Model: M80Ti speakers
Price: $1100 USD per pair
Dimensions: 39.5"H x 9.25"W x 17"D
Weight: 55 pounds each
Model: VP150 center-channel speaker
Price: $350 USD
Dimensions: 7.5"H x 27"W x 7.5"D
Weight: 21.5 pounds
Model: QS8 surround speakers
Price: $470 USD per pair
Dimensions: 8.25"H x 11"W x 6"D
Weight: 11 pounds each
Model: Epicentre EP350 subwoofer
Price: $350 USD
Dimensions: 20.25"H x 15"W x 16"D
Weight: 40 pounds
System Price: $2390
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
- Anti-Standing-Wave cabinets
- Vortex ports
- 5.25" and 6.5" aluminum drivers
- 1" titanium tweeters
- "Quadpole" surround speakers
- 12" aluminum driver (EP350)
- 200W amplifier (EP350)
- Audio/Video switch for bass (EP350)
- Phase adjustment (EP350)
- Adjustable crossover (EP350)
- Gold-plated binding posts
- Video shielded
- Available finishes include Boston cherry, maple, and black
oak (some finishes only available on certain models)
If youve been reading Home Theater
& Sound and the SoundStage!
Network of publications, youll notice that many of the reviewers have been
impressed with the sound quality of Axiom speakers. Having myself been smitten with
Axioms smallest home-theater system, the Epic Micro, I
immediately put in a request to have a listen to Axioms top-of-the-line Epic 80
In terms of size, the Epic 80 system provided a huge
contrast to the Epic Micro. Whereas the Micros came in one box (about the size of the
EP350 subwoofer box alone!), the Epic 80 was shipped in five cartons. However, Axiom
maintains the same design philosophy from the smallest system to the largest, for which
they should be applauded. The Epic 80 system sports the same Anti-Standing Wave (ASW)
cabinets as the Mzeros, as well as similar Quadpole surround speakers. Also seen in the
Epic 80 system are aluminum-cone drivers in various sizes.
Axioms ASW cabinets are not the usual square boxes
seen with most other speakers. They taper from the front to the rear baffles. The M80Ti is
9" wide across the front baffle, shrinking to 7" in the rear. The M80Ti sports
an unusual driver configuration, with two titanium tweeters mounted one above the other
near the top of the front baffle to handle the high frequencies. Two aluminum-cone woofers
handle the midrange, and two aluminum-cone woofers serve the lowest frequencies. If the
two tweeters werent enough, the M80Ti also has three ports, one in the front, near
the bottom of the speaker, and two in the rear -- by employing multiple tweeters, midrange
drivers, woofers and ports, Axiom has designed a speaker system capable of high power
handling. Ian Colquhoun of Axiom told me that the M60Ti sounds essentially the same as the
M80Ti, except that the M80Ti will play substantially louder. The M80Ti has also reportedly
been designed for good on- and off-axis response. It is a large speaker, but the tapered,
relatively thin profile made the speaker appear less imposing in my room.
I was fortunate enough to receive the first production
sample of the newly configured center-channel speaker, the VP150. Instead of the usual
midrange-tweeter-midrange array, this center-channel also has an unusual driver
configuration, with three aluminum-cone woofers mounted horizontally in the middle of the
front baffle, each separated from the next by a titanium tweeter. The VP150 is a
sealed-box design utilizing ASW as well.
Moving on to the QS8, we see Axioms trademark
two-woofer/two-tweeter surround-speaker arrangement. The aluminum-cone woofers are mounted
on the top and bottom surfaces of the speaker. Looking at the QS8 from the top, the front
baffle forms half of an octagon, with tweeters mounted on the 45-degree-angled surfaces.
Although this is Axioms top-of-the-line surround speaker, it is much more compact
than I anticipated.
The subwoofer supplied was the Epicentre EP350. This sub
has a front-firing woofer with two ports mounted on the lower front face. The subs
comprehensive controls and connections reside on the back. You can leave the subwoofer on
all the time, because it will shut off automatically after it sits idle for a period of
time. My usual subwoofer does not have this delightful feature, and I always forget to
turn it off. I noted in my review of the Axiom Epic Micro system that when my sample of
the EP125 subwoofer was in idle, a slight buzzing could be detected up close. I
didnt have the same problem with the EP350, which was dead quiet.
As expected from Axiom, the build quality is very good. All
of the speakers have gold-plated five-way binding posts, and the M80Ti can be biwired or
biamped. My system came with a high-quality black-oak vinyl veneer, but the M80Ti can be
ordered in Boston cherry or light maple and the QS8 can be ordered in eggshell white.
The home theater
Since the Axiom Epic 80 system is of comparable size to my
Paradigm system, my starting point for set up was easy, since I just replaced my existing
speakers with the Axioms. I tweaked the toe-in of the M80Tis slightly, and moved them
forward into the room to alleviate some boominess. A little care should be used when
setting up the M80Tis or the midrange may sound a little forward. I stand-mounted the QS8
surround speakers, minimizing the amount the downward-firing woofer was impeded by the
stand. For a permanent QS8 installation, I would recommend wall mounting or purchasing
from Axiom the stands that will allow the bottom-firing woofer to breathe. The null point
between the two tweeters fired directly at my listening seat. The VP150 sat in the usual
location above my 32" TV. I raised the rear of the speaker slightly so that it would
fire more directly at my listening seat.
Once I settled down and watched some DVDs, the Axiom Epic
80 system proved to be immensely satisfying. I can confirm that Axioms goal for a
system with high dynamic capability has been achieved. Man, do these speakers play loud,
and they do it cleanly.
In chapter 2 from O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a
gunshot fires from the center channel to the left rear speaker. On the Epic 80 system, it
absolutely startled all of us watching the DVD. In chapter 13 of the same movie, there are
several cracks of thunder that shook the floor for a few seconds. The dynamic impact of
the Epic 80 system added immensely to the movie-watching experience. All the movie's sound
effects sounded a little more realistic than with other systems Ive heard. This
ability to play loudly and cleanly was not restricted to the lower frequencies, but
extended throughout the frequency range.
Because of the high efficiency of all of the speakers in
this system, I was able to achieve high sound levels with only 60W to the front and the
rears! Amie Colquhoun of Axiom warned me that the Axiom Epic 80 system in her house
shattered glass, and if I didnt believe her before auditioning this system, I sure
Another great performer in the Epic 80 system is the QS8
surround speaker. The QS8 achieves a near-ideal presentation of both directional and
ambient surround effects. This was evident in chapter 37 of The Devils Advocate.
Al Pacinos voice bounces from left rear, right front, left rear, and finally left
front. His voice is heard distinctly in the left surround speaker. Excellent surround
envelopment is shown in chapter 4 of Seven Years In Tibet, during the avalanche
scene, where you are surrounded by the sound of the driving wind. A direct-radiating
speaker would localize Al Pacinos voice a bit better, and a dipole surround speaker
would be more diffuse. But in my opinion, the QS8 strikes the ideal compromise between a
monopole and a dipole surround speaker.
In addition, with the tweeters mounted on 45-degree angled
baffles, some of the surround signals are directed behind the listener for a near seamless
surround soundfield. This was most noticeable throughout the DVD A Perfect Storm,
where waves crash to the front, sides and to the rear of the room.
The EP350 provided floor-shaking bass without sounding too
boomy, and it was a good match for the rest of the Epic 80 system. It sounded reasonably
tight, with good transient response that matched the dynamic ability of the M80Ti. In
chapter 3 of Mission Impossible: 2, the staccato steps of the flamenco dancers were
rendered sharply. In chapter 3 of Das Boot: Directors Cut, the depth charges
shook the room through the EP350. There are other subwoofers that will go deeper and
louder, but in my medium-sized room, I found the bass quality and quantity more than
Rounding out the Epic 80 system is the VP150
center-channel. With two tweeters and three woofers, the VP150 approaches the M80Ti in
power-handing capabilities. The VP150 proved to be a good match with the M80Ti. This was
evident in chapter 2 of Man on the Moon, where Jim Careys voice pops from the
left front into the center channel. After repeatedly listening to this scene, I could not
detect a tonal shift from the M80Ti to the VP150. Pans across the front soundstage were
seamless as well.
I initially plunked down the M80Tis where my NHT 2.5is sit,
but this caused bass to be a bit boomy. After moving them out into the room a bit further,
the bass smoothed out, and the imaging was a lot more specific. On "What Child is
This" from Cyrus Chestnut & Friends A Charlie Brown Christmas
[Atlantic CD 83366] (in July!), the vocals of the Manhattan Transfer floated across the
front soundstage. On "What a Waste" from Leonard Bernsteins New York
(various artists) [Nonesuch 2 79400], the vocalists were beautifully presented with the
M80Ti. Donna Murphy occupied the left side, Richard Muenz was located squarely in the
middle, and Dawn Upshaw was located on the right side, with the orchestra nicely layered
Tonally, the M80Ti is fairly neutral, with just a hint of
brightness in the treble region. In "Wrong Note Rag" from Leonard
Bernsteins New York, the brass instruments had a bit of a bite to them.
The M80Ti showed off its bass prowess in the "Train
Song" from Holly Coles Temptation [Alert Z2-81026], hitting the very
lowest notes of the acoustic bass. Most of the time, the bass quantity and quality were
perfect in my medium-sized audio room, but at times the bass could be a little too thick
One would never call these speakers laid-back -- vocals,
both male and female, were thrust slightly forward in the soundstage. But I found this
detailed and intimate presentation very enjoyable.
A good comparison to the Axiom Epic 80 system is my
Paradigm Monitor 9 system. Although the Epic 80 system competes in a slightly higher price
bracket, they are both large tower, high-value systems.
The Paradigm system has dipole surround speakers as opposed
to the quadpole speakers in the Axiom system. The differences in these two speakers were
most apparent in chapter 37 of the DVD Devils Advocate. Al Pacinos
voice was a little more vague with Paradigms ADP-350 surround speakers. In terms of
ambience, both systems were equally adept at portraying the stark jail hallway in The
Green Mile. The Axiom QS8 was able to deal better with the varying demands placed on
home-theater surround speakers, performing well with both diffuse and direct sounds.
Both systems have center speakers that are a good match for
the mains. Side-to-side pans were handled equally well by the Axioms and the Paradigms.
Typically, when horizontal center-channel speakers are placed on top of a TV, the screen
of the TV will add a minor coloration to the sound. Neither the Axiom nor the Paradigm
center-channel was immune to this, but the coloration in both cases was minor.
Comparing the main speakers, tonally the Axiom M80Ti is a
forward-sounding, dynamic loudspeaker, whereas the Monitor 9 is warmer and more laid-back.
As a result, the Axiom M80Ti is less forgiving of poor recordings, yet it rewards you with
a more honest-sounding rendition of great recordings. The M80Ti will also play louder
without a hint of strain at high volume levels. This high dynamic capability makes the
Axiom M80Ti a standout in the home-theater environment.
I cant say enough good things about the Axiom Epic 80
system -- it does so many things well with so few compromises. This system does not
require a lot of amplifier power to deliver gut-wrenching, room-filling sound. The Axiom
QS8 is one of the best, most versatile surround speakers Ive heard, managing to
sound diffuse or directional as needed. My only caveat is that this system needs at least
a medium-sized room to sound its best. For people looking for a high-end, high-value
system, look no further than the Axiom Epic 80 system.
|Speakers - Paradigm Monitor
9 (front), Paradigm CC-350 (center), and Paradigm ADP-350 (surround), Denon SW-10
(subwoofer), NHT 2.5i
- JVC XV-721 DVD player, Pioneer Elite PD-65, Rega Planar 3 with Grado Prestige
|Receiver/processor - Yamaha DSP-E492
- Kenwood KMX-1000, Arcam Delta 290
|Cables - Sonic Horizons
Hurricane speaker cables and interconnects
- JVC 32" direct-view TV