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June
2006

Reviewed by
Roger Kanno
REVIEWERS' CHOICE


Axiom Audio
EP600 v2 Subwoofer

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: EP600 v2

Price: $1780 USD
Dimensions: 45.5"H x 15"W x 17"D
Weight: 103 pounds

Warranty: Two years parts and labor


Features
  • 12" aluminum-cone woofer
  • XLF intelligent DSP
  • Single-ended (RCA) and balanced (XLR) inputs and outputs
  • Speaker-level inputs
  • Front port
  • 600W (manufacturer-rated) amplifier
  • Vertical or horizontal placement
  • Available in various finishes and grille color combinations
  • USB port
  • Detachable power cord

Offering high-quality subwoofers at reasonable prices over the Internet is not a new idea -- Hsu Research and SVS have been doing it for years. Unlike those companies, which specialize in subwoofers, Axiom Audio is primarily a speaker manufacturer whose product line has always included subs, and they have earned an enviable reputation by offering their highly regarded Millennia series of speakers through the Internet at affordable prices. But their latest Epicenter subwoofers, with XLF digital signal processing, challenge some of the very best subs available.

Axiom is quite a large company for a specialty audio manufacturer, with the resources to design and build a reference-quality subwoofer if they put their minds to it, and owner and chief engineer Ian Colquhoun is a guy who likes to do things in a big way. During a visit Doug Schneider made to Axiom, Colquhoun played him a live recording on his system that he had made himself. According to Doug, the playback level was loud enough that it sounded as if there was an actual rock band in the room. And in a recent telephone conversation, Colquhoun informed me that his personal system includes no fewer than three massive EP600 v2 subwoofers, the subject of this review. Being a bit of a bass fanatic myself, I eagerly awaited the arrival of an EP600 v2. Its price of $1780 includes delivery to anywhere in North America and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Thinking outside a very big box

In designing subwoofers and full-range loudspeakers intended to reproduce very low frequencies, there is no substitute for a big enclosure with lots of internal volume. The first thing I noticed about Axiom’s EP600 v2 was that, unlike most subwoofers, its very large enclosure is not a square-shaped box. Instead, it’s tall and relatively slim, looking more like a large floorstanding speaker than a typical sub. In fact, at 45.5"H by 15"W by 17"D, the EP600 v2 looks like a wider version of Axiom’s M80 or M60 loudspeaker, and even has the same asymmetrical cabinet design. The sub’s fit and finish is similar to that of Axiom’s other speakers -- i.e., quite good -- and it weighs an imposing 103 pounds.

The massive 12" aluminum driver with 3" dual voice-coil is about halfway up the front baffle, and just below it is a large rectangular port. A removable fabric grille covers the driver and port, and both the grille and cabinet are available in a wide selection of colors. The EP600 v2 also comes in a horizontal configuration in which the subwoofer can be placed on its side, supported by large rubber feet and heavy-duty, conical spikes. But whether standing upright or lying down, the EP600 v2’s looks took some getting used to. I had the upright configuration; it looked a little strange at first, but its small footprint provided nice placement flexibility.

Instead of the usual black, the EP600 v2’s rear control panel is finished in an attractive gold. Machined-aluminum knobs and extra-large mounting screws give the panel a substantial feel and high-quality look. There are mono inputs and outputs on RCA and XLR jacks, and stereo speaker inputs on extremely high-quality binding posts. The power cord is removable, and a USB port can accommodate accessories such as Axiom’s optional USB Light, or be used for future software upgrades. There are controls for Volume, Phase (0/180 degrees), Trim, and Crossover, which can be set to 40Hz, 60Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz, or Bypass. Trim can be set to Flat (for most situations), Half, or Full, to provide increasing amounts of boost to frequencies above 33Hz.

At the heart of the EP600 v2 is a 600W digital amplifier and Axiom’s proprietary Extended Low Frequency (XLF) digital signal processing (DSP) circuitry. Once the incoming analog signal is digitized, the XLF circuitry is said to provide a "roadmap" for the subwoofer that accounts for the characteristics of the driver and amplifier to ensure an even frequency response with extremely low distortion. It also guards against possible damage by preventing the subwoofer from being overdriven. The anechoic measurements provided by Axiom claim that the EP600 v2 will play down to 17Hz, +/-3dB, and can output an amazing 111dB. The sub’s in-room response is rated down to an incredible 15Hz and an almost unbelievable 122dB.

Big box, big sound

The ease with which the EP600 v2 delivered enormous amounts of bass was astounding. The DTS soundtrack of Steven Spielberg’s recent remake of War of the Worlds, for example, was an outstanding test of the sub’s capabilities. When the alien tripods unearth themselves in chapter 5, the deep, sustained, rolling bass as the ground gives way was spectacular. The continual rumbling totally engulfed my room but remained controlled and responsive -- which amazed me, once I’d noticed the tremendous excursion of the EP600’s driver; with that amount of movement, I was sure the EP600 v2 would sound loose and boomy. Instead, I was shocked at how tightly controlled the bass remained. Huge explosions also rocked the room, but no matter how loud or how deep the effects, the EP600 v2 never even hinted at being taxed.

The three-DVD set Titanic (Special Collector’s Edition) includes a DTS soundtrack that gave the EP600 v2 a real workout throughout the last half of the film. One of the most striking moments was in chapter 30 of disc 1. The reversing of Titanic’s engines caused my entire room to shudder as the massive machines strained under the enormous forces. The EP600 v2 conveyed the necessary sense of colossal scale -- not only of the doomed liner’s engines, but also of the entire ship as it struck the iceberg and its hull was crushed by the weight of the sea.

The opening scenes of Toy Story 2, on the new Special Edition DVD, were equally impressive. The bass on the DTS track as Buzz Lightyear flies in and destroys Zurg’s robot army is demonstration-quality material, and again, the amount of excursion that the EP600 v2’s driver exhibited was simply amazing. I could sense the tight control over the low frequencies as I watched the driver’s cone jump from close to its maximum degree of travel down to a lower level of output, then quickly back up to a very high level, all without hesitation.

But the EP600 v2 was not only about big, room-filling bass. Music, including acoustic instruments, benefited from the nuances the Axiom could convey, even when the recording’s bass content was not tremendously deep or even particularly loud. The piano on "Goodbye My Lover," from James Blunt’s spectacular Back to Bedlam [CD, Atlantic 75678 37522], was solid and well defined, as were the drums on "So Long Jimmy." Neither song has much in the way of super-low frequencies, but the well-defined bass produced by the EP600 v2 provided a sense of effortlessness that contributed to these songs’ flow and pace.

My reference music tracks for bass -- such as "Seven Drums," from Dadawa’s Voices from the Sky [Warner 06301 87682] -- were as loud and as striking as I have ever heard on my system. The multichannel DVD-Audio disc of the Blue Man Group’s Complex [DTS 9286-01120-9] was simply spectacular. Tracks such as "Above" and "Time to Start" had enough pulse-pounding bass to satisfy the most demanding subwoofer enthusiast. Even more remarkable was the lively bass on "Sing Along," which showcased the EP600 v2’s nimbleness. The unique sound of the Blue Man Group’s PVC percussion instruments bounded effortlessly around my room as the Axiom fluidly articulated the song’s melody.

Big boxes and even bigger boxes

My current reference subwoofer, Paradigm’s awesome Reference Servo-15 v.2 ($2200), differs from the Axiom EP600 v2 both physically and functionally. The Axiom is taller and somewhat less conventional looking, while the Servo-15 v.2 is shorter and looks more like a traditional subwoofer. The EP600 v2 uses DSP and a port, while the servo-controlled Servo-15 v.2 has a sealed enclosure. The EP600 v2 costs more than $400 less than the Servo-15 v.2 but can only be purchased online. The Servo-15 v.2 is available through Paradigm’s extensive dealer network and can be auditioned prior to purchase. Axiom does, however, provide a 30-day money-back guarantee.

However these subs differed in form and operation, they sounded quite similar. In chapter 10 of The Haunting in DTS, both were able to fill my room with incredible amounts of subsonic bass that energized the entire listening area. The extended low frequencies in this scene go very low and are recorded at a very high level. I could hear no difference between the Axiom and the Paradigm with this scene, which is a real sub torture test. Neither showed any sign of distress even at ridiculously high playback levels that were downright scary and shook the entire room.

Chapter 1 of Blade 2 contains some incredibly deep and eerie rumbling that is nearly inaudible but is easily felt and creates a highly visceral experience. The Axiom seemed a little more localizable -- that is, the low-bass sounds seemed to emanate from the position of the subwoofer itself -- but appeared to play this scene a bit louder. The Paradigm was slightly more controlled and less localizable, which created an intensely ominous feeling because the source of the bass could not be pinpointed. The same was true for chapter 6 of Matrix Revolutions: the Paradigm was a bit tighter and less localizable, the Axiom subjectively a little louder and fuller sounding. With some movies I preferred the Paradigm’s slightly tighter, more controlled sound; with others, I preferred the somewhat richer sound of the Axiom.

Although there were some differences in the sound of the Axiom EP600 v2 and the Paradigm Servo-15 v.2, I would be thrilled with either in my system. Each is an extremely capable subwoofer that performs at a very high level. Not being able to audition it before purchase might discourage some from trying the Axiom, but its reasonable price and money-back guarantee should entice many others. I doubt that anyone who decides to buy the EP600 v2 will be disappointed.

New kid on the block

I had high expectations of the Axiom Audio EP600 v2’s large cabinet, massively overbuilt driver, 600W of power, and DSP, and it fulfilled them. It had no trouble filling my room with tons of extremely loud, extremely deep, and, most important, extremely tight bass. In fact, it provided incredible performance in every way imaginable, and deserves to be included on the short list of affordable, reference-quality subwoofers.

The EP600 v2 is actually far more subwoofer than most people will ever need, and can be considered a bargain even at $1780. That’s a lot of money, but there’s no substitute for a large, high-quality subwoofer if what you want is reference-quality bass. That is what the EP600 v2 is, and that is what it delivers.

Review System
Speakers - Paradigm Signature S8 (mains), Paradigm Signature C3 (center), Mirage Omni 260 (surrounds), Paradigm Reference Servo-15 v.2 (subwoofer)
Amplifiers - Bel Canto eVo4 Gen.II, Bel Canto eVo6
Preamplifier-Processor - Anthem Statement D1
Sources - Arcam FMJ DV29 DVD-Audio/Video player, Pioneer Elite DV-45A universal audio/video player
Cables - Analysis Plus, Audio Magic, ESP
Monitor - JVC 34" direct-view CRT
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Axiom Canada Inc.
Box 82, Highway 60
Dwight, Ontario P0A 1H0
Canada
Phone: (866) 294-6688 (toll-free in North America), (705) 635-3090 (rest of world)
Fax: (705) 635-1972

Website: www.axiomaudio.com


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