Well I finally got to listen to some Axiom speakers. To be more specific I got to listen to squirrelyz’s (hereafter referred to as Billy) Epic 60 350 setup. I believe he has upgraded the center channel to the 150 but I’m not certain about that. Anyway I thought I would post my first impressions.
First I would like thank Billy for making me feel so welcome in his home. Since I was arriving around dinner time I brought some beer and pizza. Somehow in our emails to try to get the evening set up Billy mentioned not being able to do it earlier because he had a photo shoot blah, blah, blah. This freaked me out because I’m a photographer also. As a matter of fact the first two people I made connections with in the forums both turned out to be photographers. How weird is that? So When I got to his place we had a couple of beers and slices and talked about our respective areas of the biz for a while before getting down to the audition. Billy is a great guy. He seemed very laid back and I felt comfortable right from the get go. Billy… thanks again and I hope you’ll take me up on the tour of the studio and lunch. Give me a call whenever it’s a good time for you. Now on to the audition.
I explained that while I wanted to hear the whole system with DVD and 5.1 that I was most interested in the M60’s and stereo playback first. He set the system to “direct” and took the sub out of the mix. I brought some carefully selected cd’s chosen for their high quality mastering and sonic qualities. Billy loaded them up into his Sony 5 disc player and after pointing me to the sweet spot he handed me the remote and we began.
I listen to all sorts of music but I find I listen to jazz, folk & blues , classical and adult alternative ( I hate that classification) the most. We need to come up with a better name for that genre. I just mean singer/songwriter or rootsy stuff. I started the audition with Marcus Roberts “The Truth is Spoken Here” this is Marcus’s debut from 1989. It is an incredible album and if you haven’t heard it I highly recommend it. Marcus is an outstanding piano player who on this CD is accompanied by Reginald Veal on bass Wynton Marsalis on trumpet and Elvin Jones on drums. That is some nice company for his debut album eh? This CD was chosen for two reasons
1. The difficulty of reproducing the piano faithfully and
2. there are two cuts on this CD which feature some amazing cymbal work with both brushes and sticks by Jones.
I was concerned by the volume of posts that the “Sibilence” thread generated here recently. So I wanted to thoroughly test this out for myself. The 60’s, to my ears and the ears of both Billy and Tom(my audiophile friend from work), passed with flying colors. This was especially interesting because the floors in Billy’s listening area are hard wood partially covered with an area rug. The walls were clear with the exception of a framed prints here and there. A leather couch and chair completed the room. I don’t believe there were any window treatments or absorbent wall hangings anywhere. In addition to the cymbal work the piano tinkling in the upper registers sounded vividly detailed and rhythmically true. The upright bass with it’s walking beat sounded full and tight enough on this type of music. Although there was nothing here to really push the lowest lows. That test would come later. So we were off to a very nice start. I gotta tell ya the “Sibilance” thread nearly scared me off the Axiom brand but listening to Jones on those cymbals and hearing all that detail in the piano lines never left me feeling that the tweeters were over aggressive or fatiguing.
Next up was one of my favorites, Cassandra Wilson’s “Blue Light ‘til Dawn” Actually if I could only use one CD to audition a pair of speakers This might very well be the one I would use. It has everything, acoustic & national resphonic guitar, deep deep upright bass, velvety vocals, violin, percussion, clarinet and accordion and then some. Suffice to say that this recording is a sonic delight full of surprises and starts. One cut Black Crow has no less than six percussionists playing. The percussionists span the soundstage from right to left and back in broad sweeping strokes. Bells, whistles, triangle and wood block strikes, all faithfully and to my ears accurately revealed on the M60’s. It was this this CD that made me ask Billy to be sure that the sub was not in the mix. The acoustic bass went so low. He assured me that it wasn’t but I had to get up and check anyway. Cassandra voice occupied center stage while this myriad of percussion instruments swirled around her. It was quite incredible and produced goose bumps.
Now it was time to test some male vocals. I wanted to make sure the M60’s did not produce that “chesty” sound I hear on so many speakers. My test CD for this was a Delos live recording. It’s called Joe Williams & Friends June1985 “I Just Want to Sing”. Joe has a big deep sound to his voice anyway and I wanted to see how the speakers would handle it. Well he sounded like velvet. Deep, rich and smooth as can be, but never chesty or unnatural sounding. I have loved this recording for years but I have never heard it sound quite so good. This CD could just have easily been titled “I Just Want to Swing” because that is exactly what these cats do.
Most people recognize Gil Evans for his collaborations with Miles Davis during his modal period. Evans is a master of sound and timbre. He approaches his arrangements like a master painter with broad strokes of color and shading. Evans and Ellington are my favorites for this style. Sit back, close your eyes and watch the colors fly. The CD is called Helen Merrill, Gil Evans “Collaboration”. It’s on Emarcy and was released in 1986. Be warned on this one that Helen Merrill’s vocal style is very laid back. She was nick named the “sigh of new york”. My wife has told me she thinks the CD is a cure for insomnia. While it is for the most part very low key Merrill has a sense of time and measure that makes her unique. There are some up tempo tunes on the disc and it was one of those that I wanted to hear on the 60’s. The Roger’s and Hammerstein classic “People Will Say We’re In Love” kicks in with a full orchestra attack at a very up tempo pace and then Merrill comes in with the opening verse and slows it down just a notch as if to say ok boys let’s not rush it I want to savor this. Evan’s shows some great arranging for the full orchestra and Jimmy Knepper has a fine trombone solo before the band wraps it up. The track is only 2:49 but it is soooo good. I briefly scanned through some of the other tracks just to get a feel. Then I figured I better get this off before Billy fell asleep.
At this point I figured I better pick up the pace a little bit. Emmy Lou Harris
Crescent City from Cowgirl’s Prayer would be just the thing. I can’t get enough of this great tune. The band opens up hard and Emmy Lou sounds like she is at the top of her game. Sam Bush’s (no relation to the singing Bush) fiddle solo conjures up smells of jambalaya and seafood gumbo. Spicy!
At the beginning of this diatribe (you’d think I was getting paid by the word) I mentioned liking folk and acoustic music. I had to test that out too, so I brought another one of my favorites, Joni Mitchell. Most of Joni’s stuff has been re-released on HDCD. I have read that HD processing is transparent when played back on players that use 16 bit decoding.
Well I have to say that I do not think that is the case. When I play Mitchell’s “Hits” HDCD on my Music Hall HDCD player at home it sounds fabulous. Even through my less than stellar 901’s. Hey at least I didn’t use the B word! My apologies to the forum censors, it won’t happen again. Any way on Billy’s system and through the M60’s my favorite track “Raised on Robbery” sounded thin and anemic. I quickly shuffled through a few of the other tracks and it was the same thin sound. I wished I had the Music Hall to try it through the M60’s. But that might require a 30 day in home demo. 8>)
Anyway if anyone has any thoughts on HDCD’s played on regular CD players or DVD players I would love to hear them. It was very surprising and the only disappointment in the trials.
We put the sub back in the mix and went back over some of the same material. Especially the Cassandra Wilson track mentioned above where I thought the sub was on. There was quite a difference. Like so many others have said if I buy the 60’s I would probably ideally run them with a sub. But based on their stand alone performance I do not think I would be in any great rush to add it. I don’t think I’d missing much in most of the music I like to listen to. I would love for Axiom to come out with a model with an 8 inch woofer or two that still maintains the clean mids and high’s. No artificial bump down bottom and a beautiful wood veneer I would be all over that.
Next Billy put the settings of his system back to normal. It was time to hear the full HT set up. He started us with the opening scene to Saving Ryan’s Privates. No, no check that! It was the other one. The sound was incredible Tom and I were enveloped in the sound . The bullets were making me jump. I had forgotten how incredibly horrifying that opening segment is. Actually the only time I saw that movie it was on regular 27 “ TV. No surround. It was too much for me. I felt a little ill after that. Next up Billy treated us to a segment of the David Gilmore in concert DVD. Multi channel sound with the QS8’s was very nice. I was thinking if my stereo music only system should grow to a multi channel due to interest in SACD or DVD A, I was going to go with 60’s or 80’s with 22’s and a 500 sub for closer timbre matching. Not sure if I would go with a center channel or run it in phantom. Do you guys have any thoughts on that?
So my overall impressions of the Axiom60ti’s were very positive.
Decent appearance though I would like a wood veneer better and I for one would be willing to pay more.
The middle frequency handling very, very good. Axiom really got it right here. Perhaps a little forward but definitely not agressive
The high’s… again very nice. In spite of trying to introduce sibilance through bright source material, pushing the volume etc. I could not detect any sibilance in the high or upper mid frequency’s. No fatigue here. Ssssorry guys! It just wasn’t there.
The bass was better than I thought. Clean and tight and I think enough for most kinds of music. Billy had his speakers very far off the wall. I wondered how much boost one would get by moving those rear ports a little closer to the wall. I would experiment with that in my own set up. Not sure if I would add a sub at this point or not.
I would want to live with them for a while and listen to a lot more music before making that decision. Words that came to mind when listening to the 60’s
Clean, Detailed, a “little” forward but not aggressive, rhythmic or time coherent your choice, accurate, great sound stage, airy and an ability to disappear. Did I say detailed?
I hate to add the value qualifier. In every review I read about Axiom speakers they say it is one of the best speaker in that price range. I’m not particularly budget driven. If I like the 3,000 dollar speaker better that is what I’ll get. That said I have never been opposed to paying less for equal quality. I couldn’t help thinking while I was listening that this speaker set cost $900.00. These speakers can run with the big boys and they may actually be a step ahead of some of them
Now I guess it’s time for the mandatory disclaimer. I do not work for nor am I related to anyone who works for Axiom. For that matter I don’t even own any Axiom products. Yet! So does this mean that I will be placing my order for the 60’s. Very possibly, but not yet. There are still a few other speakers to demo. Though I have to admit, it has been very hard to restrain myself from picking up the phone and ordering.
Speakers I have tested:
Paradigm Reference 100v3(very nice if I had had the money in my pocket I probably would have walked out of the shop with them)
Meadowlark Blue Heron (Hey! I can dream can’t I?)
Totem Acoustic (nice)
Triangle Celius (very nice) I could get this at a steep discount. May return for a second listen. Beautiful finish.
Sonus Faber Grand Piano (I wanted to like these. The demo set up at Hi Fi Buys was bad The speaker did not impress me. I think it was the poor listening area not the speaker. The sales guy said I could take them home for a weekend trial. I may do that.
Vienna Acoustic (very nice) Had my friend’s in my house for about a month trial.
Martin Logan (barf)
Axiom 60’s (very nice) They hold their own in some very good company.
Speakers I still want to test
Sorry this got so long. If you have any thoughts on my points above I would love to hear them. Especially on the HDCD issue and my thoughts on timbre matching setup for SACD and DVD A listening.
"Life is what happens while your busy making other plans" John Lennon