Axiom M22 Bookshelf Speaker Review
My dear readers, progress is a time consuming concept, one where I seriously pray you find patience and administer it with a bit of grace regarding my audio write ups. Reviewing stereo equipment as a hobby and personal interest allows one to exhibit a much broader range of opinion, free from pressure of manufactures to temper. I hold no cards; I have no dogs in this race and therefore I feel completely at liberty to speak my mind. Thinking aloud in general terms, plus stating the complete obvious, my equipment is different from yours, my cables are different from yours and my room acoustics are probably VERY different than yours – hence, a wide range of variables that must be taken with a grain of salt when discussing likes, and dislikes. Having made these circuitous statements, the latest version (4th) M22 bookshelf speaker from Axiom graces my listening space today. The M22’s are the 8th set of speakers I have had before me in my current set up, and as such, they have presented me with ample frustrations. As you will soon read, many of my frustrations were product specific.
Axiom just recently updated their entire line of up speakers to sport their newest redesigns, internal as well as external. First they changed their crossovers with a rather lengthy explanation under the topic heading of "family of curves." Next they upgraded all drivers 5.25" and up with die cast baskets. I confirmed this when unscrewing the drivers of my pair to reveal very robust magnets for such a small driver. Last but not least the Titanium tweeters received some love via a new aluminum casted face plate to help with cooling and power handling, plus the housing was reshaped to add a small horn effect for diffraction and frequency smooth off axis. My M22's are the largest of three bookshelf speakers offered by Axiom and priced at $640 with shipping included. The M22's are of moderate height coming in at 19", but seem shallow at 8" and narrow at 7.3". They feature a nice trapezoid shape which is hard to believe at this price point. My Boston Cherry veneered speakers are of a two way design with dual 5.25" mid-bass woofers per speaker and the Titanium tweeter up top. I was able to choose a single post option versus bi-wire option. As a side note and to give excellent praise where due -- Axiom allows you to customize choices from their entry level bookshelf speaker all the way up to their mighty bi-polar LFR1100's. I could choose real wood veneers from a broad palette of species and stains; I could choose different color fabrics for the grill and the aforementioned terminal choices. Who else does this at sub-grand prices?
To say I had huge expectations for this budget speaker with liberal features is an exercise in with the obvious. Of course I had no idea I was tempting the fates to mess up my plans.
For those of you who have followed my prior write ups, I tend to keep my reviews escalating upon a timeline framework. You are following my journey from past, present and future as I keep the next generation of audiophiles chasing nirvana. I inevitably change components and do my best to refer back to sounds I am comfortable claiming as a reference point. Breaking in these M22’s, it is very important that I disclose to you I am three weeks into my new Bel Canto e.one DAC2.5 with Cardas Clear USB cable, I have been in love with this combo since first song! The Bel Canto opened up a pair of bedroom relegated Polk RTi4’s like I never thought possible. Sliding in a pair of gorgeous Totem Acoustic Element Fires was an exercise in hedonism. My main workhorse amp is the Marantz PM15S2 Ltd Integrated. All my music comes via an Acer M5 touch screen lap top acting as music server, feeding the Bel Canto with a PCM 16/44.1 Flac filled paradise. My pursuit is all about maximum convenience and dollar squeezing quality. The Acer is commanded via my Android with JRiver Media app (Now updated to v.20). My room is moderately sized, just under 17' by 19.5' with vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and tongue and groove pine paneling. My listening distance always starts at 13 feet from the tweeters.
Back to the Axioms; there is only one way to put this, I could not get along with the Axiom M22’s. It isn’t the fact that my prior bookshelf speakers were the incredible Totem Fires, or the highly capable KEF R300’s, no; I even swapped in a raucous pair of Altec Lansing Model 14’s on a farce. I will be direct, and forward with you, never has a pair of speakers given my ears such quick fatigue after only three songs! I let these speakers play at moderate levels to around 50 hours and nothing changed. I could not take listening to these speakers (brutal, overbearing and annoying come to mind). I am not accustomed to listening to music as if I were in an apartment and needed to be polite, nay, moderate levels on my Marantz volume dial is standard fare for me. So when I couldn’t get past 1/3 power for more than ten minutes, I knew I faced my first big audio disappointment.
So what was it I hear you asking me? Mid-bass and treble were absolute enemies with the new Titanium tweeter Axiom is using. For the first time I found myself relying on the tone controls of my Marantz to lower the heat on the treble side, -3 db wasn’t enough without really changing my audition format. The usual demo material was no fun, Buckethead gave me a headache, Ocoai was painful and my affinity for Nickel Creek was barely palatable. My wife could see me wincing…my dear readers, I wish not to publish a huge diatribe about a specific manufacturer and over emphasize my distaste for their product, but truth and candor is my motto. The easiest example to give is with hard rock; my stand by cut of the Breatherman from Ocoai is a staple I cannot live without. In 16/44.1 Flac format, none of my prior speakers have given me too much guff, or should I say ear piercing spasms. It literally took 30 seconds into this song with the Axioms where I was reaching for remote needing relief. The layered horns cut and etched, the snarling guitars were much too forward, in a way, these Axioms were acting like big Klipsch La Scalas powered by a compromised AV receiver. Genres with more instruments made it worse; tone it down (pun intended) with a two or three piece band and they were listenable. Most Rodrigo y Gabriela was acceptable due to their two guitar acoustic sound. Queue up some Alison Kraus with Union Station and mid-bass overwhelmed the listener. I could go on; I tried a lot of different tracks, instrument variations and male verse female voicing. Certainly with the mid-bass bloom, female voices were more forgivable.
Some reviewers tend to look for any way to let a product off the hook by incorporating different cables, sources, preamps and or amplifiers. I love my Audioquest Colorado IC’s, my Audioquest Rocket 88’s and my Marantz PM15S2 Ltd. has been nothing but a gentleman, these are what I have to live with, and furthermore, most buyers do not have a bevy of equipment to fiddle with. If the sweetness of the $2,000 Bel Canto DAC2.5 couldn’t help a $600 bookshelf speaker, then only the most polite tube amplifier might do. As a matter of fact, it shouldn’t go unsaid that in this scenario I find it interesting how $7,000 in equipment and cables did NOT benefit the M22’s, whereas when I started off with humbler products, my old Klipsch RF-62’s benefited from every upgrade I introduced into the system. Maybe I am intrigued by what a full Axiom home theater set up would sound like [shuddering as I type].
I’ve never been hamstrung by volume limitations outside of my spouses temporary wishes, so when I relegated all further listening to quarter turn, I decided I was done. To say a product is revealing, detailed, and blends well at low volumes is to render myself and opinion disingenuous. I play classic rock, lots of progressive post rock, old country, bluegrass, electronica and many genres in between. I played with toe in, I moved my listening chair in; I spread the speakers further apart, first 7ft., then 8ft., lastly nearing 9ft. I stuffed more synthetic wool in the boxes and even tried some damping mat, only some of the mid-bass bloom was reduced, but not enough when I attempted to turn up the volume again. I did not want to admit defeat, and in no way were there any issues with my equipment. When I plugged either the Totem Fires or Altec Lansing’s back in, all was well with the world. I must have had a funky pair, because all the glowing reviews of Axiom products had me scratching my scalp in disbelief. I will not say that their customer service was no better, and I will not say that after more than five attempts to return my pair within the 30 day audition window, I was left fully dissatisfied in all aspects by this brand. Yes, I had two Axiom employees promise to send the return labels and then see them blame the other for not sending a label that never came. I was literally left holding a product I greatly disliked….you could say I took a loss on this one, my eBay experience with trying to sell a practically new pair of Axiom’s told me a whole different story about this brand’s so called “loyal” following. After three months up for sale, I could only sell these at half their listed price!
I put this review away several times, came back to it and tried to find some positives - so here goes; With the Axioms slightly toed in, my listening position within roughly 8ft and the volume at around 2/5's on the Marantz, I finally found a sweet spot where everything came together. Only in this exact position and at a precise volume of less than moderate did these Axioms open up like a decent set of headphones. So, if one were only looking for a near-field pair of speakers and never planned to crank them up, only then could I suggest these.
Let’s face it, this review was short, it did not end well and I couldn’t salvage (let alone mask) my disdain. However that may be, my next review and unimagined turn of events will more than make up for leaving you unsatisfied by my misadventure with our Canadian neighbors. I am permanently mystified by Axiom and will never try their products again unless given to me by a trusted source. From product to customer service, I have written this experience off as something to expect. I am not naïve as to think all my choices will harbor terrific results, I was bound to hit a foul ball here and there, I just didn’t expect such an extreme outcome. Yet, as a consequence of working with so many new products, latest R&D breakthroughs and complete horse manure, I have decided to try something exciting and revelatory – I have dived head long into vintage products and cannot wait to share with you my unexpected findings (especially given these pieces are the same age as I am!). Please enjoy your tunes and listen responsibly.
p.s. As a peak under the tent, I jumped straight from the Axioms into Altec Lansing Model 14 horns, Klipsch La Scala’s, JBL 250 Ti’s and a host of amplifiers from the mid 80’s.
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Enclosure: Vortex / Reflex
Max Amp Power: 200 Watts
Min Amp Power: 10 Watts
Freq Resp +/-3dB (Hz): 60 - 20kHz Frequency Graph
Freq Resp +3dB- 9dB (Hz): 50 - 20kHz
8 Ohms Impedance Graph
SPL in Room1w/1m(dB): 93 dB
SPL Anechoic 1w/1m(dB): 89 dB X-Over 3.5 kHz
Tweeter: Single 1"
Woofer: Dual 5.25" Sub Woofer :
Dimens. H W D (inches): 19.8" x 7.3" x 8"
Dimens. H W D (mm): 503 x 185 x 203
Weight (lbs) each 16 lbs
Weight (kg) each 7.257 kg
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