Fedex put my 2nd M22 on a different truck, but it got here, so all is good. I've been listening for about two hours now.
Background: This room is a family room, so appearance matters. It's a secondary listening/viewing area, as I have a 14x12 projector room downstairs. It, like everything else, is constantly evolving. This family room is about 14x14 but completely open to the kitchen and eating area on the left side. I decided that Axiom offered the best value, sound, and looks for this room last year, but marriage, home automation, pet surgery, and other things got in the way so I only just now ordered my setup. I went with a VP100 on-wall for the center channel in white to blend in with the fireplace mantel, QS4s for the rears instead of QS8 because they're cheaper and I care very little about the performance of the rears in this setup, and the EP175 because this room is below the upstairs neighbor's bedroom and if we want house-shaking bass we can go downstairs. Obviously, the excellent return policy made it much easier for me to choose the lower end options without fear that I'd hate them.
For a while when I moved in I used my old PolkAudio RT1000ps up in this room. They sounded pretty good. Those speakers are pretty weird, in that they are extremely room-dependent, having ranged from excellent to total crap in different homes I've had over the years. I openly profess to not having detected a pattern at all to this, other than that they have done pretty well in rooms that are wider than they are deep. So they worked quite well up here, and they clang around and fatigue my ears downstairs in the 14x12 room. But down there they work very well for TV and movies, so I'm not in a huge rush to replace them.
Anyway, for the last 4 months I've had my old Polk RT5s with newer RT55i tweeters in them, using my incredibly sophisticated maple 24" barstools as stands. These speakers are mediocre at best. They were just filling space until I ordered the Axioms.
My other critical listening experience has been with several different Revel Performa and Theta products that my cousin has owned in a near-perfectly set up room. I am 100% behind the opinion that for most of us, the room matters almost as much as the equipment. My experience with the Polks really backs that up.
Music source is a first generation AppleTV sending Apple Lossless tracks via SPDIF to a Nakamichi IA-1z. A vendor screwed up and sent me the wrong 12awg cable, so I am stuck using 41 strand count 14awg wire doubled up running through the floor to the M22s for now... So basically 82 strands of 14 gauge. There's a 50 foot non-premium RCA sub cable to the EP 175. Like everything else, this is still evolving. It still needs the hefty 12awg cable and for the center to be hooked up and I still need to do the crawl test. For now the sub is in the place where it looks best, which is on the wall to the right of the couch, 15 inches from the corner. It's set at about the midpoint on the back. The right front speaker, as the photo shows, barely clears the giant chair that is too big for the room.
The Boston Cherry was a near-perfect match to the adjoining kitchen (and the ceiling fan). Excellent:
Eventual center location:
Rear location. I'd have gone lower except the wiring came with the house. You can see my workspace to the right of the pic, in the eating area. I often listen from there rather than the couch.
2ch first impressions:- They're pretty bright.
It sounds weird to say that after owning Polks for so long, as the RT1000s especially are quite bright, but these are definitely different.
In some music, like Garcia/Grisman or Prydein, this suits the music very well, but Norah Jones's voice every time she started to sing in "Don't Know Why" was kind of harsh. Unexpected... she's not exactly Joan Osborne. (Diana Krall, however, sounded just right.) In general, I like it bright, though, and I assume this will smooth out a bit as they get broken in.- Detail has improved noticeably
I'm noticing a very big difference in the separation and quality at the high end. Multiple saxophones in some Bela Fleck tunes, for instance, are much easier to pick out and tell apart. When I hear applause it seems like I can hear each individual pair of hands clapping together. This is very impressive. In Dire Straits' Ride Across the River I heard a few background effects at a few points that I hadn't heard before. A few sax bits got a bit quieter, shoved more into the background, which I assume was intended.- The louder the better.
At lower volumes without listening critically the speakers are better than the Polks but it's not night and day. But once I crank it past 40 they really start to shine. Little details start to show up and things start seeming different. Male vocals like Sinatra and Michael Buble (aka wanna-be Sinatra) really jump. Organ music... wow. Huge, huge difference. I played Tocchata and Fugue in D loud enough that I could hear it from the back alley with the doors closed and the speakers seemed to want more. (My dogs did not share that sentiment.)- The EP175 is just right.
Maybe in movies there'll be some times when it's inadequate for this space. But if I'm going to really go for a theater experience, I won't be in this room. For 2ch music it's great. I don't require a ton of bass, but this can give me more than I want if I ask it to. This is nice, because now I don't have to pay more for a bigger unit. It's as nice and tight and accurate as I expected, even with an inferior cable. I can imagine it'll only get better if I can ever figure out this damn ground loop issue I've been having.- Soundstage is not there just yet.
I blame the fireplace and setup for this. I haven't tinkered with it yet (not that I have a ton of placement flexibility) but the soundstage was what immediately jumped out at me as superior about the M22s when I listened to them last summer. I was hearing things in a Mark Knopfler recording from all around me, a full 360 degrees. It was a similar room too. Perhaps it's the fireplace, perhaps it's the glass doors to my right, perhaps it's the giant chair, but that same wow factor isn't here yet. It's not bad, by any means - for the most part with my eyes closed I can't pinpoint each speaker location - but it's not appreciably better than the RT5s were in the same location. I can tell they want to be placed differently if I listen to Dave and Tim at Radio City. That recording just seems off compared to before, almost as if one of the speakers is much farther away than the other. So I'll just have to play around with that some more.- Appearance is great
They M22s seem tiny to me after being used to the much wider Polks, but the cherry veneer is very realistic and high quality. The black magnetic grills are great and obviously the build is solid. The sub is sized perfectly for the room too. Not too big or too small. Passes the WAF test. My only suggestion is that perhaps Axiom could offer another one or two options for the nameplate color. The silver Axiom logo is really shiny and kind of sticks out at me. I'd prefer a darker or gunmetal one. Also (and I know this is meaningless), the custom label on the back isn't anything special. If I wasn't already waiting ten days because of the white center channel, I would've been kind of bummed about having to wait ten days for that. It's the back of the speaker so it wouldn't be anything special anyway, but I guess it's just worth mentioning: If you're ordering a stock color and could have it in 2-3 days otherwise, there's no reason to add the custom label and have to wait longer.
I have done a lot of jumping around and some recordings have changed relative to the polks and others haven't. Right now I'm over in the kitchen to type this and am just letting Jellyfish - Bellybutton play. So I'm not in between the speakers. But I'm really noticing a huge difference in the detail and separation. (Bass over here could be better, so I guess that's one "drawback" of the 175 - that when I'm in a crappy listening position it doesn't blow me away. As if anything would.)
At some point I'll figure out how to mount the center (there's not enough room under the shelf to slide it over the built in bracket, so I have to get clever) and will get to play with some 5.1 stuff, but honestly, as long as all five speakers play and add the surround effects that's enough to satisfy me. I'm not sure I'd be the best person to write a review for a surround setup anyway. I really only care about music.
At this price, just to get attractive speakers that fit the room and house and take up less space, I'm already totally satisfied. I know that with fine tuning of the placement and some more hours of listening they'll only get better. The right cable will help too. Trading the AppleTV for an Auraliti and maybe a different DAC would be another step, perhaps. For now, though, for what I paid, I'm thrilled. A full setup for under $1800. Can't beat that.