measurements have to be done at increasing angles to each side, above and below and even to the rear of the speaker in the anechoic chamber. When these curves are all combined, and the shape of the off-axis curves mirrors the on-axis curve, they have a very high predictability in terms of sound preference in double-blind tests. The smoother the off-axis and on-axis curves, the greater the likelihood it will be an excellent sounding speaker. In the NRC days, some 70 measurements were done at all angles to the speaker in the chamber. Similar groups of measurements are done at Axiom.
This research over 25 years conducted by Dr. Floyd Toole, forms the design background of Ian Colquhoun, Kevin Voecks--he was with Mirage then Snell when he did much of the work--Paul Barton and others. That scientific approach was taken to Harman by Floyd Toole when he moved to Harman as vice-president, and is carried on by Dr. Sean Olive. When Harman acquired Revel, it was a natural fit for Kevin Voecks, who was already very familiar with the NRC scientific guidelines on speaker measurement and testing. Harman has a large anechoic chamber much like Axiom's. Very few others exist in North America.
Having done over 20 years of double-blind tests of speakers in my role as editor of Canadian audio-video magazines, often in the company of Floyd Toole, Sean Olive, Ian G. Masters and others, I can attest that there is often no correlation between price and sound quality. I have data and rating sheets in my files that regularly show speakers from Axiom, PSB, and Paradigm that sold for roughly $1,000 per pair or so besting speakers from B&W, Kef and others that sold from $5000 to $7500 per pair in the late '80s and early '90s.
I have heard various excellent Revel and Snell speakers over the years, and I'd quite happily put a pair of M80 v3s in a double-blind test up against some of the exotically priced Revels. I expect there'd be frequent use of the phrase "similarly good", with at times a preference for one or the other speaker depending on the source material and minor spectral differences. But the ranking scores would be very close.
This was nicely illustrated by the double-blind tests conducted at the Axiom 30th anniversary, in which many forum members participated. The $330 pair Axiom M3s were preferrred by a majority of listeners over a pair of B&W Nautilus bookshelf models that sold for $2,500/pair. The Nautilus were very pretty, with the teardrop tweeter perched on top, and they sounded quite good, but they were not as linear and neutral as the Axiom M3s.
Over the years, I've found that once you reach a price point of about $1000 to $2000 per pair in loudspeakers from a talented designer, more money will not buy you "better" sound reproduction. It may be similarly good, but the more expensive speakers won't necessarily rank higher in double-blind tests.
The NRC testing protocol is largely bullet-proof, and the evidence is out there to be heard from Axiom, Revel, PSB, Snell, Paradigm and, in past years, from Energy and Mirage.
Axiom Resident Expert