Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Rating: 5
Page 1 of 2 1 2
Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
#143236 07/09/06 10:24 PM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
axiomite
OP Offline
axiomite
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
Well the notes have sat on my desk for a month and I finally had the chance to get this posted. I've had several people ask about my thoughts on Monitor Audio over the past couple of years so it is finally time i had the chance to demo a pair of their best, in-house. My thanks to BruceH for supplying the Monitor Audio GR60s for this comparison and for his supporting thoughts and opinions. My gracious appreciation to my friend Dan who has time and again loaned me his speaker/amp switcher or other spare components so crucial to the A/B process

In a recent A/B switching, blind listening session as well as subjective stereo evaluations of three speaker sets I’ve formed some more detailed opinions about Monitor Audio (MA), Tannoy and Axiom in comparison. Similar to my earlier report on 7 speaker auditions, I will reiterate the methodology and several short notations:

There are no ‘winners’ in the audition just to be clear.
I’m only reporting what I perceived as sound differences in character between these sets of speakers. I will however state what my preferences were after everything was done.


The test songs were played through the following:
CDP/DVDp: Panasonic CP72
Preamp/receiver: Onkyo 797
Amp: Anthem MCA30
Cabling: standard 12ga copper generic and mostly Ultralink interconnects (like that matters).

These auditions were done in two separate locations to provide a subjective comparison of a large, uncontrolled vs. smaller, more sound-designed room. Listening sessions were done using the same test songs and SPL levels were matched with pink noise from the seated position prior to listening. Songs were heard in “mono” mode only while A/B switching, using only single speakers from each pair located 12 feet away from the central listening position. It should be noted that in a separate listening session while BruceH was in attendance, the speakers were located 10 feet away from a standard listening position (for our media room).
Following blind sessions, speakers were hooked up in stereo pairs and test songs were evaluated a second time more subjectively for the same characteristics (high end, vocals, midrange, bass and soundstage) but in stereo. Only “direct” mode was used in the preamp/receiver for these sessions
Primary Test music:
Holly Cole Trio- I Can See Clearly Now (vocals, bass, clarity, sibilance, live sound)
Ambrosian Junior Choir- Sao Gan (vocals, pitch, echo)
Eric Clapton Unplugged – Signe (midrange guitar, brightness on whistle, live sound)
Future Sounds of London- Unknown track (range of mid to low bass notes, detail in low end, stereo imaging)
Ashley Macissac- Sleepy Maggie (stereo imaging, complex midrange)

Secondary Test music:
Jesse Cook – Switchback (stereo imaging)
John Hiatt – Cry Love (vocals, midrange, stereo imaging)
Rainmakers – Different Rub (mid bass, low bass)
Martin Sexton – Black Sheep (vocals, live sound)
Stevie Ray Vaughn – The Sky is Cryin (guitar, live sound, fun)
Tori Amos – New Age (just the start, low bass resonance that used to rattle my old basement)
[/color">
The three speaker brands compared were:
Tannoy Definition D700s.
Monitor Audio GR60s.
Axiom Audio M60s.

Since I had the chance to review the sound of Tannoy vs. Axiom already, these sessions were concentrating on the MA vs. Tannoy/Axiom but notes will be made about the latter.

Monitor Audio GR60 vs. Axiom M60
Short summary:
MA has a great level of detail, live sound and heavier but slightly uncontrolled bass. Great for those who have that preference for more bass but nice detail. Axiom has a richer more prominent midrange and much tighter low end. Both speakers are similar in price (when comparing MA Silver model range) when Axioms are done in wood veneer finish.

Detailed Notes:
The MA GR60s had a beautifully detailed high end, an airy midrange, strong live sound but a rather uncontrolled and almost distracting bass. The Axioms in comparison had a richer midrange, more prominent (possibly due to the dedicated driver 3 way system vs. MA 2.5 way?) and very tight controlled bass, but retained a dulled upper end especially in the vocals. Ironically there is a reoccurring sound in one particular test song (Eric Clapton’s Unplugged: Signe) that I’ve often used to determine a ‘bright’ speaker which is prominent on the M60s but not in the GR60s. During the opening to this song there is a distinct whistling coming from the crowd. Although each speaker plays the sound with detail, at matched SPLs, only the Axiom speaker makes my ears feel discomfort and my eye to wince. Yes, the song is probably recorded ‘hot’, but that’s not the point. Some resonance from that Axiom tweeter makes me wince at that sound EVERY time. The whistling is no less prominent or clear with MA (or Tannoy) but I don’t wince. Here is why I personally label the Axiom M60s as being bright. Nonetheless, in a direct comparison of vocals with Axiom vs. MA, I could pick out the MA each time. The Axiom vocals sounded as though a light veil was placed in front of the speaker something that I was surprised to notice in my first A/B comparison of Axiom vs. the Tannoys nearly two years ago. They also seem to pronounce the sibilance a bit more, but the difference is subtle and likely unnoticeable except in critical listening sessions under controlled A/B switching conditions. The MA vocals had a strong live sound as if the artist were actually performing in the room (something I’ve never noticed as strongly in my Tannoys either) although the thinner midrange took away from this otherwise great sound making them more ‘airy’. Based on these sessions I far preferred the sound of the Monitor Audio GR60 tweeter over the Axiom M60 but conversely I far preferred the more prominent midrange of the Axioms.

Aside from that particular veiled tweeter sound, the Axiom speaker holds a big advantage over the GR60s with its tight bass. I far prefer the Axiom bass over MA and again, oddly enough, this is something that I vaguely noted before (see previous post) from non-A/B sessions but could REALLY pick it out alot more in the recent comparison. The MA bass is almost unruly, uncontrolled it seems. I was tempted to disconnect the dedicated bass driver and allow the GR60s to run as a 2 way system to see what the sound was like without it. The overlapping midrange-bass plus the dedicated bass driver just adds too much to the bottom end. Either that or MA needs to work on their cabinet resonances (they do not use the tapered wedge shape unlike the Axiom and Tannoy speakers).

Both speakers had equivalent performance in the stereo arena. Each imaged well and each took the same amount of placement tweaking time to obtain a good soundstage. They have a remarkably similar timbre and I would have no problem mixing components of these two brands although I would likely consider this only for surrounds while using a same brand approach across the front three speakers (centre, L&R) given the difference in the tweeter character.

As far as aesthetics go, I’ve been happy with Axiom’s vinyl wraps and imagine their wood finish would be equally stunning given their great QA/QC program. Both speakers utilize metal drivers and I for one enjoy having the speaker run naked from time to time allowing the drivers to show off their sleek metal surfaces. Many times I’ve had people over and felt great pride in pulling off the grilles to show the fantastic looking drivers, something I never do with my Tannoys (plain black polypropylene cones are rather boring). Although the GR60s have the dimpled metallic surface, they also cover the tweeter with a metal grill that just takes something away. I would say MA and Axiom get equal scoring in the aesthetics department, both surpassing Tannoy if only for driver beauty.

Monitor Audio GR60s vs. Tannoy D700s
Short summary:
MA has a great level of detail, equivalent to the Tannoy, greater live sound but more uncontrolled bass for those who have that preference. The Tannoys have a well balanced sound, richer midrange and more controlled but still warm low end. The MA speakers are slightly less in price when comparing the GR range to the Definition models.

Detailed Notes:
High end tweeter notes and, vocals, are virtually identical between these speakers. Even in the A/B tests I could not adequately relate any significant audible difference between the two speakers. Both are nicely detailed, open and pleasant. Neither sounds harsh or lacking. The one difference than can be noted is in the soundstage or vocal placement. The MA sounded just a bit less hollow, articulate and not forward while the Tannoy vocals were a bit more out in front. I pondered afterward if there was a horn loading effect from the dual concentric driver design or whether it was due to the height difference in the tweeters. The height of the MA tweeter was approximately 6” higher than the Tannoy due to the configuration of each unique speaker.

As previously described, the MA midrange was a bit thin and airy. Whether it helped to give the MA that live sound quality, I don’t know but I do prefer a more detailed and prominent midrange since this is where most of the music sound will be played. The Tannoys reproduce the midrange quite nicely, filled out and detailed. It is very comparable to the Axiom sound but coupled with the more articulate Tannoy tweeter, the D700s have more detail overall. If Axiom were to change out their tweeter for a MA or Tannoy version and make a larger, wider cabinet, I think I will have found my near perfect speaker, wrapped in a nice custom wood finish first of course.

The problem with the MA bass was already noted and the more I listened to them, the more I heard rattles around the new basement, something even my subwoofer has yet to do. It was simply unnatural in its bass reproduction. The Tannoys in comparison were much more controlled although still heavier in presence than the M60s. In the larger room tests, this gave the Tannoys a greater presence and warmer, fuller sound but without being as uncontrolled as the GR60s. The Tannoy bass was controlled, but I would not go as far as saying it is ‘tight’ like I describe the Axioms. It was pleasant but depending on one’s preference for bass, one may still prefer Axioms. Even still, in a larger room I would have to recommend the Axiom M80s over the M60s to fill this bass gap a bit more.

As with the earlier listening sessions with Axiom speakers, the Tannoys held the crown in the soundstage department. Neither Axiom nor MA could compare to the ease of placement of the Tannoys in creating a great, broad and effective soundstage. The MA soundstage was more recessed than the Tannoys which again may have added to their wonderful ‘live’ sound. However, a speaker than can be plunked down with little toeing or tweaking if any at all is a real pleasure to work with. Being able to walk around the room and have the sound remain so similar while off-axis is truly pleasing.
One other thing to note is the amazing efficiency of the Tannoys. The receiver had to be tweaked 3dB more to get the MA to match the sound output of the Tannoys. There was only a 1dB difference b/w the Tannoys and Axioms with the nod to efficiency going to the larger D700s.

I already made some earlier notes on aesthetics of these three brands but should add that the Tannoy D700s are done in a fantastic cherry wood finish, among three others (Rosewood, Walnut (rare), Black). Smooth, angled and rounded corners shows much more design and labour in the contours than either Axiom or MA. They also weigh in at 90lb a piece and have a heavy internal bracing system. They contain two- 10” drivers, one a dual concentric unit with the tweeter nestled in the middle of the midrange cone. The D700s are easily 4-6” wider than the Axioms or MA speakers.

Summary:
A friendly discussion came up not long ago talking about the term “comparably good” to rank speakers in A/B testing while designing new models. Each of these speakers can easily be ranked as “comparably good” but my personal goal in sorting through the audio equipment is to find even the small details that matter to me. In this case, we have three speaker brands which were are all well designed and well made in various ways.

Those who are cost conscious will know that Axiom is the best option to choose but with their wood finish costs increasing the price of their models overall, the price range is now within an easy striking distance of other competitors who also have some great sounding speakers, including Monitor Audio. Not everyone wants the tight bass that Axiom offers describing this sound as thin, and many are not keen on having to add a subwoofer to the mix to adjust for this. Some have also reported a harshness in the Axiom tweeter that has been distracting or displeasing, something I have also noticed on occasion. As such, MA speakers should be considered as good alternates and although there is a slight added price, they do have a wood finish. The MA speakers have a wonderful live sound, more articulate but less bright (by my definition) in the high end than Axiom from my experience, and with a heavier bottom end. They have model ranges that would be affordable to those looking at Axioms with custom wood finishes.

For me, I’m sticking to the Tannoy D700s as my top dog. They have a better overall balance across the categories compared to my M60s or the MA GR60s and their incredibly easy and broad soundstage is something that amazes me every time. Their clarity, complete midrange and warm low end are sounds that I enjoy even though I would prefer a little tighter bass. Since the D700s usually inhabit the great room in our house, this extra bass keeps the sound from being too thin when you are listening while cooking in the kitchen. Until I can find a better and somehow more attractive contender, the Axiom M60s will remain the anchor for our media room, surround system.

Now that this big listening session is over, I have to admit I’m a lot less hyped on owning a pair of Monitor Audio speakers than I was even a year ago. My next goal is to get the last pair of speakers that I originally auditioned before buying my Axioms 4 years ago; the B&W 700 or 800 series. After that, I may have to go real boutique, maybe some Jamos for kicks. Still searching for a beefier amp for those Tannoys….so much to see, so much to buy.


Last edited by chesseroo; 07/09/06 10:33 PM.

"Those who preach the myths of audio are ignorant of truth."
Re: Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
chesseroo #143237 07/09/06 10:40 PM
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 71
old hand
Offline
old hand
Joined: Apr 2006
Posts: 71
Thanks SO much for the effort it took to test and post that review. I have been contemplating upgrading (mind you I said contemplating) my M22's as I am finding the sound to be a little too focused from the speakers. As if the soundstage were compressed and centered in the room. The descrption of the broad and easy sound stage of the Tannoy's got my attention.

It will be a while before I change speakers and Axioms will be my first choice but you have opened my eyes to a few more alternatives.

Thanks again and a hearty thanks to our hosts to allow such objective reviews that may not feature their product as the reviewer's choice.

Larry

Re: Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
LHawes #143238 07/09/06 10:53 PM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
axiomite
OP Offline
axiomite
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
Quote:

I have been contemplating upgrading (mind you I said contemplating) my M22's as I am finding the sound to be a little too focused from the speakers



Larry, i've had the chance to hear both the M22s and the M60s and i can say for sure that the larger speakers provide a much larger soundstage and presence. For my preference, and possibly yours, the M60 may be the speaker you would like over the M22s.
The M60s have the same character sound as the M22s but much, much larger, much more immersive. It is the primary reason why i returned the M22s and kept the M60s when i ordered over 4 years ago.

Tannoy no longer makes the Definition series so unless you are willing to buy used, you may be out of luck. Magnepans or other electrostats are other options for producing massive and wide soundstages. I found the Monitor Audios to be the equivalent to the Axioms when it came to tweaking and toe in to sort out the best orientation. Driver and cabinet size will make a difference in this regard and the Tannoys have 2-10" drivers in a cabinet about 15" wide compared to the Axiom M60 9.25" width.


"Those who preach the myths of audio are ignorant of truth."
Re: Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
chesseroo #143239 07/09/06 11:00 PM
Joined: Aug 2004
Posts: 6,307
Likes: 1
axiomite
Offline
axiomite
Joined: Aug 2004
Posts: 6,307
Likes: 1
Thanks for taking the time and effort to write this up. Reviews like this go a long way in helping people understand the complexities and tradeoffs when auditioning and choosing an audio system.


M60ti, VP180, QS8, M2ti, EP500, PC-Plus 20-39
M5HP, M40ti, Sierra-1
LFR1100 active, ADA1500-4 and -8
Re: Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
chesseroo #143240 07/10/06 12:57 AM
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 6,331
axiomite
Offline
axiomite
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 6,331
Excellent job, Chess. And kudos, particularly, for forgoing the usual "winner/loser" ranking and simply doing your best to describe the sound of each speaker. Not an easy thing to do, but infinitely more helpful. Bravo.


Jack

"People generally quarrel because they cannot argue." - G. K. Chesterton
Re: Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
Ajax #143241 07/10/06 02:30 AM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
axiomite
OP Offline
axiomite
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
Trying to define a winner or a loser in audio is too specific to an individual to state such opinion as a fact; so i don't. Although some of my audio enthusiasm has come from tweaking my system and room, more of my enjoyment comes from listening to other components or brands in as controlled a situation as possible such that i can provide myself with an honest environment to derive realistic conclusions as unbiased as i can either to myself or anyone else that really wants an opinion about potential character differences between two audio components. Must be the scientist in me.
The hard part is taking the time to set all this up. It takes days, but the end result is worth it. It was always frustrating to go looking for reviews on different brands and coming up with flowery ten page reports of points that were almost too ridiculous to read.

The latest review i saw was about using a CDP vs a DVDp when playing music cds because the spin speeds were different and as such, the dvdp will cause time delays in the playback. Secondly, playing music cds on a dvdp makes the music sound more thin and with missing information because it wasn't designed for that purpose. This review came from a men's magazine. Nice info. Clearly the editor wasn't much more informed about the subject and of course, who wrote the review? A guy who owns an audio shop.
The mere concept was laughable.
I almost wrote a letter to the editor to tip him of the false info that was presented in his magazine.


"Those who preach the myths of audio are ignorant of truth."
Re: Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
chesseroo #143242 07/10/06 02:48 AM
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 7,463
axiomite
Offline
axiomite
Joined: Mar 2005
Posts: 7,463
Excellent review, Chess! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

As you may or may not know, I own the MA GR10s, and when I was going through the auditioning process I noticed something similar to you. Switching between the MA S6 and S8, I found myself preferring the smaller S6. To my ears, the extra driver of the S8 kind of muddied up the picture and didn't seem quite as balanced as the S6. A slight difference, but noticeable. I did not get a chance to demo a pair of GR60s against the GR20s, but perhaps there is a parallel with the Silvers.


***********
"Nothin' up my sleeve. . ." --Bullwinkle J. Moose
Re: Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
St_PatGuy #143243 07/10/06 01:52 PM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
axiomite
OP Offline
axiomite
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
Quote:

I did not get a chance to demo a pair of GR60s against the GR20s, but perhaps there is a parallel with the Silvers.



I'm sure there is.
The 2.5 way system runs 2 drivers for the bass with the 1st driver also covering the midrange. I believe a dedicated midrange will have greater separation in notes but regardless, their dual woofer bass system is too uncontrolled. The M60s also run a dual bass system yet do not present this sound character, so it is something else in the MA speaker design, cabinet or otherwise.

One thing i noted some time before but can mention again, both the Tannoy Definitions and the Axiom speakers utilize a wedge shaped cabinet design. Tannoy starting selling this speaker in 1992 and came up with the similar design as Axiom for reducing internal standing waves and resonance. I would say the design idea is rather effective from what i've heard especially in the bass area of other speakers vs. these two brands. Those MA GR60s created some rattles in my basement where no rattle had yet been discovered. It was minor but noticeable and irritating. The Tannoys and the Axioms never produced this effect.
I tried the same listening test in our large main room. The GR60s still had that long uncontrolled bass which added a reverberation in the hardwood floor almost as if i needed to weigh down the speaker.
This character sound is what really sold me on the idea that i wasn't too keen on Monitor Audio. This ultra warm low end might please those who are looking for heavy bass (without having to bump the bass knob or buy a separate sub) as the remaining character sound of the MA was excellent.

Last edited by chesseroo; 07/10/06 02:02 PM.
Re: Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
chesseroo #143244 12/06/06 02:27 AM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
axiomite
OP Offline
axiomite
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 5,289
I never did post any pics of this test either.
Here they are.


"Those who preach the myths of audio are ignorant of truth."
Re: Tannoy vs. Axiom vs. Monitor Audio (VERY long)
chesseroo #143245 12/06/06 05:55 PM
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 212
local
Offline
local
Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 212
Well done. Thank you. I own the M60s and the one thing that I took from your review was the differences are pretty subtle.

Page 1 of 2 1 2

Moderated by  alan, Amie, Andrew, axiomadmin, Brent, Debbie, Ian, Jc 

Link Copied to Clipboard

Need Help Graphic

Forum Statistics
Forums16
Topics24,357
Posts431,530
Members15,414
Most Online2,082
Jan 22nd, 2020
Top Posters
Ken.C 18,044
pmbuko 16,437
SirQuack 13,680
CV 11,791
MarkSJohnson 11,445
Who's Online Now
0 members (), 139 guests, and 4 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Newsletter Signup
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.4