Axiom Surround System Review

Part 1: The Epicenter 500 Subwoofer

All 12" Subs are not Created Equal
by Geoff Cintron

The 12" subwoofer has become ubiquitous in the modern Home Theater. Its size and power are such that it will usually be more than enough for most HT applications. However, not all 12" subs are created equal. Some have much higher performance than others. The Epicenter 500 is one of these.

Technology that makes a difference

Digital Sound processing (DSP) has been around for many years now, but this sub is the first one that I've used that incorporates it into its electronics. By using DSP Axiom is able to shape the frequency curve of the sub to a much flatter level than is possible without it. A quick glance at the Epicenter 500 response curve and you can see that it's nearly dead flat for most all of its range (20hz-100hz). It’s a pretty graph, but what does it mean? It means that you won't have problems with resonant frequencies. The worst offending subs have a "one-note" quality because of this kind of resonance, and even the best designed subs tend to have a resonant frequency that gets amplified louder than others. The Axiom Epicenter 500 simply doesn't have this problem at all. This technology really works in this sub, and you can hear it.

I would have been happy if that's all they added tech-wise to this sub, but the engineers at Axiom have gone further. In addition to the normal volume and crossover frequency controls, they have added several custom designed DSP settings that can be used to shape the subs frequency curve for your particular room. I have to admit that I like tweaking things, and this feature was a lot of fun to play with. While not absolutely nessassary for my application, I can see where this this feature would be a great addition especially if you had to choose a non-optimal sub location.

But it doesn't stop there. Several of my friends are using pro-audio equalizers on their subs for filtering of room resonances. These units can make a big difference especially if you have trouble with room induced resonance nodes. The problem is that these electronics often only connect with balanced connectors. No problem with the Epicenter 500, as it has balanced, and unbalanced connectors both in & out. What really chinced it for me (tech wise) is that the engineers had gone the extra mile, and made the sub future proof by including upgrade-ability via a computer USB link. Some real forward thinking has gone into this subs design.

Beautiful in Sight and Sound

The Epicenter 500 is quite a handsome looking sub from the front, mine was in the cherry veneer (notice how the grain continues from the front baffle to the top...nice touch!), but turn it around and it has one of the best looking plate amps I've ever seen. From it's anodized face, to it's machined aluminium knobs, this amp exudes class. It almost makes you want to position the subwoofer backwards so you can display it! To top it all off they include a very hefty removeable power cord.

Sound Quality

I tried this sub in three different configurations, first with the M22ti speakers as mains in a 5.1 configuration. The subwoofer was dead easy to adjust for near perfect sound. I just set the sub to run it's full range, and set my receiver to crossover the M22ti bass at 100hz. Done! There wasn't even a hint of any problem at the crossover frequency. Of course this has a lot to do with the M22ti speakers too, but I was just a little disappointed that I didn't have to tweak anything...I mean the sub has all these controls just going to waste!

With the M80's as mains the sub's well designed controls made a BIG difference. The Axiom M80 has excellent bass response, and I didn't want to try to truncate this in anyway, so I decided to run them full range. Doing this can cause a problem with some subs. For the Epicenter 500 it was NO problem. With the subs crossover adjustment set to 40Hz, and just a little tweaking of the volume, the blend was excellent. No booming, no overblown notes, just subterranean bass extension to an already great bass response.

Last, but not least, I tried the sub as a replacement for my Velodyne FSR 15's. In my 2-channel audio setup I use these big velo's to extend the bass response of my Magnepan 3.6r speakers. Magnepans are big planar spakers, and are notoriously difficuly to blend with a sub. I've tried several subs, but the only one that I heard that has pulled the trick off so far has been my servo controlled velodynes. Again the Axiom sub performed like magic. It's excellent designed controls allowing me to blend the bass to match the Magnepans seamlessly.

Nothing is perfect, and there were a couple of things on my wish list. First, I would have liked a remote. I kept searching in the box for the remote, and was a little crest fallen when I read the brochure and saw that there wasn't one. My wife thought I was crazy, as I've got already got a world class collection of remotes, but I think a remote would have been nice.

Second; The sub has no auto "on/off" trigger. It's really not nessasary as the Epicenter 500 sub uses a digital amp similar to my PS Audio amp, and so draws very little current when not playing, but I would have liked to see it shut itself off when not in use. Perhaps it's just because I'm so used to my Velodynes snapping on with the first bass note?

Final Remarks

In every configuration that I tried this sub in it performed at world-class levels. It is both able to convey subtle musical notes, and earth shaking low frequency movie effects effortlessly. It's not a hard stretch to say that this sub's performance matches or exceeds the best 12" subs that are available at ANY price. You'll hear more about this sub's outstanding performance in the coming review of the full Axiom system.

Axiom Audio Epicenter 500
$1,150.00 USD Direct from Axiom Audio's Website

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