Axiom Surround System Review

Part 2: The Epic Grand Master 500


High Performance Home Theater
by Geoff Cintron

The 5.1 system reviewed consists of the Axiom M22ti speaker as mains, a VP 150 for center, two QS8's for surrounds, and one EP500 subwoofer.

If you've read my review of the EP500 sub, then you already know that I had no problem mating the M22ti speakers with it. Smooth, and without any hint of booming at the crossover point, these speakers were made for each other quite literally. The M22ti has a remarkably flat frequency response to 100hz.

Unlike like a lot of other speakers it's size, it doesn't have a rise in the upper bass region. Some speakers, have a what's called a "bass hump" to make them sound like they have more bass. The M22ti does not have this, and because it's so flat in this region the crossover to the sub is about as seamless as I've ever heard. They worked together so good, that this duo of M22ti as a main speaker & EP500 sub changed one my long held beliefs. More on that later....

The VP150 center did present a bit of a problem, though not a bad one. This center is rather large, and can handle a lot of power.

So the question for me was; Do I run it full range, or cut it at the 100hz crossover frequency that setting it to "small" on my receiver would do. After trying it back and forth between settings several times I finally settled on running it "large" which is full range. The center channel is at the heart of HT, and I felt setting the VP150 to large gave it a little better/warmer timber to dialog.

I've experimented with several surround speakers, and my own set of Cambridge Soundworks S300 is also of a multi-pole design, but the QS8 has to set the standard for this type of speaker. Positioned directly to the sides of the main seating area, the QS8's disappear sonically, and were less finicky about seating position than any other speaker I've tried as a surround. You can set these speakers anywhere from 2 feet or 10 feet from you and the surround sound "envelope" is always excellent. Besides that, these speakers are capable of some serious SPL, and never sounded strained like some smaller surround speakers can. It also doesn't hurt that they look really good too!

On movies this system really excelled. I have some "reference" movies that I use to test a system out. They are also some of my favorites, so it's always a treat to see them, and checking out a new system is just the excuse.

Master and Commander

To make this movie really shine you have to have a system that's capable of capturing both subtle cues, and explosive transients. I find that the first & final battle scenes are some of the most harrowing moments ever to be put on film. Surprisingly there's little overt blood, but the effect of the cannon fire and wood splintering everywhere is so visceral that you wind up holding your breath through the scenes. Besides the fireworks of the battle scenes, there's a lot of creaking and groaning that the ship does, and this was handled with great effect by the QS8 surrounds. The Axiom speakers did a supurb job with this movie, putting you "in the ship" from the moment the DVD starts. I tried several seating positions and was happy with just about every one. In every way the M22ti based system proved to be more than a match for this demanding movie.


Saving Private Ryan

Spielberg doesn't spare us the horrors of war in this movie. It is not for people with sensitive stomachs. The D-Day scene, with its mortars going off all over Omaha Beach, is by far the heaviest use of LFE that I have heard on a DVD. But it's not just the sub-crunching mortars that command the beach. The depth of the soundtrack is amazing, there's bullets ricocheting everywhere, and you have to be able to separate the dialog from the mayhem that's going on all around. Here's where the VP150 center speaker really shows it mettle. Even through all of the special effects Tom Hanks dialog was easy to understand. The sub also did an admirable job with the explosions, never sounding like it strained even when asked to reproduce hell-on-earth, which is what Normandy was on that day. I have to give a nod the QS8's too. They really convey a depth to the rear sound field that is quite startling. Several of the explosions strew sand and gravel everywhere, and the effect was as life-like as I've ever heard in my HT.

Music

I'm a Stereo guy in addition to being into HT. I've long held the belief that your main speaker should be, if at all possible, full range floor standers. After hearing this system in my home I've had to modify my beliefs a bit. With the powerful EP500 sub, and the high resolution M22ti standmounts, music was handled with what I used to think only a large, make that a VERY large, floor stander could do. Of course I still like large floor standers, but I'm going to change my recommendation now to on what to spend your speaker budget on. If your setting up an HT system, my recommendation is that if you get a pair of high quality standmounts like the M22ti for mains, and a powerful sub like the EP500. Value wise your better off than buying larger mains, and a smaller sub.

The M22ti's work amazingly well with a sub. The flip side is that without a sub they sound a bit lean in the bass. They also sounded just slightly forward in the upper treble. This is great boon if you have a carpeted, well damped room, not so much if you have a more "live" room with a hard floor. The VP150 center was powerful and smooth, but I noticed a slight frequency response shift if you sit at an acute angle. I don't know too many people who have seating like this, and I really only noticed it when I was way off to the side, so this is not going to be problem for many people.

The seamless blend between the M22ti's standmounts and the EP 500 sub has got to rate first on the list. Pretty close though was the outstanding surround performance of the QS8 surround speakers. Fit and finish of all the speakers was excellent. Packing was good, and the advice of the Axiom resident expert, Alan Lofft, was first rate.

Final Word

After living with these speakers for more than a month, and putting them through just about all I could think of, I can say that without question that this 5.1 Axiom speaker system represents a great value in a home theater speakers, and also has the performance level capable of satisfying even the most demanding HT fanatic (like myself!).

Axiom Audio Epic Grand Master 500
$2351 Direct from Axiom Audio's Website
read and write reviews:
Epic Grand Master 500 Reviews
Epicenter 500 Subwoofer Reviews
M22ti Reviews