Fresh from 3+ hours of listening/comparing/philosphizing, etc...here goes...
Set up #1 - Pioneer 45TX in stereo mode without the subwoofer off because the sub would not work with the "B" speakers. We alternated listening to the Ascend 340 LR speakers and the Axiom M22s - occasionally listened to the Ascend 170s. Music - classical, Broadway, Dave Matthews.
Classical - Axioms displayed incredible detail and presence with strings, piano, sax, percussion (Sushi - we thought of you!), although if we blasted the sound at times it bordered on too intense for me. Ascends had a fuller sound, with horns especially. They also displayed a large amount of detail, only a bit muted. Both were enjoyable to listen to.
Broadway - score from "Big River", with a good deal of guitar, banjo and base. Axioms - as if the singers were in the room - a more forward sound. Would have liked to have added the sub to give a more full dimensional sound. Ascends - once again fuller, yet a bit more recessed in the singers voices. At higher volumes easier to listen to.
Dave Matthews Band - I don't remember the name of the song because I wasn't too familiar with his music. At times I couldn't tell whether the vocals were coming from the Ascends or the Axioms - however, with the Ascends the instrumentals sounded a bit muddy.
Setup #2 - Movies - Ascend 340 center, Ascend 340 LR fronts, Ascend 170 surrounds and HSU VTF-2. Axioms M22s, VP150, and Ascend 170 surrounds (didn't order the QS8s for testing).
We listened to the opening beach scene in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Much more resonant mids with the Ascends and more power behind the explosions, yet with Axioms more detail with bullets ricocheting off helmets or machinery. Both were enjoyable.
I am learning that I want the best of both worlds - fullness of the Ascends with the detail of the Axioms. My decision will be based on which is more important to me in the long run. I am a 50/50 movies/music person and listen to Broadway, Jazz, cabaret vocals, very occasional classical (although tonight has made me much more curious about that venue) - not any hard rock.
It is really not a question for me of which speaker is better - because I think both are very well built and an incredible value - it is which sound I prefer in the long run, realizing that there will be compromises with each. I can say that I prefer the detail of Axioms for Home Theater, yet some recordings on them sound harsh to me.
I need to decide by this weekend. Will stay in touch about where I end up.
Major thanks to John and Jason for coming down. We would like to find a way to take our listening sessions on the road. It has been a great experience for me because I have met two great people as well as begun to expand my musical horizons.
Also much appreciation to all of you on this board who have helped me along the way.