Here's a quick trip report; unfortunately I arrived up there having had WAY too little sleep for the last couple of days so some of the details were already fuzzy by the time I got home. Bottom line was that I had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of the nicest, most interesting people you could imagine...
Random notes from the picnic :
It was just over 3-1/2 hour drive from Toronto. Arrived a bit after 11 -- Amie and others were just carrying goodies out to the picnic area when I arrived.
After asking a few (in hindsight) dumb questions I figured out that this was a company picnic with board denizens invited, so most of the nice people there were Axiom staff. D'oh !!
Me : "So, like, where did you come in from ?"
Them : (with a confused expression) "about 1/2 mile that way"
There were perhaps 1/2 dozen customers and dealers; the rest were Axom staff and friends, including some of Ian's friends who were integral to the original startup 25 years ago. Ian is one of the few people I have met who has had the opportunity to bring his friends and contacts from the early days into the business as it grows; there was an incredible mix of talent and experience at the picnic.
The factory tour started just after I arrived. It's a physically large facility, made up of a number of buildings added over the years. I think Ian said they had been in that location for 23 years -- if you looked closely you could see the construction materials changing radically from the first building (pre-dating Axiom) to the last addition ('97, I think).
The background music system in the factory uses M80s hung up high on the wall, so the Muzak quality is extremely high and can probably drown out the milling machines pretty easily. The suggestion about using M80s in a large room seems to hold up pretty well; the pair I was listening to were about 12 feet off the ground, 40 feet apart, and 30 feet from the listening position. Sounded mighty fine...
ONe thing that impressed me (although it didn't surprise me) was how all the important things were first-rate, and everything else was very basic and functional. The office over the production area was very basic and literally used old speakers for furniture (work table for PCs was a plank across two old cabinets, and the bench was a really big cabinet with a cushion on top) but when we walked back down the stairs from the loft you could see that the loft was built with high tech no-squeak engineered joists. The whole place was like that.
They don't throw anything away. For example, a Hsu subwoofer makes an excellent amplifier stand (don't ask
You have seen pictures of the dust collection system but the pictures don't show how BIG it is -- a huge hulking tower out back. The vacuum pipe from the work areas is a couple of feet in diameter, and the return air duct had to be 4 or 5 feet across. The factory had much less dust than my house ;(
There really is a soundproof room with double doors and an M80 inside. What they don't tell you is that the room is actually built OUTSIDE the rest of the building so it doesn't disturb the staff.
There is a door labelled something like "subsonic test facility" running off the CAD/CAM area. When you go up the stairs and open the door, you suddenly find yourself outside at rooftop level. Anyone feeling sorry about Ian having to climb up a pole with a subwoofer on his back can rest easy; the stairs lead to a platform where the sub can be mounted to a right angle pole, then the whole assembly (including mikes) swings out over the parking lot to get it away from any surfaces that would interfere with the sound. Very simple, but very slick.
The staff had assembled a slide show with images going back over the years. There were a couple of interesting pics from "Ian's dock party" with a live band; sound system was big amps and speaker arrays each made up of 4 M80s. Also a pic of what I believe were 6 EP600s ganged in the listening room; apparently the bass was awesome
Let's see, what else. Oh yeah, the pretty lady in the red top is Cassandra, who performs final QA. I think Cassie is the one to talk to about getting factory fallout when you need it. Anyways, her two daughters were there, all dressed up for the party, and they latched immediately onto my two dogs. I learned all kinds of interesting things, such as :
- a dog CAN eat its own weight in sausages and hamburgers if you break them into small pieces first
- dogs WILL eat pickles if they have been mixed in with pasta salad so the yummy salad dressing soaks into the pickles
- after 11 years, my faithful dogs would sell me out IN A HEARTBEAT for a girl with a hamburger
Anyways, more tomorrow. I'm hoping I can remember more or at least write more clearly after some sleep.
It was a great trip, and you honestly couldn't ask to meet a nicer group of people. The Axiom folks have generally been with the company for a long time (Ian gently observed that Amie was pretty much the "newbie" at 6 years), and it really shows in both their knowledge of the products and their passion for their work.
Congratulations to everyone at Axiom on an important anniversary and thanks again for the invite !!