My wife and I had the pleasure of a drive to Dwight today.

It was further than I remembered from Ajax (just east of Toronto) through Barrie, Orillia and Huntsville, but easy driving, no traffic issues. Close to three hours drive between 120 and 130 most of the way. Ah, that's km/hr - call it 75 - 80 mph.

At the Axiom factory Noreen gave us a tour while Ian set up the demo room for A/B blind testing of centre channels. I learned some things I didn't know (the woofers are assembled in Dwight - I assumed they were from China like the tweeters).

When Ian was set we we given the demo room, a bunch of CDs and DVDs in addition to a few we had brought with us, and a (rather temperamental) remote control to switch back and forth between centre speaker A and B. I wanted to decide between a VP 150 (as recommended by Brent) and a 160. The rest of the system, M60s, QS8s and . . . I don't know which sub was behind the curtain.

So,we listened to Michael Jackson (for my wife), Ricki Lee Jones, Jon and Vangelis, Kevin Ayers, and Holly Cole. Unfortunately we couldn't get the Elton John SACD (Madman Across the Water) to work - I still haven't heard that in multi-channel.

I took a few notes - minimal really - and let them behind, so from memory:

Speaker A: "fuller" sound; is it louder (no - I know Ian level matched them). Speaker B: voices sound very good, overall sound (by comparison) is somewhat "muffled". Back and forth; speaker B might be a bit smoother on Holly Cole's voice.

Off axis (by quite a long way, maybe 50 degrees out from centre) speaker A still sounds "fuller", but it's not so aggressive - in fact it's maybe a bit recessed. Speaker B really didn't change much that I noticed, so it was consistent but overall less "there" than A.

Interestingly, my wife and I were absolutely in agreement. Both centre speakers sounded "good" but different - in conversation with Ian afterwards, we discussed "similarly good".

And in case you didn't guess, we drove home with a nice Boston Cherry VP 150 - speaker A.

Set up at home is a small dedicated basement room, 11X17X8. Carpeted floor over Dri-Core, soft suspended ceiling, and drywall over lots of insulation (for heat loss, not soundproofing). Front speakers are Boston Acoustics A100s that I've owned for about 30 years, surrounds QS4s, rears on-wall M3s, sub is an SVS PC12 NSD. I've been doing without a centre to this point.

So we made it home: hooked up, run MCACC (Pioneer VSX9130 TXH), and popped in a Blu-Ray I've been saving for this: Apocalypse Now.

1. Wow. Maybe MCACC is happier when a centre speaker is connected? somehow this has brought the surrounds to life. Okay, call it new speaker euphoria.
2. As you'd expect, the Bostons sound quite different from the centre. I'll address this later in the year (Christmas? Honey?) with M50s or M60s.
3. I think maybe the 150 stood out in the A/B test because it doesn't sound like an M60, whereas the 160 does, so it was more seamless?

A thoroughly good day overall. Thanks to Ian and Noreen for being good hosts. I'll be back for more Axiom goodness.