|Axiom Audio Epic Grand Home Theater Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Saturday, 01 February 2003|
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The Epic Grand Master system proved to be very easy to set up. With the M22ti main speakers approximately three feet from the rear wall and spaced eight feet apart, this combination created a very solid sound stage when listening to two-channel sources. The M22ti sounded very accurate but a bit lean without the subwoofer. Though the VP 100 is the standard center channel for this system, and works well with the rest of the speakers, the VP150 outperformed it. Placing the VP150 center channel directly on top of the monitor and positioning the surround speakers on the provided stand approximately 15 degrees behind the listening position made for a very cohesive listening environment. The final speaker locations were relatively close to those of my reference system. I also placed the subwoofer approximately two feet from the front corner to take advantage of the additional room gain, while still pursuing a smooth frequency response through the lower registers. All along, I sensed that the Axiom system could be very forgiving of speaker location, and was less fickle about placement than previous systems that I have incorporated into my particular listening environments.
My evaluation of the Axiom theater system began with the high-voltage, testosterone-filled sport film “Any Given Sunday” (Warner Home Video). Under Oliver Stone's direction, this film depicts the on and off-field personalities, dynamics, and antics of a professional football organization. With a cast of top name actors and a running time just shy of three hours, this movie provides ample action scenes to evaluate the multiple attributes of this surround system. The QS8s provided excellent ambient information during the on-field action scenes, while the VP150 provided a very palatable sense of the physical impact of bone-jarring tackles and the high-energy presence of the players during heavy contact. The Axiom speaker system did an excellent job of creating that “you are there” sensation. The movie also uses a menagerie of hip-hop, rap, and rock to heighten the emotional impact of certain scenes. The Axiom system exhibited great delineation between the movie’s ambient soundtrack and the musical overlay, easily exhibiting Stone's intent in these sonic passages.
Switching over to a lighter side of things, I broke out the 1998 Farrelly Brothers comedy “There's Something About Mary” (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). This movie is definitely not your traditional Hollywood blockbuster, but the soundtrack still offers many musical and acoustic nuances that displayed the Axiom’s abilities. There are several musical interludes performed by Jonathan Richman, consisting of very simple vocal and acoustic guitar segments wherein the Axiom system creates a great soundstage that envelops the listener. Dialogue through the VP150 center channel was superb. Voices sounded natural, delineated, and unrestrained. Throughout the more dynamic scenes of this film, the Axiom system kept pace with the soundtrack, never seeming limited at the extremes. This movie does not test the subterranean bass output of a subwoofer, but it still has enough low-frequency information for you to determine the naturalness of a subwoofer’s contribution. The EP175 is very neutral, never boomy or heavy, but will not produce enormous amounts of sub 30-Hertz output. What it does add to the sonic mix is convincing and enjoyable.
Peter Frampton – Live in Detroit (Image Entertainment) tested the Axiom’s ability to do justice to a rock concert. Like most well-done concert videos, the surrounds carry primarily hall ambience and the crowd, not calling attention to themselves as separate sources, and the QS8s were easily up to the task. The Epic Grand Master system portrayed the excitement and electricity of the show and audience, particularly during old favorites. “(I’ll Give You) Money” was outstanding, showcasing the VP150 center channel’s midrange clarity and balanced dispersion characteristics, along with exceptional integration with the M22tis across the front. A small get-together of friends at my house broke into an air guitar and air drum fest. The Axioms can rock pretty darn hard, especially if you have a smaller room. “Lines On My Face” showed off the VP150’s and M22ti’s ability to convey delicate details. The emotion of this song was captivating and beautiful, the soundstage seamless and deep. The sound was big, creating an energy throughout the room that I loved, even as I moved about. This track demonstrated the Axiom’s excellent off-axis performance, which is likely a major reason that the speakers came off very well, even when they were introduced to a different listening environment.
Sting’s Nothing Like the Sun (DTS Entertainment – 5.1) was used to exercise the entire Axiom Epic Grand Master Home Theater speaker system’s music capabilities. Most of this disc has instruments placed entirely in the fairly aggressively mixed surrounds, including “Be Still My Beating Heart.” This cut was very enjoyable as the QS8 surrounds floated the music around Sting’s clear vocals, with an airy, almost ethereal feel to it. The M22ti and VP150 did a terrific job relaying the haunting melody of “They Dance Alone.” The firmly centered vocals pulled everything together, including the crisp percussion and Branford Marsalis’ flowing sax. The vocals were just a tad rough at times compared to the rest of the presentation, but that was likely due to the recording itself, since the VP150 did not sound overly harsh on other cuts. Overall, the Axioms were very natural-sounding and non-fatiguing without being boring. To quote a too often used phrase, the Axioms’ sins were those of omission. They may not be able to fill a huge listening room to reference levels, but they can get surprisingly close before they begin to compress dynamics and harden slightly.
For two-channel-mode auditioning, the M22ti bookshelf speakers were used in conjunction with the EP175 subwoofer. One particular CD that stood out was Mark Knopfler’s The Ragpicker’s Dream (Warner Brothers). Kudos to producers Chuck Ainlay and Knopfler, as well as mastering engineer Tony Cousins, for creating a much more natural, less hard-edged recording than many of Knopfler’s Dire Straits albums. The relatively mellow track “You Don’t Know You’re Born” is full of Knopfler’s trademark understated guitar work. The M22tis delineated each and every note with excellent clarity, but without edginess, effectively featuring all of the delicate detail. The following track, “Coyote,” is a driving, growling cut that starts with a centered, captivating bass line and builds up around the listener from there. It was impossible not to bob and weave to the EP175’s driving beat, while reveling in the M22ti SE’s crisp transients and solid center image. The combination integrated extremely well, filling the room with a convincing, three-dimensional soundstage.